I suffer from anxiety and have for several years. I know many others who do as well. I understand why I do. I understand the stress I am under and why I choose to continue to do the things that I do that cause the stress. But this does not seem to help me with anxiety. I always thought anxiety was a product of uncertainty and not knowing. But I know.
This blog post is even a product of anxiety because I was writing this in my head while I was trying to sleep the other night and then I remembered my secret weapon. And after stewing for about 30 minutes as to why it took me so long to think of this remedy, I finally took it, relaxed and went off to sleep.
Let me know if this sounds familiar:
- Do you find yourself lying in bed at night, wide awake, with an overactive brain and a pain in your chest that makes you wonder if you are going to die?
- Does the pressure of needing to get things done actually make you do less?
- Do the butterflies in your stomach make you feel like throwing up?
- Do you sometimes wish you did not need sleep because you could really use the extra time – after all you can’t relax to go to sleep so it would be great if you could just skip it…
If so, then you know what anxiety feels like and this is what I have been experiencing this summer. And I thought I had my anxiety under control but apparently not.
The frustrating part is intellectually I understand what I have taken on and the short time frame to execute these tasks. I am sure you do as well. So if we understand it, then why do we feel the anxiety and why can’t we just turn if off?
As I lie in bed at night, I frequently tell myself “I get it – I am anxious. So brain – knock it off so I can go to sleep” Doesn’t work.
What does work? Here are some basics:
Exercise During The Day: Making sure you get some physical exercise will help the brain relax and also help reduce anxiety. One study found that people who did 150 minutes of exercise per week had a better quality sleep and more energy and focus during the day. Exercise also has been shown to lower anxiety and depression. Just do not do strenuous exercise close to bedtime.
Boost GABA: This is the neurotransmitter that helps keep us calm. If you are someone who chooses to smoke dope to calm down, you are raising your GABA levels and that is why you feel so relaxed. Studies show that GABA is effective when taken as a supplement, usually showing a benefit within an hour. Low progesterone in women can interfere with GABA which may be why women experience more anxiety in the latter part of their cycle.
Up Magnesium Levels: A deficiency has been linked to disruption of the HPA axis which regulates our stress response and may contribute to anxiety.
Feed The Gut: Dysbiosis (lack of good bacteria) has also been linked to interfering with the HPA axis. Probiotics can help with anxiety along with other gut health strategies.
Meditate: Yes, I hate to say it since it never works for me but if you are able to control your mind through the practice of mediation, then you have a an ability to eliminate anxiety when it strikes. Mindful meditation has been shown to help with reducing the occurrence of anxiety.
These are simple strategies that can help but I do have a secret weapon which I discovered by accident. I was trying to have a nap but the chest pain from the anxiety was so annoying and disruptive, it would not let me sleep. At the time, I thought the pain was due to gastritis and damage to my esophagus from taking too many supplements (at once) which tend to get stuck. My remedy for gastritis is a combination of honey, turmeric and black pepper. To that I always add cinnamon to make it taste better.
So I took the remedy, thinking it may help and sooth my esophagus as well and within 20-30 minutes I literally felt myself relax. I did not expect this – it was not why I took it but I had inadvertently discovered a means to lower anxiety and relax, with no supplements to get stuck in my throat.
As a matter of fact, I have never had a supplement provide such a noticeable result.
In researching the ingredients, I found studies that indicated honey, cinnamon and turmeric all lower anxiety and of course, black pepper is known to aid the absorption of nutrients. So the next time you feel those butterflies in your stomach and the pounding of your heart in your chest because your brain will not stop talking to you, try this:
1 tbsp raw honey
1/8 tsp turmeric*
1/8 tsp real Ceylon cinnamon*
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Mix it together in a small bowl and eat it with a spoon.
*You can use as much as 1/4 tsp each of the cinnamon and turmeric if you like but you may need a bit more honey to have it mix well. If you are not sure how you react to turmeric or cinnamon, start with 1/8 tsp as per the recipe.
