Sweaty palms, a racing heart, a fluttering in the tummy – just the thought of such physical reactions may make you nervous. Of course, while some amount of nerves is completely natural, especially before a big, important event – an interview, a date, or maybe a presentation – having these feelings constantly can become debilitating. Aside from the mental anguish, nervousness and anxiety can cause insomnia, confusion, and mood swings, all of which can interfere with your normal daily life.
Whether your anxiety is temporary or a symptom of a more serious disorder, here are some natural and alternative remedies to help calm your nerves. Manage nervousness or anxiety in the moment with yoga, breathing, desensitization, meditation, aroma oils, and even a cup of soothing tea. Other techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy and herbal remedies like ashwagandha may take time but will offer a long-term solution to your problems.
1. Meditate To Control Nervous Energy And Cope With Stress
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America lists meditation as an alternative treatment for easing nervousness and anxiety in adults.1 Methods like mindfulness meditation have been found to help people cope better with stressful situations.2
Though much research supports meditation’s effectiveness, it’s still understandable to be skeptical. So, how and why does meditation work? Anxiety has a tendency to cause your mind to go into overdrive, having you imagine everything that could possibly go wrong. This constant nervousness can even bring on insomnia. Meditation helps you rein in your imagination and your mind. It forces you to focus on the moment. Over time, it will teach you to recognize a worrying thought as it happens and keep it in check before it gets worse.3
Here is one method you could use anytime, anywhere even on a busy day.4
- Begin by finding a word or prayer you repeat while meditating. This is your mantra. It could be something as simple as the word “Peace.”
- Find a comfortable place to sit – either on a chair or sofa or the floor. Wherever you choose to sit, be sure you are seated as upright as possible.
- To start, close your eyes and inhale deeply from your nose and exhale from the mouth. Then, close your mouth and breathe gently from the nose.
- Internally repeat your chosen word or phrase, ensuring you don’t actually say it out loud or move your lips to form the words. Create a rhythm for your phrase initially and then gently sync this with your breathing – do not force it.
- If you find your mind wandering, consciously bring yourself back to chanting the mantra.
- Once you finish chanting, sit relaxed for some time with your eyes still closed.
Keep up the practice for about 5–10 minutes first, working your way up to 30 minutes and doing it every day. Meditation helps calm your mind and settles your breathing in the process. Incorporate yogic breathing techniques to make this more effective.
2. Use Yogic Breathing Techniques To Calm Yourself
These yogic breathing techniques can be easily done before a big presentation, meeting, or event.
- Sama vritti or evening-out of breath in pranayama is a form of controlled yogic breathing. To do this, inhale deeply through your nose and feel the breath going into the lowest depths of your belly, naturally and without force. Inhale to a count of five, depending on how much you can manage. Exhale from the mouth, allowing the air to flow gently out. Count to five before inhaling again. Doing this for as little as three to five minutes can make a world of difference in calming those nerves.5
- You may also want to try kumbhaka pranayama or breath retention. Hold or retain your breath for about 2 counts after you have inhaled and before you gently exhale. You can build this up to 5 or 6 counts gradually.6
- Another useful technique is the nadi shodhana or alternate nostril breathing, in which you alternate closing nostrils. Breathe in through the open nostril, before closing it, then open the other nostril to exhale from.7
3. Practice Yoga To Ease Anxiety Symptoms
Like meditation, yoga requires you to focus on your breathing, which can be a great way to calm your mind and distract yourself from the source of your anxiety or nervousness. Research has identified the benefits of yoga in easing anxiety and stress symptoms.8 Calming yoga poses like balasana or child’s pose, shavasana or corpse pose, sukhasana or easy pose, janu shirsasana or head-to-knee forward bend, or uttanasana or standing forward bend can help you feel less anxious.9 You could also try a dynamic stretch like the sun breath, which helps you physically chase away fear by opening up your chest. Your chest tends to contract when you’re anxious. But when you stretch it, your rib cage lifts and you are able to get a deeper breath.10
4. Sip On Chamomile, Peppermint, Or Lemon Balm Tea To Relax
A soothing brew infused with the flavors and scents of calming oils like chamomile can help those with a mild to moderate form of anxiety. This may not be a strong enough remedy if you have a more severe form of anxiety, however.11
Peppermint tea is a muscle relaxant, which can ease tension, stress, and anxiety, while lemon balm tea can also leave you relaxed but without the drowsiness. Just remember, if you are pregnant, these teas may not be safe – more research needs to be done on their potential adverse effects on pregnant women.12
5. Use Desensitization Techniques To Prepare And Calm You
Imaginal desensitization can help you prepare for a stressful situation or one that causes you anxiety. While it is no substitute for learning to manage a problem through real-life exposure, it comes pretty close. Done right, it should help quell some of that nervousness and calm you. Here’s what you need to do:13
- Think through and note down the details of the situation you are nervous about. List the steps involved in that experience, going through it from start to finish and not skimming over any details. This way, you will know what to expect, including multiple possibilities and scenarios.
