Definition of Stress:
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Stress is your body’s reaction to pressure from a certain situation or event. It can be a physical, mental, or emotional reaction.
We all deal with stress at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s your job, a family illness, or money troubles. These are common triggers. According to a recent study, about half of all Americans say they’re dealing with moderate stress.
Not all stress is bad. It can make you more aware of things around you and keep you more focused. In some cases, stress can give you strength and help you get more done.
Stress generally refers to two things: the psychological perception of pressure, on the one hand, and the body’s response to it, on the other, which involves multiple systems, from metabolism to muscles to memory.
Some stress is necessary for all living systems; it is the means by which they encounter and respond to the challenges and uncertainties of existence. The perception of danger sets off an automatic response system, known as the fight-or-flight response, that, activated through hormonal signals, prepares an animal to meet a threat or to flee from it.
We have to realize that stress can be normal. It is when it gets unmanageable that we need to address the causes and what we can do to alleviate them.
Types of Stress
Sometimes you can feel stressed for a short period. Usually, it’s nothing to worry about. Like when you need to hand in a project, or you have to talk in front of a group of people. Maybe you feel “butterflies” in your stomach and the palms of your hands get sweaty.
These types of positive stressors are short-lived, and your body’s way of helping you get through what could be a tough situation.
If you let your stress spiral on for too long, it can have damaging effects on your physical, mental, and emotional health, especially if it becomes chronic. You need to be aware of the warning signs of chronic stress so you can take care of it.
Everyday stress can become chronic, and dealing with stress in a healthy way is important. Here are some tips for relieving everyday stress.
1. Take an art class – Art therapy has been shown to help with stress relief. Being able to channel internal emotions into an art medium can be very therapeutic.
2. Prayer, guided meditation, and imagery – Experts say that 10 to 20 minutes of prayer or meditation each day can help reduce stress. Guided imagery also may be helpful, and can be included with prayer or meditation. You can find websites with stress-relieving images to click on, and there are other sources for guided imagery online and at your library. You may also choose to see a professional who can guide you through the imagery or meditation.
3. Go easy on yourself – Don’t engage in self-criticism. Repeat your mantra; say your prayers, meditation, or whatever you need to do to silence the “you’re not good enough” voice.
4. Learn to take time out – When you are stressed, you may be more prone to angry outbursts. Learn to take a moment for a time out before responding to something that angered you.
5. Be unavailable – Sometimes it can be very stressful to feel like you always have to be there for others. At some point, it’s important to turn off your telephone(s) close your email, and just be there for yourself. You can even choose a regular time to do this and inform your friends and family so they won’t be offended when you don’t answer your phone or email.
6. Breathe deeply – Often a component of meditation, learning to take slow, deep breaths may help relieve stress in and of itself. Deep breathing may help remove toxins and relax muscles. It also is said to calm the mind.
7. Don’t set the stage – Without meaning to, you might be setting the stage for everyday stresses. For example, if you don’t maintain your car, it may break down all of a sudden, making for a very stressful time. The same can be true of not taking care of your nutritional needs or otherwise neglecting your health. Getting sick can really add to the stress, especially trying to make up for the time lost after you get better.
8. Keep a healthy perspective – Sometimes, you can get overwhelmed with stress when everything seems vitally important and must be done right now. Try to keep a healthy perspective on things, reminding yourself that a situation, decision, or “moment” may not really matter ten years from now.
Using Stress for Motivation
The phrase “healthy stress” may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s actually a reality. Stress is inescapable; everyone feels some stress at some point throughout their lives. Our bodies are therefore equipped to handle certain types and amounts of stress. We can even benefit from it.
So what is the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress? What makes stress healthy? Here are some things to think about regarding stress and its role in your health.
Sometimes considered as, “A Great Motivator”.
Without stress, not very much would get done. Stress is what drives you to teach your kids proper behavior, earn money, and pay your bills on time. It is what keeps you on your toes in a football game or when catching your tumbling toddler. A certain amount of stress about traffic accidents motivates you to drive safely.
Did you feel stressed when that person cuts you off in traffic? The stress response was partially responsible for your quick pressure on the brakes! Stress can motivate us into quick, sometimes life-saving action. In the case of an emergency, one of your stress hormones – adrenaline – kicks in, and prompts you to act quickly and sometimes with remarkable strength.
