Photo by Christin Hume
Natural Ways To Unwind without Losing Your Edge
Work deadlines, cell phone bills, relationship squabbles. Low-level stresses are a common and accepted part of modern day life, yet they often trigger a hunter-gatherer response that keeps us from fully winding down at the end of the day—an imagined sabertooth lurking behind you when your latest TPS report is due or your team loses on Sunday night...again! This kind of natural response to stress is tied to an imbalance between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
While stress itself is a heavy word, it is the clinical term used to describe the minor disruptions that likely got you interested in natural supplements in the first place: trouble relaxing, experiencing off-days, just not feeling yourself. An unbalanced nervous system does not always equal stressed-out, it often manifests itself in these much mellower ways.
It is incredible how making simple lifestyle changes can help correct these minor imbalances. Eating a balanced diet of whole foods and staying hydrated ensures you’re getting B-vitamins and electrolytes, both of which are critical for cognitive performance and handling daily annoyances. Exercise releases endorphins that make you happy and has been proven to promote relaxation and improve sleep. Not to mention getting a solid 7-9 hours plays a significant role in hormonal regulation and rejuvenating the body on a nightly basis. But what if you’ve dialed in your exercise, sleep, and nutrition? Hell, you’ve even tried meditating. Yet, low-level tension remains; the sabertooth lurking in the distance. Don’t reach for a beer just yet. There are several natural supplements for stress that have proven to be effective remedies when you need a little extra help loosening up or chilling out.
The Best Natural Supplements for Stress Relief
1. Kava Kava
A bitter-tasting root from Indonesia, kava has been used for thousands of years as a natural stress reliever and ceremonial drink. Aside from the traditional brew, today kava can be purchased in many more flavorful forms including kava tea, kava candy, kava powder, and the most efficacious being kava tinctures.
The lactones in the kava plant work to keep you relaxed, yet alert. In fact, several research studies have show kava to significantly promote relaxation, with no side effects. Like Valerian, kava influences GABA as well serotonin, another key neurotransmitter that helps you wind down. By slightly increasing the dosage, kava can be an excellent non-addictive sleep aid, helping you to achieve that valuable eight hours of rest and restoration.
2. Valerian Root Extract
Valerian is a plant native to Europe and parts of Asia that has been used since the times of the Ancient Greeks. It contains a wealth of compounds including valerenic acid, isovaleric acid, and a variety of antioxidants. These compounds support increased relaxation by favorably interacting with GABA, a chemical messenger that regulates nerve impulses in the brain and nervous system.
To add, you can reap the stress-relieving benefits of Valerian without worrying that it’ll take you off your A-game. A randomized, double-blind trial proved that supplementing with Valerian root does not lead to a reduction in “alertness, reaction time, or concentration.”
3. Lemon Balm Leaf Extract
Lemon balm is an herb from the mint family native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Research has shown lemon balm to be supportive in maintaining a positive mood and reducing mental stress.
A double-blind trial showed that, when combined with Valerian, Lemon Balm reduced laboratory-induced stress. To add lemon balm to your relaxation routine, try one tablespoon of fresh or dried lemon balm in a cup of hot water for a soothing herbal tea.
Ashwagandha is a calming adaptogenic herb that supports tension relief by lowering cortisol levels and supporting healthy adrenal function. In addition to its calming effects, ashwagandha has been proven to improve mental alertness, brain function, and memory. The Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine has shown Ashwagandha root to be unique because it acts by dulling the stress response at all three stages: the alarm phase, the resistance phase, and the exhaustion phase. By mitigating stressors at each of these levels, less of a response is triggered.
Usually taken as a tonic or in capsules, regular ashwagandha use can help to significantly lower cortisol, the hormone making it hard for you to take the edge off.
Decrease Stress Without Losing Your Edge
Backed by modern science and ancient tradition, the aforementioned supplements are proven remedies for daily stress that don’t require you to sacrifice your cognitive edge. Each of the supplements listed have been shown to promote relaxation while maintaining the indispensable mental alertness necessary to conquer the day. A wealth of research supports the use of these natural supplements individually, but optimal results occur when they’re used in conjunction with one another. Whether you take one or all, by adding these supplements to a healthy regimen of quality sleep, good nutrition, and exercise, you’re stacking the cards in your favor to lead a successful, stress-free life.