It’s funny how hard of a time people have believing me when I say that I’m introverted or shy because I tend to lean a little heavier on the outgoing end of the introverted spectrum. However, the truth is that crowds make me anxious, but one could argue that that’s a bit normal. Public speaking makes my palms sweaty, I get stressed out from time to time if the checkbook isn’t balancing like it ought to be, and when there are too many things going on at once, I’m known to lash out. Chances are you can relate or have your own sort of day to day anxiety that you face. So how do you know if your anxiety is a natural reaction to life or if you are battling an anxiety disorder?

Sally Winston, PsyD, co-director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorder Institute of Maryland in Towson, clears things up by stating that “the distinction between an anxiety disorder and just having normal anxiety is whether your emotions are causing a lot of suffering and dysfunction.” I’ll be the first to admit that I might be deemed unqualified to write this seeing as how I am on a prescription for Xanax. Or, maybe that does give me credibility because I understand what dysfunction caused by anxiety looks like. The natural remedies I’m sharing ahead are what work for me whether my anxiety is in full-on crippling mode or when I’m just a little freaked about an upcoming speaking engagement.

Chamomile Tea

Relaxation is the most common benefit of Chamomile. Some tea brands I enjoy include Yogi and Traditional Medicinals. This tea calms your nervous system so you can sleep better and unwind from the stress of the day. Not only that, I’ve found that taking the time to step away from whatever is on my mind and simply make myself a cup of tea is therapeutic.

Valerian

For some, anxiety reveals itself in the form of not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep. Valerian is a herb, and medication is made from its root. It is known to naturally aid sleep, lower blood pressure, calm anxiety, and improve stress management. I’ll be honest and say that it’s not the tastiest, but it is available in capsule form. Consult with your doctor before adding this one into your nighttime routine.

Exercise

Before you roll your eyes, I am a 2.5 year bone marrow transplant survivor that tends to worry about my health. My disease began to reveal itself as a migraine that overstayed its welcome, so anytime I feel a headache coming on, my mind jumps to the worst possible place. Getting to the gym and focusing on the things that I can control help me to face these thoughts head on. Exercise is a powerful antidote to anxiety – you are literally one workout away from a better mood.

Lavender

Lavender helps with restlessness, nervousness, and can also be used for inflammatory conditions like migraines. You can rub lavender oil on the soles of your feet to calm the entire body or create your own relaxing and natural oil blend to spritz on your pillow. Other essential oils that help with anxiety include rose, frankincense, and ylang-ylang.

Focus on Your Breath

Regardless of how you feel about yoga, this practice has helped me through some dark times. Slowly fill your lungs with air and release. Repeat. When you breathe in, let your mind know that you’re breathing in. When you breathe out, let your mind know that you’re breathing out. When thoughts try to creep in and invade your peace, you remind them that your focus belongs to your breath. Stress, as you know it, will never be the same.

Please know that I do not downplay mental illness or medications that treat mental illnesses. I understand all too well that some days a cup of tea just won’t cut it. For those of you struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issue — you’re not alone. Some days it feels like my thoughts will consume me, and I can’t tell you how many times sadness overtakes me to the point where it’s seemingly unbearable. I understand that it’s not as easy as “just relax” or “cheer up.” These tips are not to replace therapy sessions or medication that you may be prescribed if your battle with anxiety and/or depression have reached that level.

Some key indicators for me that my level of anxiety isn’t “normal” is that I tend to worry excessively and have irrational fears over things that will probably never happen. Other signs of anxiety include chronic indigestion, muscle tension, inexplicable panic, sensory overload, and more. The best thing you can do for you is to give yourself the treatment and healing you need. Sometimes that’s meditation and deep breaths; sometimes it’s medication and deep talks with a therapist. Mental illness is real, but you are braver and stronger than you could ever imagine.