Endorphins are the “feel-good” neurotransmitters. When the body is stressed or in pain, its natural pain relievers are released in the form of endorphins. Exercise is a healthy way to bring this kind of endorphin-releasing stress onto your body. While you should not exercise to the point of unbearable pain, it’s okay to “feel the burn” and push yourself a little. Massage therapy and acupuncture can also stimulate the release of endorphins.
-Other Health Benefits
Experts are finding anti-tumor activity in people who undergo healthy stress, indicating that healthy stress stimulates the immune system.
This is the type of stress we do not need.
The unhealthy type of stress is constant. You do not return to a normal energy level after it has passed. Unhealthy stress can take the form of constant worry, depression, and exhaustion. It can cause weight gain as well due to the release of cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
Continual stress weakens the immune system. That can leave you more susceptible to everyday illnesses and more serious problems such as cancer.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
People who are chronically stressed usually worry about common, everyday things over which they have no control. These are the kinds of things that are not going to go away, such as paying bills, keeping the house clean, and so forth. Once one set of worries is tackled, another set comes along. Accepting these annoyances as part of life can go a long way in helping you cope with unhealthy stress.
Stress can affect you in several ways:
There are ways that stress can affect you – physical, emotional, and behavioral manifestations of stress are all possible. Here are some of the ways that stress can affect you.
Stress may affect your emotions. Some of the more common emotional manifestations of stress include:
Anxiety and worry
When you are stressed, experts say you tend to react to small things in a big way – in other words, problems seem bigger than they actually are. Each issue you have to deal with, no matter how small, can feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The effects of stress on the body are becoming more and more well-known. These may include headaches, digestive disorders, weight gain, and even hair loss.
Headaches caused by stress are said to be tension-type headaches or TTH. Medical professionals say that TTHs result from circulatory fluctuations and muscle tension.
Weight gain can result from stress, perhaps due to the overeating, some sufferers engage in to cope. It could also be cravings for sugar and other carbohydrates, said to be caused by stress, that adds weight. The fat that has accumulated around the abdominal area is said to be stress-related – a stressed individual may find him or herself able to lose weight but unable to lose the “stress fat” around his or her middle.
Digestive disorders can be a sign of stress. These can range from abdominal pain to chronic diarrhea.
Hair loss may also result from chronic stress.
Heart disease is linked to stress. The heart and overall circulatory system may be affected by stress to the point of exacerbating or even causing disease or dysfunction.
Insomnia is another physical problem that is linked to stress.
Susceptibility to illness may be a physical effect of stress – experts say that chronic stress exhausts the immune system, leaving you open to infection and sickness.
Chronic pain that is difficult to identify may result from chronic stress. Back and neck pain is the most common type of stress-related pain, but headaches (noted above) and joint pain may be stress-related as well.
In adults and children, stress is often exhibited via behavioral changes. Behavioral stress may manifest as:
Lashing out verbally or physically at family members or pets
Spending inappropriate amounts of money
Staying up very late at night, sleeping very late in the morning, or otherwise keeping unusual hours
Withdrawal from activities you once enjoyed
Withdrawal from family, friends, or any social activity
It is important to know what causes stress in your life. Here are some of the signs and symptoms you can look for to identify stress in your life, and in the lives of those you know.
When it comes to causes of stress, there are some obvious ones and some not-so-obvious ones. Obvious stressors include things like the loss of a loved one, a house fire, the loss of a job, illness, or any number of traumatic situations. Some more subtle causes of stress could be a difficult work relationship, finances, or a feeling of being out of control.
In discussing what causes stress, it’s a good idea to take a look at just what stress is. Stress is not necessarily bad – it actually can keep you safe or save your life. For example, the stress you feel as you begin to cross an intersection and someone runs a red light is crucial to your fast, physical reaction – you slam on the brakes. Your body responds to the stressful situation with a “fight or flight” reaction, which makes your natural defenses kick in full force.
Some types of stress help you do a good job at work or in some sort of performance or event. Chronic stress, however, which is more than just an incident here and there, can have a detrimental effect on health and emotions. In a nutshell, stress is the body’s response to intense or difficult situations. Those situations can be sudden and traumatic, or continual and subtle.
Here are some possible causes of stress.
1. Difficult relationships
Being “trapped” in a difficult marriage or familial relationship can be very stressful, and can become a source of chronic stress. Divorce is said to be one of the most stressful relationship situations that people can experience.
Yes, retirement can be a stressor, according to some sources. While you won’t have work-related stress anymore, some people find the retirement of their spouse, for instance, very stressful – suddenly, their schedule is completely different. The retired individual may feel useless without a daily job to do.
