By Elizabeth Foley
How do you manage stress? Do you take a long walk, call a friend, or sink your teeth into a bar of your favorite chocolate? There are a number of highly effective tools to cope with the stressors of life and it is important to manage stress before it affects mental health.
Stress activates your nervous system’s fight or flight response. Your adrenal glands release catecholamines, which are stress hormones that cause your heart to race, muscles to tighten and pupils to dilate. In this state, your body is ready to handle what it perceives to be a dangerous situation.
Relaxation tools stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which stops the release of stress hormones. For instance, activities such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises trigger a relaxation response from the parasympathetic nervous system.
Diet is another practical tool to manage stress. Proper diet strengthens the immune system, stabilizes mood, and can reduce high blood pressure. In addition to consuming a healthy diet, paying attention to food cravings is important because they can indicate a nutritional deficiency. Stress can both cause and exacerbate malnourishment.
Chocolate is one example of a stress-induced food craving that may indicate a deficiency due to poor nutrition. Chocolate makes us happy for a variety of reasons, including its ability to release dopamine. However, Magnesium has an important connection to stress, anxiety and depression.
Research indicates that magnesium deficiency hinders your nervous system from functioning properly (1). Magnesium plays an essential role in the autonomic nervous system response because stressful situations trigger increased magnesium excretion (2). According to this research, if the body's magnesium reserves are not replenished after a stressful situation, mood will be affected negatively. Magnesium also plays a key role in the regulation of the body's stress response because it can act as a barrier that prevents the entrance of stress hormones into the brain (3). Those with a magnesium deficiency may become more susceptible to stress because that barrier is weakened.
Stress and anxiety cause a similar reaction in the body. However, stress is a short-term response while anxiety persists and can occur out of nowhere. Magnesium supplements influence anxiety states by reducing the activity of the HPAA and the central nervous system (4). Experimental studies about anxiety provide evidence that magnesium supplementation has a beneficial effect on mild to moderate anxiety due to its effect on the nervous system. However, researchers state that stress is a ubiquitous feature of modern lives, so the psychological response to stress and resulting anxiety merits further investigation. Magnesium may improve the underlying physical symptoms of anxiety. Nevertheless, magnesium will not address the environmental and situational causes of anxiety.
Chronic stress leads to excess cortisol in what is known as the stress-diathesis model of depression. According to this well-accepted theory, chronic stress damages the hippocampus of the brain, leading to impaired negative feedback, which causes depression. Research shows that magnesium plays a vital modulatory role in brain biochemistry since it influences several neurotransmission pathways associated with the development of depression (6). Additionally, this research points to the additional benefits of magnesium as it plays a possible role in augmenting the inflammatory effects of antidepressants. This is due to magnesium’s known ability to decrease inflammation.
It is recommended that adults consume 320-420 mg of magnesium per day. You can increase your intake by consuming magnesium-rich foods such as green vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Magnesium supplements are another helpful option if you are dealing with deficiency. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are struggling with stress, anxiety or depression to determine the appropriate course of treatment. You can also find additional information about magnesium and its recommended uses at Health By Principle.