As we collectively face this unprecedented time of pandemic, stress levels may be running high. If you’ve been feeling especially stressed out recently, know that you certainly are not alone. In an effort to help ease the stress of this time, we’ve compiled a list of the best vitamins and supplements for stress relief — and as an added bonus, we reached out to mental health professionals and experts around the world for their best stress-busting tips.
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6 science-backed supplements for stress relief
B-Complex supplements usually contain all 8 essential B vitamins in one convenient pill. Research has shown that taking high doses of B vitamins can reduce symptoms of stress by improving mood and energy levels. This occurs because B vitamins help lower blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid associated with stress. In one interesting study conducted on 60 people with high work-related stress, it was found that those taking a B-Complex supplement experienced less stress symptoms in general, including anger, fatigue, and depression. Foods that contain B vitamins include:
- Fortified cereals
- Dairy products
B-Complex vitamins are some of the best vitamins for stress relief. To guarantee a healthy dose of all 8 B vitamins, you may consider adding a B-Complex supplement to your daily regiment.
Ashwagandha is an Indian herb classified as an adaptogen — a class of herbs that support your adrenal system and help you adapt to stress. Given its wide range of health benefits, it has also earned the title “King of Ayurvedic medicine.” Some studies suggest that Ashwagandha can help lower cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) and thus reduce chronic stress. A systematic review of 5 randomized controlled trials published in the Journal of Complementary Medicine suggests that Ashwagandha substantially reduces stress and anxiety scores. If you’d like to try supplementing with Ashwagandha, make sure you choose a high-quality supplement from a reputable provider, as many cheaper products commonly add harsh solvents to their Ashwagandha. Our Ashwagandha supplement is 100% organic certified Ashwagandha powder sourced from India. For more info on this adaptogen, check out our guide to Ashwagandha.
If you’ve been more stressed out than usual lately, it’s likely your sleep has suffered too. Difficulties both falling asleep and staying asleep are common issues that can arise when you’re under a lot of stress. The problem is, getting enough quality sleep is crucial for relieving stress. This can cause a vicious cycle of not getting enough sleep because you’re stressed, then feeling even more stressed because you’re not getting enough sleep. To break this vicious cycle, supplementing with Melatonin before bed may help. Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm. When you’re chronically stressed out, your body may produce less Melatonin than it normally does, causing your sleep to suffer. Supplementing with Melatonin has shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, increase total sleep time, and improve overall sleep quality. Our Melatonin capsule contains slow-dissolving beadlets for sustained release throughout the night. We’ve also added lavender and ylang ylang essential oils to our formula for added relaxation.
Magnesium is vital for supporting our central nervous system. The problem is, our Magnesium levels naturally decrease when we’re stressed out, which can lead to a Magnesium deficiency. When Magnesium levels are low, your adrenal glands produce more adrenaline and cortisol than usual, flooding the nervous system with stress-causing hormones and further depleting your Magnesium levels. Supplementing with Magnesium has shown to help those suffering from excessive stress to feel generally calmer. Foods high in Magnesium include:
- Brazil nuts
- Lima beans
If you choose to supplement with Magnesium to ease your stress, be sure to choose a high-quality supplement from a trusted source, as many cheaper brands will add harmful heavy metals to their pills. Our Magnesium is naturally derived from Calcareous seaweed, harvested in the North Atlantic seabed. We source our Magnesium from Germany, respecting strict EU quality and safety standards.
L-Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid synthesized from phenylalanine in the body and found in foods such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs, nuts, and beans. High stress can deplete your brain’s neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. When these run low, your cognition, including memory and focus, all suffer. Perhaps you’ve noticed when you’re really stressed out about something, it’s harder to focus on mentally challenging tasks. If that’s the case for you, supplementing with L-Tyrosine can help give your brain a boost. Science reviews have concluded that supplementing with L-Tyrosine can reverse mental decline and improve cognition in short-term high-stress situations. If you’re interested in trying out L-Tyrosine’s cognitive boost for yourself, our n-acetyl form of L-Tyrosine is more absorbable than other forms on the market. We’ve also added Vitamin B6 because it plays an important role in the reactions responsible for L-Tyrosine’s brain-boosting effects.
Gut bacteria communicate with the brain through a complex web of chemical signals and appear to influence mood. Research suggests that supplemental Probiotics (aka good gut bacteria) can have a positive impact on subclinical depression and anxiety symptoms.
