An estimated 1.2 million children and youth in Canada are affected by a mental illness (2019 stat), and less than 20% will receive any treatment. Young adults aged 15-24 are more likely to experience a form of mental illness or substance disorder than any other age group. And by the age of 25, approximately 20% will go on to develop a more serious form of mental illness. So what is going on? Have young adults always been this stressed out, and we never noticed, or is something else happening?
Perhaps there is a bit of both. Young adults have always felt a fair amount of stress and anxiety, but it was never identified as such. It was brushed off as hormone changes, teenage growing pains, typical teenage behaviour etc. Today the pressures and stressors on young adults are far worse than when we were growing up, or our children were in their young adult stages.
Parents of young adults are experiencing unprecedented stressors in our modern time. The pandemic caused insurmountable debt and personal and professional loss for families, which tends to trickle down to the more aware young adults in the household, no matter how much parents tried to shield their children from the chaos. Young adults not only have the peer pressures and academic expectations that are typical for this age group. They have been forced to re-think and re-learn traditional methods of schooling. Young adults are typically more connected with their friends during this stage of their life but, for many months at a time, were forced into isolation and reduced or no personal contact with their natural support groups. The move towards everything online, from work, school, and relationships, has changed young adults' critical social interactive growth. In some cases, the entire process of becoming a young adult has been delayed leaving parents frustrated with their children and vice versa.
No one could have expected the cascade effect of the pandemic on our children's lives, but some good has come out of the forced life changes. Teenage and young adult stress and anxiety are taking a front seat in the management of mental wellness in Canada. New support mandates are in place, recommendations, guidelines, hotlines, government funding for more medical treatment and intervention and parents, finally, some understanding of why our young adults are behaving the way they are.
So what is next for our stressed-out young adults?
Watch for signs your child is suffering from stress or anxiety, acknowledge their feelings, and create a safe place for them to talk to you about their anxieties. If you cannot reach them, source someone that can. Don't assume their situation, stress, or anxiety will pass on with time; keep talking and taking action; even if they do not respond, they hear you.
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- A declining desire for work or school
- Not sleeping or waking up in the middle of the night
- Not eating properly
- Quick to anger or misplaced anger for the situation
- Easily irritated but cannot identify why
- Emotional overreactions to minor incidences
- Lack of emotion or connectedness
- Constant worrying or negative thoughts
- Withdrawal from the family
- Withdrawal from friends
Supplements can provide extra support to stressed Children
If your child is not taking any prescribed medications for anxiety or stress, consider supplementation to support their journey towards better mental health. Supplements for teenage anxiety and stress are not mainstream as of yet. The Canadian government still prefers medication over the natural approach, but there is growing support and evidence that natural products for young adults are not only helpful, but they also are non-habit forming and do not have the same adverse side effects.
GABA supplements are one of the first supplements for consideration because low levels of GABA have been associated with anxiety, agitation, worry, tension, separation anxiety, stress, panic, poor sleep, depression, and decreased tolerance for pain. Natural GABA production in the body is depleted when the body is under continued stress, sleeping disorders or some medications. GABA's primary function is to block certain nerve transmissions from over-firing. By preventing the overstimulation of neurons, moods and reactions to stress or anxious events are better managed. GABA helps the nervous system to better process information about fear, anxiety and stress and has a calming effect
Did you know that new studies are emerging between abnormalities with GABA activity and Autism as well as depression?
GABA is naturally present in fermented foods such as kimchi, miso & tempeh. It is also found in tea, tomatoes, walnuts, sweet potatoes, soybeans and spinach. While increasing GABA from foods is always good, our diets still cannot get GABA to the level needed for the same active benefits as supplementation.
