By Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN+
In theory, the idea of working from home sounds great. No commute, pajamas a dress code(at least on the bottom), and easy access to the kitchen make remote work sound quite appealing. But over the last few years, working from home has become a reality for so many people, and some of the not-so-great parts of using a kitchen table as your workstation are apparent. Remote work can be a dream for some people, but it can also mean less social support, feelings of isolation, and a need to be “on” all the time since there’s nowhere to clock out. Add on the responsibilities of parents who juggle small children at home during the workday or after school, and you have a recipe for burnout if you aren’t careful.
Why is a Healthy Stress Response so Important?
Stress isn’t always a bad thing, and it can even improve focus and make you more productive.[i] During stressful times, your body release stress hormones like cortisol, which can help you better deal with short-term challenges.
Cortisol is made by your adrenal glands and increases during times of stress to provide quick energy to respond to a perceived threat. Cortisol is also involved in your sleep and wake patterns, rising in the morning to help you get out of bed and falling towards the end of the day to promote rest.
But when out of balance, stress can take away from mental focus, interrupt sleep, affect your appetite and mood, and even affect how you digest your food.[ii] Plus, stress is linked as a root cause of many health conditions, so helping your body respond appropriately supports your overall health.[iii]
You can’t really remove all the stress in your life, but you can support your body to better handle the daily juggling act of family, work, and household responsibilities. Here are some options to consider to keep you productive and better equipped to minimize the impacts of stress and work from home burnout.
Vitamin C is usually linked to immune support, but it also plays an important role in healthy energy metabolism. Vitamin C is an important cofactor that helps transport certain types of fat through the mitochondria to make energy to keep you going throughout the day.[i]
A study examining healthy office workers given vitamin C noted lower fatigue scores than those given a placebo. The results continued to be significant for a day after the intervention, specifically for those with lower baseline vitamin C levels.[ii]
In another study, healthy students taking vitamin C experienced increased attention and work absorption. At the same time, lower vitamin C levels were also linked to fatigue, attention, work engagement, and self-control.[iii]
Set Timers to Take a Break
There’s a reason you feel different when you log onto your first zoom meeting of the day versus the final one. Your brain needs to take periodic breaks to regroup and reset to avoid fatigue and lack of focus before fatigue sets in. [i] Setting a timer can remind you to check out for a few minutes.
You can use your phone to pre-set timers throughout the day and do something other than work. Try doing 20 jumping jacks, breathing exercises, or playing with your pet. You can even step outside and feel fresh air or the sun on your face. Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s not another activity on a screen.
Adaptogens are a class of herbs that support mental activity. Rhodiola may be especially supportive for supporting optimal cognitive activity to reduce feelings of burnout. For example, a study on students taking Rhodiola during exams found the supplement helped improved performance and exam scores compared to placebo.[ii]
A study on healthy doctors found that Rhodiola helped improve work-related performance by nearly 20% after two weeks of supplementation.[iii] Similar results were seen in a study on people with self-reported life and work stress.[iv] Since stress and burnout can zap energy and metal clarity, rhodiola may be a good option to try.
Movement, sunshine, and fresh air can all help keep you energized. Short bouts of walking throughout the work day could improve mood and energy.[vi]
Walking is also linked to improved productivity and creativity. A Stanford study found that participants who went for a walk were more likely to come up with creative solutions to problems than staying seated.[vii]
Taking in adequate amounts of B12 could support stress by promoting healthy nervous system function. B12 (along with other B vitamins) are cofactors for enzymatic reactions contributing to mood and stress responses.[viii] Cofactors are nutrients required for enzymes to function.
A study that examined the effect of supplementing with B vitamins and ashwagandha (another adaptogen that you will learn about below) found they supported neurological and psychological functions for adult women.[ix] Low levels of vitamin B12 are also linked to lower mood scores. [x]
Vitamin B12 is also needed for healthy homocysteine levels (along with folate, another B vitamin). Homocysteine is an amino acid product of protein breakdown. High homocysteine can build up and negatively impact health, including your mood. [xi]
Setting a specific time to turn off and tune out is vital for healthy boundaries when working remotely. It can be hard to step away from work when you’re at home because the lines become blurred when your computer sits in the living room or bedroom.
If you have the space, it’s ideal to have a separate room for work. However, since many people don’t have that option, try to set up in an area outside the bedroom or put everything away when it’s time to “clock out.” Log off work and emails just as you would if you were leaving the office.
