Nature's Secret to Stress Management

Whether it’s checking your email before you've even brushed your teeth or trying to be everything to everyone, one thing is for certain: we live in a constant state of hyper-connectedness and the subsequent stress that goes along with it. 

Stress isn’t always a bad thing; it can ooften keep us safe. The physiologic “fight or flight” response is a primitive, automatic response that floods the body with certain hormones so it can prepare to either “fight” or “flee” from a perceived attack. The problem is that our bodies aren’t able to distinguish between the stress that accompanies a genuine physical threat (someone chasing you with a knife, for example) and something more mundane, like rush hour traffic—so the same physiologic response occurs.

There is overwhelming evidence that the cumulative buildup of these stress hormones can lead to disorders of both the immune system (fatigue, autoimmunity like Lupus, allergies, and arthritis) and autonomic nervous system (headaches, high blood pressure). To protect ourselves, we must first become aware of the physical and emotional signals that appear when our body is in “flight or fight" mode. This could be anything from the mounting anger and shallow breathing you experience when running late to a meeting, or the stomach cramps you have every time you’re at your parents’ house. It is different for everyone, but once you’re able to identify your individual signals, you can take steps to calm yourself down, blunting that flood of hormones that aren’t serving you.There are hundreds—if not thousands—of products on the market that promise to assist your body in managing stress. While some of them might prove beneficial, there is a much more simple solution. Often overlooked, magnesium is one of the most important essential minerals and is a potent antidote to stress. Most Americans are actually deficient in this super-important nutrient—more than half get less than the recommended amount and an astounding 20 percent get “significantly less” than that. How this relates to your stress response is very interesting: studies have demonstrated that living in a perpetual state of stress (as most of us are) actually depletes our bodies of magnesium since the production of our stress hormones requires it! So not only does a magnesium deficiency set us up to experience more stress, but stress further depletes our stores.

The most effective way to supplement magnesium is through transdermal application. Try to find a high quality topical magnesium product and apply nightly to the bottom of your feet. If you prefer to pop some pills instead, look for magnesium citrate or magnesium chloride. Since magnesium can have such a calming effect, it’s really best to administer it just before bedtime, as taking it in the morning can make you sleepy. It shouldn't take more than a few days to start noticing positive effects—and you'll probably be a lot more zen during your morning commute.

Photo Credit: iStock