- Imagine or picture each step in your mind. If anxiety strikes at any step, pause until you overcome this anxiety before moving on.
- Cope with each anxiety- or nervousness-inducing issue by imagining how you will cope with it. Picture yourself staying calm through the stages.
6. Try Lavender Aromatherapy To Help You Unwind
A good way to recreate the calming atmosphere of a spa is to invest in some lavender essential oil. Dab a little on a handkerchief or tissue or inhale. You could also blend some with a carrier oil and dab on your wrists if you are feeling nervy or anxious. Take care not to use too much, though – you wouldn’t want to give anyone a wallop of that scent as you enter a room!
If you’re at home or just looking to relax and ease anxiety in general, you can use other aromatherapy equipment. With a reed diffuser or aroma vaporizer, allow the relaxing aromas of lavender to seep in.
Lavender oil can help with symptoms of anxiety, restlessness, and disturbed sleep. It can create a sense of well-being and help you feel less worried or panicked.14 This is also why it’s so popular as an alternative remedy for a range of neurological and psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety. In one study, researchers found that the use of lavender even quelled the anxiety of patients in a most feared place – a dental clinic!15
7. Take Ashwagandha To Lessen Stress And Improve Mental Health
Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera is an ayurvedic remedy and a powerful adaptogen. This herb can help stabilize physiological processes in the body that improve your stress response. It has been shown to cause significant improvements in symptoms of stress and anxiety in test subjects.16
According to one study, ashwagandha proved more effective at easing anxiety symptoms than psychotherapy. Those undergoing naturopathic treatment also showed better results on overall quality of life, social functioning, concentration, and mental health than those who underwent psychotherapy.17
8. Exercise To Ease Tension, Lift Mood, And Improve Concentration
Exercise has a wide range of both physical and mental benefits. It can reduce fatigue, help you feel more alert, and improve cognitive function and concentration. All of these combined make you better able to cope with stressful situations. Exercise also boosts levels of endorphins – your body’s natural painkillers – which elevate your mood, ease tension, and allow you to sleep better. As a result, your nervousness and anxiety levels should naturally decrease. In fact, research suggests that those who are physically active have a lower rate of anxiety than those who lead sedentary lives. Even a 10-minute walk could help if you are currently not even anything. Gradually build up, gunning for at least 30 minutes of regular aerobic exercise every day. You could swim, jog, run, or cycle.18
9. Try Acupuncture To Modify Energy Flow And Ease Anxiety
The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture has long been known to help those with anxiety issues. Now there’s a growing body of research to help back that up. During an acupuncture session, needles are inserted at certain points of the body to modify energy flow and correct imbalances.19
10. Take Up CBT To Change Your Behavior And Thinking Patterns
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely recommended course of treatment for anxiety issues. It involves working closely with a therapist to identify your thinking and behavioral patterns and learn to change them for the better. Over time, this process should help you feel more in control and more self-confident – both ideal antidotes to nervousness.20
11. Make Lifestyle Changes To Prevent And Overcome Nervousness And Anxiety
Plan ahead: If you know what to expect and have a plan in place, you’re less likely to dissolve into a puddle of nerves. Don’t leave things to the last minute – whether it’s a major work project or a family event. Have the details worked out in advance. Prepare for contingencies, and make backup plans. That way you’ll be at your best when you need to be and well-prepared if any issues come up.
