If you feel like your life's been non-stop stress since 2020 (and before), you're not alone. The human nervous system has been honed over thousands of years to detect and respond to threats in a specific way that doesn't always meet our needs in an age of 24/7 news and constant stimulation.
How to calm nerves may seem like a difficult question, but there are many ways to calm down. Once you understand how anxiety works in your body, you're better equipped to address it in the moment. And if you need assistance staying calm in the long run, supplements may help.
Read on to learn more about anxiety, how to calm down, and how a supplement like MDcalm can help!
How Do Anxiety and Stress Work?
What's really going on when we're stressed out, and why can it be so hard to stop?
The answer is linked to both hormones and neurotransmitters. These chemicals in your body can trigger a cascade of reactions that make it hard to think of how to calm down.
The main stress hormone is cortisol, and it's released almost immediately after you encounter a stressful situation.
One of cortisol's main functions is to tell your body to focus its attention on glucose production. This raises your blood sugar, which provides your body with immediately available energy. That glucose energy is designed to help your body deal with an immediate physical threat.
Of course, our stress these days is often from family and personal issues, not from physical fights or hungry animals. This means that the glucose released just stimulates insulin production, leading to an energy crash that can make you feel sluggish. And when your body switches to making more glucose, it spends less time focused on repairing itself, which can lead to inflammation.
Cortisol's other function is to stimulate the body to release adrenaline and other stress hormones. Adrenaline stimulates your body's fear response and encourages memory formation. That can be the reason why you tend to have better memory recall of some stressful events.
Some of the hormones that cortisol releases are metabolized into dopamine and then norepinephrine.
Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that has a major role in stress response. This neurotransmitter enhances your senses and changes patterns of activity in your prefrontal cortex. This gives your body more information about your surroundings and helps increase your capacity to process them.
Again, while that can be very useful in survival situations, it can be unhelpful when we're dealing with stress in the modern world. Instead of being better able to make a decision, our brains can be loaded with too much information, and we're unable to stop overthinking.
GABA is the primary inhibitory transmitter in the brain and decreases nerve stimulation. It can help to "cool off" impulses that come from neurotransmitters like norepinephrine.
But if there's too little GABA in the brain and other neurotransmitters aren't blunted, our brains can feel overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed. How to calm nerves can seem difficult when there's too much going on in our brains.
GABA is also believed to play a major role in both generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD).
Ways to Calm Down
How to calm down can be difficult, but there are a few things you can do to interrupt the chemical processes in your brain and body.
1. Deep Breathing
When you're thinking of how to calm down, the answer often starts with a deep breath. If you're upset, you may start to take quick, shallow breaths. That can lead to your body getting too little oxygen and too much carbon dioxide.
With too much carbon dioxide, you can start to feel lightheaded, confused, and irritable. It can also trigger a fight-or-flight response, making your stress worse.
You can stop this process by consciously taking slow, deep breaths. This will correct your body chemistry and slow down your actions, too.
2. Use Techniques from CBT
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of mental health intervention often used to treat depression and anxiety. It aims to challenge many of our false beliefs and assumptions that can lead to increased stress and negative thoughts. A lot of CBT is, essentially, ways to calm down.
For instance, say you're stressing out over a presentation at work. You're convinced it'll fail, despite having never had any issues at your job. CBT encourages you to ask questions like:
- Is it really likely I'll fail, given that I've had good presentations before?
- Will stressing out more really help the project?
- Do I really need to impress my boss when they haven't had issues with my performance?
When you feel yourself spiraling, stop and rationally look at why you're under so much stress. A few questions might help you to put it in a better context and show you how to calm down.
3. Get Physical
Exercise can be a great way to get rid of excess emotional energy. Aerobic physical activity also increases your endorphins – these are hormones that help to block pain and promote pleasure. It also helps to use up the excess glucose that cortisol releases.
You don't need to do anything extreme; even a long walk or doing some chores in the yard can have the same effect. So the next time you're feeling under pressure, why not add exercise to your ways to calm down?
One thing: remember to talk to your doctor before starting or changing your exercise routine.
4. Go Outside
When the kids these days tell people who are a little bit too online to "touch grass," they're onto something. Going outside can be a quick way to change your perspective and your mood.
The change of scenery and fresh air can sometimes be enough to interrupt a stress spiral and show your body how to calm nerves. And if you're going for a walk or run outside (see above), that's even better.
It can be hard to figure out how to calm down in a stressful situation. But taking a physical step away from it can relax your mind.
5. Ground Yourself
If you're feeling very anxious, you can sometimes feel "in your head" and detached from your surroundings. If you feel this way, it can help to purposely connect your body and your mind again.
Pick one thing you can see in front of you or feel in your hand. Describe the object to yourself, out loud if you can.
- What size is the object? Big, small, medium?
- What color is the object? Is it a bright shade?
- What texture is the object? Soft, hard?
- What do you do with the object? How would you describe it to a child?
Doing this activity redirects your brain and teaches it how to calm down. Instead of the flood of stimulation that norepinephrine encourages, you're focusing on one thing that's right in front of you.
