As our “normal” shifts, so does our sense of balance and well-being.
Uncertainty, anxiety, fear, frustration, grief, anger. Some people have suffered under the weight of these emotions their entire lives. For others, these feelings have been a recent and unexpected shock to the system. Whether exacerbated or novel, stress has played a significantly bigger role in our daily routines over the past several months, as the consequences of COVID-19 and other disruptions to our communities ensue. Subsequently, the negative impact on our mental and physical health may be manifesting in numerous and powerful ways.
Maybe you’re experiencing changes in sleep patterns, mood, and digestion. Perhaps you’ve had headaches, muscle tension, or other types of pain. Maybe you’ve had full blown anxiety attacks or emotional outbursts that you can’t seem to anticipate or control.
Our bodies are hard-wired to respond to both physical and emotional stress. During stressful events, certain biological pathways are activated, while others are shut down. Under particular (very short-lived) circumstances, this helps us survive. However, chronic stress can cause irreversible damage to our physical health and sense of well-being. So while we don’t want to eliminate our body’s stress response, we do want to mitigate it by calming the nervous system and restoring balance.
In addition to behavioral strategies, such as maintaining regular communication with loved ones and developing an exercise or meditation routine, here are 7 nutrients that can help you keep calm and carry on.
MIC is actually a combination of three nutrients – Methionine (an essential amino acid), Inositol (part of the B vitamin family), and Choline (an essential nutrient and a precursor to acetylcholine). While it is often recognized for its fat metabolizing benefits, MIC can also help calm the nervous system, relieve anxiety, and balance mood & cognition. If you gravitate to sugar or carbs when stressed, MIC may even quell your cravings.
Magnesium (Mg) is an essential mineral that plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions in the human body. Magnesium helps with muscle and nerve function, regulating blood pressure, and supporting the immune system, amongst other things. A low level of Magnesium has been linked to mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. It’s thought that this is related to Magnesium’s role in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a set of three glands that control a person’s stress response.
Additionally, receiving Magnesium as an IM injection or intravenous (IV) treatment can help to avoid some of the unpleasant side effects of oral supplementation, such as diarrhea and nausea.
Taurine is an amino acid that is naturally found in the brain and many foods. Like most nutrients, it has a range of benefits. Some of taurine’s most important benefits as they relate to stress are its ability to reduce blood pressure and help improve neurological functioning. It has long been understood that chronic stress can contribute to hypertension and decreased cognitive ability. Thus, taurine’s cardiovascular benefits and neuroprotective properties make this “hearty” nutrient a no-brainer! (get it??)
Vitamin B6 is well-known for its beneficial effects on the central nervous system, and in particular, its role in producing the mood-regulating neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. B6 also helps maintain normal levels of homocysteine – an amino acid that may be indicative of heart disease, and which can become elevated in the presence of mental stress. One source suggests that B6 should be considered an important “anti-stress” therapy, stating that “chronic dysphoria, particularly when accompanied by hopelessness or cynicism, has a major negative impact on morbidity and mortality… high intakes of pyridoxine may have the potential to improve prognosis in many individuals.”
B5 (Pantothenic Acid or Dexpanthenol)
Some of the most problematic systemic consequences of stress are linked to the hormone cortisol. Under a normal, balanced state of homeostasis, cortisol mobilizes our body to fight stress. However, chronic stress can lead to sustained and excessive levels of this hormone, which may encourage metabolic disorders, adrenal fatigue, hypertension, immunosuppression, and a disruption of gastrointestinal microflora. Vitamin B5 is a potent tool in repairing these imbalances due to its beneficial role in metabolism, adrenal health, immune functioning, and gut optimization. Bonus: If you’re prone to breakouts when stressed, B5 can also help maintain clear skin.
L-carnitine is derived from an amino acid and found in nearly all cells of the body. Because it plays a critical role in the production of energy, enhances athletic performance, and aids in weight loss, it would be easy to overlook its incredible stress-battling benefits. L-carnitine easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and has been found to reverse stress-related mood and cognitive disorders.
As the namesake of our company, we obviously have a lot of good things to say about vitamin B12. As it relates to stress, B12 is an exceptionally important nutrient for maintaining healthy nerve cells, battling fatigue, regulating sleep, and balancing mood. Replenishing this water-soluble nutrient regularly can help minimize the toxic effects of stress.
STRESS SUPPORT RESOURCES (via San Francisco Chronicle)
Mental Health Association of San Francisco has a 24-hour peer-run line for non-emergency emotional support. 855-845-7415
Felton Institute San Francisco Suicide Prevention provides a 24-hour hotline for people experiencing mental health crises. 415-781-0500
Institute on Aging offers a 24-hour friendship line for people 60 years and older, adults with disabilities and those feeling isolated. 800-971-0016
Headspace meditation app has a library of guided meditations.
Ten Percent Happier app offers guided meditations, coronavirus-focused sessions (free of charge) and a daily virus-focused livestream and Q&A.
Virus Anxiety website (www.virusanxiety.com) has daily mantras, write-in mental health questions and calming online distractions.