How to Help Someone with Anxiety: 5 All-Natural Strategies

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Is someone in your life struggling with anxiety?

Experiencing anxiety is a normal psychological mood state.

This is important to understand because there is a difference  between the disease (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and the everyday, common feeling of anxiety that we all experience at different points in our lives. 

While professional help from mental health professionals is advisable for those who are dealing with an anxiety disorder, there are also natural methods you can use to support your anxious friends or family members.

By understanding how to provide support for someone with anxiety, you can make a significant difference in their mental health journey.

In this post we’ll look at:

  • Key supplements that promote feelings of calmness and relaxation
  • Dietary changes that alter the body's second brain: the gut
  • Breathwork and journaling practices to help alleviate and manage feelings of anxiety

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Incorporating Supplements to Alleviate Anxiety

When you first notice a friend or family member struggling with anxiety, what do you do?
The first suggestion I would make is to have your loved one incorporate key supplements.

Clinical research has shown  that dietary supplements do indeed help with anxiety, and the three I’ll share here are some of the most effective options out there.

They are:

  1. Ashwagandha
  2. Magnolia Bark
  3. Bifidobacterium longum R0175

Let’s break these down: 


Ashwagandha comes from traditional Indian medicine, Ayurveda.

You've likely heard of this medicinal herb. It works by triggering a relaxation response (when properly extracted) by reducing cortisol , the primary stress hormone. It also balances other hormones, fostering resilience and reducing the signs of anxiety and susceptibility.


Magnolia Bark

Then there’s magnolia bark.

Magnolia bark, originating from African traditional medicine, is ideal for moments of high anxiety. (Again, you need to ensure proper extraction for effectiveness.) It's beneficial for stress-eaters or those prone to anxiety-induced eating to reduce cortisol levels and promote a sense of calm .

Next time you see your friend or loved one showing signs of anxiety suggest they give magnolia bark a try.

And now, one of my favorites, a third natural supplement that helps ease anxiety:

Bifidobacterium Longum R0175

I know, what a name!

I mean, doesn't "Bifidobacterium longum R0175" sound like a mix between a Star Wars character and a Harry Potter spell?

But hey, it's not magic, though its effects are definitely out of this world.

This specific probiotic strain aids in anxiety reduction by enhancing the production of GABA, the body's primary relaxing neurotransmitter - and by reducing inflammation in the gut, which can send a calming signal to the brain by influencing gut activity, this "psychobiotic" helps regulate the amygdala, diminishing the fear response and promoting feelings of calm .

Amazing, right?

So, my first suggestion for how to help someone with anxiety is to encourage them to incorporate ashwagandha, magnolia bark, and Bifidobacterium longum R0175 into their daily routine. The combined effect of this trio can have a powerful effect on those who consistently struggle with feeling anxious.

But that’s not all.

Here’s the next strategy I suggest to help someone with anxiety:

Stimulating the Vagus Nerve with Deep Breathing

breathing vagus nerve

Research continues to reveal the powerful effects breathwork has on the human body. Specifically in its role of activating the vagus nerve .

Now, I talk about the vagus nerve often (most recently, in this blog post on stress) but here is a quick overview:

The vagus nerve is a long nerve, named for its “wandering path.” As in, it wanders throughout the body and is an integral part of the "Rest & Digest" system.

It controls mood, digestion, and many facets of our stress response. It also links the brain to important organs like the heart and gut.

The cool part is we can control the signals it sends from our body to the brain to shift from the fight-or-flight mode into a relaxed state.

Neat, right?

The number one way to do this is with breathwork.

Breathwork Exercises to Activate the Vagus Nerve and Soothe Anxiety

There are a variety of breathwork exercises your friend or loved one can use to stimulate the vagus nerve and immediately experience a calm sensation. They pretty much all work. Here are three they can try right away:

  1. Box breathing. This is where you inhale through your nose for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale through your mouth for four, hold for four, and so on.
  2. 4-7-8 breathing. Inhale through your nose for four counts, hold for seven, and then release through your mouth for eight. Repeat four times.
  3. Alternate nostril breathing. Begin by fully exhaling, then seal your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale gently through the left nostril. Use the ring finger of your right hand to seal the left nostril, and exhale fully through the right nostril. Keep the left nostril sealed as you inhale through the right nostril. Close the right nostril with your thumb and exhale through the left nostril. Continue for up to five minutes.

Next time you see a friend or loved one having a hard time, invite them to do some breathing exercises with you. Using one of the techniques above will help them experience immediate relief.

Now, let’s go even deeper:

Get Them to Eat These Foods


Fermented foods are one of the best ways to nourish the body to improve mood.

Here’s how.

Fermented foods produce lactic acid. Lactic acid changes the gut’s environment, which encourages the growth of lactobacillus bacteria and bifidobacterium bacteria.