Grave illnesses like cancer are very stressful for the sufferer and his or her family. It has been said that stress is “murder” in relationships, which may add additional stress to the illness situation.
Sustaining an injury can be a big stressor. Depending on the nature of the injury, your entire lifestyle may experience upheaval and chronic pain may be a factor. Intense pain, even if temporary, can cause extreme stress.
Do you feel like everything has to be “just right”? For you, it may be very stressful when things aren’t perfect. And since imperfection is a big part of life, a perfectionist may find him or herself stressed chronically.
What causes you stress? Please indicate in the comment section. How do you deal with stress?
Depression is complex, but it is often a symptom of unresolved, unrelieved stress. Excessive stress can make you feel unaccomplished – there’s just too much to do – and that can result in feelings of worthlessness. Also, since stress can affect sleep, your mind and body can become exhausted. Without adequate rest, the brain cannot function optimally. Depression is said to be the brain’s reaction to stress.
2. Mood swings
Do you find yourself snapping at people when you don’t mean to? Do you go from happy to down within a matter of minutes or hours? In children, you might notice irritability a “bad attitude” or aggression as moody signs of stress.
3. Difficulty concentrating
“Brain fog” can result from stress. Children may have trouble concentrating in school or on their homework. You may find it difficult to stick to a task without your mind wandering. Again, this can be interpreted as your brain trying to get the rest it needs by “escaping.”
This is perhaps one of the more torturous stress symptoms. Insomnia is very difficult to deal with and adds to the cycle of stress. If you can’t sleep, it can begin a cascade of cyclic symptoms that result from lack of sleep, and then exacerbate the lack of sleep. In children, this may manifest as an inability to sleep alone, nightmares, or wakefulness.
5. Feeling overwhelmed
Stress can make everything seem bigger. When you are stressed, it seems like there is just too much to do and you’ll never get it done. Then you may feel inadequate because you didn’t accomplish everything that needed to be done during the day.
Muscle tension from stress can result in headaches, as can insomnia. If you experience headaches regularly or often, it could be stress.
7. Heart irregularities
Stress affects the heart – it’s supposed to so that your chances of survival are increased in a stressful situation. But when the stress is continual, your heart can really get “tired out.” Stress can result in chest tightness or heart palpitations.
In children, tweens, and teens, this is something to watch for. Stressed children may hole up in their rooms and refuse to interact with family or friends. It’s also something to think about in your own life – do you find yourself too worn out to go out? If someone asks you to a party or event, do you just think of it as one more thing you’ll have to deal with? That may mean you’re stressed.
9. Weight gain or loss
Your appetite may fluctuate significantly if you are stressed, resulting in weight gain or loss that you weren’t expecting. Depression and insomnia can contribute to weight gain, too, and some experts theorize that fat, especially on the belly, can actually be a sign of stress.
Natural ways to manage stress:
Meditation may help reduce stress, and it does not involve any medication. One of the nice things about meditation is the “me time” you get while practicing it. The meditation itself helps focus the mind and relax the body. There are various types of meditation.
Qigong is a form of Chinese meditation that emphasizes the “qi” – your life force or life energy. With calm, focused breathing you are said to achieve a peaceful mental state. Another technique is to repeat a mantra, a key phrase that you can say over and over to bring a sense of calm and peace.
One helpful form of meditation for chronic stress sufferers is “mindful meditation.” In this sort of meditation, you learn how to live in the present and focus on the now. This may help with chronic stressors that are long-term, and that may seem overwhelming.
Stretching is said to ease the tension out of the body. Combining stretching with meditation, as in Qigong and Yoga, can be especially beneficial, as both mind and body are targeted. Stretching helps relax tight muscles and realign the joints. You might consider Yoga or a martial arts class – being with other people and getting out may help relieve your stress, too.
Stress is said to result in toxin build-up in your body, perhaps because of how it affects circulation and digestion. Exercise gets your blood moving, which aids in toxin elimination. Exercise also strengthens muscles and moves the joints. All of this can help “work out” your stress and minimize stress-related weight gain.
4. Herbal teas
Herbal teas are generally inexpensive and widely available. You can sip them throughout the day, at key points during the day, and before going to bed. Chamomile tea can be helpful, as can lemon balm or catnip tea. If you like, look for a tea made from a blend of relaxing herbs in your local grocery or health food store.
