Overcoming Stress: Natural Support for Your Cognitive Health
Piling bills? Family commitments? Pressure to be the best? Stress is an inevitable part of our busy, modern lives. But it’s not something we should just mindlessly accept and brush to one side. Stress is a dangerously pernicious emotion. Weight, skin, sleep, immune defences, sex drive, blood pressure, and even fertility can suffer at the hands of chronic stress and anxiety. And according to research, your noggin will pay the price, too. Not only can stress lead to physical symptoms like chest pain and headaches, but it can also profoundly compromise your mental wellbeing. So, what can you do to slash stress and support your cognitive health?
Want another excuse to put on your running trainers? Listen up. Though physical activity supports countless areas of health, many people are motivated to workout because of that immense sense of ‘wellbeing’ it provides. Thanks to releasing ‘feel-good’ hormones called endorphins, exercise is powerful medicine for stress and common mental health issues. And you don’t have to be a gym bunny to reap the benefits, either. Research proposes that even modest amounts of exercise can make a substantial differencei. Whatever your fitness level, age, ability, moving your body and building up a sweat is a brilliant tool to help you overcome stress and feel more relaxed.
And why not take your workout outside? According to a new study conducted by University of East Anglia, exposure to open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation can reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and stressii. Another benefit of spending time outside is lapping up that ‘sunshine nutrient’, vitamin D, which plays a key role in stabilising mood. It’s not surprising some doctors are now literally prescribing ‘nature’ to their patients! Swap your session on the treadmill for a run in the park, paying close attention to the abundance of wildlife, trees, and flowers.
Though communication has never been simpler and faster in our modern age, an email, text or video chat doesn’t exactly lend itself to tangible social connectedness – an incredibly basic human need. In fact, our technologically advanced era has been accused of triggering a loneliness epidemic. And feeling isolated can elevate blood pressure, stress, disrupt sleep, decrease mood, and lower overall wellbeing – all of which conspire to skew optimal brain function and cognitioniii. Ditch the tech and consider ways to authentically connect yourself to others: take a pottery class, join a choir, start volunteering, or arrange weekend hikes with your friends. Do something that fosters a sense of community, and makes you feel integrated, involved and important.
This wellness trend shows no signs of disappearing – and for good reason. Researchers now believe mindfulness meditation can play a key role in keeping your mental wellbeing in checkiv. A growing body of research advocates just 10 minutes of meditation a day can provide some relief from anxiety, low mood, and chronic pain. Experts suggest this simple practice can help individuals step out of their own mundane ‘mental ruts’. It can be helpful to view meditation in the same way you perceive other things that evoke feelings of happiness and wellness: sipping on a smoothie, taking a brisk morning walk, having a glass of wine, or soaking in a hot bath. It’s a truly positive addition to your daily life – a simple yet powerful tool that can help you de-stress, discover more about yourself, and move towards wellbeing. Try downloading a mindfulness app to jumpstart your efforts.
Get enough sleep
Quality sleep is a cornerstone of wellbeing – that’s a no-brainer. Besides helping you think clearly, execute decisions, trigger those ‘ah-ha’ moments, and remember information, proper rest is needed to keep stress at bay. Ever noticed that you’re much better equipped to deal with daily stresses when you’ve clocked a perfect eight hours? A lack of sleep, on the other hand, renders you more impulsive, more emotionally reactive, and more sensitive to negative stimuliv. And these cognitive impairments can give rise to anxiety and stress in a host of ways. Sleep isn’t wasted time; prioritise it. Struggling to clock off? Improve your sleep hygiene here.
Learning to relax and restore can be perfect therapy at times of high stress. Yoga, meditation, and regular exercise are powerful weapons to soothe your cluttered mind. Something as simple as deep breathing can provide immense relief, too. While breathing is one of your most basic instincts, it can be enormously cathartic and restorative when used consciously. Try practising deep, purposeful breathing when you’re feeling stressed. Inhale deeply for a count of five, and exhale deeply, emptying your lungs completely, for a count of eight. There, that’s better.
