Stress stemming from the holidays can come from a number of sources: family, finances, time management, cooking, hosting events, and a number of other activities that take you out of the comfort of a normal routine. While there are many happy moments to be had during the holidays, there are inevitable moments of stress. Holidays mark a time of increased travel, relatives that you hardly see, and frantic shopping. All these can have negative effects on your body, so it is important to learn about and manage stress.
How Stress Affects the Body
Physically, emotionally, and behaviorally – stress can affect you in ways that you may not even realize. Sometimes symptoms of stress can manifest in ways that many people associate with other illnesses, such as headaches, chest pains, fatigue, or digestive problems. Extended periods of stress tend to cause muscles to experience tension over long periods of time, which may trigger other reactions or stress-related disorders.
The effect also extends to the respiratory system, where stress can cause difficulty in breathing. Combined with a pre-existing condition like asthma or a lung disease, the effects can be more serious. The body also responds to stress by increasing heart rate, stronger contractions, and dilation of the blood vessels around the heart. While the short-term effects of this are not dangerous, dealing with chronic stress can contribute to long-term issues with the heart, such as an increase in risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.
Supplements to manage stress levels
Regular moderate physical activity, a proper diet, and rest are all factors that can help reduce stress, but it becomes hard to maintain healthy levels of all three during the hectic holidays. Thankfully, there are options to help maintain healthy stress levels.
Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)
A highly essential component of the brain is a neurotransmitter called Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, which helps your mind transition from work to relaxation. GABA is also used to help improve mood, lower anxiety and reduce stress levels by blocking brain signals that rouse those feelings. People who frequently have trouble in “shutting off” their brain when trying to relax may have low levels of GABA. These supplements are especially beneficial at night to help a person relax and get much-needed rest.
L-theanine is an amino acid that can help with staying calm, relaxing and reducing stress without having sedative effects. It is difficult to consume L-theanine naturally in your diet, as it is almost exclusively found in green tea. Some people use L-theanine as a way to counteract the negative effects of caffeine like jitters and crashing. The amino acid helps calm you after a cup of coffee, without a feeling of drowsiness, making this a perfect supplement to power you through the afternoon.
An Indian herb with many properties that are similar to depression and anxiety-treating drugs, Ashwagandha has been used for centuries to relieve stress symptoms. A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the herb found that a high-concentration Ashwagandha extract would safely and effectively improve a person’s resistance towards stress and thereby improve their quality of life . The study shows that Ashwaganha significantly lowers the stress hormone cortisol by 28%. With a reduction in cortisol, your body is better equipped in the battle with chronic stress.
Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B complex supplements are a combination of a number of B vitamins, the exact number varies between brands of B vitamins. One of the most commonly included vitamins is B6, which helps influence mood by aiding in the production of serotonin and norepinephrine. In clinical trials, B vitamin supplements have shown to reduce levels of personal stress and occurrence of depression . As a mild supplement, there is very little risks with taking a Vitamin B complex.
A naturally sourced mineral that can be found in some foods such as leafy green vegetables and nuts, Magnesium is an essential nutrient that helps with stress management and mood changes. Even though you can consume enough magnesium-rich foods, it is a common deficiency. Depleted magnesium levels can magnify feelings of anxiety and a reduction in nutrient absorption in the small intestine.
Touted for its relaxation-inducing effects, Valerian root is used to help people fall asleep and get a quality sleep that helps manage stress levels. The root helps by increasing the amount of GABA in your brain, which helps regulate stress in the body and sooth anxiety. Quality sleep is a crucial factor in fighting off chronic stress problems, as a lack of sleep makes you more prone to stress, which then affects your ability to fall asleep.
Commonly known as Vitamin B3, Niacin is a common ingredient in many supplements and foods. Niacin’s functions include DNA repair, synthesizing steroidal hormones, and metabolizing energy. The most relevant function in relation to stress is the natural ability of niacin as a natural antidote to adrenaline, a major cause for stress-related disorders. Niacin helps even out the effect of adrenaline, which contributes to a calming feeling.
Even though supplements can have a great positive impact on your stress levels, it is really up to the person to commit to lowering their stress. Supplements cannot replace a proper diet or rest, but can help get you to a better path.
 Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, and J., Anishetty, S. (2013) A prospective, randomized double blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Department of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry. Retrieved from http://www.ijpm.info/article.asp?issn=0253-7176;year=2012;volume=34;issue=3;spage=255;epage=262;aulast=Chandrasekhar
 Stough, C., Scholey, A., Lloyd, J., Myers S., and Downey L. (2011) The effect of 90 day administration of a high does vitamin B-complex on work stress. Hum Psychopharmacol. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21905094