5. Eat well
Good nutrition is essential for dealing with stress. Vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D are especially important in helping the body handle stress. Studies show that Vitamin C helps boost the immune system, and magnesium is important in muscle relaxation and nerve function. Calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D are vital for bone health and muscle function.
Consider taking a good-quality vitamin supplement, but also eat as many vitamin-rich foods as possible. Emphasize fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
How unhealthy stress affects you.
The digestive organs have a tendency to take the brunt of our stress. This is why stress has such a reputation for causing ulcers. While ulcers are said to be caused by bacteria, some experts theorize that stress still plays a role in making an individual more susceptible to bacterial infection.
Stomach pain, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and other digestive disorders can be the result of stress. The “fight or flight” response, which is a factor in the body’s response to stress, affects the digestive organs by temporarily shutting them down. You can imagine what havoc this could wreak on your digestive organs if stress were chronic.
Excessive stress is said to disrupt hormones in men and women. Women may experience menstrual irregularities, acne, problems in pregnancy, or difficulties becoming pregnant. Men may experience impotency or other sexual dysfunction.
The heart is directly affected by stress in that the “fight or flight” response involves its function. The heart becomes stressed itself, which studies indicate can make you more prone to heart disease. Other sources note that stress particularly affects the cardiovascular system by exacerbating or even helping to bring on atherosclerosis (this is a deformation and narrowing of the arterial walls that results in decreased blood flow).
Upper Respiratory Illness
Some experts point out the effect of stress on the immune system. They say it decreases the immune response and suppresses the immune system. A suppressed immune system can leave you open to infections and illness, particularly colds and flu.
Stress may affect your metabolism due to the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. This slowing of the metabolism can make weight loss difficult, and weight gain can occur even if you aren’t eating more. It’s also possible that stress makes you crave sugary foods, making weight gain more probable. This is why some people call their eating habits “worry eating.”
Some experts even claim that stress affects where you gain weight – excess weight around the abdominal region may be caused by stress.
The excessive weight gain that may be brought on by stress can result in a host of other health problems associated with obesity: diabetes, joint problems, and perhaps even cancer.
Stress might manifest in anxious behavior. Excessive worry or obsessive-compulsive tendencies may be manifestations of an anxiety disorder brought on by stress.
Options and ways to control stress:
It is always important to talk with your doctor if you feel your stress is affecting your lifestyle. In the meantime, you should consider trying out a few natural options.
- Quite a few treatment options come under this heading. Natural treatments focus on coping strategies like body movements, meditation, and natural supplements. Yoga has been shown to help relieve stress in those who practice it. Yoga involves stretching and holding the body in postures, and it sometimes includes meditation. Meditation alone is an increasingly popular means of coping with stress. Deep breathing, relaxed muscles, and an aligned body frame are some of the reported benefits of meditation. Supplements have been shown to be helpful in dealing with stress. Some natural health practitioners recommend supplementing with flax oil or evening primrose oil, as these essential fatty acids are said to play a role in healthy brain function. (They are sometimes suggested for those who suffer from depression, too.) Other experts suggest a bioavailable multivitamin with a high proportion of B6, or perhaps a B-complex supplement or just B6 alone. Studies show that B vitamins play a key role in mood and emotional health. There are other herbs and natural supplements that may help with stress. If you can, locate a natural health practitioner or herbalist to help recommend something for you.2. MedicalThere is no shame in resorting to medication, as long as it is under a doctor’s supervision. Medication is said to be particularly indicated in helping people cope with sudden life changes or stress such as the loss of a loved one or a car accident. Medications are not necessarily indicated for dealing with everyday stressors. Some stress sufferers find relief from stress-related headaches when they take medication. The goal of most medications of this nature is to get you to the point where you are able to seek help and deal with the underlying cause of your stress.3. Dietary
In a dietary approach to stress management, what you avoid eating may be as important as what you do eat. Experts recommend avoiding sugar and caffeine, as these stimulants tend to provide short-term relief with a “crash” later. Caffeine in particular can have a cyclic effect – you consume the caffeine to cope, but then the caffeine keeps you awake or makes you irritable.
Try to include lots of fresh, whole foods in your stress-relieving diet to keep your body functioning in top shape.
There can be great solace in learning about a topic that is bothering you. Take some time to research books and articles on stress. Find out how it works, why people experience it, and how you can deal with it. Sometimes, just learning as much as you can about it helps you cope. It might become less mysterious and scary that way.
