The more I learn about health in general, the more I see how interconnected every system of our bodies are. I think any health writer could publish an unending stream of content addressing stress. For this article I wanted to give you a back-up list of natural remedies that have been scientifically proven to provide immediate relief.
I was initially going to do one long article addressing every possible natural remedy I could find. In the end, I felt it would be overwhelming and I wanted to separate them out into different groups. This article will focus on natural remedies that will provide fast stress and anxiety relief.
Literally, some of these can provide relaxing and calming effects within seconds. My follow-up article will address lifestyle changes that can be implemented to lead to overall reduced stress and anxiety (again, all backed by science).
Some of the options I list below will be common knowledge, but I challenge you to revisit each of them and read the supporting science behind each.
7 Natural Remedies for Stress & Anxiety That Provide Immediate Relief
1. Natural stress relief – Accupressure Mat
Acupressure mats are flat mats with thousands of tiny prickly spikes that stimulate pressure points throughout the body. Unlike acupuncture, these tiny points do not actually penetrate the skin. Acupressure can lead to a range of calming benefits:
- Studies show that acupressure mats lead to the release of endorphins throughout the body. Endorphins are commonly known as the body’s natural pain killer. Several studies have found that acupressure therapy is an effective method for pain relief.
- Research suggests that the combination of natural pain relief as well as the release of tension throughout the body leads to improved sleep. Researchers examined menopausal women and found that their sleep was dramatically improved following acupressure treatments.
- A study looked specifically at the effects of acupressure on patients with anxiety, stress and depression. Patients used acupressure mats for 15 minutes, three times a week for one month. After the month, patients using the acupressure mats (when compared to the control group), had significantly reduced depression, anxiety and stress measurements.
Headache & Migraine Relief
- Headaches often are a result of tension in the lower neck and shoulders. The muscle relaxing benefits of acupressure mats can help reduce the tension and ease headaches.
- Along with this, endorphins being released act as a natural pain killer. Studies have also found that regular acupressure treatment can actually be effective at reducing the number of migraines individuals may suffer from.
I use my acupressure mat almost nightly. I lay my mat in bed, set a timer for 20 minutes and by the time the timer goes off I am already asleep. Then I just pull it out from under me and pass out.
I also whip it out whenever I have a headache and lay my neck over the pillow and honestly within about 5 minutes the headache is significantly better if not gone. If you are considering getting one I would definitely recommend one with a pillow for this purpose!
2. Natural stress relief – VALERIAN ROOT
Valerian Root has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years and is a native plant to Asia and Europe.
Acts Like Xanax
- Studies have demonstrated the ability of Valerian Root to inhibit the breakdown of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain (low GABA levels can disrupt the regulation of nerve impulses between your brain and nervous system leading to symptoms fo stress and anxiety).
- Valerian Root works similarly to popular anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium by inducing feelings of calmness (source 2, source 3).
Natural Sedative & Muscle Relaxer
- Specific antioxidants in Valerian Root (hesperidin and linarin) have powerful sedative and sleep-enhancing properties (source 1, source 2).
I take Valerian Root in tea form. You can buy the loose root form easily on Amazon. This is my favorite because it is organic and very reasonably priced for the quantity you get!
You can also purchase the supplement in capsule form if you prefer those to tea.
I don’t drink it every night, just when I am feeling particularly wired or extremely sore/achy from a workout. Honestly, it knocks me out and soothes my muscle pain so effectively I was shocked I had never heard of it before. I highly recommend Valerian Root for anyone who struggles falling asleep and sleeping deeply.
3. Natural stress relief – Laughter
Now before you role your eyes, laughter is an underestimated yet powerful treatment for stress:
- As our face shifts into a smile our brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a powerful neurotransmitter responsible for happiness. Studies have shown that the brain cannot distinguish between genuine laughter and forced laughter suggesting that even without a funny stimuli we can laugh of our own accord and still receive all the benefits!
- Laughter also stimulates the production and secretion of nitric oxide. This causes an anti-inflammatory effect throughout the body further aiding in the reduction of pain and boosting the immune system.
- Dopamine also stimulates the secretion of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. A study in 2011 used extreme cold as a measure of pain tolerance. Half of the participants were exposed to laughter therapy while sitting in the extreme cold environment while the control group did not receive any kind of therapy.