Probiotics can be found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha, or can be consumed as a daily supplement.
11 calming activities you can do right now to combat stress
During these times of uncertainty it’s important to tackle stress holistically. That means complementing proper nutrition and supplementation with some science-backed self care practices. That’s why we have reached out to experts around the world to discover their very best tips for combating stress in times of uncertainty. You can do all of these practices right now at home, for free. Related reading: 5 ways to self-care this year
Try some relaxing yoga
Nadia Agarwal, an expert yoga teacher at Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh, India, shared with us the benefits of yoga during times of stress:
Yoga has many benefits that can positively impact a person’s mental health and reduce stress. At its core yoga aims to bind the body, mind and emotions so that they can work collectively towards creating a balanced life and a healthy sense of mental health. Movement can alleviate the feeling of being mentally stuck or ‘frozen.’ By moving through a set sequence provided by a yoga teacher, the body can begin to release muscle tension and increase blood flow throughout the system — this provides a sense of upliftment to the physical body, which can have a knock on effect to the mind. Joining in a group class and flowing together can provide a sense of community resulting in a ripple effect on not only the individual but the general group too — this sense of ‘belonging’ can alleviate feelings of loneliness or of being disconnected.
Certified Health and Wellness Coach and Behavior Change Specialist Lynell Ross, who is also founder of Zivadream, reminded us that just a few minutes of relaxing breathing can greatly calm our nervous systems down:
Studies have proven that an effective way to reduce stress is to do deep breathing exercises. For example, if you begin to panic, take one slow deep breath in through your nose and exhale slowly through your nose to stop the panic and fear thoughts. Then do it again. Before your thoughts start to race again, sit down and do the following breathing exercise:
- Close your eyes and inhale deeply through your nose to the count of four.
- Hold for a count of four, and exhale through your mouth to a long count of six.
- Repeat three times.
Another effective way to change your mood is to smell something uplifting. The olfactory bulb in your brain is affected by the cells in your nose. If you have an orange, lemon, lime or other citrus fruit, slice it in half and slowly inhale it. If you have any essential oils on hand, these are very effective for calming the nervous system, especially orange and lavender or wood oils such as cedar.
Journal down your thoughts
Shaylyn Forte, a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Pennsylvania, shared the insights of how simply sitting down and getting your anxious thoughts on paper can reduce stress:
I’ve never met a client who didn’t experience racing thoughts as part of their stress symptoms. Racing thoughts are best dealt with through journaling, or talking to a therapist. My clients find that journaling provides immediate relief — there’s something about getting the thoughts out of your head and onto the paper that helps decrease stress. I believe part of why journaling is effective is that it helps people recognize which of their thoughts are rational and which are irrational. For those stressors that are legitimate, journaling helps provide clarity into what action steps can be taken to address these stressors.
Make a routine (and stick to it)
Heather Lyons, PhD, a licensed psychologist and owner of the Baltimore Therapy Group, shared the importance of sticking to a routine in times of uncertainty:
One of the biggest causes of stress and anxiety right now is the lack of predictability we experience. When will this pandemic end? Will our loved ones be affected? Is that cough just allergies? For that reason, we can bring down our levels of stress by creating structure in our days and weeks — and even including events we look forward to. Creating a schedule can be as simple as waking at the same time, making sure to schedule meals, and then also add in fun events like virtual happy hours with friends.
Balance your plate
Blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day can have a profound impact on mood.
A balanced plate should consist of a half plate of veggies, a quarter plate of lean protein, and a quarter plate of whole-grain carbohydrates. These ratios will give you sustained energy throughout the day.
If you choose to snack, try healthy pairings such as hummus and carrots, peanut butter and apple wedges, or string cheese and whole-grain crackers, instead of salty, sugary treats.
Don’t be afraid to ask for support
Haley Neidich, a licensed mental health professional and practicing psychotherapist from Columbia University, pointed out we don’t have to go through this stressful time alone:
Ask for what you need from the people around you rather than trying to do it all yourself. Feeling supported by your loved ones, and asking how you can support them is one of the most phenomenal ways to decrease your stress. This could be something concrete like asking your partner to make dinner, or asking a friend to chat on the phone and listen to your burdens. Feeling connected to others is a powerful way to improve your overall life satisfaction.