Panax ginseng, also known as Korean ginseng, is an adaptogen, says Lindsey Toth, a registered dietitian in Chicago, and a supplement expert for Swanson Health Products. “I like to say this herb is ‘namaste all day’ for its power to help you de-stress,” she says. “It also helps the body fight stress by helping to improve your mood and increase your immune function. Plus it supports sexual health which can help reduce stress in a different way.” Ginseng may help regulate the immune response and hormonal changes due to stress, reduce inflammation, and alleviate the anxiety and depression caused by stress, according to research published in the Journal of Ginseng Research.
Warnings: Ginseng has been shown to interact with other medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, particularly those for heart disease or high blood pressure, she says.
Ashwagandha is another adaptogen, one that’s been used in India for thousands of years to reduce several types of stress, says Lily Kiswani, MD, a functional medicine doctor in Mumbai. “It helps reduce stress on the body by lowering stress hormones and increasing the immune system. But it works on the mental side as well, by reducing depression and anxiety,” she explains. People given 600 mg a day of high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract for two months showed a significant reduction in scores on stress-assessment scales and had lower levels of cortisol (the “stress” hormone) in their blood, in a small study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine.
A larger study, published in PLoS One found that people given ashwagandha for eight weeks, as part of a naturopathic intervention, improved in scores of concentration, fatigue, social functioning, vitality, and overall quality of life compared to the control group that received only traditional psychotherapy.
Warnings: Avoid this if you take medication to suppress your immune system or benzodiazepines, she says.
Chamomile is a plant known for its anti-inflammatory and relaxing properties. It may also help settle a nervous tummy. “It’s particularly helpful for people who suffer GI side effects from stress, like irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and irregular bowel movements,” says Yalda Shokoohinia, Ph.D., professor of pharmacognosy and phytochemistry at the Ric Scalzo Botanical Research Institute at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. “It can also help improve sleep which in turn reduces stress.” People who took 1500 mg of chamomile a day showed significantly lower levels of anxiety and stress, according to a study published in Phytomedicine.
Warnings: Because of some sedative and sleepiness effects, chamomile isn’t recommended if you’re working with hazardous machines or driving. Use chamomile with caution if you’re taking anticoagulants, and avoid if you are going to have surgery, she says.
Passionflower is an herb shown to boost the levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which works in the brain to promote relaxation, says Mary Ellen Valverde, a licensed dietitian nutritionist in California. “It has been shown to ease anxiety and stress as well as enhance calmness.”
People suffering from anxiety who were given passionflower extract for one month reported lower feelings of anxiety and stress and improved sleep, in a small study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy Therapeutics. She adds that dried passionflower can be added to water to make tea or taken as liquid extracts, capsules, or tablets.
Warnings: Because it is a mild sedative you should avoid taking it with other sedatives, she says.
Rhodiola Rosea is another herb used to reduce stress and boost cognition. “It helps the body adapt to stress and has been shown to reduce stress, lower anxiety, fight fatigue, and boost mood,” Valverde says. It is the main adaptogen approved by the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products for stress and influences the release of stress hormones while boosting energy, according to a review published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice. It helps treat stress symptoms and can prevent chronic stress and stress-related complications, the researchers added.
Warnings: Rhodiola may interact with blood pressure and blood-thinning medications.
Banaba is a species of myrtle tree that grows in the tropics of Southeast Asia. Leaves from the tree have been found to slow the body’s production of cortisol, the stress hormone that causes the “fight or flight” feeling, according to a study published in Life Sciences. “The active ingredient in banaba leaf is corosolic acid, which slows the body from turning inactive cortisol to active cortisol,” says Mikka Knapp, a registered dietitian in Sarasota, Florida, and founder of Bright Body Nutrition. “Dampening cortisol plays a key role in combating feelings of stress and anxiety.”
Warnings: Banaba may decrease blood pressure and blood sugar and should not be taken with those classes of medications.
“Lemon balm has been used for over 2,000 years as a natural stress reducer,” Knapp says. “It increases brain levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter known for producing a feeling of calm. This provides a gentle soothing effect and makes managing stress easier.” Young adults given lemon balm showed measurable improvements in mood, stress levels, and cognitive performance, according to a study published in Nutrients.
Warnings: Because lemon balm has sedative effects, use caution before combining it with other sedative drugs or alcohol.
Valerian comes from the root of a flowering plant and has been used for centuries as a natural sleep aid. This is due to its ability to reduce anxiety and insomnia associated with stress, says Dimitar Marinov, MD, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria. “It appears to work by inhibiting the breakdown of GABA, producing an effect similar to anxiolytic drugs like Xanax,” he explains. One study, published in Phytomedicine, found that mice given valerian root showed less anxiety while completing a maze.
