How to Keep your Fuel Tank Full During Times of Stress
By Joanne Aponte, ND • April 12, 2020
No doubt this is a difficult time for many of us. Increased stress and strain on your resources might be taking its toll on you. If you are a parent like me, now you’re doing double duty as teacher in addition to your regular job. For others, the stress is emotional, you may be worried about your job and your health.
During times of increased stress (both physical and emotional), the strain on your body’s reserves can leave you feeling overwhelmed, depressed, irritable and exhausted. You might be having trouble focusing and completing your daily tasks. Perhaps you feel like crying more than usual.
If you are struggling with symptoms like these, naturopathic medicine can help!
Many of the symptoms listed above happen when your body gets depleted. Just like your car needs fuel to keep running, our bodies and our minds need plenty of fuel. We need to make sure that your body has all the support it needs to keep running. Like an endurance athlete needs more calories to fuel their bodies, we need more “fuel” in our tanks to get us through times of stress.
Identify your individual nutrient, hormone and neurochemical imbalances:
- Maintain adequate levels of key nutrients
- B vitamins (especially B12, Folate and B6), magnesium, zinc, Vitamin D and iron are key nutrients to maintain during times of stress. The B vitamins and Magnesium especially are burned up during stress. These nutrients drive the production of key hormones and neurochemicals that maintain a state of wellness. If you lack some of these nutrients your body may not be able to make enough hormones and chemicals to regulate your energy levels and mood. Several of these nutrients also help clear excess hormones from the body, such as adrenaline (Magnesium plays a big role in this one). If you are not metabolizing your adrenaline well, you may be left feeling anxious, wired and unable to sleep.
- Support the Adrenals
- Your adrenals are a pair of glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They are the main gland that is responsible for making your stress hormones – cortisol, DHEA and epinephrine (AKA Adrenaline). During times of stress, your adrenals will work overtime so supporting them is key. During the initial phases of stress, high output of cortisol can cause feelings of anxiety and disrupt sleep. After prolonged stress your adrenals may run out of steam, leaving you feeling exhausted and wiped out. Adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha, Rhodiola and ginseng help nurture the adrenals and keep them from fatiguing. The fatty acid compound phosphatidylserine is helpful at reducing excess cortisol levels in the initial phases of stress. Nutrients such as Vitamin C and B vitamins nourish, protect and rebuild the adrenal glands.
- Ensure adequate sex hormone production
- Your sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) play a key role in maintaining your mood. During times of stress, these hormones may be suppressed due to excess production of the stress hormone cortisol. These sex hormones also act as neurosteroids, which means they do work in our brains! Estrogen fills serotonin receptors in the brain and Progesterone fills the GABA receptors. Serotonin is often called the “happy” hormone”. If estrogen levels drop, you may feel down and more depressed (signs of low serotonin). GABA is your calming, relaxation neurotransmitter. If progesterone levels have dropped you may feel more anxious and have trouble sleeping (symptoms of low GABA).
- Support optimal neurochemical production
- Serotonin, dopamine and GABA are the key neurochemicals for regulating your mood. Low serotonin can leave you feeling depressed, sad, tired, overwhelmed and irritable. Low GABA can leave you feeling anxious, wired and make it difficult to sleep. These neurochemicals require nutrients for adequate production. Magnesium, B vitamins (esp B12, Folate and B6), Vitamin D and zinc play essential roles in making these neurochemicals. (Another reason why it’s so important to make sure your body levels are sufficient). The Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil also help boost levels of these neurochemicals. Amino acid building blocks such as 5HTP, tryptophan, and L-theanine can be taken in supplement form to increase levels. Herbs such as St. John’s Wort and Rhodiola provide support as well.
If you’re struggling, let us help! Identifying your individual nutrient, hormone and neurochemical imbalances is another step you can take to support your body and mind through challenging times of stress.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.