Adaptogens: The Secret to Amazing Stress Relief

Stress is frustrating. The last time I went to my doctor for a checkup, she told me that my blood pressure was too high and my waist weight was creeping up again. That was a shock because I eat healthy meals with fresh veggies, avoid salt and go for a walk every day.

“Have you been stressed lately?” she asked. I just looked at her. I think it’s safe to say that most of us have been feeling stressed the last few years. I never imagined it could cause so many problems with my healthy lifestyle.

The bigger surprise was what the doctor told me afterward: “I want you to try taking adaptogens for a couple of months.” I had never even heard of adaptogens before!

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are plant compounds that naturally lower anxiety. These herbs make you more resistant to the effects of stress hormones. They reduce anxiety and all the negative effects that come along with it.

How Does Stress Affect Your Body?

Cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, gets your heart racing at the drop of a hat. This can trigger countless issues:

  • Physical symptoms: Low energy levels, headaches, high blood pressure, chest pain, digestive problems, weakened immune system, weight gain, physical pain and inflammation
  • Emotional symptoms: Sadness, depression, panic attacks, lack of desire to see other people and no enjoyment from things you used to like
  • Mental symptoms: Lack of motivation, mental exhaustion, concentration problems (brain fog), trouble sleeping, irritability

How Do Adaptogens Work?

When stress hormones are too high, you feel anxiety rushing in. The effect is even worse when you have low levels of “happy” hormones that should create feelings of calm. Adaptogens alleviate stress by lowering negative hormones and boosting positive brain chemicals. They keep your body’s systems in balance.

What Are the Benefits of Adaptogens?

With the help of adaptogens — plus good habits such as exercise and sleep — you can turn the tables on anxiety:

  • Higher energy levels
  • Fewer sad days or panic attacks
  • Increased positive feelings
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved mental focus and endurance
  • Better physical stamina
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less weight gain

What Are the Best Adaptogens for Your Mood?

If you’ve ever relaxed with a cup of licorice root tea and your favorite book, adaptogens have already helped you with stress relief. Here are my favorites:

  • Ashwagandha: Promotes feelings of overall wellbeing and happiness
  • Rhodiola rosea: Helps with tiredness and mental fatigue
  • Cordyceps: Increases physical stamina
  • Licorice root: Promotes calm and relaxation
  • Siberian ginseng: Boosts energy levels
  • Holy basil: Lowers stress, anxiety and depression
  • Turmeric: Increases mental focus, alleviates stress and fights inflammation
  • Astragalus root: Helps with physical, mental and emotional stress

That’s all there is to it — healthy, natural herbs that alleviate anxiety. Personally, I prefer taking these adaptogens in a stress-fighting supplement because it helps me get the right amount of every day. Other people sip teas made with these herbs when under a lot of stress.

No plant can change the way you look at stressful events, but adaptogens can keep your body from going into red-alert mode constantly. That way, you worry less about things that aren’t a big deal. And when truly stressful events happen, you can stay in control and find a solution instead of “losing it.”

What Noise Pollution Is Doing to Your Heart

Do you feel stressed every day and have trouble falling to sleep at night? Do you wake up in the morning exhausted? I felt that way for months — at my wit’s end. When I finally discovered the reason, I was shocked.

Weird Symptoms With No Cause

I felt irritable, tired and sluggish, which was weird because I’m normally perky and energetic. Things got so bad that I finally decided to give in and buy over-the-counter sleeping pills to get some relief. That morning, my sister called me out of the blue and told me to check something I had never considered.

The Phone Call That Changed It All

You see, my sister and her family live in Chicago. When I told her about my symptoms, she asked: “Is there a lot of noise near your house?” The answer was yes, because our city has been redoing the streets near us. All that time, the real reason for my day-and-night stress was noise pollution!

The Truth About Noise Pollution

What is noise pollution? It's any unwanted sound that forces its way into your surroundings. You want peace and quiet, but you can’t make the noise go away.

Usually, noise pollution is caused by loud music, insensitive neighbors, wild parties, cars driving by or airplanes taking off. At work, there can be a lot of noise from heavy machinery.

Not all noise pollution is loud. Even quiet sounds can interrupt your concentration if they’re constant. A coworker that won’t stop clicking their pen is one of my personal pet peeves.

A Not-So-Silent Enemy

Some people will tell you, “It’s just noise; it’s not that big a deal.” Don’t believe them. Noise pollution can cause more problems than you think, and serious ones at that:

  • Noise-induced hearing loss
  • Insomnia
  • Weak immune system (from not sleeping)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease

It's even worse if noise pollution gets in the way of a good night’s sleep. People who live in noisy areas find it harder to fall asleep, and they get less of the regenerating “deep” sleep the body needs to repair itself. This causes other problems, from low energy levels to weight gain.

