As an entrepreneur, COVID-19 could have sent my stress through the roof. I’m working harder. My team has to be more creative and produce more spontaneous work. And the answer to the question, “When do you need it?” is always, “NOW!” To get the best work done for our clients, we have to remain calm, focused and productive, in spite of the stress, anxiety or worry that we’re all experiencing.
Being a problem-solver who loves research, I started looking into the stress relief aspects of brain health supplements. Would they actually help me feel calmer and focus better, even when I’m under really high stress? I chose to focus on the Carotenoids and Omega 3s since I get these important antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in a brain health supplement. BONUS - I already feel significantly calmer and more focused when I take them. Would they also help me stay calmer during this really stressful time? And maybe help avoid some of the long term damage that this high stress can cause on the brain? (My mother has Alzheimer’s disease, so I’m concerned about my future brain health, too.) Here’s what I found out:
I started my research with Mental Health America, known as the leading community-based nonprofit “dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all Americans.”
Besides their annual conference, which draws mental health experts and advocates from around the world, Mental Health America also provides extensive resources for people who are looking to support their own mental health or address any concerning mental health issues that they may suffer from.
Mental Health America’s research into supplement studies found that “...Omega 3s may be helpful in the treatment of depression and seem to have a mood-stabilizing effect. Omega 3 essential fatty acids may also help boost the effectiveness of conventional antidepressants. Supplementation for 6 months improved psychological stress, serum cortisol, and measures of emotional and physical health (P < 0.05 for all), versus placebo.”
During very stressful times, Omega 3s have a strong brain health partner in Carotenoids (antioxidant pigments found in leafy greens like kale, spinach and broccoli). Think of this combo as mental health first aid—a way to help heal the damage that ongoing “fight, flight or freeze” chemicals like cortisol can do to the brain. According to scientific research, chronic psychological stress—like we’ve experienced during this pandemic—actually causes oxidative stress and systemic inflammation, which “are the root cause of several deleterious effects of chronic psychological stress. We hypothesize that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities of the macular carotenoids (MCs) lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin could, via daily supplementation, provide a dietary means of benefit.”
In another study referenced by Scientific Wellness, participants in a double-blind study, “significantly reduced blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol, reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress, and improved measures of overall physical health. And over a further six months, these benefits were either maintained or continued to improve.”
This information shouldn’t be surprising. Omega 3s and carotenoids have been shown to have multiple benefits for the eye and the brain. Fortunately, supplementation is easy with many options available for purchase.
Of course, if you’re experiencing serious mental health concerns that can’t be addressed via lifestyle changes or supplementation, it’s recommended that you reach out to a mental health center to speak to a professional.
Mental Health Centers typically provide a range of services, from talk therapy to psychological medication prescribing. To ensure you select the right practice for your specific needs, consider the following:
You may need to call your benefits coordinator or insurance provider to ask for a list of their “network” mental health centers, to ensure that you don’t have to foot the bill. If you don’t have insurance, use a search platform like Open Counseling to find low-cost or free resources you can access.
If you think that your feelings of depression or anxiety may require medication, you’ll want to check with the mental health center before you schedule your first appointment to make sure they have a psychiatrist on staff or that they will offer you a referral to a psychiatrist, if you need one.
Some psychological practitioners specialize in particular conditions, like PTSD or depression, or specific modalities, like hypnosis therapy or EMDR. If you have an interest in working with a specialist or in pursuing a specific type of treatment, be sure and ask those questions during your first call to the mental health center.
During times of extreme stress, whether it’s due to a one-time event or an ongoing situation, you will need to pay attention to your mental health care. This simple 3-prong plan may help you ensure your brain health isn’t adversely affected by chronic oxidation and inflammation.
Eat well. Sleep well. Exercise. Those three factors are critically important to your brain health.
Besides getting as many Carotenoids (by eating colorful veggies and fruit) and Omega 3s (in fatty fish) as you can in your diet, add a daily supplement that contains both Omega 3s and Carotenoids in the active ingredients.
When you’re feeling that lifestyle changes and supplementation aren’t helping you keep your anxiety and stress in check, consult a mental health professional or a medical doctor, who can help you explore exactly what you need to ensure your mental and brain health during significant stress.
If you’re looking for smart holiday gift ideas for the people you care about, this Healthy Brain Holiday Gift Guide can help you select a gift that supports your loved ones’ brain health and ensure the memories of this season’s holidays aren’t forgotten.