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Stress Part 2 – From Distress to Happiness

You may recall a couple of blog posts ago that Dr. Ludovic Brunel began a discussion on stress. Today he offers real, attainable solutions to your stress as part two of his discussion. Read on!

Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge. It is therefore an essential part of life. Stress is a great motivator and can help you complete projects, meet deadlines and solve problems. Stress essentially gives you a boost of energy by activating a specific part of your nervous system. This allows you to function better both physically and mentally.

Stress that is well-managed leads to adaptation or coping; but stress that persists and becomes chronic can lead to withdrawal, depression and anxiety. Unhealthy stress levels are often referred to as distress. Distress can lead to more serious problems such as phobias, anxiety disorders and depression. Some of the signs associated with distress include insomnia, frequent colds and flu, difficulty concentrating or completing tasks, headaches, changes in appetite, anxiety and irritability.

Stress management is an important set of tools for everyone to possess given our busy modern lifestyles. There are several ways to improve the way you deal with stress. We are all different and will all handle stress differently.  In order to improve how you deal with stress you must first recognise that you are experiencing high levels of stress. Try to identify and know your stress triggers. Once you have identified what causes your stress, try to find solutions that will help you to reduce the stress in your life. Exercise is an excellent stress reducer and helps to lower stress hormone levels and increase endorphin levels (which helps to cope with both pain and stress). We should all exercise, but if you struggle with stress, being active is especially important. You can also try relaxation techniques such as meditation and guided imagery. You should also look at time management techniques, curb your caffeine intake and try to be realistic with your expectations both for yourself and others. Counselling services and time spent with friends and family can also be tremendously helpful at reducing stress levels.

If you are struggling with high levels of stress, there are also several natural treatments to consider. One group of therapeutics known as adaptogens are particularly interesting for those struggling with high levels of stress. Adaptogens are typically plant extracts that have been shown to support the health of your adrenal system thereby improving your ability to handle stress. Adaptogens help you to cope with both the emotional and physical elements of stress. Adaptogens usually help alleviate symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and depression. Some of the more established adaptogens include:

  • Rhodiola – a herb that has been shown to help alleviate symptoms of depression, fatigue and anxiety [i]-[ii]-[iii]
  • Ashwagandha – another plant based product with evidence supporting improvements in immune function, concentration and mood [iv]
  • Siberian ginseng – also helps with immune function, fatigue and exercise performance [v]-[vi]-[vii]
  • Schisandra – demonstrated benefits for attention, liver function and physical endurance [viii]

Several combination products are available. Look for Preferred Nutrition products  AdrenaSense™ and Ultimate Anti-Stress

If stress in your life leads to problems with anxiety, you may want to consider 5-HTP or theanine, two ingredients that have been shown to relieve anxiety and improve symptoms of depression.[ix]-[x]-[xi]

If stress causes insomnia for you, you should consider melatonin, theanine, valerian and lemon balm. Those nutrients have been shown to improve sleep due to their mild sedative properties.[xii]-[xiii]-[xiv] Look for combination products such as Restful Night Essentials

There are many possible ways of addressing stress, but as discussed in part one of this article, if you want to live a long and healthy life, proper stress management should be part of your lifestyle strategy.

References

[i] Darbinyan G, Aslanyan G, Amroyan E. Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nord J Psychiatry 2007;61:343-8.

[ii] Spasov AA, Wikman GK, Mandrikov VB, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine 2000;7:85-89.

[iii] Bystritsky A, Kerwin L, Feusner JD. A pilot study of Rhodiola rosea (Rhodax) for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). J Altern Complement Med 2008;14:175-80.

[iv] Katz M, Levine AA, Kol-Degani H, Kav-Venaki L. A compound herbal preparation (CHP) in the treatment of children with ADHD: a randomized controlled trial. J Atten Disord 2010;14:281-91.

[v] Kuo J, Chen KW, Cheng IS, et al. The effect of eight weeks of supplementation with Eleutherococcus senticosus on endurance capacity and metabolism in human. Chin J Physiol 2010;53:105-11

[vi] Hartz AJ, Bentler S, Noyes R et al. Randomized controlled trial of Siberian ginseng for chronic fatigue. Psychol Med 2004;34:51-61.

[vii] Aslanyan G, Amroyan E, Gabrielyan E, et al. Double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised study of single dose effects of ADAPT-232 on cognitive functions. Phytomedicine 2010;17:494-9.

[viii] Upton R, ed. Schisandra Berry: Analytical, quality control, and therapeutic monograph. Santa Cruz, CA: American Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1999;1-25.

[ix] Nakajima T, Kudo Y, Kaneko Z. Clinical evaluation of 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan as an antidepressant drug. Folia Psychiatr Neurol Jpn 1978;32:223-30.

[x] Jangid P, Malik P, Singh P, Sharma M, Gulia AK. Comparative study of efficacy of l-5-hydroxytryptophan and fluoxetine in patients presenting with first depressive episode. Asian J Psychiatr 2013;6:29-34.

[xi] Lu K, Gray MA, Oliver C, et al. The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans. Hum Psychopharmacol 2004;19:457-65.

[xii] Dolberg OT, Hirschmann S, Grunhaus L. Melatonin for the treatment of sleep disturbances in major depressive disorder. Am J Psychiatr 1998;155:1119-21.

[xiii] Brusco LI, Fainstein I, Marquez M, Cardinali DP. Effect of melatonin in selected populations of sleep-disturbed patients. Biol Signals Recept 1999;8:126-31.

[xiv] Cases J. Leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Mediterr J Nutr Metab. 2010;4(3):211-218.

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