In about 30 minutes you should feel this sense of peace and wellbeing as you calm down. This is not just for sleeping, it will calm you down for daytime activities as well.
If you have any great, natural anxiety-lowering techniques, please share in the comment section.
PS. I started feeling anxious as I wrote this. I guess I am just too excited to share this with you.
PPS: Ceylon cinnamon is the one that is used in studies (all studies for cinnamon including for blood sugar) to show benefits. Unless you buy a brand that states it is real Ceylon cinnamon or cinnamomum zeylanicum, then you are probably buying Cassia cinnamon which is not the one you want. I buy the one from Roots Alive which can be found at the health food store. It comes in a 200 g bag so it is also a good value.
- Association between objectively-measured physical activity and sleep, NHANES 2005–2006, Paul D. Loprinzi et al, Mental Health and Physical Activity Volume 4, Issue 2, December 2011, Pages 65–69
- Regular exercise, anxiety, depression and personality: A population-based study, M.H.M. De Moor et al, Preventive Medicine 42 (2006) 273–279
- The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems, Marilia Carabotti et al, Ann Gastroenterol. 2015 Apr-Jun; 28(2): 203–209.
- Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Goyal M1 et al, JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Mar;174(3):357-68
- A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of a probiotic in emotional symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, A Venket Rao, Gut Pathog. 2009; 1: 6.
- Anxiety Sensitivity, the Menstrual Cycle, and Panic Disorder: A Putative Neuroendocrine and Psychological Interaction, Yael I. Nillni et al, Clin Psychol Rev. Author manuscript
- Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. Abdou AM1 et al, Biofactors. 2006;26(3):201-8.
- Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment, S.B. Sartori et al, Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jan; 62(1): 304–312.
- Neurological Effects of Honey: Current and Future Prospects, Mohammad Mijanur Rahman et al, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 958721, 13 pages
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Hi Lorene, anxiety was foreign to me until about a year or so ago. NOT a good feeling! I have to say I rarely experience it now, but at the same time feel it wouldn’t take much to trigger it. I made the mistake last night of looking at some business related “stuff” for over an hour before bed. Needless to say I just couldn’t turn my mind off and consequently spent a mostly sleepless night!!! Not recommended. I need to have a cutoff time for mentally stimulating activities in the evening. To replace meditation practice (which I also find difficult) I recently started coloring mandalas. I find it quite relaxing and it’s difficult to have your mind wandering all over the place while doing it. So it kind of helps to “be in the moment”. Maybe worth a try 😉
I assume you are doing this in place of work before bed? That is a good idea. We need activities that take us away from our racing thoughts
Thanks for sharing this, Lorene. I do not always experience anxiety but I do sometimes when under a lot of stress or pushing myself beyond my limits. I have found the magnesium helps me along with opposite nostril breathing recommended to me by my naturopath. I will be saving your honey, turmeric, cinnamon and pepper mixture to try sometime as well. Here is a link that describes the opposite nostril breathing: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12936/3-reasons-everyone-should-try-alternate-nostril-breathing.html
Thanks, Luana. I like the opposite nostril breathing. I like all breathing techniques but what I find is that sometimes I have trouble focusing on breathing – after a few breaths my mind goes back to whatever it wants to think about.
Wonderful article, Lori!
I also live with anxiety. Two supplements I’ve found most useful are magnesium (like you mentioned) and lavender oil capsules. I’d also mention that I notice I need to combine many holistic remedies to feel a real difference, instead of just doing or trying one and seeing a change right away.
Ugh, Lorene! When you moderate, please change the name. Apologies; I’m going too fast 🙂
Hi Yes lavendar is great too- a few drop on the pillow works wonders – I agree with you about the combination of remedies. I use to do so many all at once it would work for a few hours and then I would wake up and have to take them again. The honey turmeric and cinnamon is like three remedies in one – I really was shocked to feel how it relaxed me