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Many of us need help to cope with stress. But some conventional and alternative treatments for stress and anxiety may leave you feeling drowsy or fatigued. The good news: Numerous natural therapies can keep you focused and sustain your energy all day while helping reduce the anxiety and stress that can damage mental, physical and emotional health.
Natural stress solutions can provide numerous additional benefits for improving overall health and wellness.
Ashwagandha, a plant used traditionally throughout the world as an herbal remedy, treats inflammation, fights infection, enhances immunity, improves memory and promotes overall well-being. Ashwagandha is one of the most highly regarded and commonly used adaptogens by Ayurvedic healers. Adaptogens are a special class of botanicals that help balance your system for optimal energy during stressful periods. Ashwagandha helps the body resist stress and maintain mental and physical energy throughout the day, while supporting restful sleep at night. Its ability to reduce anxiety, ease restlessness and stabilize moods is highly valued by many herbalists.
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Holy basil, an herb native to India (where it is known as Tulsi), has been shown to decrease the stress hormone cortisol. Studies show that chronically elevated levels of cortisol contribute to numerous degenerative conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Holy basil also operates as an adaptogen, naturally improving the body’s response to physical and emotional stress during periods of high anxiety and physical exhaustion. Taking a holy basil herbal supplement or drinking Tulsi tea can help stabilize the brain’s serotonin and dopamine levels to calm and relax you without making you feel drowsy. Holy basil also helps to balance blood sugar and cholesterol, and provides a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
It’s well-established that B vitamins support metabolic and immune health. In addition, research shows that healthy levels of B vitamins — especially B6, B9 and B12 — may also contribute to the reduction of anxiety and depression, and help boost energy. Whether you supplement your diet with these essential B vitamins or obtain them through foods such as dairy products, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts and eggs, they can have a direct impact on your brain’s serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine levels. Evidence shows that B vitamins help balance and metabolize neurotoxic chemicals associated with psychological conditions like anxiety and depression. Several B vitamins effectively benefit your mental health, particularly vitamin B1 (thiamine), which may improve mood and memory, and increase energy levels. Additionally, studies have shown that vitamin B6 (pyridoxine HCL) — combined with other B-complex vitamins — can reduce levels of the toxic amino acid homocysteine and has a direct effect on GABA and serotonin neurotransmitters. This combination can reduce feelings of rage, anxiety, despair and depression. When taking B vitamins, it is essential to accompany them with minerals such as zinc and trace elements. These serve as co-factors that support the health benefits of B vitamins.
Green Tea (EGCG)
Researchers have found that people who drink four or more cups of green tea daily are 44 percent less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who drink only one cup per day or less. Studies show that the component responsible for green tea’s potential antidepressant effects is L-theanine — a calming amino acid known to reduce mental and physical stress and enhance critical neurotransmitter activity. Green tea is also abundant in a class of phytochemicals called polyphenols, including the potent antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which contributes to an increase in brain alpha wave activity. Alpha waves are associated with a state of being awake but relaxed, so EGCG combined with green tea’s L-theanine, work together synergistically to promote an enhanced state of “alert relaxation.” High levels of caffeine can have the opposite effect, so it is important to choose decaffeinated green tea to avoid overstimulation and anxiogenic (anxiety-promoting) effects.
Yoga And Tai Chi
Natural herbs and supplements can make a difference in helping reduce stress, but for many, these remedies are only half of the necessary equation. Consequently, several people also rely on physical activity to relieve stress and lower anxiety. Yoga and Tai Chi are two of the most well-researched stress-relieving exercises. They’ve been shown to dramatically reduce stress levels and empower those practicing these ancient art forms. Yoga purposefully relaxes and rejuvenates and can also invigorate depending on which type you practice. Similarly, Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art designed to facilitate a state of mental calmness and clarity while improving physical energy and function. The strategic breathing involved in both yoga and Tai Chi naturally boosts energy levels, while the postures and meditations keep your mind, body and spirit focused and grounded. These exercises create a platform for centering yourself to let go of stress and anxieties, and they re-focus your energy on positive thoughts and feelings.
Mindful meditation is another well-researched method (and my personal favorite!) for relieving stress and improving energy and focus. A simple 10-minute daily meditation session can offer significant improvements in your mood and energy levels. More and more peer-reviewed research confirms that meditation is a viable method for improving health, energy and emotional well-being — reducing anxiety, depression, mental imbalances and risk of chronic disease. Published studies show that daily meditation is more effective than antidepressants in improving mental clarity and emotional balance.