Five Herbs to Calm Anxiety & Promote Well-Being
Alexa Paolella, IIN Content Editor, Class of January 2018
The "Anxious Generation"
Some days are better than others, and life is full of stress – from daily worries to feeling derailed by a breakup, career change, or sudden illness or death. Unfortunately, we can’t control how or why things happen, and just “going with the flow” is easier said than done.
Feeling sad, stressed out, or anxious at times is completely normal! Many of us lead busy lives with never-ending to-do lists, including full-time jobs, taking care of a family, and finding time to exercise or socialize with friends. Sometimes we excel at juggling several things at once, and sometimes we struggle to keep up.
However, there’s a fine line between occasionally feeling sad or anxious and suffering from these emotions so frequently that they begin to interfere with your life. If you ever find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning, dreading going to work, or opting out of social situations, there might be something deeper brewing.
Today, we’re seeing high levels of mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. Millennials are referred to as the “anxious generation” because they’re reporting some of the highest levels of stress in history – almost double that of baby boomers.
With mental health disorders on the rise, could modern society be to blame? It’s possible that technology and social media have something to do with it. Younger generations are spending more and more time engrossed in other people’s lives instead of living their own. There’s a growing emphasis on fame and money, and marriage rates have decreased as divorce rates have increased. Let’s face it – the world we live in today is a lot different than it used to be!
Simply put, our health is too important to overlook. All of us deserve to thrive – emotionally, physically, and mentally. If you’re in a slump, it might be time to talk to a therapist or doctor. You also might benefit from exploring natural ways to support your mental and overall health. Although natural remedies shouldn’t be used in place of professional help for any type of anxiety disorder, they can still provide relief. Fortunately, there are several ways to help combat stress and anxiety and promote overall well-being by implementing the natural healing powers of herbs!
According to a recent survey, 39% of Americans feel more anxious now than they did a year ago – a sentiment that’s shared among men and women of various ages and ethnic groups. Anxiety is also the most common mental health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly 40 million adults each year.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by a variety of symptoms, including:
- Excessive worrying, to the point that doing your job or completing daily tasks becomes difficult
- Fatigue or insomnia
- Restlessness or feeling “on edge”
- Lack of focus
- Tense muscles
- Panic attacks
- Irrational fears, which usually pertain to specific things, like animals, tight spaces, airplanes, natural events, or needles
- Avoiding social situations because you’re worried about the event itself, don’t want to feel judged by others, or are afraid of being embarrassed in front of others
Since stress is a major factor of anxiety (nearly 90% of visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints!), self-awareness is key in determining what’s causing the added stress in your life. Are you unhappy in your career? Are you struggling to fall asleep at night and therefore can’t get out of bed to make it to your workout class? Do you constantly feel like you have a million things to do but can’t prioritize what needs to get done? What does your relationship with food look like?
At Integrative Nutrition, we believe in the four pillars of primary food – spirituality, career, physical activity, and relationships – which are as important, if not more important, than the food you eat. Secondary food is the food that’s actually on your plate, and it’s critical to balance the two. Often, we have a one-sided view of what it means to be “healthy,” but adapting a more well-rounded understanding will help lead to a healthier, fuller life for the long haul. It’s critical to understand the significance of primary and secondary food and how they work together to transform your health. That’s what IIN is all about!
And while you can support yourself by pursuing your passion, prioritizing self-care, going for a run, grabbing coffee with a friend, meditating, and journaling any negative thoughts you have – there are several foods that are good for the body, mind, and soul, too! We’ve broken down our top five favorite herbs that may help balance your hormones, enhance your energy, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being.
Herbs to Support Your Anxious Feelings
Medicinal mushrooms are trending, and the global mushroom market is expected to exceed $50 billion by 2022. Moreover, they’re also one of the four foods that young Americans want to try to help manage their wellness. Apart from containing dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins, the reishi mushroom is probably best known for its ability to boost the immune system, specifically linked to cancer-related illnesses. However, it’s also an adaptogen, a plant that can help the body resist stressors. Commonly used in Chinese and Ayurvedic practices for thousands of years, the reishi mushroom is used today as a way to combat chronic stress and other mental health issues. It can help fight fatigue and overtiredness while promoting greater balance throughout the body and mind. This medicinal mushroom is usually dried or taken as an extract, more recently in the form of powder.
Known for its pleasant smell, lavender is extremely useful as an essential oil for aromatherapy. It has relaxing and therapeutic properties to help relieve mild anxiety and improve mood imbalances, including insomnia and stomach distress. Over the years, a few studies have confirmed the calming effect of lavender and its positive impact on sleep. Whether taken orally as a liquid or supplement or applied to the body as a lotion or spray, lavender may make you feel more at peace over time.
Used in traditional Chinese medicine for years, ginseng is an adaptogen with superior antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can support the immune response and positively impact hormonal changes due to stress, while suppressing the occurrence of anxiety and depression. Ginseng root can be eaten raw, stewed in water to make tea, or added to a variety of soup or stir-fry recipes.
You may associate drinking a cup of chamomile tea with getting a good night’s rest. However, insomnia isn’t the only thing this herb is used to treat. Inflammation, gastro and menstrual disorders, and stress are among the top ways chamomile can support the body and mind. In fact, one study found that long-term chamomile use can help reduce moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety disorder. Because people who suffer from anxiety often show signs of insomnia and restlessness, chamomile’s relaxing properties work to overcome that.
Known for its stress-lowering effects, ashwaganda helps maintain cortisol levels, the body’s stress hormone, and can help decrease the body’s likelihood of going into “flight or fight” mode. Moreover, ashwaganda is an adaptogen and is effective in reducing stress. It also supports sleep cycles and brain function while reducing inflammation. Sales of this healing herb are booming! According to the 2019 HerbalGram Market Report, mainstream sales of ashwaganda increased by 165.9% in 2018. That’s a lot of ashwaganda – and for good reason, too!
How can Health Coaches support clients suffering from anxiety?
Health Coaches support their clients in reaching goals, from mindfulness to maintaining a healthy weight to gaining self-awareness around daily stressors. If a client is struggling with chronic stress or anxiety, Health Coaches have many tools and resources to help guide them to a happier, healthier life. Health Coaches also understand when it’s time for them to seek professional help and how to work alongside their therapist or healthcare practitioner to enhance their energy levels, mood, and overall well-being.
Take our Sample Class to learn more about how YOU can take control of your health and inspire others to do the same by becoming an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach.