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How Stress Affects Motivation

By Claire Bacon, ACN, CNC

Between the social commitments and parties, shopping, decorating, and regular home responsibilities, the holiday season certainly gives us a lot to do!  And gives us a lot more stress! Do you feel like you thrive under the added pressure?  Or, are you having restless sleep, or crying at the drop of a hat?  Are you arguing with your family or coworkers?  Do you need an attitude check? Sometimes, the cumulative effects of all this stress really impacts our mood – and beyond that, our motivation.

But what if you truly are overwhelmed in this busy season of life?  What if you know you should be meal prepping and exercising, but you’re just way too stressed and can’t find the mental energy to start?  It sounds like you need some support – a boost to help get your head above water.

If you’re having a hard time with the holidays, you are not alone.  Even when we remind ourselves it doesn’t all have to be perfect, sometimes a rough day can get the best of us.  If you find yourself drinking more alcohol or other unhealthy changes just trying to cope, we’ve got some tips for you!  First, let’s take a look at the problem at hand…

Stress Affects Brain Physiology

In previous posts, we have described in depth “the physiology of stress.” We know that catecholamines and other stress hormones are released as part of our innate desire to survive. Some people experience personality changes and mood swings in response to their changes in stress hormones. Cognitively we know this, but in the moment with our spouse or coworkers, tensions can really get high. Negative emotions/actions that typically increase under stress:

  • Irritability or Angry outbursts
  • Reduced interest in appearance
  • Running late all the time
  • Less concern for others’ wellbeing
  • Apathy and lack of drive
  • Obsessive/compulsive behavior (organizing, counting, washing, etc.)
  • Reduced productivity and cutting corners
  • Avoiding friends and parties
  • Impulsivity (shopping, gambling, etc.)

It is normal to experience a range of moods, both high and low, in everyday life. Whereas some “down in the dumps” feelings could be expected this time of year, chronic exposure to stress hormones can create sedative or depressive feelings that persist. This “sedated” feeling from the stress hormones is what keeps you from getting off the couch! When motivation and mood are low, you may also have trouble with your abilities to complete daily activities, fulfill your job duties, and enjoy happy relationships.

If you’ve been feeling “grumpy” it’s time to make a few changes!

Keeping Your Chin Up Under Stress

When the stress gets too much, it’s time to take a break. Supporting your mood needs to be a top priority – not only just to get through the holiday season, but for your health year-round. Having good stress-management strategies will help you keep the blues away. Our favorite techniques are: outdoor exercise and meditation.

Practical Tips for Motivation

When low motivation hits, we need to work more diligently at creating positivity. Positive emotions have a greater likelihood of connecting you with others socially and increasing your resilience to manage stress. People experiencing happiness – even just momentarily – are more likely to maintain a supportive network and stay on track with financial responsibilities. To build positivity, you could:

  • Bring fresh flowers to brighten your desk
  • Play classical music while you’re working
  • Sing while you’re driving (or out exercising)
  • Clean the house or weed the garden
  • Visit the pets at your local shelter.
It’s normal to have the occasional low mood – but be sure to do something about it!

Getting out of a Motivation Slump

Sometimes, we have to “fake it until we make it,” (i.e. keeping a happy face even when we don’t feel like it). This is fine in the short term; but eventually we have to fix the problem straight on. How would you answer the question, “What is causing my stress?” And then, “What can I do about it?”

Fortunately, ever since the pandemic started, it seems that “normal” expectations have gone out the window. Everything changed so quickly, now it seems OK that we don’t have to do what was always done before. If you don’t have the energy to decorate the tree, then don’t. When you don’t have time to cook, pick up something from the Whole Foods hot bar or just make a protein shake. If you’re uninspired for your traditional dinner party, this year make it a potluck. And if finances are tight, it’s OK to ask to just spend quality time together, and not exchange expensive gifts.

I think we’ve all learned to be more accommodating to what our friends and family are going through. Maybe we need to do the same thing for ourselves, and give a little forgiveness for not being perfect. The key is to ask for help or a little grace when you need it!

Wise words from Piglet and Pooh!

Nutritional Support for Improved Motivation:

  • Min-Chex is a slam dunk for improving your mood and helping with stress support, by providing the minerals and B vitamins that we burn up when under stress.  We often say to bump up your regular dose to feel immediate relief when you need it!
  • Hypothalmex – contains the direct “nuts and bolts” support for the hypothalamus gland in the brain.  It’s the “master conductor” and “perception center” of all our hormones.  As powerful as this little gland is, it’s also very susceptible to the pressures of intense or chronic stress.  Give yourself some support to uplift your mood and optimism with this product.
  • Symplex F & M – these are long-term combination products for supporting the endocrine system.  When life has got you rattled, the endocrine glands get shaken up and disturbed in their communications with each other.  Symplex F (for females) and M (for males) contains extracts from bovine adrenal, thyroid, pituitary, and gonads, for rebuilding and strengthening hormonal output.

Other Favorites for Motivation

  • Ashwagandha Complex is the perfect herbal blend for someone who needs adaptogenic hormonal support. If you’re looking for a rejuvenating tonic that’s good for sleep, energy, and stamina, Ashwagandha Complex is the one for you! (Note: contraindicated with high blood pressure).
  • Nevaton Forte is an herbal combination that’s great for people dealing with mood issues and chronic stress. It takes the edge off with natural mood-boosting compounds from Saffron, Skullcap, St. John’s Wort and Schisandra herbs.

Final Thoughts

We hope this information gives you some new tools to keep your chin up! The key is to know when to take a step back. With more ways to support your mood and motivation, you’ll enjoy the holidays (and the getting back on track) so much more!

Do what you need to stay stress-free and at ease through the holidays!

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