February 11 2013
Long-term stress comes at us from a variety of sources: family struggles, financial difficulties, job worries or pressures, relationships, worry about health, the economy, etc. Continuous or repeated activation of the stress response process takes a toll on the nervous system and can lead to burnout, i.e. emotional and nervous exhaustion.
We can’t very easily change the world around us. But we can take steps to give our bodies the protection and nourishment they need to help handle stressors before they create anxiety.
Important VITAMINS for the Nervous System
B vitamins are food for the nervous system. In times of stress, the body rapidly uses up these nutrients. And, along with Vitamin C, they are water-soluble and must be replenished daily.
- B1 (thiamine) optimizes cognitive activity and brain function.
- Folic acid is considered brain food by some. It helps with depression and anxiety and helps prevent neural tube defects in unborn children.
- B6 (pyridoxine) is needed for normal brain function.
- B12 (cyanocobalamin) prevents nerve damage and helps maintain the fatty sheaths that cover and protect nerve endings. It is linked to the production of acetylcholine (a key neurotransmitter that aids memory and learning).
- Biotin helps B-complex vitamins be utilized properly in the body.
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is necessary for the development of the central nervous system, for proper adrenal function, for the conversion of fat and sugar into energy, and for the maintenance of normal growth and tissue replacement. Pantothenic acid is needed to make steroid hormones and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The body needs extra amounts of this vitamin when under physical stress.
- Choline is the precursor molecule for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in many functions including memory and muscle control. It helps nerve impulses travel from the brain through the nervous system. Choline aids brain function and memory.
- Vitamin C aids in the production of anti-stress hormones.
- Inositol has a calming effect.
Key HERBS for Stress and Anxiety
- Passionflower provides natural support to the relaxation centers of the nervous system and has been used historically to help with restlessness. Calming and soothing, it doesn’t affect mood.
- Fennel seeds have long been known to strengthen the digestive system, where emotional stress is most likely to center.
- Feverfew, an aromatic herb, helps the body deal with muscular tension, which may lead to head and neck pain.
- Hops (flower) is a tonic herb. It promotes sleep and helps the body deal with occasional restlessness.
- Chamomile flowers are known for supporting nerve health and mental alertness. This soothing herb also aids digestion and supports circulation.
- Schizandra fruit—allows the body to respond quickly to stress, thus increasing ourcapacity to work. Its bitter compounds also support circulation.
Try these stress-busters:
- Talk it out. Communicating about your worries with a trusted, emotionally stable confidant. Often a friend can help you see things from a different viewpoint and regain your perspective.
- Sleep. Operating in a sleep deficit can overburden your nervous system and make you more prone to meltdowns. Shoot for eight hours of sleep a night. Take naps when you’re tired or behind in your sleep. Try to catch up on shortages within the same week.
- Breathe Deeply. Sometimes a few deep breaths can help you remain calm in the face of mounting pressure and chaos. Deep breathing gets more oxygen to the body cells and may help you take a second to think before you act.
- Take a stroll. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which help improve mood. Get out and walk for 10-15 minutes.
- Listen to uplifting music. The right music can change your mood and help you feel more energy and greater well-being. The wrong music can do the opposite. See what works for you.
- Get a massage or take a hot bath. Physical relaxation goes hand in hand with mental relaxation. Find ways to relax physically and your brain will usually follow suit.
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