Anxiety is not new to us. After the pandemic, and now the unstable times we live in, it’s no surprise anxiety levels are creeping up and up.
But did you know there’s literally countless, natural, holistic anxiety relief exercises to beat anxiety, bringing on a calmer, more present state?
As an established Wellbeing Coach who specialized in natural anxiety relief for several years, I want to share with you my top 20 holistic relief exercises to help you reduce anxiety, starting today.
These practices will be a great addition to any therapy you’re receiving (if applicable) for anxiety disorders and/or mental health support, and can be practised wherever you are to help deal with anxiety as soon as it hits.
Heads up! This post contains affiliate links.
Holistic Anxiety Relief Exercises
Exercise is number one for getting rid of anxiety, hands down. Both the symptoms (sweats, tingles, foggy head, heart palpitations, etc).
And the thoughts, because any anxiety sufferer knows it’s not only what the body does uncontrollably when anxious, but also what thoughts we have in our heads.
Moving your body in a way that burns off excess adrenaline will bring the automatic fight, flight or freeze response right down, along with anxiety.
It doesn’t have to be super intense, aggressive exercise either – just a short brisk walk or gentle jog can work wonders to calm down the body and mind.
Exercise is fantastic too for general wellbeing, reducing stress, improving cardiovascular health, bone strength and much more.
By introducing a regular form of exercise to your routine, you’ll start to see significant improvements in your life, and lower anxiety levels.
Exercise is great for lowering blood pressure, and if it becomes a daily thing, your symptoms of anxiety will naturally reduce too.
If you’ve never exercised before, a good starting guide is 3 x 30 mins walks per week.
Grab a friend if you can, as having someone hold you accountable means you’re less likely to skip it.
Some popular exercise examples are HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), which you can do from home following a free YouTube video. There’s also Zumba and Tabata which I love. Do a Google search and loads will come up.
You could also join a running club and use it as a double hit, exercise and socialising!
You could go for a jog on your own or with friends, swim, do a leisurely walk, do Pilates, Yoga, and any form of aerobic exercise.
The list is endless when it comes to exercise options! They all have a positive effect on anxiety levels and improve daily life.
Most of the time, we breathe shallowly, meaning we don’t take in an optimal amount of oxygen.
These are called ‘chest breaths’. But by introducing a deep breathing practice, your anxiety levels will reduce dramatically.
I’ll share the best breathing practises below.
Abdominal breathing is where we take a deep breath into the lungs.
We do so slowly, to avoid hyperventilating, and we breathe out slowly in response. It takes a bit of practice and repetition if you’ve never tried it before.
A great technique to establish if you’re doing it correctly is to place your left hand under your bra line, and your right hand on your chest.
When you take a breath (either nose or mouth is fine – whatever feels good), you should feel your chest wall go inwards, which is a sign you’re taking a deep enough breath with oxygen going into the lungs.
Deep breaths can be helpful for panic attacks in the heat of the moment.
They can help bring the heart rate right down by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the system needed to calm the body.
Deep breathing is scientifically proven to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby stopping anxiety attacks head-on.
The best thing about deep breathing is that you can do it anywhere. In your car, in the queue, while travelling, at home. There are no limits, our breath is our best friend if we focus attention and time on it.
The 4, 5 7 technique
The 4, 5,7 breathing technique is another form of deep breathing where you breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 7, and breathe out for 8. Give this a go a few times today, and see how you feel afterwards.
Feel free to write down how you felt as this will motivate you to do it again in future.
There’s another technique I love called ‘calm breathing’, where you breathe in for a count of 3, hold for 3 and then slowly breathe out for a count of 5. This may suit you better, so try both and see which you prefer.
Alternate nostril breathing
Lastly, and I love this one! It’s called alternate nostril breathing. Watch this video below to follow along with me as it’s easier to show than explain!
Mindfulness is one of my personal favourite anxiety treatments, and something I return to again and again.
The health benefits of mindfulness are well documented. Some medical doctors nowadays prescribe it as a treatment for panic disorder and depression.
It’s well and truly one of the most amazing natural remedies. Yet more people need to do (rather than just read about it) to help with feelings of anxiety.
