According to the Stress in America survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 45 percent of the Americans surveyed reported that common stressors such as money and work keep them up at night. Common stress symptoms reported by the survey respondents included anxiety, irritability and fatigue.
Experts at the National Institute of Mental Health caution that long-term stress can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.
Healthy ways to deal with stress naturally include incorporating practices such as yoga and meditation into our lives. For others, connecting with family and friends and bouts of intense exercise to get the endorphins flowing do the trick.
While lifestyle changes can help you to de-stress and boost your well-being, optimizing your nutrition and including supplements may also play an important role.
Here’s the scoop on a few supplements known for their stress-busting abilities:
Research has shown that theanine, an amino acid found in green tea leaves, increases alpha wave activity in the brain, which results in a relaxed state of body and mind without the drowsiness.
A study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that theanine was able to reduce symptoms of anxiety and lower blood pressure in adults with high stress levels.
This natural stress reducer reportedly begins to work in as little as 30 minutes. Experts recommend dosages between 50 and 200 milligrams, as effective dosages vary from person to person.
Well-known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety in Ayurvedic medicine, the effectiveness of ashwagandha has been well-documented in a number of clinical studies.
Results from a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine found that ashwagandha root extract worked to improve resistance to stress when taken in doses of 300 milligrams twice daily.
The extract from one of the species of the echinacea plant, Echinacea angustifolia, has also been noted for its stress-reducing properties.
Several studies, including one published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, have shown that use of this herbal ingredient has the ability to reduce anxiety – a common stress symptom.
Also known as holy basil, this adaptogenic herb is known for its ability to relieve stress symptoms and support adrenal gland health.
Experts at the University of Maryland Medical Center who produce the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide recommend 400 milligrams of the herb daily for stress symptom support. If you use a blood-thinning medication, talk to your doctor before using holy basil.
The eight B vitamins in a B complex work with one another to support a healthy nervous system.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is one of these essential B vitamins used to produce energy and in the synthesis of neurotransmitters needed for normal brain functioning.
Neurotransmitters such as serotonin are linked to mood, and research has shown that higher levels of vitamin B6 in the body can lead to improved mood.
Folate, or folic acid, is another B vitamin linked to mood. People with low folate levels often experience depression and irritability, which can result in increased stress.
A good B-complex vitamin contains these and all the essential water-soluble B vitamins that your body needs for a healthy brain and to support improved mental health.
Look for a B complex that includes at least 400 micrograms of folate and 50 milligrams of B6.
According to a survey conducted by Gallup, 72 percent of American adults aren’t getting the Recommended Dietary Allowance of magnesium.
A magnesium deficiency can lead to low serotonin levels, which can result in a depressed mood. Increased magnesium levels, on the other hand, have been linked to improved relaxation levels and fewer symptoms of stress.
The National Institutes of Health recommend a magnesium intake of 400 to 420 milligrams daily for adult men and 310 to 320 milligrams daily for adult women.
The latest research on probiotics shows that, in addition to optimizing gut health, a daily probiotic supports immune system health, reduces the body’s inflammatory response and even impacts our mood.
In a review and meta-analysis of clinical trials studying the effect of probiotics on depression published in a 2016 issue of the journal Nutrients, researchers found supporting evidence that taking probiotics could reduce the risk of depression and its symptoms such as anxiety and irritability.
In another study out of the University of Missouri, findings concluded that the common probiotic strain Lactobacillus plantarum could lead to a reduction in stress-related behavior and anxiety.
While this study was not conducted in humans, the research further supports other evidence that there are linkages between a healthy gut and a healthy central nervous system.
Experts recommend taking a probiotic with between 1 billion and 15 billion CFUs every day to support gut health.
Certain scents can have powerful effects on our minds and bodies. The practice of aromatherapy employs the healing powers of scents from essential oils to enhance well-being.
Lavender essential oil is well-known for its ability to promote relaxation through inhalation and when used in massage. A study published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand found that subjects who inhaled the scent of lavender oil had decreased blood pressure and heart rate which are indicators of a more relaxed state.
A study published in Phytotherapy Research found the sweet, floral scent of ylang-ylang oil was also able to calm the nervous system by reducing heart rate and blood pressure.
Karen Morse, MPH, is a freelance health and nutrition writer. In her free time, she enjoys Pilates, exploring nearby hiking trails and cooking up fresh, seasonal eats in the kitchen. Her work has appeared in Clean Eating, Weight Watchers, YouBeauty.com and others.