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  • Writer's pictureVennessa McConkey

Managing Stress This Holiday Season

Even the happiest of holiday seasons usually results in a hectic schedule, right?! There’s nothing like a month full of festivities to get people burning the candles at both ends - and even harder with an autoimmune disease. That added stress can take its toll on our health in a number of ways.

It’s essential to pause, yes PAUSE, and catch your breath--a little mindfulness makes the season all the merrier. In addition, there are supplements to help support you and address the impact this stressful season has on your health.

Many of you complain of feeling stressed. Addressing stress is an important goal to support better outcomes and there are several supplements many practitioners choose to help their patients adapt better to stress...and I want to share those with you!

In today’s fast-paced, busy world, it’s common for many of us to complain of feeling “stressed out”. “Feeling stressed” is a general description for feeling concerned about activities of the day, feeling irritable and edgy for no reason, being unable to focus on one task at a time, feeling like there is too much to do and too little time to do it all. Feeling overwhelmed can interfere with the ability to prioritize and be productive. These stress-related symptoms result from overstimulation and overactivity of not one, but several physiological systems, which end up affecting the entire body and brain (oh that dreary brain fog!). Here are my recommendations (as always, consult your practitioner FIRST - don't self-medicate)

1. L-Theanine

Many people may benefit from L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea. L-Theanine is absorbed in the small intestine via a sodium-coupled active transport process that allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier fairly quickly. Because of this, in most cases it can have an effect in about 30 minutes after ingestion - cool, right?

Research involving human electroencephalograph (EEG) results demonstrate that L-Theanine can significantly increase alpha wave activity in the brain. Alpha waves occur when people feel relaxed and when the brain is in an idle state without concentrating on anything. Alpha waves usually occur when engaged in activities such as daydreaming, meditating, or practicing mindfulness.

In addition to increasing alpha waves in the brain, L-Theanine also simultaneously decreases beta brain waves. Beta waves are associated with an excited state of mind, so by influencing both alpha and beta brain waves, L-Theanine has the ability to support a state of calm relaxation without drowsiness.

In many studies, L-Theanine has been shown to support calm focus, attention and concentration, and practitioners recommend it to patients for stress support during the day!

2. Ashwagandha

Belonging to the pepper family, ashwagandha is found in India and Africa, and used in their traditional practices as a rejuvenator and for energy and well-being. As an adaptogen, there are many animal studies showing its stress-support activity. Human studies have also suggested that ashwagandha may be helpful for reducing the effects of stress, including mental and emotional stress, as well as supporting a healthy and calm mood. I like incorporating it into my morning superfoods - check out a sampler pack HERE

3. Asian Ginseng

Ginseng is commonly grown on mountain slopes in Asia and has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine for overall health and well-being. A 2017 review published in the Journal of Ginseng Research concluded that “when a person faces a stressful environment, ginseng can improve their response by regulating the function of the HPA axis.” There have been thousands of studies on ginseng, to try to understand its mechanisms of action, and many studies examining its effects related to energy and fatigue.

This study kinda blew my mind - it suggested that Asian ginseng can support feelings of well-being in nurses working night shifts. WHOA! Our nurses and other night shift workers can use that extra energy! A 2017 review published in the Journal of Ginseng Research concluded that “when a person faces a stressful environment, ginseng can improve their response by regulating the function of the HPA axis.”

4. Rhodiola

While there are upwards of 50 species of rhodiola, it is the fragrant root of the species Rhodiola rosea that is historically used in traditional practices. In a double-blind study, 100 mg per day of standardized rhodiola extract was given to medical students during a stressful exam period. Those taking the extract reported a better sense of general well-being and performed better on tests of mental and psychomotor performance. Another double-blind trial confirmed the effectiveness of rhodiola for stress-related fatigue.


While all of these ingredients help support the body’s ability to handle stress, it is important to include other stress relieving lifestyle strategies, including adequate sleep, exercise and proper diet as well as mind-body medicine. Remember to check out my store for great products and recommendations - and please always consult with your wellness team before self-medicating as you could do more harm than good!


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