- The group who laughed throughout the experience recorded higher levels of pain tolerance. More studies have shown that patients who watched comedy videos needed less pain medication than those who did not.
Lowers Blood Pressure
- Laughter increases oxygen intake providing more oxygen to the blood. High blood pressure is also closely linked to high stress levels. The natural anti-stress relief of laughter has been shown to significantly lower blood pressure levels.
- A six month study in 2011 by the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions studied the effects of music versus laughter on lowering blood pressure levels.
- By simply indulging in some laughter, studies have shown it can enhance oxygen- rich air intake, boost the circulatory system, stimulate heart and lungs, balance blood pressure, ease digestion, improve memory and alertness, improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and strengthen social bonds.
Reduce Stress & Anxiety
- Laughter can actually decrease levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. These decreased stress hormones paired with the increased production of dopamine can lead to a significant reduction in overall stress.
Next time you find yourself overwhelmed, exhausted or on the verge of a panic attack jump on youtube and search for a clip of your favorite comedian. Or videos of people falling, or babies pooping or animals running into windows…whatever floats your boat…but get the laughter flowing and notice the immediate difference it makes. In fact, let’s pause for a moment and enjoy a laugh together…
4. Natural stress relief – Sauna
If you don’t know already, I am a HUGE sauna supporter. The extensive research behind the seemingly unending benefits is staggering.
- Saunas gently heat the body leading to a release in muscle tension
- When used close to bedtime, they can help stimulate the production of sleep promotion hormones like serotonin and dopamine.
- Cortisol levels are lowered during use and the stress response axis is balanced out allowing the mind to relax.
Improved Cognition & Memory
- Infrared saunas increase endorphins and opioid production during use, which can lead to increased feelings of happiness. This paired with the reduction in cortisol can work wonders on a stressed body and mind.
- Saunas also stimulate neurogenesis, the growth of new neuronal cells and protect from and heal cells from damage.
- A burdened liver that is not processing toxins properly can wreck havoc on the body. Saunas improve the body’s natural detoxification process through the stimulation of sweating (one of the three ways the body expels toxins). Lowering the toxin load on the body can help make relaxation and shifting into the parasympathetic easier.
Increased Stress Tolerance
- Saunas actually increase the production of what are known as heat shock proteins. These are literally the little guys responsible for helping us manage stress (chemical, physical, mental, emotional).
- The increased production of these heat shock proteins lead to increased stress tolerance. In other words, the body may not jump into a fight-or-flight response like it usually does when your boss starts yelling at you.
Check out my related blog posts!
5. Natural stress relief – CBD
Let’s start with, no, CBD (or pure hemp oil), does not make you high and is not marijuana. Some CBD products, however, contain THC, which is the component of marijuana that creates a high.
Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety & Depression
- Reduces common symptoms related to both anxiety and depression (source).
- Chronic inflammation can be an underlying factor related to stress and anxiety (not to mention a whole list of other illnesses). CBD has been found to reduce chronic inflammation throughout the entire body (source).
Many are still uncomfortable with the idea of using CBD. For those still unsure, here is a fantastic and comprehensive article looking at what is it, why it is not a drug, the many benefits and how to use it.
This is the brand I have tried. Although I do not use it regularly, I have friends use CBD regularly and have tried many other brands. When they try Ojai Energetics they have said that they feel the effects within seconds and it is much more effective comparatively.
6. Natural stress relief – breath work
Many are aware of the mind body connection: if you are scared or stressed your heart rate goes up, adrenaline and cortisol are released. What many do not realize is that this connection is a two-way road. Our thoughts can lead to physical reactions within the body and likewise, physical changes in the body can lead to calm or excite the mind.
- Blood Pressure – Studies have shown that just 6 slow, deep breaths are enough to lower a person’s blood pressure.
- Parasympathetic System – Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic system or the “rest and repair” system of the body. Deep breaths trigger signals to your brain that you are not in peril danger. This then leads to the release of calming hormones and a lowered heart rate.
7. Natural stress relief – exercise
Although regular exercise provides the most stress-relieving benefits, studies show that even just 20 minutes of exercise can be enough to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
- Lowers Stress Hormones – Exercise lowers stress hormones like cortisol (source).
- Natural Pain Killer – Increases and stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural “pain killer” (source).
- Improves Sleep – Many studies have demonstrated how exercise is able to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, improve sleep quality and quantity of sleep (source 1, source 2, source 3)