In today's fast-paced, plugged-in society, it's no wonder that anxiety has become part of everyday life. However, chronic worrying can negatively affect all facets of your wellbeing, from your performance at work to your ability to sleep (and your health, overall). With so many people feeling mentally and emotionally frazzled, it's no wonder that a slew of products designed to fight stress have hit the market. Of course, this begs the question: Which ones are worth trying, and which ones are just hype?
Turns out, a lot of these items are proven to work, but what it really boils down to is your individual needs. "With the wide range of stress-reducing products on the market today, it is hard for people to tell what will be effective for them and what won’t," says Renee Kovach, a certified wellness coach and founder of Renee’s Wellness Connection. "A bath bomb or scented candle could do the trick for someone just needing a night of relaxation. On the other hand, someone who is under a high level of stress will need to explore other options such as calming herbs and supplements to assist in keeping your cortisol (stress hormone) level balanced."
If you're wondering what kinds of products could work for you, read on. Ahead, two wellness gurus share their insights on the star ingredients behind the buzziest anti-stress trends. From soothing scents, to potent herbs, to infusions with CBD (of course) to essential oils like frankincense, check out the benefits behind these trend-worthy substances, along with recommendations for some of the hottest products on the market.
"There are a plethora of essential oils that lift your spirit, promote relaxation, and reduce stress," Karina Hammer, a certified wellness coach and the lead student advisor for the International Association of Wellness Professionals, tells The Zoe Report. "Lavender is considered to be the most common essential oil for its calming effect. It helps with stress, anxiety, sleep, restlessness, panic attacks, and general nervous tension. Frankincense can also be used to alleviate stress and anxiety, improve mood, as well as treat depression and anxiety."
"[Aromatherapy] is a great option for those who need a relaxing evening at home to unwind after a long day at work," adds Kovach. "[It] can also be effective in the workplace to keep a calmer atmosphere." She suggests putting essential oils in a diffuser — "quality and purity does make a difference," she advises — to promote relaxation at the office or at home, especially if you're having trouble sleeping.
So, what's the science behind how scent promotes relaxation? "It may be because when essential oils are inhaled, they go directly to the parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, and stress," says Hammer. "Some people enjoy essential oils by inhaling them, putting them directly on their skin, in a bath bomb, candles, or a diffuser."
You've undoubtedly heard of the CBD craze, with essences of the non-psychoactive compound being infused into everything from tinctures and gummies, to bath bombs, to body lotions, shampoos, and conditioners. "CBD oil is really effective for stress and can provide medical benefits without getting you high," explains Hammer. "Your body naturally produces cannabinoids, which are used throughout your body and brain in the endocannabinoid system. CBD feeds the endocannabinoid system and improves our ability to cope with stress and anxiety." Further, "some of the other celebrated health benefits of taking CBD are to enhance quality of sleep, reduce inflammation, manage pain, promote heart health, and anti-seizure properties."
Kovach notes that while CBD has been proven effective and generally safe, first time users should still be careful. "With this product, you want to start with a low dose and slowly increase in order to find your optimum dosage," she says. "This is something that may take some time and trial and error to see what dosage works best for you. I would caution people on certain medications [against] using this product. For example, a medication that lowers blood pressure plus CBD oil could potentially lower the blood pressure too low." When in doubt, call the doc to double-check.
When it comes to wellness trends of the moment, adaptogens top the list. These refer to a host of herbs, roots, and fungi that adapt to one's body to help promote homeostasis, and ultimately, reduce stress. While these plant-based substances have been touted for their benefits for centuries, their infusion into mainstream products is currently all the rage.
"More than just a trendy buzzword, adaptogens may be the answer to our biggest health challenges," says Hammer. "Prolonged activation of the stress response causes wear and tear on all systems of the body. Herbal adaptogens can support your body's response to stress, whether it is physical, mental or emotional." Kovach adds, "Adaptogens also help to control the cortisol hormone. They help to balance and protect the body, making them a great choice for those under constant stress. I like the use of adaptogens, not only for overall health, but for ongoing support to keep the body in balance and help protect it from constant stress. People who are under constant stress should use adaptogens to help protect their adrenal glands, digestive system and to combat fatigue." Below, Hammer outlines some of the most popular adaptogens out there:
Ashwagandha: "[This] is an ancient ayurvedic herb that has been used for thousands of years to help us better adapt to the stressors of life. This time-tested herb has been shown to combat stress, anxiety, and depression, promote thyroid and adrenal health, boost testosterone and increase fertility in men, modulate blood sugar, and reduce cortisol levels."
Maca: "Maca is a Peruvian adaptogen that helps your body deal with common stressors, such as traffic jams, work deadlines, finances, and illness. This incredible superfood has been clinically proven to fight stress and depression, boost energy and libido, promote hormone balance and thyroid health, and so much more." Kovach adds, "Not only does Maca assist in lowering or raising your hormone level as needed, but it also contains calcium, magnesium, amino acids and fiber."
Rhodiola Rosea "[This] is a powerful adaptogen that promotes your body’s ability to manage and resist physical, chemical, and environmental stress. Rhodiola has a long history of use and has been shown to increase strength and endurance, combat fatigue, increase attention span and concentration, modulate immune function, enhance cardiovascular, nervous system, and reproductive health, [and has] antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects."
Holy Basil "[This] is one of my all time favorite herbs for stress. It elevates the spirit, so you don’t get as frazzled, in the first place. If you do fall prey to the pressure and strain, then it works on every aspect of the stress response. There is ample scientific evidence that Holy Basil to lowers cortisol, modulates blood sugar, reduces inflammation, and even protects against radiation damage."
Vitamins & Essences
"If you are under constant stress, it is important to make sure you are getting all your vitamins and minerals," Kovach points out. "Vitamin supplements are going to make sure you are getting a sufficient amount of the necessary nutrients your body needs to function and protect itself from high stress. I recommend using a high-quality, whole food vitamin and mineral supplement such as from New Chapter or Garden of Life."
What's more, says Hammer, "flower essences, like Bach Rescue Remedy, are hugely effective in reducing stress and anxiety. Rescue Remedy is an all-natural, non-toxic, treatment for immediate relief of stress and trauma. I have personally used flower essences for my children, pets, and even plants."