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When this topic landed in my inbox, I laughed while a scene from Alanis Morissette’s music video, “Ironic,” popped into my head. Who better to write about burnout than a stressed-out mom of two kiddos under five who is barely awake even after her second cup of coffee? To be honest, it was a little scary how closely I could relate. How would I be able to write about something I didn’t quite have a handle on myself? Would I be able to take my own advice? I didn’t want to fall into the pitfall of, “it's the good advice that you just didn't take,” but making real change in time to write this felt like a tall order. So, I went to work (literally and figuratively) and took a closer look at what was missing. I was ready to let go of my stressful, burnt-out state once and for all with the help of some heavy hitters.
Four weeks later, I can report that I’m no longer feeling burnt out, and I owe it ALL to the integration of rhodiola, B vitamins, L-theanine, and the omega-3s EPA and DHA. If these burnout busters can take this uber-stressed, bone-tired mom from floundering to flourishing—well, then you can beat burnout, too.
An adaptogenic herb, rhodiola rosea is the newbie of stress-busting superstars and it’s been shown to specifically improve symptoms of burnout—a result of chronic stress. Rhodiola helps you cope better during stressful times by increasing your body’s resistance to stress, and taking adaptogens like rhodiola during stressful times helps prevent chronic stress and stress-related complications.1 2
A 2017 clinical trial took aim at increasing stress resistance at the source with rhodiola. One hundred and eighteen people with stress-related burnout symptoms took 400 mg of rhodiola daily for 12 weeks, and almost all showed a clear improvement after just one week and marked improvement in symptoms as the study progressed. Feelings of stress and depression, commonly associated with burnout, were improved in those taking rhodiola.3
Another study evaluated the impact of 400 mg of rhodiola on self-reported anxiety, stress, cognition, and other mood symptoms over 14 days. Eighty participants were randomized into two groups—one group took 200 mg of rhodiola twice daily, while the other group acted as the control—and the researchers concluded that, compared to the control group, “the experimental group demonstrated a significant reduction in self-reported anxiety, stress, anger, confusion, and depression at 14 days and a significant improvement in total mood.”4 Rhodiola really is ready to take on the challenge of even your most challenging days.
B vitamins are the spark of life—every cell and every function in the body requires the B’s to do their job. Oftentimes, we don’t get enough B vitamins from food sources alone, or we’re rapidly depleting them thanks to stress, poor dietary habits, the use of common medications like proton-pump inhibitors, and/or excessive alcohol consumption. Taking a vitamin B-complex can help fill in the gaps, but beyond the clear need to take the B’s just because you might not be getting enough, it’s also been shown that they’re hugely effective in helping us stress less.
Are you feeling overwhelmed at work? Grab a bottle of B vitamins! A 90-day study examined for the first time the effectiveness of a high-dose vitamin B-complex on mood and psychological strain associated with chronic work stress. Sixty participants completed the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial in which personality, work demands, mood, anxiety, and strain were assessed. Results showed that the vitamin B-complex treatment group reported “significantly lower personal strain and a reduction in confusion and depressed/dejected mood after just 12 weeks.”5
Furthermore, A 2019 review found that B-vitamin complex supplementation supported mental wellbeing and overall mood compared to a placebo, especially related to stress. The review concluded that B-vitamin supplementation “may particularly benefit populations who are at-risk due to poor nutrient status or poor mood status.” Support the brain and body’s ability to cope with stress with B vitamins!6
The next time you’re feeling tired and stressed, try a cuppa green tea to help feel calm and focused.7 8 That’s because the amino acid, L-theanine, found in green tea, is associated with several health benefits, as it affects feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. It’s been linked to improvements in mood, cognition, and a reduction of stress and anxiety-like symptoms.9
A review of nine peer-reviewed journal articles looked at the effects of L-theanine on stress responses and anxiety levels in human trials. Findings showed that oral supplementation of 200-400 mg/day of L-theanine reduced stress and anxiety in people exposed to stressful conditions.10
Another randomized, placebo-controlled trial aimed to examine the effects of 200 mg/day of L-theanine taken for four weeks on stress-related symptoms and cognitive functions in 30 healthy adults. Results showed that depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance scores decreased and cognitive function, such as verbal fluency and executive function scores, improved after L-theanine administration. L-theanine also lead to a greater reduction in sleep quality issues, such as the time it takes to fall asleep, sleep disturbance, and the use of sleep medications compared to the placebo group. Overall, the study concluded, “L-theanine may be a suitable ingredient for improving mental conditions in a healthy population.”11
The human brain is nearly 60 percent fat, and we now know that fatty acids like the omega-3s from fish oil are among the most crucial nutrients that determine your brain's ability to perform.12 When it comes to ways to ease stress and burnout, the omega-3s EPA and DHA may be a missing link.
One double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that administration of omega-3s for eight consecutive weeks positively influenced both psychological and physiological markers of occupational burnout. In the study, 43 male and female nurses with self-reported signs of workplace-related exhaustion and burnout were randomly assigned either to the omega-3 group (1,000 mg fish oil daily) or to the placebo group. After eight weeks, participants completed a burnout inventory and collected saliva samples for analysis of waking cortisol—the body’s main stress hormone.
Results revealed a decrease in emotional exhaustion and an increase in a sense of personal accomplishment more favorably in the omega-3 group than in the placebo group. Likewise, cortisol levels decreased more in those taking omega-3s compared to those taking a placebo.13
We all have our go-to techniques, coping mechanisms, and supplements to help get us through stressful times. It might also be worth trying these four targeted supplements to help support your stress-free, burnout-busting goals. They may not fix the source of your stress or problems, but they may help reduce the negative impact of stress on your body and help you thrive during stressful times. They did for me.