7 Secret Weapons to Combat Anxiety in You (Or in Someone You Love)
Anxiety is like an enemy that steals the joy from life, which is painful for the anxious person and for all the people who love them.
In my last blog, ‘Why are So Many Teens and 20-Somethings Today Anxiety-Ridden?’ I discussed the 5 major reasons that our young people are anxious and how we and they can support them to find the calm, joyful lives they deserve. These behaviors form the fundamental basis for the young people in my practice to conquer their anxious symptoms. In this blog, I want to share some of the non-prescription secret weapons I use to help all the patients in my office find more peace on their paths to getting free of anxiety. For a fuller discussion of each of these and the evidence behind them, check out the chapter on Anxiety and Depression in my book BodyWise.
- L-theanine: An extract from green tea, L-theanine has the remarkable property of reducing anxiety while increasing mental focus. And although it calms thoughts, it doesn’t make one tired, so it is ideal for daytime use. This makes it my go-to supplement in young people with anxiety and ADD. It can be used as needed or up to twice daily to control symptoms and isn’t addictive.
- Lavender Oil: It’s lovely (and calming) to smell lavender. But lavender oil is now available micronized (think microscopic bubbles of lavender oil) in a capsule to take by mouth for the treatment of anxiety. Like L-theanine, it is mildly calming without making most people tired. And it’s not addictive.
- St. John’s Wort: Studied extensively for its effect on depression, St. John’s Wort is also an effective anti-anxiety medication. It can interact with several medications, including birth control pills and antidepressants, so it should always be used in consultation with your doctor. It can take up to 6 weeks for full effect, but St. John’s Wort can be very helpful for chronic anxiety, taken twice daily.
- Kava: Kava has been a bit controversial since a study over a decade ago where some participants developed liver toxicity (and incorrect parts of the plant were used), but it has been used safely since then. I would not use it in anyone with liver issues, or recommend it for daily use for more than a few months, but kava is perhaps the most effective anti-anxiety herb available. It does cause some sleepiness, so is usually only appropriate for evening use, but can be used twice daily. It also helps with insomnia and is non-addictive.
- Valerian: Valerian has been my go-to herb for insomnia for decades. At high doses it is extremely useful for sleep, and in lower doses, it can be used for anxiety. It does cause some sleepiness, so it should be used carefully, but it is also non-addictive.
- Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine: Studies show that acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine is as effective as anti-depressants for depression and is effective for anxiety as well. It is also a holistic approach that treats the whole person, not just the anxiety.
- Meditation: Meditation is quite possibly the most powerful tool for the anxious person. Any form of meditation, including classic seated meditation, repetitive prayer practices, or moving meditation — such as yoga, tai chi or qi gong — when done regularly are extremely powerful for reducing anxiety both short-term and long-term.