Essential oils uplift, revive and relax; they’ve got ‘stress-busting’ written all over them. And we’ve got just the range. From 100% essential oils, to expertly formulated oil blends, each of our restoring aromas holds the key to unlocking wellness. Our ‘Relaxing Blend’ is a simple way to unwind and de-stress. This wonderful fusion of floral geranium, lavender, and herbaceous sage is combined with a hint of bitter orange to balance the sweet notes. After something a little more traditional? Look no further than our Lavender Essential Oil. With its fruity, mellow, and rich aroma, this oh-so-soothing scent is universally renowned for its calming properties. For a magical moment of aromatherapy bliss, try using a ceramic diffuser for your essential oils.
While there are no ‘quick-fixes’ to bouts of stress, certain nutrients have the capacity to supercharge your mood and relieve tension. A healthy mind begins with a healthy body, after all.
The B vitamins play a unique role in stabilising mood and supporting the healthy function of your nervous system, particularly with the production of key chemical messengers in the brain – neurotransmitters. The B vitamins are a large family, containing eight nutrients in total. To get an even spread, embrace a variety of whole grains, lean meat, fish, legumes, seeds, nuts, and dark, leafy veggies. A high-strength B complex can help to plug any nutritional gaps, too. Thanks to its excellent range of nutrients, our B-50 complex is a powerful weapon in your stress-busting arsenal.
This mighty mineral can lend a hand in moments of stress due to its central role in managing hormonal activity, neuronal receptors, and neurotransmitters in the brain. Magnesium also aids with the suppression of two stress hormones: cortisol and epinephrine (the culprits that cause the psychological and physiological cascade of the ‘fight-or-flight’ response). No wonder it has earned its stripes as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’! Dark chocolate, cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, spinach, and Swiss chard are chock-full of this mineral. Struggling to get a plentiful supply from diet alone? Try taking 2 tablets of MagAsorb® Ultra every day.
Healthy minds and nerve cells rely on a constant supply of omega-3 fatty acids because these nutrients are a basic building block of your brain. In fact, brain cells are roughly 20% fatty acids – and these compounds play a vitally important role in keeping everything functioning optimally, including your mood. To nourish your noggin, load up on 2-3 portions of oily fish every week (salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, and sardines), seafood, nuts, seeds, avocados and lashing of olive oil. A quality omega-3 supplement can strengthen your nutrients reserves, too.
Theanine & Lemon balm
With a unique blend of pantothenic and folic acid, this herbal hero contributes to normal psychological function. Anecdotal data suggests Theanine & Lemon balm can tackle those debilitating periods of worry and instil some much-needed Zen into your day. Farewell, cluttered mind.
To keep your cognition sharp and stress at bay, you need to nourish your body and mind with a range of minerals and vitamins. Of course, you’ll obtain many of these essential nutrients from your diet. However, today’s refining and processing of food beg to question if these nutritional levels are sufficient enough. That’s why a high-strength multivitamin is an effective way to reinforce your body’s natural reserves. When choosing a multi, always opt for one with a full NVR of vitamin D and zinc – two essential nutrients for your mood.
Otto, M.W., Church, T.S., Craft, L.L., Greer, T.L., Smits, J.A. & Trivedi, M.H. (2007). Exercise for mood and anxiety disorders. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 9(4), 287-94.
University of East Anglia. "It's official: spending time outside is good for you." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily. (6 July 2018). Available online: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180706102842.htm
Cacioppo, J.P. & Hawkley, L.C. (2009). Perceived social isolation and cognition. Trends in cognitive sciences, 13(10), 447-54.
Haapala, E., Poikkeus, A., Tompuri, T., Kukkonen-Harjula, K., Leppänen, P., Lindi, P. & Lakka, T. (2014). Associations of Motor and Cardiovascular Performance with Academic Skills in Children. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(5), 1016-10244.
Goldstein, A.N. & Walker, M.P. (2014). The role of sleep in emotional brain function. Annual review of clinical psychology, 10, 679-708.
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Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.