Stress and its constant companion, anxiety, remain troublesome for many American adults today—here’s how to help provide relief, and that all-important balance.
Although some people drink or self-medicate to lower it—the statistics about stress and its impact are sobering: according to The American Institute of Stress (AIS), an estimated one million workers are absent every day due to stress, and job stress is responsible for a cost of more than $300 billion annually for U.S. industry.
Further, a major cause of stress and anxiety is use of social media, according to a comprehensive report, “Stress in America 2017: Technology and Social Media.” Adults who are “constant checkers,” those who just cannot help engaging in their social media applications (including emails and texts), report significantly higher stress levels than those who are not constantly attached to their devices, and nearly one-fifth of Americans identify their technology use as a source of stress.
And no, college kids don’t have it easy because many of them still live safely with mom and dad, and have their insurance covered. An October 11, 2017 New York Times Magazine feature, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety,” by Benoit Denizet-Lewis, offers more alarming statistics garnered from research institutions. For example, anxiety has beaten depression as the number-one reason students cite for seeing a counselor. The American College Health Association, which annually surveys college students reported undergraduates’ “overwhelming anxiety” increased from 50 percent in 2011 to 62 percent in 2016. Further, wrote Denizet-Lewis, “In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) began asking incoming college freshmen if they ‘felt overwhelmed by all I had to do’ during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did.” In 2017, this feeling was reported by 41 percent.
One type of intense stress and anxiety condition is called burnout, and it too is on the rise. Mitch Skop, senior director of new product development, Pharmachem Laboratories Inc., Kearny, NJ, described, “A condition gaining more understanding in the medical community is ‘burnout,’ intensified stress symptoms and attendant anxiety and sleep disorders.” Initially, he said, the term was used to describe the results from hours of high-intensity and long hours worked in the medical community; it has since expanded to include individuals in any profession enduring long hours or days of high-intensity work without sufficient rest or breaks.
We all likely know a person close to us who complains of being “stressed out” or “having anxiety.” Prescription medications for anxiety, such as Xanax, have inclined steadily.
There’s no arguing that complaints of stress and feeling nervous (anxiety) continue to rise. As a practitioner, it is likely that your records can attest to this fact.
Marianne Clyde, author of the new book, Zentivity: How to Eliminate Chaos, Stress and Discontent in Your Workplace, and founder of the Marianne Clyde Center for Holistic Psychotherapy in Virginia, asserted, “Acute stress can be debilitating. Chronic stress can lead to physical illness or mental illness. It can put a strain on relationships; it can challenge your ability to think straight. It can make you just want to curl up in a corner and give up, or keep you in such a state of panic that you feel paralyzed and unable to move forward. One person’s stress can’t really be measured against another person’s stress. Each case is individual.”
Stress and anxiety expert Mary Wingo, PhD said she was so drawn to the study of these conditions because of the increased incidence of stress-related diseases, disability and early mortality in all modernized societies within the last half century, and having exacerbated significantly in only the last 10 to 15 years. She warned, “We face a very bleak future with both declined life spans and birth rates, as well as bankrupt public health systems if we do not get a handle on preventable stress in modernized society. The human and economic costs of stress caused by modern life is staggering and unsustainable.”
The pernicious duo of stress and anxiety are really increasing in adults under 40, observed Jacob Teitelbaum, MD. He theorizes that there are several factors for this phenomenon: nutritional deficiencies, especially omega-3 EFAs, hormonal deficiencies associated with the increased levels of endocrine disruptor chemicals in the environment, increased speed of modern life and a 24-hour news media-induced “fear sells” environment. “The increased stresses of modern life result in initially elevated adrenal cortisol levels which contribute to depression, followed by adrenal fatigue which triggers anxiety,” he said.
Anxiety (which exists in several forms) is the No. 1 mental health concern, observed Cheryl Myers, chief of education and scientific affairs at Wisconsin-based EuroMedica. One significant cause triggering higher anxiety cases, she said, could be the constant need to be plugged in and connected to the 24/7 media.
“I don’t think you can be barraged with headlines (almost universally negative) and emerge unscathed,” she opined. “After all, a big part of the ‘click-through’ culture demands a certain level of anxiety – they have to push emotional buttons, or nobody will read the articles and see the sponsor’s ads. So we set ourselves up for anxiety with excessive media exposure.”
Jason Edwards, president and CEO of Rebel Herbs in Indiana, also strongly believes that the greatest cause of stress and nervousness today is the constant connectivity to personal technology. He pointed to smart phones, laptops and desktop computers that continually tie us to social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. “The incessant clicks, and beeps telling us that the comments and postings of our peers are leaving us behind if we don’t check in and respond in a witty or inspired fashion.,” he described. “Email is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, enticing many to work for hours after the close of the work day and creating an environment where people expect a response within minutes of their request.”
Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, medical advisory board member of the Nutritional Magnesium Association listed several current factors faced by Americans today that have exacerbated stress and anxiety: recent political and international upheaval and uncertainty, the opioid addiction epidemic and the increased use and prescription of psychiatric drugs with side-effects that include suicidal thoughts, aggression and violence; the media penchant for sensational news, increases in the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and toxic chemicals in foods and water supplies; and the depletion of minerals and nutrients in soils and resulting foods that have left our bodies deficient and weaker in handling stress. In fact, she noted, magnesium deficiency has been shown to precipitate anxiety, stress and depression.
She explained how magnesium assists in supporting the body’s ability to withstand the numerous stressors. “The stress response these stressors stimulate include the increased secretion of the stress hormones adrenaline and adrenal cortisone. Stress hormones cause a sudden rise in magnesium-dependent reactions. Energy production, nerve-impulse transmission, increased muscle function, and responses of heart and blood vessels all require magnesium. There is an immediate increase in the use of magnesium, so our need for magnesium soars as we respond to stress.” When high stress exists, anxiety, its BFF, is often right there, too. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million American adults are affected by some form of anxiety; and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults—women twice as much as men.
Myers added that there are several types of anxiety—people can experience occasional episodes, caused by deadline pressure, uncomfortable family get-togethers or social fears. Anxiety also can start in childhood and worsen over time. Untreated anxiety can lead to panic attacks, social and other phobias, and feeling emotionally and mentally overwhelmed. “For most people—aside from those dealing with general anxiety disorder—it is simply a feeling that something isn’t right, and a disproportionate sense of unease, even over what would, under other circumstances, be considered trivial,” she described.
Florida-based Rainbow Light has recently invested in psychographic research that showed its consumers commonly endure anxiety, but they face unique stressors associated with lifestyle variances, according to Marci Clow, MS, RDN, educator. These factors include physiology, daily activities, physical activity levels, environments, and even personal values and aspirations. Therefore, she stated, “stress management and mental wellbeing is a complex problem that one-size-fits-all solutions fail to account for. Additionally, the market for stress and anxiety supplements is widening with the maturing of America’s largest generation.”
There are quite a few natural solutions that can be a part of an anti-nervous, stress support regimen that will help your clients/patients to regain balance and better sense of well-being.
For anxiety, Dr. Teitelbaum likes to start with two tablets twice daily of a special component of echinacea, which stimulates the cannabinoid system. In head-on studies, he pointed out, this has been equally effective as Librium after six weeks. He also recommends AnxioCalm, a supplement that stimulates the endocannabinoid system.
For those who feel depressed, he recommends a special form of curcumin, CuraPro, 750 mg twice a day; in one study, CuraPro was more effective than Zoloft after six weeks in head-on studies. Both of these options may be combined safely with the medications, he noted.
Dr. Teitelbaum also recommends checking your client’s fasting morning cortisol level, as this can be helpful in determining existence of depression or anxiety. “Generally, depression is associated with an elevated morning cortisol. If it is associated with a cortisol in the lowest 50th percentile of the normal range, it is more likely adrenal fatigue from the stress rather than depression,” he distinguished.
The key to understanding how to manage stress is that the deleterious effects of stress are additive, Dr. Wingo emphasized. “That is, the more individual stressors a person has to contend with in life, the greater the chance of developing a stress-related illness, disability, early death and even poverty.”
Effective stress management includes itemizing individual stressors, then crafting a behavior modification plan to eliminate the stressors one at a time. “This is really about assessing and controlling risk,” she commented.
Dr. Wingo and her research team have developed a proprietary inventory and evaluation technology for adults that assesses risk—Comprehensive Life Stress Inventory and Risk Assessment (CLSIARA). This is a 250-item inventory spanning a wide array of common adult stressors as well as a reporting option for individual stress frequency. “The results are weighted based on stress severity as well as frequency. The participant not only receives an itemized list of risky areas of stress, but they also get a calculated stress-risk score which shows the individual risks of developing stress related diseases, disability and early death,” she said. (CLSIARA is available at www.marywingo.com).
In cases of burnout, a supplement was found to be effective. In a study published in the Journal of International Medical Research, Target 1 (a formula featuring lactium milk casein) helped significantly decrease symptoms of burnout, according to Skop. The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial looked at the effects of the formula on participants with burnout syndrome, and followed study subjects’ symptoms of burnout using different evaluation instruments for the 12-week study period. In the placebo group, 14 participants still presented with a high level of burnout at the end of the trial compared with 26 on the first day, whereas in the supplement group, only two participants had a high level of burnout at the end of the trial compared with 33 on the first day. Study participants came from a wide range of professional backgrounds across several economic sectors.
