I’ve been waiting my entire life to write this story.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve experienced anxiety. Sometimes, it was triggered by big life events, bringing on panic attacks.
Other times, it was inspired by nothing at all. I could be sitting on a beach with nothing to worry about, but my body would feel edgy, “buzzy” and irritable. I came to recognize this as a form of physical anxiety that made me hard to be around and affected my sleep.
As a child, I got so worked up – usually about going to school – that I would make myself physically ill.
I believe some level of anxiety is normal and natural, and fine if it doesn’t limit your life or affect your relationships. Unfortunately, my anxiety did both.
It was clear that I needed to manage it somehow.
Trying an Anti-Depressant for Anxiety
In my 30s (15 years ago), I eventually went on an anti-depressant for anxiety. At the time, I wasn’t yet into natural or integrative health, and was relieved to just find anything that would help. I tried a couple of different medications before discovering citalopram worked best for me.
And medication did ease my anxiety, but came with side effects. I felt a little numb, didn’t really feel my emotions, and rarely laughed or cried.
Two years ago, after 15 years on an anti-depressant, I decided to look for natural remedies for anxiety.
Today, I’m grateful to report that I did, in fact, find the right combination of natural approaches for anxiety that worked for me.
Natural Anxiety Remedies that Were Less Effective
As a natural health writer and podcaster, I regularly interview people with anxiety success stories. I want to try most of the anxiety strategies I hear about – and just about have.
Before going on, let me make an important point: It’s repeatedly clear to me that there’s no one way to treat anything and that what works for one person may not work for another. We’re all so different.
What DIDN’T work as well for me in my quest to treat anxiety naturally? Here’s the primary list:
Talk therapy and EMDR – I have tried counseling various times over the years. I did learn how to manage my thoughts, which could trigger increases in anxiety. I also took away in-the-moment strategies for soothing anxiety. But the physical feelings of anxiety, the odd edginess and irritability, weren’t shaken so easily.
CBD oil – I know many people who have found CBD oil (without THC) helpful for anxiety. I tried three or four different high-quality brands, all considered clean, potent and well-sourced. But I never felt a noticeable difference.
Breathing, meditation, tapping and yoga – These strategies DO work for me – in the moment and shortly following. When I’m in a particularly anxious state, breathing can bring me out of an acute phase. But again, the physical aspects of anxiety would either not subside or would creep back quickly.
Traditional Chinese Medicine – I tried acupuncture and herbs, which helped more with gut-healing than anxiety. However, I did feel relaxed the day of the acupuncture sessions.
Exercise – In the short term, going for a walk relaxes me. But to get true “happy brain chemicals,” I need more aerobic exercise. The challenge is, I can’t do enough cardio to see a benefit. Instead of energizing me, cardio exercise leaves me shaky and weak for hours following and unable to do anything else the rest of the day.
Anxiety Remedies that Worked Best for Me
Low energy neurofeedback (LENS) – Neurofeedback proved to be the #1 most effective natural remedy for anxiety relief. I learned about LENS from a woman we featured on this site, who found success with neurofeedback for migraines and anxiety.
LENS uses a very low power electromagnetic field – about equivalent to a watch battery – to disrupt maladaptive or looping patterns that the brain has acquired in response to acute conditions such as trauma, stress, concussion, addiction, pain and other life events. LENS is supposed to be permanent, unless something new disrupts the brain, such as an injury or trauma.
The painless therapy, administered by a local neuropsychotherapist, took about six or seven sessions. With small electrodes on my scalp, it involved first mapping 21 brain sites and then addressing each one.
The effect of neurofeedback was subtle and wasn’t entirely clear until I had eased off my anti-depressant. But I was pleasantly surprised to notice how well it worked with the physical feelings of anxiety.
I want to point out the difference between neurofeedback and the strategies I mentioned previously. Neurofeedback stopped anxiety from coming on entirely, while the other solutions would ease it temporarily.
An anti-inflammatory diet – By keeping a food diary, I have found that certain foods trigger my inflammation and anxiety. For me, those are mainly gluten, dairy and sugar, plus nightshades and high-oxalate foods.
Gut-healing – I’ve spent years healing gut infections and dysbiosis (and am still working on it). But I believe that a healthy gut enables me to digest nutrients appropriately, which contributes to brain health too.
Amino acids – I learned about amino acids from Trudy Scott, author of The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution. They are gentle ways to encourage feel-good neurotransmitters. I use L-theanine daily, in the evening, to help with relaxation and sleep.
I have also tried GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid) preventively at times when anxiety might increase, such as before an important meeting.
Consider taking Trudy Scott’s online questionnaire to see which amino acids might be right for you.
Low caffeine – I know that caffeine can spike my anxiety. I limit my intake to 1-2 cups of green tea a day.
Essential oils – I put lavender oil in a diffuser at night to help with sleep and encourage a sense of calm.
How Did It Go?
My doctor recommended I take a full year to wean off anxiety medication but I stretched it out much longer than that. During the height of pandemic lockdowns, I held off on reducing the dosage. Just as you’re not supposed to stop medication in the winter, I didn’t want to stop during lockdown.
As I gradually dosed down, the above strategies worked to keep my anxiety and mood stable.
I’m happy to report that I no longer feel that physical edginess I once experienced. Nor have I seen any panic attacks.
Instead of being reactive when anxiety comes on, I find that it doesn’t come on at all.
In the past, my husband has always been able to tell when I was experiencing anxiety. Honestly, I was harder to live with. But he hasn’t noticed the familiar irritability of the past (or at least said anything about it!). That’s a win, for sure.
For maintenance, I stay on an anti-inflammatory diet (for mind and body), low caffeine, and use L-theanine daily. I also use GABA Calm before an important meeting or presentation as an extra measure to promote calmness.
None of this means that I’m worry-free or don’t experience stress. I certainly do, but I no longer find them life-limiting or relationship-impacting, fortunately.
Do What Works for You
The strategies above worked for me. But please, do what’s best for your body and mind, whether that’s conventional medicine, natural remedies or a mix. And don’t stress about whatever strategies you decide to use. Your mental health is too valuable.
The information on this site is for educational and inspirational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of qualified professionals. Keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for another. Always consult your healthcare practitioners before beginning new approaches or treatments. Some links on Rebuilding My Health may be affiliate links. This means that we may receive a commission - with no additional cost to you - if you make any purchases using those affiliate links. Rebuilding My Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Learn more.