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Supplements to Help Increase Focus and Reduce Stress Levels
Do you often find your mind flitting from one thing to another and you’re unable to buckle down on the task in hand? Struggling to finish a task because your mind is always swept away to procrastination land? Do you struggle to manage your stress levels?
It may help to supplement with nutrients that your body may not be having enough of through your food intake or try certain herbal remedies that can have many beneficial effects on your wellbeing, including an improved healthy cognitive function. This is essential for being able to concentrate on daily tasks, and for helping maintain a healthy mood, memory and ability to think.
Increased focus and reduced stress levels are major secret ingredients to enhanced feelings of wellbeing. Keep reading to find out more on supplements you may want to consider.
L-theanine is an amino acid in green tea that can increase focus, calmness and creativity. Buddhist monks drink matcha green tea before they meditate to calm their mind and increase the concentration and focus needed. L-theanine is a relaxing agent without sedation and has structural similarities to glutamine and the neurotransmitters that are produced from it (GABA and glutamate). This amino acid is not common in the diet as it’s not one of the essential amino acids or even one of the most common nonessential amino acids, so supplementing with a green tea or even better, a matcha (as matcha is more highly concentrated) green tea supplement can be beneficial in making your day more calm, focused and productive.
Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb, which means that it plays a role in adjusting to physical, chemical and biological stress factors. Legend indicates that Vikings used rhodiola for strength on the battlefield. Studies have shown rhodiola to exhibit neuroprotective, cardioprotective and lifespan increasing effects.
As rhodiola is known to increase physical and cognitive energy, it can assist with stress-induced fatigue. It has been shown to significantly reduce fatigue and stress hormones and has been shown to assist with chronically fatigued individuals with burnout. Rhodiola is known as a nootropic because of its ability to improve mood, boost concentration and fight fatigue. Nootropics are simply compounds that improve brain function.
“One of the great things about Rhodiola is that it is both calming and stimulating. Usually a herb or drug works in one direction. Valium, for example, calms your brain but also makes it dull. Rhodiola, in contrast, calms the emotional system, but is also activating and energizing for the brain’s cognitive functions. To have these two benefits at the same time is quite unusual in nature. Once people become aware of this herb, it will be very popular.” - Dr. Richard Brown, MD, Associate Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at Columbia University
As another adaptogenic herb, ashwagandha assists the body in adapting to stress, and has an abundance of healing properties. Studies have shown ashwagandha’s potential to relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety. As well as relieving stress, it can also protect the brain’s cells from degenerative effects because of its high antioxidant content. Ashwagandha is a great option if you suffer from ongoing tiredness, as it’s been shown to boost energy.
For its ability to help with focus, there have been some human studies to indicate its effectiveness in this area. It was shown in one controlled study that healthy men who took 500 mg of standardised extract daily reported significant improvements in their reaction time and task performance. This was in contrast to men who only received a placebo.
In another study, 50 adults took 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily for eight weeks and this was shown to significantly improve task performance, general memory and attention.
Magnesium is linked to better sleep and decreased stress and anxiety. When our sleep is improved, and our bodies and minds are calmer, focus becomes a superpower. By binding to and stimulating GABA receptors in the brain, we provide the set-up for our mind to slow down, encouraging the state it needs to be in for focus. GABA slows brain activity as a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, and when GABA is low, it’s pretty difficult to ever relax. Your mind and body are switched on, thoughts race around, sleep is hard, and you’re easily overwhelmed. If this sounds like you, it’s possible that you have low GABA levels.
Magnesium relaxes the mind and body, encouraging it to destress, one reason being that it reduces stress hormones. When cortisol is pumped out of your adrenals in excess, it can lead to all sorts of health issues along the way, including anxiety, depression, mood swings, insomnia, brain fog and concentration problems. As magnesium reduces the release of stress hormones whilst also preventing them from entering the brain, it can be a solution to concentration problems.
Many people are deficient in magnesium and are not getting enough of it from food. Author of The Magnesium Miracle, Carolyn Dean, MS, ND, reports that magnesium deficiency is a significant factor in anxiety and panic attacks. Carolyn Dean has found the link between anxiety and magnesium to be so strong and promotes that increasing magnesium intake is essential for tackling debilitating anxiety.
It also stimulates the release of endorphins and serotonin, and this heightens your mood which can help decrease negative emotions that can cause the mind to flitter between tasks, interupting focus.
It’s always best to consult with a doctor or healthcare practitioner before taking anything new and when addressing any health issue. Feel free to get in touch and our in-house nutritionists would be happy to help answer any questions.
Written by Jess Burman
BA (Honours) Writing