Stress and Mental Health: What’s the Connection?
The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the role situational stress plays on mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, more than two-thirds of adults say their stress levels rose during the pandemic and almost half experienced everyday tension and mood swings.[i] If you or someone you know got sick, if you were an essential worker, or if you balanced working at a desk wedged into your bedroom with overseeing remote school for a kid or two or five, none of this should come as a surprise to you. It was a hard year for almost everyone.
What Causes Stress?
But stress isn’t unique to this strange, difficult time. Some level of stress is a constant in most people’s lives, though it tends to ebb and flow depending on circumstances. Top causes of occasional stress include financial difficulties, work, relationships, and parenting.[ii] With the exception of money troubles, these are also things that can bring satisfaction, joy, and purpose. So the idea isn’t to completely eliminate any irritant that can spin you out, but to recognize when you’re feeling stress and figure out how to cohabitate.
What are the Effects of Stress?
You feel the physical effects of stress because your body is an awesome planner. The “fight or flight” response is its adaptive reaction to a perceived threat. It anticipates that if you’re in danger, you’ll naturally either do battle (that’s the “fight” part) or run (that’s the “flight” part). A racing heart and quicker breathing deliver extra blood and oxygen to your cells, and tightened muscles make you ready to spring.
These physical changes helped our ancestors attack the saber-toothed tiger or run away from it. But when your stress response is triggered too often — and you’re neither fighting nor fleeing — you may experience low energy, weight gain, digestive distress, difficulty sleeping, lowered immunity, headaches, and low mood. [iii] All things that are profoundly unhelpful in the long term.
What should you do when situational stress starts to overwhelm you?
- Step Away from the Coffee. When you’re in a hole, the best advice is to stop digging. Caffeine can negatively affect mental health in some folks, so try cutting down on the java and see if that helps.[iv]
- Get Physical. Exercise is a well-known stress-buster because it lowers stress hormones such as cortisol, it releases feel-good endorphins, and it helps you sleep better.[v] That’s powerful stuff! Know what else lowers cortisol? Getting busy in the bedroom.[vi]
- Smell the Roses. (And the Lavender and the Ylang Ylang.) Studies have found essential oils can calm the nervous system and even help you sleep better.[vii],[viii],[ix] You can light a scented candle or use a diffuser to create your own mini-spa at home. Experiment to find your favorite scent; just make sure to use real essential oils — not the fake stuff.
- Do Yoga. You knew we were gonna say this, didn’t ya? Everybody recommends yoga for stress relief, but that’s because it works. Yoga is scientifically shown to lift mood and promote calm by lowering cortisol, blood pressure, and heart rate, while increasing GABA, a calming neurotransmitter.[x],[xi] Om!
- Jot it Down. All those anxious thoughts swimming around in your head feel less overwhelming when you put them to paper. That’s why keeping a journal can help relieve stress. Many people find a gratitude journal especially helpful, because it turns your attention to the good things in your life.
- Talk it Out. Talking to a good friend can help your burdens feel lighter. Make a coffee date — wait, maybe make it an herbal tea date —with a friend who’s a good listener and let it all out.
Try Stressveda™. Flora created Stressveda™ to help relieve symptoms of occasional stress, nervousness, and mental fatigue, while also supporting cognitive health, mental focus, and working memory.* The star of this comprehensive formula is KSM-66®, a clinically proven extract of the adaptogenic herb Ashwagandha, which builds your resistance to the effects of occasional stress and boosts the energy that stress can sap.*
Stressveda™ also features the antioxidants vitamins A, C, and E — from plant-based sources like carrots, oranges, sunflower seeds, and shiitake mushrooms — to help protect cells from free radical damage.* Finally, it includes a range of B vitamins and their food matrix co-factors and co-nutrients, like choline, inositol and biotin, to support nervous system health and energy production.*
 Stress in AmericaTM 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis. American Psychological Association. 2020 Oct. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/report-october
 Scott E, Morin A. The main causes of stress. What impacts you most may not be the same as for someone else. VeryWellMind. 2020 Jun 29. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-the-main-causes-of-stress-3145063
 Casarella J. Stress symptoms. WedMD. 2019 Aug 1. https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body
 Lara DR. Caffeine, mental health, and psychiatric disorders. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 1:S239-48. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20164571/
 De Moor MHM, et al. Regular exercise, anxiety, depression, and personality: a population-based study. Prev Med. 2006 Apr;42)4):273-79. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0091743505002331
 Scott E, Synder C. The multiple links between sex and stress. VeryWellMind. 2019 Nov 12. https://www.verywellmind.com/sex-as-a-stress-management-technique-3144601
 Seo J. The effects of aromatherapy on stress and stress responses in adolescents. J Korean Acad Nurs. 2009 Jun;39(3):357-65. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19571632/
 Chen M, Fang S, Fang L. The effects of aromatherapy in relieving symptoms related to job stress among nurses. Int J Nurs Pract. 2015 Feb;21(1):87-93. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24238073/
 Hwang E, Shin S. The effects of aromatherapy on sleep improvement: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Feb;21(2)61-68. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25584799/
 Pascoe MC, Bauer IE. A systematic review of randomised control trials on the effects of yoga on stress measures and mood. J Psychiatr Res. 2015 Sep;68:270-82. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S002239561500206X
 Jennings K. 16 simple ways to relieve stress and anxiety. Healthline. 2018 Aug 18. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety#_noHeaderPrefixedContent