A good companion here would also be any supplement featuring magnesium, as Dr. Dean explained that serotonin (the feel-good neurochemical) depends on magnesium for its production and function. Magnesium also regulates melatonin production, which results in better quality sleep, often robbed by high anxiety and stress. “Numerous studies have shown magnesium’s effectiveness in boosting mood, lowering anxiety and depression and reducing stress levels, as well as helping with deeper more restful sleep,” she said.
Natural Calm from Texas-based Natural Vitality is formulated to restore healthy magnesium levels, balancing calcium intake—the result of which is natural stress relief, described Andreas Koch, influencer of marketing and partnerships for parent company Wellnext (Florida). The proprietary formula provides a highly absorbable, water-soluble magnesium in ionic form (having molecular charge that allows the element to easily bond with water), for quick absorption and utilization. “Millions have experienced the stress relief and health benefits that Natural Calm, The Anti-Stress Drink, can provide,” he commented. “It’s nature’s way of restoring balance to achieve a sense of inner calm.”
Rainbow Light provides several solutions for patients exhibiting anxiety and high stress; new food-based Vibrance multivitamins are formulated to support energy, vitality and stress management, and include Men’s Multivitamin plus Stress Support and Women’s Multivitamin plus Stress Support. They feature full-spectrum highly bioavailable B vitamins to counteract stress and nervous system response, magnesium to promote calm, plus full spectrum digestive support and targeted gender-specific botanicals.
Rainbow Light’s non-drowsy Zen Therapy contains a nutrient profile to help promote a healthy nervous system response combined with a traditional blend of soothing botanicals to maintain calm and relaxation.
Mental Calm combines nutrients and herbs to quiet the mind and deliver a natural state of calm during times of overload and exhaustion, Clow described. “This product provides co-enzymated forms of the B vitamins, L-theanine and GABA, which may provide tension relief while supporting focus and clarity,” she said. “The botanical Calming Complex blend of bacopa, skullcap and lavender assist in calming nerves and supporting mental clarity, while eleuthero protects the body against the effect of stress.”
Adaptogens are also highly useful to combat the depleting effects of stress and anxiety, according to Myers. EuroMedica’s Adaptra combines two clinically studied adaptogens, ashwagandha and rhodiola, two longstanding botanicals that have been widely researched and found to maintain mental focus and physical energy during challenging times.
She explained that the withanolides in ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), a primary adaptogen in ayurvedic medicine, boost resistance to physical and psychological stressors. Studies have shown that ashwagandha can reduce corticosterone levels and increase antioxidant activity. In addition, clinical and scientific studies have found that ashwagandha not only reduces stress by decreasing cortisol levels, it also significantly reduces nervous tension; one clinical trial (60-day, double-blind placebo-controlled) showed reduction of nervous tension by more than 50 percent as measured by a standard rating scale.
Rebel Herbs’ #89 Serenade herbal capsules contain several herbs shown to help manage stress. Bacopa monnieri interacts with the dopamine and serotonergic systems, and mainly promotes neuron communication by encouraging the growth of dendrites, thereby improving a sense of calm and ability to process cognitive data, according to Edwards. Cyperus rotundus is most known as a mild muscle relaxer. Gotu kola contains triterpenoids that reduce anxiety and increase mental function as shown in mouse studies. One human study found that individuals who took gotu kola were less likely to be startled by a new noise than those who took placebo; the “startle noise” response is a way to discern anxiety. “These three herbs supported with amla and wallichi are an effective way to mitigate stress and its effects on the brain, and body,” he said. The company’s companion #88 Serenade herbal vapors is a similar formula delivered in a vapor format for fast action, he added.
Of course, other ways to help clients lessen the effects of stress (anxiety, sleeplessness, tension, headaches and low mood) include exercise, meditation, yoga, decreased consumption of caffeine and alcoholic beverages and unplugging, stepping away from social media and 24/7 news cycles. Achieving balance also includes cognitive behavioral techniques to be mindful, to be present and to temper reaction; learning to increase patience is also a virtue that helps slay the stress dragon.
One cannot escape stress during life; it’s a part of life. It’s how we treat ourselves that makes the difference in how we cope. Through supplementation, good diet and lifestyle habits, as well as counseling, one can learn to manage stress and bar its best friend, anxiety, from entering the haven of the self.
Healthy Take Aways:
• Approximately one million workers are absent every day due to stress, and job stress is responsible for a cost of more than $300 billion annually for U.S. industry.
• Approximately 40 million Americans adults are affected by some form of anxiety; and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults.
• A major cause of stress and anxiety is use of social media; a big part of the “click-through” culture demands a certain level of anxiety.
• Magnesium deficiency has been shown to precipitate anxiety, stress and depression.
For More Information:
Natural Vitality, www.naturalvitality.com
Pharmachem Laboratories, www.lactium.com
Rainbow Light, www.rainbowlight.com
Rebel Herbs, www.rebelherbs.com