7 Proven Ways to Treat Anxiety Without Any Drugs

Updated: Feb. 09, 2017

Try these natural stress-relievers when you're feeling frazzled.

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Use a weighted blanket

Wrapping yourself in a weighted blanket applies deep touch pressure—the same comforting sensation as being hugged, held, or stroked. The pressure can help relax your nervous system and encourage your body to produce the mood-boosting hormones endorphins and serotonin. In one study, 63 percent of users said they had less anxiety after lying under a 30-pound blanket for five minutes.


Tackle your cell phone addiction

College students who felt addicted to their phones and the Internet scored higher on depression and anxiety scales, found a University of Illinois study. Those who just used their phones to kill time and beat boredom weren’t as likely to have those negative mental health outcomes. If you feel like you’re overly dependent on your phone, designate certain hours of the day to leave the screen off. Here are other ways technology can make you sick.

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Get a good night’s sleep

You might feel like anxiety is keeping you up all night, but your lack of sleep may actually drive your anxiety, suggests a University of California, Berkeley, study. Participants were shown pictures, first after a full night’s rest, then after pulling an all-nighter. Images before each picture indicated if it would be an unpleasant or neutral picture, or if it was a toss-up which type participants would see. After a sleepless night, volunteers had more activity in their emotional brain regions when they didn’t know which type of picture to expect than when they were well-rested, especially if they were naturally anxious people. The researchers say extra sleep could help calm people who find themselves worrying too much about the future. Having trouble getting a good night’s rest? Find doctor-approved sleep advice here.

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Eat less fat

Weight gain and high blood sugar from a high-fat diet could cause anxiety, found a mice study in the British Journal of Pharmacology. Once the mice moved to a lower-fat diet, their anxious symptoms decreased. Plus, eating more fat seemed to make antidepressants less effective. Pick lean cuts of meat and avoid cream-based sauces and dressings high in saturated fat. Check out these tips on using less fat when you cook.


Practice yoga

Anti-anxiety drugs often work by increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical in the brain that helps regulate nerve activity. To boost GABA levels without a pill, give yoga a shot. Studies have shown that a session can increase GABA levels, decrease anxiety, and boost your mood. Try subbing a yoga class in for your usual exercise routine to drive away anxiety. Try these morning yoga stretches for instant energy.


Take a deep breath

It sounds basic, but this advice became common for a reason. When you’re stressed, your body turns to quick, shallow breathing during its fight or flight mode. But taking a slow, deep breath can stimulate the vagus nerve, which puts the brakes on that stress response and tells your body to relax. When anxiety starts to hit, inhale with your belly—not your chest—and let the air out with a long, slow breath. Learn more about healty breathing tips here.


Color inside the lines

A coloring book could provide more anxiety relief than doodling on a blank sheet. In a small study, participants measured their stress before the experiment, after writing about a stressful experience, which raised anxiety, and after coloring. Those who colored either a mandala (a geometric design framed by a circle) or a plaid pattern were less anxious than they were before the study began. Those who colored free form didn’t see any decrease in the rise in anxiety they reported after recalling a stressor. Many companies sell coloring books for adults, so grab a pack of sharp colored pencils and create a masterpiece. Here are more benefits of coloring for adults.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest