Even at the best of times, modern life is stressful due to work and family commitments, the influence of digital technology in our lives and our always-on lifestyles, excessive reliance on stimulants like caffeine and rising environmental stresses.
Add additional elements like the threat of war, a pandemic and a global economic crisis simply heap more stress on us. That’s why it is more important than ever to find healthy ways to deal with stress.
The cortisol factor
Chronic stress can cause stress hormone levels to rise and remain elevated, especially cortisol.
This state can increase inflammation, reduce immunity, and raise the risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.
Constantly living in fight-or-flight mode also pumps out more adrenaline, which can make you feel constantly on edge and your mind races. This state often creates feelings of anxiety.
In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, chronic stress can negatively impact multiple aspect of your health and contribute to a wide range of additional problems, including:
- Sleep problems
- Mood disturbances, such as sadness, anger, or irritability
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
The stress response
Ultimately, our body’s response to any stress is the same. Impose any stress on your mind and body, whether it’s work-related, emotional stress, physical trauma, environmental stress, intense or prolonged exercise, or psychological stress, and it you will eventually impact your health.
Overloading your system with multiple stresses can have serious consequences. While some degree of acute stress is beneficial because it forces the body to adapt, leaving stress unchecked can lead to various health issues.
Common stress-related conditions include:
- Chronically elevated heart rate
- Sexual dysfunction
- Suppressed immune system
- Hormonal imbalances
That is why we need to manage stress and find ways to deal with it in all its forms.
Taking a proactive approach to stress management with daily practices like a nutritious diet, mindfulness or meditation practices, yoga and stretching, daily activity and some light to moderate exercise, and sufficient sleep will help us achieve and maintain optimal health and wellness.
You can also take control of rising stress levels and create greater stress resilience with help from certain supplements.
The rise of adaptogens
An adaptogen is generally defined as a substance that increases the body’s ability to resist and adapt to mental and physical stress.
Most adaptogens are made from powerful plant extracts or herbs that help to restore balance in the cardiovascular, immune and nervous and endocrine systems, usually without an physiological disturbance, side effects or toxicity.
Common ingredients used as standalone products or in adaptogen formulations include:
Rhodiola is a herb widely used as an adaptogen to reduce the fatigue that usually accompanies prolonged exposure to stressors, while also helping to improve mood, and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. It may also improve focus, particularly during periods of prolonged stress. It supposedly works by preventing excessive cortisol and adrenaline release.
Ashwagandha: Research that indicates that taking Ashwagandha can help you feel less anxious, depressed, and/or stressed. For example, a study published in Cureus in December 2019 found that those in a group that took Ashwagandha daily over eight weeks reported sleeping better and feeling less stressed compared with those who took a placebo.
Maca Powder: Made from the root of the maca plant (aka Peruvian ginseng), Maca powder contains vitamin C and vitamin B6, as well as minerals such as copper, iron, potassium and manganese. It is also provides beneficial compounds, including glucosinolates and polyphenols. This nutritional profile and the wealth of antioxidants it contains makes Maca Powder an adaptogen that can help the body with stamina and stress resilience.
Chill out with CBD
And following changes to local legislation, we can also use compliant cannabidiol (CBD) products to better manage stress.
Manufacturers can now produce products that are exempt from scheduling, provided these products contain a maximum daily dose of 20mg of CBD and are intended for general health enhancement or maintenance, or relief from minor symptoms not related to a disease or disorder,.
CBD is a naturally-occurring, active, non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis or hemp plant’s resinous flower.
CBD can help by improving endocannabinoid system function, which increases natural cannabinoid production which bind with receptors in the brain to potentially calm the mind, promote better sleep, and reduce anxiety.
In addition, CBD can increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls mood, while also promoting neural regeneration, which creates new cells and tissue to repair a damaged nervous system. As such, CBD is already commonly used to treat restlessness, sleeplessness and anxiousness.
Various stress support supplements are specifically formulated to deliver an adaptogenic effect by helping to minimise stress and support the body and the immune system.
For example, Biogen Stress Relief is a proprietary formula of selected botanicals that may support stress management. And a product like Biogen Adrenal Assist can help to support adrenal gland function, which tends to take strain during prolonged or intense periods of stress as these organs produce the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.