End anxiety and stay younger! Surprising
but true: Chronic anxiety can speed aging by shortening our telomeres, the caps on our genes responsible for keeping us young, reports the journal Neural Plasticity. The good news: Even if you often feel on edge, a few steps can keep anxiety in check and slow aging at the same time!
Create calm with dark chocolate! Sounds too good to be true, but dark chocolate is an all- natural anxiety reliever! A new study in the International Journal of Health Sciences found that women who ate dark chocolate daily for just two weeks experienced a significant drop in anxiety. Thanks goes to cocoa’s rich stores of magnesium, a mineral that plays a major role in calming the nervous system. “Just 40 grams of dark chocolate per day— the size of a regular chocolate bar— helps significantly reduce feelings of chronic anxiety,” says naturopath Michelle Schoffro Cook, PH.D., D.N.M., author of Be Your Own Herbalist. Prefer a supplement? Take 320 mg. daily.
Try the herbal Xanax— valerian root!
It’s not called the herbal Xanax just to be cute: Valerian root has the same chemical makeup as the anti-anxiety Rx! “Its active ingredient, valerenic acid, works the way Xanax does, by boosting levels of the brain- calming hormone GABA,” Schoffro Cook says. “But it doesn’t have the long list of side effects linked to the drug.” It also induces drowsiness, helping you get a good night’s sleep, another anxiety- quelling move. Try making your nightly nightcap a cup of soothing valerian root tea (such as Alvita Organic Valerian Root Tea, $7.43, iherb.com).
Give someone a hug!
Hugging a loved one— pets count!— relieves anxiety by triggering a burst of feel- good hormones. “Our bodies release the hormone oxytocin in response to cuddling or hugging, which lowers the stress hormone cortisol and significantly boosts our feelings of wellbeing,” says Schoffro Cook. Cuddling even helps lower physical symptoms of stress, such as blood pressure and heart rate— keeping anxiety’s unhealthy consequences at bay.
Turn to an ancient herb
Ashwagandha, used in India to treat anxiety for more than 3,000 years, is now proven to reduce stress- related anxiety 69% by blocking chemicals that signal the nervous system. “When the body is in fight- or-flight mode, the hor- mones cortisol and adrenaline are released,” says holistic nutritionist Lorraine Kearney. “Ashwagandha helps regulate hormone function, relieving stress and improving anxiety symptoms.” A daily 250- to 300- mg. dose also gradually restores the health of the adrenal glands, so they stop overproducing stress hormones.
—Kallie E. Kristensen