Consider L-Tyrosine for healthy stress hormones
L-tyrosine is an amino acid used to produce catecholamines—hormones responsible for stress regulation—like dopamine and adrenaline, so taking L-tyrosine could support memory and attention during stressful situations.
One study showed that taking L-tyrosine improved mood and cognitive function and reduced stress-related side effects for healthy people.[i] Supplementation with L-tyrosine is also linked to improved working memory during stressful situations.[ii] And one study found that subjects who took tyrosine before testing answered more correct answers for memory tests and scored more points on complex tasks.[iii]
Ashwagandha is often called the queen of adaptogens because of its rich history of supporting relaxation and mental wellbeing. Like Rhodiola, Ashwagandha works to support stress resiliency by helping with memory, focus, and overall well-being.[xv]
A study on adults taking ashwagandha found significant improvements in periods of anxiousness, suggesting its impact on the body’s stress response.[xvi]
Ashwagandha is not appropriate for pregnancy, but as with all supplements, always check with your health care provider before starting.
Working from home definitely has its benefits, but it’s essential to be mindful of the potential for work-related stress. By utilizing some of the tips we’ve provided in this article, you can help manage any burnout or feelings of overwhelm that may come along with working from home.
Whether taking a walk outside during your break, taking supplements, or setting designated times to turn off work altogether, you can stay productive and healthy.
+Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian and freelance health writer. She has a master’s degree in nutrition and over ten years of experience as a registered dietitian
+The views expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Pure Encapsulations®.
[i] Tardy AL, Pouteau E, Marquez D, Yilmaz C, Scholey A. Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):228. Published 2020 Jan 16. doi:10.3390/nu12010228
[ii] Suh SY, Bae WK, Ahn HY, Choi SE, Jung GC, Yeom CH. Intravenous vitamin C administration reduces fatigue in office workers: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Nutr J. 2012;11:7. Published 2012 Jan 20. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-7
[iii] Sim, Minju, Sehwa Hong, Sungwoong Jung, Jin-Soo Kim, Young-Tae Goo, Woo Young Chun, and Dong-Mi Shin. “Vitamin C Supplementation Promotes Mental Vitality in Healthy Young Adults: Results from a Cross-Sectional Analysis and a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” European Journal of Nutrition 61, no. 1 (February 2022): 447–59. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-021-02656-3.
[i] Jamieson, Jeremy P., Alexandra E. Black, Libbey E. Pelaia, Hannah Gravelding, Jonathan Gordils, and Harry T. Reis. “Reappraising Stress Arousal Improves Affective, Neuroendocrine, and Academic Performance Outcomes in Community College Classrooms.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 151, no. 1 (2022): 197–212. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000893.
[ii] Yaribeygi, Habib, Yunes Panahi, Hedayat Sahraei, Thomas P. Johnston, and Amirhossein Sahebkar. “The Impact of Stress on Body Function: A Review.” EXCLI Journal 16 (July 21, 2017): 1057–72. https://doi.org/10.17179/excli2017-480.
[iii] Mariotti A. “The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain-body communication.” Future Sci OA. 2015;1(3):FSO23. Published 2015 Nov 1. doi:10.4155/fso.15.21
[i] Banderet, L. E., and H. R. Lieberman. “Treatment with Tyrosine, a Neurotransmitter Precursor, Reduces Environmental Stress in Humans.” Brain Research Bulletin 22, no. 4 (April 1989): 759–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/0361-9230(89)90096-8.
[ii] Shurtleff, D., J. R. Thomas, J. Schrot, K. Kowalski, and R. Harford. “Tyrosine Reverses a Cold-Induced Working Memory Deficit in Humans.” Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior 47, no. 4 (April 1994): 935–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/0091-3057(94)90299-2.
[iii] Thomas, John R, Park A Lockwood, Anita Singh, and Patricia A Deuster. “Tyrosine Improves Working Memory in a Multitasking Environment.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 64, no. 3 (November 1, 1999): 495–500. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0091-3057(99)00094-5.
[i] Ariga, Atsunori, and Alejandro Lleras. “Brief and Rare Mental ‘Breaks’ Keep You Focused: Deactivation and Reactivation of Task Goals Preempt Vigilance Decrements.” Cognition 118, no. 3 (March 1, 2011): 439–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2010.12.007.
