Anxiety is something I have been dealing with for as long as I can remember. Every day I am still learning how to deal with it. Today I wanted to share some herbs for anxiety and stress that might help you better cope.
Growing up, I always had a shy and nervous temperament. As a teenager, I often felt nervous around new people and uneasy in large groups or environments with lots of stimuli. I can remember my parents forcing me to attend family functions and I’d leave the house teary eyed because I didn’t want to be around people. I had nothing personal towards my family members (or people in general), it just felt like too much energy for my body to handle and process. To this day, I still feel overstimulated by a lot of things in my environment and have had to teach myself ways of releasing the excess energy.
GROWING UP WITH ANXIETY
I learned very early on in my childhood that I was a highly sensitive person. My anxiousness is a symptom of my highly sensitive nature. Growing up, I had a handful of friends, but more often than not, I kept to myself. I spent a lot of time escaping into imaginary worlds; through screens, virtual realities, images, music and books (introverts unite!). I loved getting lost in a world that was different from this one.
Like most teenagers, I had zero unchecked emotions during my adolescence years. I didn’t even understand what it was that I was feeling at the time. I would literally just absorb all the energy of people in my surroundings (Hi, Cancer!). I’d come home after being around people and just want to cry while listening to sad music. It sounds so melancholy, but it’s true..
Giving away your personal power to others and taking on people’s emotional baggage can make you feel incredibly emotionally drained. As a teenager experiencing all the feelings, I didn’t realize that I had any control over my emotions at all. I thought I was supposed to be ravaged by them because it felt romantic and seemingly the most natural way of dealing with them.
WITHDRAWING FROM THE WORLD
As a result of overindulging these excessive emotions, it forced me to withdraw into my shell and hide away from the world. Unfortunately, this would often lead to me isolating myself from people in an effort to protect myself from being drained of energy, which then led me down the path of ditching class, not showing up for my work shifts, drinking excessively and ultimately down a sinkhole into depression (I will save that topic for another post because that is a beast in itself).
After many years of self-examination, breaking through childhood trauma and societal conditioning, I’ve worked to develop a healthier relationship with my anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, it can still be a struggle at times. However, I’ve re-framed my perspective around it. Instead of seeing my anxiety as a ‘disorder’ or a negative thing that I have to deal with it, I try to view it from more of a spiritual standpoint. Connecting with the unpleasant feelings and seeking to establish the source of the anxiety helps you to examine why these feelings are coming up in the first place and what you can do to address areas in your life that may be contributing to the anxious feelings. After all, there is no such thing as good or bad emotions, it’s just that sometimes there is too much emotion.
THE ROOT OF ANXIETY
In this modern age that we live in where we are constantly inundated by excess stimuli and stressors in our external world, anxiety has become a way of life for many people. It can be really challenging when you feel forced to participate in a system that is not in alignment with your personal beliefs, especially when that entire value system is the dominant ideology of what Western society is based on. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know this has been a prevailing source of anxiety for myself, and also many people I know. So, how do we navigate this hyper stimulating world that we live in that is in conflict with our personal beliefs about what life should be?
A CHANGE IN PERSPECTIVE
On my path to managing my anxiety, I came across many different healing modalities that have helped along the way. In my experience, one of the most useful methods for dealing with my anxiety is using herbal medicine regularly. The beautiful thing about herbs is that they have very little side effects (unlike prescription drugs). They also offer a gentler and more balanced approach to healing the body. Here are some of my favourite herbs for anxiety and stress.
HERBS FOR ANXIETY & STRESS:
Ashwaganda is definitely one of my top herbs of all time. It is an Ayurvedic herb, considered to be an ‘adaptogen.’ Adaptogens have a balancing effect on the body. I use Ashwaganda in capsules, tea, powder or even taken as a tincture. It truly is one of the best herbs to help the body manage stress and anxiety. Ashwaganda is also great for calming the adrenal glands and balancing hormones. This is definitely a herb that you want to have at your disposal! I suggest taking it daily in small doses over an extended period of time to notice the best results. When I first started taking it for my anxiety, I think I took it regularly for about a year.
This is an herb I’ve talked about before in some of my other posts. Like Ashwaganda, Holy Basil is also an Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogen as well. I love drinking Holy Basil tea to really help take the edge off of my anxiety. It has a very calming effect on the body. Holy Basil is also a source of antioxidants, so it will help with lowering inflammation levels. What most people don’t often realize about anxiety is that it is a form of inflammation. The body has a normal inflammatory response to protect us from harmful things in our environment. However, issues tend to arise when the body is constantly producing an overactive response to stress (fight vs. flight). Enter Holy Basil & Ashwaganda!
Lemon Balm comes from the mint family and is one of the best herbs for anxiety. I will usually use Lemon Balm tincture in my herbal teas in the evenings if I am feeling really overwhelmed. Taking any herbs in liquid form will help them to absorb more easily into the body. This is why I love using tinctures. They’re great for those acute situations when you need something quick and in the moment. Additionally, Lemon Balm works great as a mild sedative to improve sleep quality.
Passionflower is another beautiful, calming flower. It is one of my favourite herbs for anxiety because it can help produce more GABA in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that prevents the brain from becoming overstimulated. I also use Passionflower as a tincture, and find that it really helps to relax my body if I am experiencing a lot of nervous energy. It’s also helpful when dealing with insomnia.