Mindfulness is defined by the Oxford dictionary as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
It was brought to the mainstream in part by Dr John Kabat-Zinn who developed an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course to help those living with chronic health conditions.
When we are mindful or practising mindfulness, we are simply focused of what’s happening in that moment.
We do not judge what is happening – instead we observe it.
Focus in on what is happening, not why it’s happening.
Mindful meditation can take a bit of practice to feel the benefits, but it’s worth it. So often our anxiety is triggered by what we make something mean, rather than what is factually happening.
Mindfulness gives us the power to detach from the story we tell ourselves, and simply focus on the reality.
It’s not actually designed as a relaxation technique, but it tends to have that response in those who practice it regularly, because so often we get caught in a spiral of thought and overthinking.
Mindfulness helps us step back from that.
Being mindful daily will help your anxiety levels reduce naturally.
You’ll become more present, more focused and less distracted the more often you are mindful. I like to have several mindful moments throughout my day, spending 2-5 mins at a time being mindful.
If you want to learn more and practise mindfulness yourself, check out this mindfulness journal I created.
Teas are seriously underrated for their ability to calm the mind and body! Perhaps they don’t taste as amazing as a sugary drink, but they sure will bring your anxiety right down (whereas sugar will speed it up).
Chamomile tea is a natural stress soother, and has an incredible effect on anxious feelings – calming the jittery-ness. It’s great for digestion too and wonderful to have as a night time drink to help relax.
Valerian tea is widely known for its sedative effects, which again can help keep anxiety at bay.
In general, reducing caffeine intake will help long-term to keep anxiety levels stable.
It’s a good idea to follow the ‘no caffeine after midday’ rule if you struggle to sleep at night or feel anxiety levels spike in the evenings (which is a common time for anxiety to increase anyway).
Caffeine can also affect muscle tension.
That tight neck and stiff jaw that we blame anxiety for can be due to too much caffeine and not enough water to hydrate the body. So, another reason to lower the amount of caffeine you have in your diet.
Chocolate also contains caffeine (and sugar) so monitor your intake to help lower anxiety levels naturally.
There are numerous essential oils known to reduce anxiety symptoms. Lavender oil, Bergamot oil and Ylang-ylang are known to promote relaxation and are some of my personal favourites.
Lemon is also very grounding which can help you escape the whirring in your mind, getting you back in your body.
Essential oils can be added to a carrier oil (such as almond oil) or a diffuser so they mist into the air, creating a wonderful harmonious scent in your home.
They’re a great way to chisel your focus too – if you need to concentrate or want something to focus on, smelling an essential oil can really help. You can also buy essential oils rollerballs to be used directly on your skin.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can greatly relieve your anxiety. It’s one of those mind-body practices that is so effective that I wonder why more people don’t do it!
Journaling had such a profound impact on me, and still does to this day, that I wrote an e-book on the topic.
When journaling, it’s best to have a plain piece of paper or notepad, a pen and some alone time. You want to avoid distractions, so you can get into a flow state, where you simply write whatever comes up, and time stands still.
This has an amazing ability to reduce anxiety in the body and get you into the present moment.
You also have access to 30 free journal prompts from this article which will kick start the writing process for you, helping you get started.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This is a popular talking therapy for anxiety sufferers, often prescribed by medical doctors.
You can also have CBT sessions privately. It’s one of many highly effective therapies that target the root cause of anxiety, which are those incessant, ruminating thoughts that cause us to spiral out of control.
CBT practices work on present context problems – counselling is another option if you are open to talk about past experiences.
With CBT practises you work on changing the narrative in your mind, with long term benefits.
Through regular sessions of CBT you will no longer be at the mercy of your mind – you’ll have specific tools to combat anxious thoughts and reframe them so they become more manageable.
An example of a CBT technique is talked about in this post which you can try out today.
Note that I am not a CBT practitioner, but I am passionate about the positive effects it has on anxiety sufferers, so regularly share it’s applications.
Did you know that broccoli, spinach, parsley, chard and kale all help reduce anxiety naturally due to high levels of chlorophyll, a natural stress reducer?