6. Talk to Someone
Sometimes stress or anxiety may require talking to a mental health professional. But even talking to someone socially can be a great way of how to calm nerves. Sharing your problems can make them seem easier.
Take some time after a rough day at work or school to call a friend or spend time with a family member. If you can't get human social time, cuddling your cat or taking your dog for a walk are both great ways to calm down.
How to Calm Nerves With a Supplement
While some tips and tricks can help in the moment, you may want to consider a supplement if you're dealing with chronic stress. Many people have already tried to incorporate stress-relief techniques into their lives but feel they need more support.
With all the supplements out there, though, how do you choose?
First, avoid any fantastic claims that sound too good to be true. How to calm nerves is a difficult question that humans have struggled with for centuries. Beware of a product that promises to solve it once and for all.
Take a look at what evidence they cite, too. Are they citing high-quality studies or flimsy trials designed to "prove" a claim?
Second, make sure the supplements aretested for adulterants, heavy metals, and potency. The FDA doesn't regulate supplements, so you need to rely on the manufacturer to prove their safety and efficacy.
Finally, be sure to talk with your doctor before you add a supplement to your routine.
Herbal Ways to Calm Down
There are dozens of supplements out there that promise to be the answer to how to calm nerves. Butmany have one or some of these six ingredients.
CBD & Hemp
Hemp may seem like a trendy new thing, but using it to promote relaxation and happiness is thousands of years old. It was used in ancient China and India and was known in the Middle East and Europe as well.
Hemp used today is required to contain no more than .3% THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. While hemp still contains ingredients like cannabidiol (CBD) and terpenes that can relax you, it doesn't contain anywhere near enough THC to get you high.
While we still don't know exactly how CBD works, we do know that it acts on the endocannabinoid system. This system seems to have a role in regulating mood, pain, appetite, and memory.Mouse studies have shown that CBD, in particular, seems to have an anti-anxiety and anti-depressive effect.
While many CBD-only supplements are out there, full-spectrum hemp may be a better way of how to calm nerves. Why?
Well, hemp contains dozens of compounds that may strengthen and modulate the effect of CBD in certain ways. This is known as the "entourage effect."
Lavender is another plant with an ancient pedigree: it was one of the ways to calm down in ancient China and was used in bathwater in ancient Rome. It was also a common symbol of love and purity in cultures around the world.
Today, the scent is used in aromatherapy to relieve headaches, treat menstrual pain, and improve sleep. Others claim the oil can also aid with skin conditions and inflammation.
In the realm of science, lavender has been shown to relieve behaviors related toanxiety and depression in rats. While the jury is still out on the direct benefits of lavender for humans, animal studies, anecdotal evidence, and history suggest it as one of many ways to calm down.
Withania somnifera, better known as ashwagandha, has been used as part of traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. As thesomniferain the botanical name suggests, it was used as a treatment for insomnia, along with arthritis, ulcers, and anxiety.
Today, ashwagandha is sometimes referred to as an adaptogen, a substance believed to improve stress resistance. And the findings of a2021 review of the available scientific literature seem to bear that out. Ashwagandha eased anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
How does ashwagandha work? Well, the 2021 review suggested it may modulate how the body uses adrenaline. It also seems to bind with and stimulate certain GABA receptors in the brain, which slows down other brain processes.
Most of us are familiar with the culinary applications of mint, but it's long been a part of herbal medicine, too. Ancient Greeks rubbed mint leaves on their arms to increase their strength. It's also long been used as a treatment for nausea and irritable bowels.
The mint family's primary use in herbal medicine today is still digestion-related issues, though it also has effects on stress and pain. One study foundpeppermint essential oil as effective as lidocaine in treating migraine attacks.
Other findings show that mint can boost alertness and improve mood. It's also well-tolerated by most people, making it a safe supplement option.
When it comes to how to calm nerves, you can't get much trendier than reishi mushrooms. In traditional eastern medicine, reishi mushrooms symbolize health and longevity. Guanyin, the Buddhist bodhisattva of healing and compassion, is often depicted holding a reishi.
Today, much of the research on reishi and other mushrooms is focused on beta-glucans. These are fibers found in the cell walls of mushrooms (along with bacteria and algae) that seem to have promise in aiding with heart health, immune support, healthy aging, and more.
Scientific research on reishi mushrooms is still in its infancy. Butone mouse study showed that reishi mushrooms increased the amount of time the mice could handle a stressful situation (in this case, a particular kind of maze).
The traditional way of taking reishi mushrooms is to make a bitter tea. Thankfully, modern supplement softgels make it much more palatable!
Magnesium L-threonate is a magnesium salt that contains threonic acid, which is metabolized from compounds like vitamin C. Magnesium has been shown to improvesleep duration and sleep quality.
But can magnesium also reduce stress? Taking a look at how magnesium works may provide an answer. It seems to help your body maintain an adequate amount of GABA, that key inhibitory neurotransmitter.
That suggests that magnesium may also be an answer for how to calm down. Magnesium may also reduce inflammation levels in the body, which can help ease pain and ensure that sleep is restful and restorative.
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See the best that herbs and medicine have to offer – addMDcalm to your list of ways to calm down today!