Schedule lots of sleep
Certified Sleep Science Coach and Managing Editor of SleepFoundation.org, Bill Fish, explained why sleep is more important now than ever:
There is no question that these are unprecedented times. Not only are we dealing with the incredible stress caused by the pandemic, our schedules have also been turned upside down. That said, sleep is considered the third pillar of wellness going along with diet and exercise. Our health is greatly dependent on getting the necessary seven to nine hours of quality sleep on a nightly basis. To keep our mental health, we need to make a concerted effort to get our schedules back to some form of normalcy. A simple place to start is our sleep schedules. Each of our bodies are equipped with an internal 24 hour clock known as our circadian rhythm which tells us when to wake and when to sleep. Our circadian rhythm craves consistency. Set a window of 30 minutes when you will be going to sleep each night. Set an alarm to get roughly eight hours of sleep and wake up to start your day. A structure of keeping a consistent sleep routine will help your body to get the sleep you need to get through this difficult time. Stop the use of screens at least 40 minutes before going to sleep, and potentially read a light-hearted book. This routine can play a small part in keeping our minds clear and rested as we get through this pandemic.
For more in-depth information on best practices for sleeping during the COVID-19 crisis, check out Sleep Foundation’s guide.
Don’t forget to laugh
Katie Kimball is a certified stress mastery educator from the American Institute of Stress. She reminded us of the power of laughter in the face of high-stress situations:
Go out of your way to find humor! Laughter really is the best medicine. I used to think that watching a silly YouTube video was a waste of time or a distraction from productivity. But now I understand that getting a good belly laugh is so protective of your mental and physical health. Take deliberate humor breaks, unapologetically.
Perform small acts of kindness
Yocheved Golani, a mental health writer and editor at e-counseling.com, pointed out the power that kindness can have on our own mental health:
Do nice things for other people, such as making homemade masks and giving them out, call and text people to send positive thoughts and to ask how they’re doing, and go a bit out of your way to cheer up the people living with you. Being “other” minded helps both you and the person you’re doting on to feel better. As I advise my life-coaching clients, “Face your problems with dignity. Face your future with optimism.” Seek opportunities to prevent problems, to enjoy what can be enjoyed, and to feel a growing sense of self respect.
Monitor your media consumption
Laura Braziel, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist from Houston, Texas, suggested that we should limit our daily intake of anxiety-inducing media which can cause extra worry:
The more information we take in, the more our perspectives can be influenced. The news can be very helpful in informing us of what is going on and what precautions need to be taken, however, the news can also lead to feelings of overwhelm and fear— particularly when there are uncertainties and restrictions. Social media can help us stay virtually connected with friends and offer silver linings for our circumstances, but social media can also include posts about the angry opinions and worries of others. If you find yourself becoming more worried, or talking more about various opinions and realities you feel helpless to change, you might consider limiting your social media consumption. Instead, consider reading and listening to content that encourages you, and reminds you of the good that exists even in the midst of crisis.
Schedule an online appointment with a mental health professional
Laura Braziel also pointed out why now is a perfect time to reach out for professional support:
Due to this present crisis, most counselors have transitioned to online therapy. This opens opportunities to seek quality professional help that may not have previously been available at a local level. And it eliminates any stigma you may have felt about arriving at a counselor’s office, as now the help can be brought to you in the comfort of your own home. Why suffer alone when support, skills, and alternative perspectives tailored specifically for you are available to you from an unbiased, professional, and confidential person? Let’s say you have already considered starting counseling, but have delayed due to the busyness of life. Well, you have time now. And if income is less than ideal, there are many counselors out there who offer sliding scales to assist you in receiving the treatment you need at a more affordable price. Admitting the need for help is one of the most courageous things a person can do. There is no weakness in seeking help. Take care of yourself during this stressful time.
The bottom line
On behalf of the team here at hundred, we hope some of these suggested supplements and advice from mental health professionals provides you with some calming relief during these stressful times. If you’d like personalized recommendations from our Nutrition Experts, try out our free consultation quiz to see which vitamins and supplements we recommend specifically for your unique needs. Once you sign up, don’t forget you can always receive free digital support from our Nutrition Experts at any time. You can contact them with your questions, or for nutrition advice without having to leave the safety of your home.