It is reported that 18.1% of adults in the United States have an anxiety disorder (according to the National Institute of Mental Health). On a personal level, I know what it’s like to deal with anxiety. Myself, family members, and close friends have all dealt with levels of recurring anxiety at one time or another.
If you have anxiety (whether it’s a small case or a debilitating one) just know that you’re not alone and there is help available.
I can remember one specific day, feeling incredibly hopeless and depressed, I spent the entire day searching online for ways to break out of my anxiety “funk”. That led me down the rabbit hole of supplements. While there are tons of supplements out there that promote sleep, I didn’t want to take a supplement that would make me tired all day. Because I work nearly 11 hour days, I needed to have a supplement that promoted focus and concentration while also bringing my anxiety and stress levels down.
Today I am going to share my findings and what nootropics have worked to keep my anxiety at bay and increase my cognitive abilities…
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Just Say No To Caffeine
The biggest contributor to my anxiety levels was caffeine. I had no idea how much I was actually consuming until I wrote it down one day — 2 cups in the morning, 1 in the afternoon, and an energy drink before working out. That is over 400mg of caffeine every day.
Caffeine works by tricking the brain into binding with it instead of adenosine (which promotes calmness/tiredness). That’s why so many people drink it right in the morning — to wake up. It also increases adrenaline production, which increases the heart rate, blood flow, and gives you more energy. What’s more is it increases dopamine levels, making you feel happy.
All that sounds great, right? Not exactly…
Caffeine also increases cortisol production, the hormone that makes you feel stressed. This can make you feel anxious and elevate pre-existing anxiety to new highs.
Key takeaway: keep your caffeine levels as low as possible if you have any anxiety. That is why all of the nootropics I mention in this article have zero caffeine in them. Because while caffeine can be a great way to increase energy levels, it isn’t worth the stress.
Nootropics That Fight Anxiety & Increase Focus
The whole point of taking nootropics is to help improve your mental abilities. However, for people with anxiety, taking the wrong supplements can lead to even more anxiety and stress. Why? Some nootropics place a higher emphasis on increasing energy levels (through the use of stimulants, which can raise stress/anxiety) than they do on actually increasing focus and concentration.
Below are nootropics I use when I need to improve my cognition and stay calm at the same time…
As one of my favorite all around nootropics, this supplement has been shown to improve memory and decrease anxiety. This makes it the perfect nootropic for those looking to decrease their anxiety and still stay mentally sharp. You’ll find Bacopa Monnieri in a lot of nootropics on the market today.
Like Bacopa, Rhodiola Rosea also increases memory (as well as focus) and decreases anxiety levels. In addition, it has been shown to increase serotonin levels, parasymathetic nervous system activity (allowing the body to slow down), and decreasing the sympathetic nervous system activity (lowering the heart rate, fight or flight response, and breathing rate). While research has been conducted on Rhodiola Rosea to understand what it does, it is still unclear as to why it works this way.
Have you ever wondered why the effects of green tea and coffee aren’t the same? They both contain caffeine (albeit different amounts). It is because green tea has L-Theanine in it. Studies show that L-Theanine can actually reduce the negative effects of caffeine (stress and anxiety) while still giving you energy and focus. So if you absolutely need to have caffeine, try a supplement that has L-Theanine and caffeine.
In addition to its calming effects, Ashwagandha has also been shown to lower inflammation, help those with neurological disorders, and even support low white blood cell count. A study showed that it works as a potent way to treat anxiety by lowering cortisol levels (when compared to a placebo group).
My Favorite Anti-Anxiety Nootropics
Although I researched all of these individual supplements that reduce anxiety, I didn’t want to fiddle around with combining them. I wanted the easiest and least time consuming solution — one dose of everything. That is why I chose to go with a nootropic blend. Below are the ones I regularly use…
- Mind Lab Pro: As one of the most highly rated nootropics on Brain Wiz, Mind Lab Pro does not contain any caffeine and still works like a charm. It does contain Cognizin (Citicoline), Phosphatidylserine, Lion’s Mane mushroom, Rhodiola rosea, L-Theanine, Bacopa monnieri, Pterostilbene, Vinpocetine, Huperzine-A. You’ll notice it has 3 of the supplements mentioned above.
- Alpha Brain: Popularized by the Joe Rogan Podcast, this supplement by Onnit might the most well known nootropic. It is well-received by many that use it and we had similar positive effects — an increase in mental alertness, verbal intelligence, and a decrease in stress/anxiety levels. Alpha Brain contains AC-11, Alpha GPC, Bacopa Monnieri, Huperzine A, L-Leucine, L-Theanine, L-Tyrosine, Oat Straw, Phosphatidylserine, Pterostilbene and Vinpocetine. You’ll notice it has 2 of the anxiety reducing supplements listed above.
- RISE by Nootrobox: Last but certainly not least is RISE by the folks over at Nootrobox. While they make many other supplements with caffeine in them (most notably, SPRINT and Go Cubes) RISE does not contain any caffeine. It also contains the least amount of ingredients overall with just Bacopa monnieri, Rhodiola rosea, and a-GPC. However, it still makes for a great anxiety relieving nootropic. One of our testers even described the effect of using RISE as, “I felt calm and level-headed…”
My Favorite Evening Supplements For Anxiety
While not technically nootropics, I find that the following supplements help allow me to relax and put me in the right mood prior to going to bed. This allows me to get a better rest and wake up feeling refreshed, rather than tired and anxious.
- Chamomile: Usually drank in tea, Chamomile is one of my favorite supplements to use at night. It promotes calmness and allows me to unwind right before going to sleep.
- KAVA: This is one of the most widely used supplements to help treat anxiety. I have used it before big presentations where I was feeling stressed and it definitely kept my anxiety levels down.
- Melatonin: As a promenant sleep aid, Melatonin is usually used right before bed to help make you feel tired. I use it on occasion when I need to get a deep sleep. One drawback I’ve found is that it causes me to have very vivid and sometimes stressful dreams.
- Valerian Root: Much like melatonin, valerian root is used as a sleep aid too. I use this supplement more frequently than melatonin because it does not cause me to have stressful dreams.
Regardless of your anxiety levels, you should speak to a medical professional before taking any supplements. If you are feeling as though your anxiety is reaching levels that you cannot control, speak with friends and family about treatment options. Here are some additional ways to help ease anxiety levels.
If you know of any other nootropics that help with anxiety, please leave a comment below!