A healthy diet overall is a number one key tool for anxiety-reducing, because it works from the inside out.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Eat more fish, nuts and seeds to help manage chronic anxiety.
On a daily basis, any of these foods will have a calming effect on the body and a cumulative effect over time.
The body needs omega 3s to optimise brain activity, among many other reasons. So, salmon for dinner?
Vitamin D levels
Vitamin D helps regulate your mood, which is why in summer we all feel happier! This study talks about the relationship between anxiety and lower Vitamin D levels in some cases.
So, a Vitamin D supplement, spending more time outdoors (not in burning sun mind you) and including more Vitamin D foods, such as fish (salmon, tuna and herring in particular), eggs, cod liver oil and fortified foods (cereals/juice with added vit D) can be another natural remedy to help reduce anxiety.
Similarly to the section on herbal teas, lavender and chamomile can have a calming effect on the body.
Picking lavender in summer and displaying them in a vase on the kitchen table is one of my favourites. They are so pretty!
I won’t recommend ingesting herbal supplements in this post (that’s not my speciality), but you could consult a registered and accredited herbalist who can help you further.
Another great way to help combat the physical symptoms of chronic anxiety and lower stress levels is massage.
Or, having someone like your partner massage you before bed – that works a treat. Massage is a fantastic, natural way to tap into the body’s relaxation system.
There are so many options such as back massage, head massage and reflexology on the feet to name a few.
Add in some essential oils and nice massage oil, and it’s the best for getting rid of tension areas and to help stimulate the relaxation response.
It’s possibly a touch too obvious, but lack of sleep in itself can cause anxiety.
But so can the elongated effects of not having enough sleep repeatedly, time and again. Lack of sleep initiates the stress response, which means we feel more on edge.
Our flight response kicks in. Our energy levels dip, and we feel groggy, contributing to an even bigger spike in anxiety.
Prioritise getting enough sleep if you can.
Do things which will help you sleep, such as shutting off your phone an hour before going to bed.
Reading to make yourself sleepy.
Have a warm bubble bath and light some candles.
Basically, relaxing before bed will help you fall asleep.
The difficulty comes when you wake up in the night and can’t fall asleep. If this happens, get up, make yourself a herbal tea, and read for half an hour. If you’re hungry, a small dry biscuit can help settle the stomach.
Wait until you feel sleepy, then try going back to bed.
When it comes to getting enough sleep, don’t waste time struggling, tossing and turning. Go to your medical doctor and get support and advice if none of these suggestions help.
Cannabidiol derives from the cannabis plant and is becoming popular as a potential treatment for anxiety. I know absolutely nothing about CBD oil though – truly being transparent!
It’s not been something I’ve ever talked about in my anxiety relief coaching. But this is a good article for you to find out more about it.
Simple improvements to your day will help naturally lower anxiety levels. Getting more exercise, eating less sugar, increasing your fibre intake and drinking more water.
These are easy tips that naturally lower anxiety and increase the health of the body. Improvements in your lifestyle will also support a wider range of medical conditions. Win-win!
Affirmations & Mantras
Affirmations are repeated phrases and words we tell ourselves. They can be effective for all sorts of things, for boosting your confidence and self-esteem, to getting rid of anxiety.
I used affirmations throughout both my pregnancies, sticking them all over my house, and they helped keep me feeling calm and in control throughout.
You can make your own affirmations, or why not purchase some ready made to decorate your home. Remember though, you must repeat them daily for maximum effect!
I do have free affirmation downloads too – pop a comment on this post and I’ll send some to you if you’d like.
Lemon balm is another herb that is reputed to be good for reducing stress and anxiety. You can plant a lemon balm in your herb garden and use the leaves in hot water to drink, or in cooking.
Be sure to research the recommended quantities and how to use it for best effects, particularly if you opt to take lemon balm supplements – advice from a medical doctor is always valuable.
I hope you find this list of 20 holistic remedies to reduce anxiety naturally helpful. I actually think it’s a list of 21 (doh!) Must go back and study maths!
Do comment and let me know if this post helps, and please share it to help more people.