Warnings: Most people experience very few side effects—the primary one being drowsiness—he says.
Despite the medical-sounding name, 5-HTP comes from the seeds of an African plant, Griffonia simplicifolia. It works as a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, increasing levels of the “feel-good” chemical in your brain, says Gabrielle Francis, a naturopathic doctor and herbal alchemist. “It also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, and actively calms anxiety,” she says. Taking 5-HTP helped prevent panic attacks in people who had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, according to a study published in Psychiatry Research.
Warnings: 5-HTP can interfere with other medications that work on neurotransmitters, including antidepressants, and should be taken under a doctor’s care.
Many people consider melatonin to be herbal but it’s not a plant; it’s a hormone. Your body produces it naturally to help control your sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythms. Levels of melatonin increase as bedtime nears, which makes you feel sleepy. Much of the research on melatonin supplements is devoted to examining the effects on sleep.
But sleep is the body’s way of de-stressing physically and mentally every day. So it makes sense that if your sleep is suffering, your stress will skyrocket, and finding a way to get back into a good sleep schedule can help combat stress, Knapp says. Getting sunshine during the day is one way to boost melatonin but you can also take synthetically produced melatonin in the form of supplements, she says.
Warnings: High doses are known to interfere with a wide variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications, including those for diabetes, heart conditions, insomnia, depression, allergies, and others. While interactions are typically mild, it’s wise to talk to your doctor before using it.
Vitamins to relieve stress
Most individuals in the United States are low in vitamin D — an essential nutrient. Vitamin D not only helps your body absorb calcium, but it’s also important for a happy mood. Since most people get their vitamin D from sunshine, you may not get enough, especially in the winter. Please also consider Vitamin D3 another sunshine vitamin.
Lack of vitamin D can lead to depression and an increase in stress and anxiety. Light therapy or supplementation can help, as there are not too many vitamin D-rich foods. Global Healing’s Suntrex® D3 contains lichen-derived D3 — the most absorbable form of the vitamin.
Vitamin B Complex
One of the main benefits of taking a vitamin B complex supplement is its positive impact on mood and stress. A vitamin B complex supplement usually includes thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid, or folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12).
A lack of B12, in particular, is linked to low mood and high stress. Men who took a B complex supplement along with vitamin C for around a month reported that their mental health was better, and they had less stress. In another case, men and women taking a vitamin B complex reported improvements in their mood and stress.
Other Supplements to consider
L-theanine is an amino acid naturally found in green tea leaves. As a supplement, you can buy it in a powder or pill form — or you can just drink green tea. L-theanine helps people manage stress and feel calm. People taking L-theanine may have lower cortisol levels, less stress, and less anxiety. This amino acid promotes relaxation without causing drowsiness.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential fat that your body needs. Since the brain is composed mainly of fat, it makes sense that it plays an important role in cognitive function and the brain’s response to stress. When people with anxiety took omega-3 fatty acid supplements, they reported feeling calmer and less stressed.
You can find these fatty acids in nuts, seeds, fish, and plant oils. I recommend plant-based options, like flaxseed oil, olive oil, and algae oil for best results.
Probiotics are microorganisms that help balance gut bacteria inside your body. The gut plays a crucial and often underappreciated role in mental health, including how much stress you feel.
Probiotic bacteria in the gut help make most of the body’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to happiness and well-being. Probiotic bacteria live symbiotically within our bodies, and we need a healthy gut microbiota for mental wellness. An advanced probiotic blend like Floratrex™ has 25 unique strains and 75 billion CFUs providing well-rounded support for your gut and mind. You can also find probiotics in fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and non-dairy yogurt.
Points to Remember
When you’re feeling stressed, certain supplements and vitamins can provide a natural way to manage stress with few side effects. Improving the nutritional content of your diet is the first option, but where your diet falls short, you can add supplements.
Minerals that may help include magnesium, zinc, and lithium orotate. Vitamin D, the B-complex vitamins (particularly B12), and other supplements like probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, and L-theanine are also beneficial. Herbs that can play a positive role in your response to stress include ashwagandha, valerian root, Korean ginseng, Rhodiola, Bacopa, and St. John’s wort.
There is a strong link between your physical health and emotional health, so try exercise, walking outdoors in nature, meditation, or journaling to alleviate stress. Also, focus on eating a healthy diet and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and smoking.
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