If there is one thing, we could all use, it is a little more "calm" in our lives. But how do we calm down and de-stress to live the desired lifestyle we all want, a life with less stress?
To understand how to de-stress or manage stress, we first need to know what stress is and what it does to our bodies. So, let's start with the autonomic nervous system; this is the part of our nervous system that controls unconscious bodily functions such as breathing, heartbeat, digestion, and more. It contains the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is your "flight or fight" response and the part of the autonomic nervous system that increases feelings of stress. When in this state, stress hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are released, and your breathing, pulse, and alertness increase. All of this gives you that feeling of chronic tension when we activate this part of the nervous system regularly. The parasympathetic, or our "rest and digest," is where we feel calm. Here we release hormones such as oxytocin and acetylcholine. Being in this state also promotes slower breathing, pulse, and alertness; we are relaxed. When we activate parasympathetic activity, we are at rest. Sleep, digestion, and healing are easier when our body feels safe and rested.
Now that we know the difference between these two parts of the nervous system, let's discuss how we can promote living more in the parasympathetic state.
Tips to help you get into a parasympathetic state or manage stress are:
- get outside into nature
- intentional breathing, you can try alternate nostril or box breathing
- strong connections, think friends, family, and pets
- yoga and exercise
- good night's sleep
- a whole food, non processed diet
- supplements, which I will discuss
All the above will help you to calm down and decrease anxiety and stress. In addition, by practicing a couple of the above daily, you will live more in your "rest and digest" state. So, the takeaway is to choose one or two above recommendations to add to your day and start there.
I mention supplements that can also help; let's discuss a few I like. One of the first that comes to mind is magnesium. Most of us are deficient, so supplementing is very important. Magnesium is responsible for 100's of chemical reactions in the body. When stressed out or living in a chronically sympathetic state, we deplete magnesium stores quickly, resulting in low magnesium!
Supplementing with magnesium can help us get out of the vicious circle of stress and low magnesium. Of course, the benefit of magnesium supplementation is restoring lost magnesium stores. But magnesium also helps calm the nervous system and promotes better sleep. We all know that we are not feeling our best if we are not sleeping. Better sleep from magnesium is one reason I love taking it before bed.
Another way to restore magnesium loss is by eating magnesium-rich foods such as:
- pumpkin seeds
- black beans
and more; see this complete list.
How much magnesium we need is individual. But most of us can benefit from 400-420 mg for men and 310-320 mg for women. Please ask your health practitioner if you would like more details on how much magnesium is correct for you.
Another supplement I love to help calm us down and get us into a parasympathetic state is
L-theanine. It's an amino acid in high concentrations in green tea (and black teas) and some mushrooms. L-theanine enhances alpha brain waves. Alpha brain waves are associated with a state of "wakeful relaxation." This is the state of mind you experience when meditating! Studies tell us that 200 mg of L-theanine increases this alpha-wave activity in the brain within 30–40 minutes.
L-theanine boosts levels of GABA and other calming brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine.
GABA is a neurotransmitter, and low levels are associated with anxiety and mood disorders. GABA can also be taken in supplemental form. It has a calming effect and helps control anxiety, stress, and fear.
If you want to try these supplements that help calm us and live more in our "rest and digest" state, Herbaland has a formula containing all three! It's their Calm Naturally gummy. When taken at the recommended dose of four gummies per day, you receive 200 mg of magnesium citrate, 50 mg of GABA, and the study-proven amount, 200 mg of L-theanine. Plus, it comes in a tasty raspberry hibiscus flavour!
Last, let's talk about kids! Kids need calming just as much as we do, and although Herbaland supplements come in a gummy form, the above is not recommended for kids. But the good news is, Herbaland makes a kid-friendly gummy that helps to relax the little ones. It contains magnesium but, in a child-safe amount. It also includes one of my favorite herbs for calming nerves, chamomile. It is their Calm & Chill gummy, and kids love its strawberry flavor! But as with adults, it is essential to teach our children how to live in a parasympathetic state. We can do this by utilizing the tips above that suit your child. Walks in nature, a regular bedtime, lots of love and hugs, and good nutrition are great places to start!
I hope this helps you find more “calm” in your daily lives!