[ii] Spasov, A. A., G. K. Wikman, V. B. Mandrikov, I. A. Mironova, and V. V. Neumoin. “A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study of the Stimulating and Adaptogenic Effect of Rhodiola Rosea SHR-5 Extract on the Fatigue of Students Caused by Stress during an Examination Period with a Repeated Low-Dose Regimen.” Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology 7, no. 2 (April 2000): 85–89. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0944-7113(00)80078-1.
[iii] Darbinyan, V., A. Kteyan, A. Panossian, E. Gabrielian, G. Wikman, and H. Wagner. “Rhodiola Rosea in Stress Induced Fatigue–a Double Blind Cross-over Study of a Standardized Extract SHR-5 with a Repeated Low-Dose Regimen on the Mental Performance of Healthy Physicians during Night Duty.” Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology 7, no. 5 (October 2000): 365–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0944-7113(00)80055-0.
[iv] Edwards, D., A. Heufelder, and A. Zimmermann. “Therapeutic Effects and Safety of Rhodiola Rosea Extract WS® 1375 in Subjects with Life-Stress Symptoms–Results of an Open-Label Study.” Phytotherapy Research: PTR 26, no. 8 (August 2012): 1220–25. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.3712.
[v] Kasper, Siegfried, and Angelika Dienel. “Multicenter, Open-Label, Exploratory Clinical Trial with Rhodiola Rosea Extract in Patients Suffering from Burnout Symptoms.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 13 (2017): 889–98. https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S120113.
[vi] Bergouignan, Audrey, Kristina T. Legget, Nathan De Jong, Elizabeth Kealey, Janet Nikolovski, Jack L. Groppel, Chris Jordan, Raphaela O’Day, James O. Hill, and Daniel H. Bessesen. “Effect of Frequent Interruptions of Prolonged Sitting on Self-Perceived Levels of Energy, Mood, Food Cravings and Cognitive Function.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 13, no. 1 (November 3, 2016): 113. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-016-0437-z.
[vii] Oppezzo, Marily, and Daniel L. Schwartz. “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking.” Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition 40, no. 4 (July 2014): 1142–52. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036577.
[viii] “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and ‘At-Risk’ Individuals – PMC.” Accessed May 11, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770181/.
[ix] Chai, Sheau Ching, Irene Li, Carly Pacanowski, and Benjamin Brewer. “Effects of Four-Week Supplementation of Ashwagandha and B-Vitamins on Mood and Stress Relief.” Current Developments in Nutrition 4, no. Supplement_2 (June 1, 2020): 1195. https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzaa057_011.
[x] Seppälä, Jussi, Hannu Koponen, Hannu Kautiainen, Johan G. Eriksson, Olli Kampman, Jaana Leiviskä, Satu Männistö, et al. “Association between Vitamin B12 Levels and Melancholic Depressive Symptoms: A Finnish Population-Based Study.” BMC Psychiatry 13, no. 1 (May 24, 2013): 145. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244X-13-145.
[xi] Bottiglieri, T., M. Laundy, R. Crellin, B. K. Toone, M. W. Carney, and E. H. Reynolds. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 69, no. 2 (August 2000): 228–32. https://doi.org/10.1136/jnnp.69.2.228.
[xii] Banderet, L. E., and H. R. Lieberman. “Treatment with Tyrosine, a Neurotransmitter Precursor, Reduces Environmental Stress in Humans.” Brain Research Bulletin 22, no. 4 (April 1989): 759–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/0361-9230(89)90096-8.
[xiii] Shurtleff, D., J. R. Thomas, J. Schrot, K. Kowalski, and R. Harford. “Tyrosine Reverses a Cold-Induced Working Memory Deficit in Humans.” Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior 47, no. 4 (April 1994): 935–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/0091-3057(94)90299-2.
[xiv] Thomas, John R, Park A Lockwood, Anita Singh, and Patricia A Deuster. “Tyrosine Improves Working Memory in a Multitasking Environment.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 64, no. 3 (November 1, 1999): 495–500. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0091-3057(99)00094-5.
[xv] Gopukumar, Kumarpillai, Shefali Thanawala, Venkateswarlu Somepalli, T. S. Sathyanaryana Rao, Vijaya Bhaskar Thamatam, and Sanjaya Chauhan. “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract on Cognitive Functions in Healthy, Stressed Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: ECAM 2021 (2021): 8254344. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/8254344.
[xvi] Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus. 2019;11(12):e6466. Published 2019 Dec 25. doi:10.7759/cureus.6466