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Help! I Need to Relax

How to Find Your Chill

Q: What can you recommend to help me feel more relaxed mentally and physically, and keep my mood balanced during the holiday season?


A:  The holidays are a joyful time… and also a stressful one for many people.  It can take a toll mentally, emotionally and physically. During December stay grounded by keeping eating habits healthy and balanced between celebrations, drinking plenty of water, maintaining an exercise schedule and keeping a regular sleep-wake cycle as best as you can. In addition to this consider adding a daily dose of high EPA containing Omega-3 oils, Magnesium, GABA or L-Theanine.


Omega 3 fatty acids are essential to human health. They play a vital role in biological functions such as cellular growth and division, cell-to-cell communication, and gene expression. The EPA and DHA components of Omega 3s also exert some important health benefits on the cardiovascular system, pregnancy, memory & cognitive health, vision etc. In addition to this, research shows that Omega-3 fatty acids with a high concentration of EPA can help improve various symptoms of depression. Studies have even shown that individuals without clinical depression or anxiety experienced an improved ability to handle stress and showed significant improvements in mood with increased intake of EPA from Omega 3s.  Fish oil, krill oil and for vegetarians and vegans, Algae oil, are all great options.


Magnesium is necessary for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body, but is often regarded as one of the most deficient minerals amongst North Americans. Supplementation could play a valuable role in improving sleep, reducing muscle tension and cramps, decreasing pain associated with migraines and headaches, and improving symptoms such as anxiety and depression.  Magnesium (bis)glycinate is a great form for oral supplementation. The magnesium is bound to an amino acid glycine which improves its calming effect and its absorption. Magnesium bath salts are an effective way to deliver magnesium through the skin for convenient and rapid absorption. Magnesium bath salts not only improve magnesium blood levels and help with muscle tension but as a bonus also provide a moment of relaxation.


GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid) is an important inhibitory neurotransmitter whose role is to calm the nervous system and brain activity to help with things such as mood and sleep.  GABA has been shown to increase α-brain waves, and thus promotes relaxation.  As a supplement, this calming effect may be extremely helpful for those who suffer from worry, stress, anxiousness, and troubled sleep.  As a bonus, calming the nervous system also aids in supporting optimal digestive function.


L-Theanine is a calming amino acid that is naturally found in green tea, especially matcha green tea. Like GABA it promotes α-brain wave production, the state of wakeful relaxation that is comparable to the effects of deep meditation.  L-Theanine may be helpful to promote relaxation without drowsiness or sedation, improve sleep quality, increase resilience to acute stress, and improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.


Before supplementing, check with your MD or ND to ensure that these recommendations are safe for you to take.


Dr. Michelle Pobega, ND, runs a naturopathic practice near the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto. Stay connected with her at drmichellend.ca, Facebook and Twitter @MPobegaND