Noise Pollution and Stress

Constant noise can be devastating for your mental health. When it seems like you can’t escape from loud sounds, your emotions suffer:

  • Stress
  • Panic feelings
  • Irritability
  • Sadness and depression
  • Exhaustion

The longer the situation keeps going, the worse you feel. It can get to the point where you're thinking about taking medicine for the side effects, but the real culprit is too... much... noise!

Tips for Stopping Noise Pollution

Inside the home, turn down the volume on electronic devices. Ask your kids to wear headphones when listening to music or playing video games. What about noises from outside?

One option is to choose home decor that deadens sounds. Insulated walls, double-pane windows, carpeting and thick curtains can help. There are even soundproof layers if your neighborhood is really noisy.

Set aside time every day to relax somewhere quiet. Take refuge in a quiet space when you get home from work. My bathroom is my haven, soaking in a bubble bath with a book for 30 minutes.

At work, you can block out irritating coworkers and noisy equipment with noise-cancelling headphones at your desk. Listen to calming classical music instead. This is invaluable for concentrating when you're focused on a task.

3 Healthy and Fun Halloween Treats

Growing up, people connect Halloween with spookiness and sweet, sugar-filled treats. While candy is delicious and fun, it can also be addictive and set a precedent for improper eating. Candy in moderation is OK, but pillowcases filled to the brim are a bit excessive. The great news is that at home, you can still make sweet and delicious Halloween-themed treats, but they are healthy.

1. Apple Monsters

Who doesn't love an apple? To get the kiddos and adults enthusiastic about the fruit, consider mixing the traditional green apples with nut butter and strawberry slices for a spooky-inspired snack. Let your creative juices flow as you create unique and fun little faces. 

Ingredients:

  • Two green apples, quartered 
  • 32 sunflower seeds (teeth) 
  • Two to three strawberries, sliced (tongues) 
  • Sunflower butter 
  • Homemade googly eyes

Googly Eye Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar 
  • ¼ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch 
  • 2 teaspoons non-dairy milk 
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup 
  • Mini non-dairy chocolate chips 

Googly Eye Instructions:

  1. Whisk the cornstarch and powdered sugar together. Add in all remaining ingredients except the chocolate chips. You want to mix until you have a thick paste. 
  2. Using a Ziploc or piping bag, squeeze out a tiny dot of the mix onto a baking sheet. Do not forget to line the sheet with wax paper.  
  3. Top each dot with a chocolate chip. Let the googly eyes set for a minimum of 24 hours. 

Putting It All Together:

  1. Create a mouth in each quartered apple chunk by cutting the middle out. Fill the gap with sunflower butter. 
  2. Place four sunflower seeds along the top of the cut, creating teeth. Don't worry about even spacing or gaps — these are monsters, after all. 
  3. To create the tongue, take a slice of strawberry and place it along the lower edge.  
  4. Finally, put one or two eyes at the top of the snack. Glue them in place with a bit more sunflower butter.

2. Orange Jack-O-Lanterns 

Many families make a day of picking pumpkins and carving jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. As part of the festivities, why not bring a creative, healthy snack. Oranges make the perfect mini pumpkin stand-in. However, do not fill the "pumpkin" with its guts until two hours before the party. 

Ingredients: 

  • Enough navel oranges for everyone 
  • A mix of your favorite fruits (grapes, cherries, apples, pineapple, etc.)

Instructions: 

  1. Using a sharp knife, slice off the top section of the oranges. Use the blade to separate the innards from the sides. 
  2. Remove the orange segments and set them aside for later. Carve a cute face into each hollowed-out orange. 
  3. Soak up the remaining juices by place a paper towel inside. Remove the towel and fill the oranges with your choice of fruit, including the orange segments from earlier.

3. "Candy Corn" Parfaits

If you are looking for another quick and easy Halloween treat, look no further than the "Candy Corn" parfait. Made with pineapple, orange slices, and whipped cream, no snack is sweeter than this. 

Ingredients: 

  • Mandarin oranges 
  • Pineapple chunks 
  • Candy Corn 
  • Whipped cream 
  • Mason jars or plastic cups

Instructions: 

  1. In a plastic cup or mason jar, layer in the fruit and whipped cream. The pineapple goes on the bottom, followed by the oranges, and is topped with whipped cream. 
  2. If so desired, you can place a single Candy Corn on the top.  

While candy is excellent in moderation, not every Halloween treat needs to center around a sugar high. Do you know of any other tasty and healthy Halloween treats? Leave a comment.