Get plenty of sleep: The importance of sleep cannot be emphasized enough. If you miss out on your sleep, you’re far more likely to feel anxiety. On top of that, your performance and concentration may suffer. In fact, sleep deprivation is known to bring on anxiety symptoms like excessive worrying, fear, and tension.21
Don’t skip meals: Skipping meals can cost you vital nutrition and make you function at sub-optimal levels. You need to fuel your body to be at your best.
Eat healthy, balanced meals: Eating right is just as important as eating regularly. For example, a vitamin deficiency could help exacerbate feelings of nervousness and anxiety. In particular, a vitamin B6 deficiency can cause fatigue and anxiety, confusion, changes in mood, and other signs of depression.22 A vitamin B12 deficiency might leave you chronically stressed as a result of memory problems, confusion, and depression. Your body needs such vitamins for concentration and nervous system function.23
Cut caffeine intake: If you’re a heavy coffee or tea drinker, it may be time to decrease your habit a bit. A lot of caffeine can induce anxiety symptoms, especially social anxiety. For those prone to anxiety, the effects of caffeine are especially potent.24 If you can’t avoid it completely, try to limit yourself to one cup a day.
Talk it out: Friends, family, peers, or therapists can be your biggest support when you’re lacking confidence or dealing with problems too big to manage on your own. A conversation with a person you trust may be just what you need.
|↑1, ↑19||Complementary & Alternative Treatments. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.|
|↑2||Hoge, Elizabeth A., Eric Bui, Luana Marques, Christina A. Metcalf, Laura K. Morris, Donald J. Robinaugh, John J. Worthington, Mark H. Pollack, and Naomi M. Simon. “Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for generalized anxiety disorder: effects on anxiety and stress reactivity.” The Journal of clinical psychiatry 74, no. 8 (2013): 786.|
|↑3||How Yoga Calms Anxiety Holistically. Yoga Journal.|
|↑4||Learn to Meditate in 6 Easy Steps. The Chopra Center.|
|↑5||Breathing Lessons. Yoga Journal.|
|↑6||Breath Retention. Yoga Journal.|
|↑7||Channel-Cleaning Breath. Yoga Journal.|
|↑8||Li, Amber W., and C. A. Goldsmith. “The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress.” Altern Med Rev 17, no. 1 (2012): 21-35.|
|↑9||Yoga for Calm. Yoga Journal.|
|↑10||Sun Breath. Yoga Journal.|
|↑11||Study Shows Chamomile Capsules Ease Anxiety Symptoms. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.|
|↑12||6 Natural Tea Remedies for Stress and Anxiety. Huffington Post.|
|↑13||Andrews, Gavin. The treatment of anxiety disorders: Clinician guides and patient manuals. Cambridge University Press, 2003.|
|↑14||Koulivand, Peir Hossein, Maryam Khaleghi Ghadiri, and Ali Gorji. “Lavender and the nervous system.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).|
|↑15||Kritsidima, Metaxia, Tim Newton, and Koula Asimakopoulou. “The effects of lavender scent on dental patient anxiety levels: a cluster randomised‐controlled trial.” Community dentistry and oral epidemiology 38, no. 1 (2010): 83-87.|
|↑16||Pratte, Morgan A., Kaushal B. Nanavati, Virginia Young, and Christopher P. Morley. “An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 20, no. 12 (2014): 901-908.|
|↑17||Cooley, Kieran, Orest Szczurko, Dan Perri, Edward J. Mills, Bob Bernhardt, Qi Zhou, and Dugald Seely. “Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974.” PLoS One 4, no. 8 (2009): e6628.|
|↑18||Exercise for Stress and Anxiety. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.|
|↑20||Therapy. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.|
|↑21||Tired and edgy? Sleep deprivation boosts anticipatory anxiety. University of California Berkeley.|
|↑22||Vitamin B6. Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑23||Vitamin B12. Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑24||Lara, Diogo R. “Caffeine, mental health, and psychiatric disorders.” Journal of Alzheimer’s disease 20, no. S1 (2010): 239-248.|