Polls have shown that a great number of Canadians experience some type of stress on a regular or semi-regular basis. The Canadian Mental Health Association found that about one in four Canadians feels somewhat or very stressed most days.
Stress is the fight-or-flight response we have in response to daunting demands. Symptoms of stress are the result of hormones your brain releases to alert your body of a stressful event. A healthy amount of pressure can be helpful — some people feel they work best that way — but when stress gets out of hand and goes on for too long, it can take a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. Long term activation of stress hormones can affect the body’s natural processes, like metabolism, which is why stress can cause weight gain.
Everyone copes with stress differently, and if you’re interested in combating the feeling naturally, we’re here to help. However, we do recommend consulting your doctor or psychiatrist for personalized advice based on you.
Here are four all-natural remedies that could help you reduce stress.
Studies have shown an inverse relationship between magnesium and cortisol, the stress hormone. Stress voids the body of its magnesium stores, and yet we need magnesium to counteract the effects of stress. The study found that the higher the magnesium, the lower the cortisol — and this backs up magnesium’s title as the calming mineral.
Magnesium helps us fight stress not only by lowering cortisol levels and cleansing the hormone from our cells, but also by regulating calcium and keeping it outside of the cells, balancing the nervous system, and relaxing muscles that may be under tension as part of the body’s response to stress.
Excess calcium inside cells can lead to cell rigidity and tension, which is not helpful in mitigating stress symptoms.
Magnesium’s joint approach to calmness makes it a great choice for stress management, because it counteracts stress in 2 ways. By calming, balancing, and regulating the nervous system, it downgrades the body’s physical response to stress. And with its muscle relaxing properties, it can prevent the physical tension that leads to stress.
Research concluded that not only does magnesium have an effect on cortisol levels, but also other brain functions that contribute to the anxious/stressful response. Magnesium regulates neurological health by controlling certain neurotransmitters, the messengers of the brain to other parts of the body. It is also believed to affect the hypothalamus, which controls the pituitary and adrenal glands, who are responsible for the body’s response to stress.
Lavender too has a layered effect on the body and its response to stress. It is, of course, a popular choice for aromatherapy to promote rest and relaxation, and has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Lavender will counteract stress both by promoting restful sleep, and by reducing anxiety and stress while you are awake.
In terms of its benefits for sleep, a study found an oral dose of lavender to have the same effect as a low dose of the allopathic anxiety medication lorazepam (commonly known as Ativan). This is not the only way to enjoy the benefits of the blissful flower. If aromatherapy is your consumption method of choice, look no further! Research indicates that lavender aromatherapy increases your time spent in deep, slow-wave sleep. It can also help improve sleep quality for those who have trouble sleeping because of insomnia, depression, or anxiety.
For stress treatment, lavender aromatherapy has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress such as blood pressure and heart rate, and enhance feelings of calm and relaxation.
Magnesium and Lavender – The Dream Team
Paired with magnesium, you can get the calming, relaxing benefits of both remedies — in one go! An evening massage with a magnesium balm, gel, or spray with lavender should give you a full night’s sleep and a stress-free day. It’s an easy, fast, and relaxing way to boost your magnesium levels and let the lavender work some magic while you’re at it.
Read more about the benefits of topical magnesium here.
Everyone does better when they get enough sleep, which is why rest is key to alleviate stress. However, you can get caught in a vicious cycle when sleeping feels impossible because of stress, and reducing stress is tough because you can’t sleep.
Melatonin occurs naturally in the body and controls your body’s sleep-wake rhythm. In a healthy sleep cycle, melatonin levels increase at night when it’s dark to allow for sleep, and decrease in the morning to encourage wakefulness and alertness.
Research has shown that melatonin can improve total sleep time, and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, in patients who struggle with secondary sleep disorders. That is, sleep problems caused by other conditions (stress, depression, etc). In people with primary sleep disorders (those not caused by another condition), research has found that melatonin shortened the time it took to get to sleep, lengthened the total time spent asleep, and improved sleep quality. Preemptively using melatonin to ward off stress in the future makes total sense because who doesn’t feel better on a full night’s sleep? You are less at risk to develop chronic stress if you are well-rested.
Melatonin is included in many natural sleep aids, because it is non-habit-forming, and supplementing it does not affect the body’s production of it.
L-theanine is an amino acid that may have an effect on brain chemicals. Commonly found in tea leaves, l-theanine has been noted for its potential to act as an anti-stress supplement without the sedative effects of many anti-anxiety and related medications.
There have been a number of studies demonstrating l-theanine’s role in stress relief.
One study showed l-theanine to reduce heart rate in response to performing a mentally stressful task. The other showed that taking l-theanine before performing a stressful task (this one involved multitasking) lowered cortisol levels in saliva, producing a calming effect.
L-theanine works by reducing levels of “excitatory” chemicals in the brain, which cause symptoms of stress and anxiety, while stimulating other chemicals like GABA, to promote a natural sense of calm. This is why it also helps with sleep, and is included as an ingredient in Natural Calm Canada’s Calmful Sleep formula. As mentioned, l-theanine is unique because it doesn’t exert a sedative effect. Instead, it helps with sleep by simultaneously reducing stress and anxiety and promoting relaxation, thus perfectly setting the stage for GABA to kick in and send you off to dreamland.
Keep CALM and Carry On
Whether your stress is a passing feeling or a more long term condition, no one likes to feel that way. If your stress becomes chronic or causes adverse physical effects, such as high blood pressure, it is recommended that you see your GP for treatment.
We hope these natural recommendations have helped.