Natural Factors Stress Relax GABA is an excellent solution for young adults of varying ages. It comes in capsules with 100 mg & 250 mg capsules or in a chewable at a dosage of 100 mg that can be broken in half and slowly increased to full dose. The lower amount of 100 mg is recommended for children and young adults between the age of 12- 14, whereas the 250 mg dose is recommended for children and young adults between the age of 14-18. The chewable lozenges are yummy tasting too
L-Theanine is another supplement that can help young adults that suffer from anxiety, panic, and nervousness. It has been used more regularly with children with ADHD to help support focus and calm when there is a high level of agitation. L-Theanine is an amino acid derived from green or black tea leaves and is linked to improved concentration, cognitive performance, memory retention and emotional well-being. L-Theanine boosts calming neurotransmitters in the brain, helping to promote relaxation and lower brain chemicals associated with stress and anxiety. L-Theanine has a chill-like effect on the mind. It takes the edge off without making you drowsy. L-Theanine is also effective at increasing the production of GABA, which, as discussed above, has anti-stress effects
The suggested range for teens is 100-200 mg two-three times daily. L-Theanine is quick acting, especially when taken in the chewable form. Start with a smaller dosage and increase as needed to provide the desired relaxation effect. For some people, a smaller dosage is all that is required, whereas if agitation is greater, higher dosage can be given. There are no known side effects to this supplement but as with all supplements, consult your healthcare provider with any concerns
Natural Factors Mental Calmness supplements come in both chewable and capsules. The capsules provide a 125 mg dose, whereas the chewable is 100 mg. Both have the same effect on the body; the chewable has a quicker response time and is easy to break in half if you want to start your child off at a lower dosage.
Supplements More Geared Towards the Young Adult
As your teenager starts to move into a young adult, the stressors and expectations for this stage of their life will likely not get any easier. From time to time, you may find that your now young adult needs more support for their mental wellness. L-Theanine & GABA may be all they need, even at this stage of their life, but if you find they are not responding well to these supplements, consider adding more specific supplements to their present situation.
Ashwagandha – is an adaptogenic herb that operates at the level of the overall body systems by maintaining balance with the chemicals, hormones and processes that run the human body. Ashwagandha literally adapts to what the body needs. Ashwagandha is one of the most recognized adaptogenic herbs and is easily tolerated by adults. It is best known for its ability to better manage the stress response by balancing cortisol levels ( a hormone produced by the adrenal glands during times of stress). It also nourishes the central nervous system, promotes sleep and relieves insomnia. It is especially useful for people that are exhausted from stress, complain about body aches, get sick easily, or have trouble falling and staying asleep. When taken during the day, this herb can help improve brain power by raising the level of acetylcholine, which positively affects learning and cognitive functioning
It does take some time for this herb to show beneficial effects. The recommended dose is 300- 600 mg of KSM-66 Ashwagandha for 1-3 months. It can be given 1-2 times a day (depending on supplement mg) or before bedtime if sleep is one of the primary concerns. The age suggestions for daily use of this herb start at 16 through adulthood
Natural Factors Ashwagandha contains the researched and clinically studied form of this herb KSM-66 Ashwagandha in a 600 mg dose
A new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders indicates that Saffron may help reduce depression and anxiety symptoms in teenage children. The first-of-its-kind study found that supplementation with "Affron," a branded saffron extract ingredient, improved feelings of separation anxiety, social phobia, and depression in young people. Saffron ( Affron) possesses a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory impact, which could help balance key neurotransmitter levels, such as serotonin and dopamine, and also fight the oxidative stress produced by anxiety and stress in the brain."
It could take up to 8 weeks to regularly take Saffron before the managed effects for depression and anxiety are noticed. The suggested dosage is 14 mg twice a day or 28 mg once a day. Natural Factors Saffron contains "Affron," the clinically approved form of Saffron. They offer it in both sizes depending on your child's needs and compliance with taking regular supplements.
You've heard about melatonin supplements for insomnia, shift change, jetlag etc., but some early studies show that melatonin may also be beneficial for young adults with trouble falling asleep. Melatonin is a hormone our brains naturally produce to fall asleep and regulates our sleep-wake schedule. It is typically released in the brain in the evening and stimulated by darkness. Blue light from tablets, phones and computers that are used well into the night fools the brain into thinking it is daytime, interrupting the natural production and flow of nighttime melatonin. Over time, the continued use of electronics wreaks havoc on the body's production of melatonin, making us feel more alert at night when we should be sleepy.
Melatonin supplements such as Natural Factors Melatonin 3 mg or Natural Factors 5 mg can be a short-term way to help young adults ( 14-18) get back on track or reset sleep schedules after vacations, summer breaks, long nights of studying or other interruptions. This supplement should only be used to help your child re-establish a better bedtime routine. It is best taken 30-90 minutes before the desired bedtime. Melatonin supplements may be beneficial for children with ADHD ( under a physician's supervision).
Natural Factors Tranquil Sleep is another excellent option for young adults. It combines L-Theanine, which we know can help quiet the overactive mind, with Melatonin to help regulate sleeping patterns. The addition of 5HTP aids in the production of melatonin which is a precursor to the happy hormone serotonin. Some experts believe that increasing serotonin at night can positively influence the emotional factors that may be disrupting sleep.