These bacteria produce natural feel-good chemicals like:

  • GABA to help us relax
  • Serotonin for our mood 
  • Dopamine for our motivation
  • And oxytocin helps us connect with other people on a deeper level

So, what does this mean?

Fermented foods can fundamentally reset the entire environment of the gut  to create a less anxious gut, which means a less anxious body and a less anxious body means a – you guessed it – less anxious brain.

So, by now, you’re probably thinking, “Alright, Dr. Shawn, you convinced me. Now, what fermented foods are you talking about?”

Here are some of the best ones:

Best Fermented Foods for Gut Health and Mood Regulation

  • Yogurt
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir

Encourage your loved one to incorporate these fermented foods into their diet for optimal mental health and emotional well-being, and watch the steady transformation!


At its core, anxiety is typically a mental wellness issue that often stems from chemical imbalances in the body.  Rather than relying on artificial chemicals (drugs!), we’ve found that it’s often possible to restore natural chemical balance with rather simple strategies.

GABA Serotonin and Dopamine Deep Dives

To go deeper into free mental wellness trainings that will empower yourself and your loved ones that include videos on:

  • Improving your sleep to boost serotonin levels and mood
  • Beating addiction, which helps to reduce shame
  • Improving the gut to better produce GABA and dopamine for relaxation and motivation sensations

…simply enter your email address below, and I’ll send you the links to these free videos!

Balancing Glucose Levels for Anxiety Regulation

Glucose balance is incredibly important in mental health conditions for people who are prone to anxiety and panic attacks. 

If your blood sugar fluctuates a lot, particularly when it gets low, it leads to alarm bells in your brain, leading to alarm bells in your body. By modulating blood sugar levels (specifically to avoid that dip), your friend or loved one can see improvements in their mood , both in the short term and in the long term.

One of the best ways to do this is to cut out soda (yep, even diet soda).

I know, I know. Nobody wants to hear that!

But the truth is, that sodas and energy drinks are notorious for jacking up blood sugar, which always leads to blood sugar crashes. And the combination of caffeine and sugar is pretty rough, too. Caffeine amplifies the stress response and sugar affects, well, the blood sugar.

If you can offer support by gently encouraging your loved one to reduce their intake of soda and energy drinks, this can help them experience better blood sugar control, which will help with their overall ability to manage their fight-or-flight response and experience fewer panic attacks.

And finally, a powerful daily life practice:

Journaling as a Coping Strategy for Anxious Thoughts

My fifth suggestion for helping someone who has anxiety is to encourage them to journal what they are feeling.

Let me explain.

People who feel anxious often need to name what is making them feel that way.

There is something very helpful and therapeutic about naming what is causing the anxious thoughts, putting it on paper, and writing down solutions.

Journaling helps to put the issue causing us significant anxiety back into perspective .It’s a great way to practice problem-solving, promote cognitive flexibility, and navigate stressful situations.

By physically writing down worries and potential solutions, your friend can gain insights into their anxious thoughts and emotions. This process helps them identify triggers and develop coping mechanisms to manage their anxiety effectively.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do you calm someone with anxiety?

Someone who is feeling a high amount of anxiety (even a panic attack) needs a quick solution. The fastest, most effective solution is to have them practice deep breathing. Offer support by coaching them through a breathing exercise such as box breathing. Soon, they will begin to feel calmer and more relaxed, which will ease their physical symptoms. You can then discuss the next steps with them for managing anxiety symptoms and improving their mental health. This may feel overwhelming to them, so show support by taking it slow.

What helps severe anxiety?

Severe anxiety can be a mood state; other times, it can signal a deeper issue like anxiety or panic disorder. Seeking professional help from a mental health professional and treatment when needed is always advisable. Many who struggle with anxiety disorders choose a treatment of medication management. But, if your friends, family members, or loved ones want to explore natural solutions and remedies, the five strategies I shared in this blog post are a great place to start.

What triggers anxiety?

Anxiety can be triggered by highly stressful circumstances, traumatic events, or, as is the case for many of us, imbalances in our hormones, gut, and glucose levels. Anxiety is often characterized by upsetting physical symptoms, such as heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Anxious feelings can include intense fear, excessive worry, and negative thought patterns.

It’s important to explore underlying reasons, do proper research, and consider all the variables when trying to find the source of anxiety in one’s life and promote better mental health. Treatment for underlying issues is one of the best ways to address the root of anxiety and find long-term solutions.


Supporting someone with anxiety involves a combination of emotional and practical support.

By incorporating these natural methods into their daily routine, your friend or loved one can effectively manage their anxiety and lead a fulfilling, normal life. 

Remember to provide emotional support and encouragement to the anxious person in your life, and consider seeking professional help when needed, as in the case of an anxiety disorder. Together, you can help your loved one navigate through challenging moments and regain a sense of calmness and resilience.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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