Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
January 23, 2018

The Anti-Stress Tool I’ve Used For 20 Years (and a Giveaway)

By Mark Sisson
172 Comments

Primal_Calm_inlineI haven’t talked much about stress this month, and I don’t want to give it short shrift. Yes, there’s a lot to take apart with food and exercise, both of which can feel more “actionable” at times. But stress can be a major roadblock to success. How we deal with emotional and physical stress will invariably impact our health, well-being and performance. Until we dial it in, we’ll compromise the results of all our other Primal efforts.

I’ve said in the past that stress has been one of the hardest aspects I’ve struggled with—and continue to now and then. Living Primally means I’m running on full rather than empty to be sure, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world always conforms to logic or sanity, let alone my preferences. And emotional tension aside, I like to push myself periodically in the gym or on an outdoor adventure, which means I’m dealing with physical stressors, too.

Here’s one thing I’ve done for twenty years to counter both emotional and physical stress.

Recently, I sat down with Brad Kearns to talk about one of the best kept secrets in performance nutrition—a potent anti-stress agent called Phosphatidylserine (PS).

PS is the lead ingredient in Primal Calm, a custom formulation that has been proven to help blunt the spike of cortisol in the bloodstream in response to stress. Old time endurance athletes like Brad and I have been using PS for over 20 years to help speed recovery from crazy training binges, but PS and the supportive ingredients in Primal Calm are also effective against routine modern life stressors like jet travel, hectic daily routines, compromised sleep, and so on.

We talk in the video about the physiology of stress and the best ways to use PS or Primal Calm—with more specific recommendations for bouts of heavy stress or training.

The goal isn’t to blunt the edge that can sharpen your focus or performance. It’s to achieve an evenness or, in some cases, a mellowness rather than the amped-up fight or flight response. I could easily write more, but check out my talk with Brad, and let me know what you think.

Now For the Giveaway…

320_Primal_CalmI don’t think I give enough attention to Primal Calm on the blog, but today I’m going big. I’d like to give one random commenter a year’s supply of Primal Calm (12 bottles).

Just tell me what questions you have about stress—emotional stress, training related stress, etc.—or what stress-related topics you’d like me to write about on MDA.

Be sure to comment before midnight tonight (1/23/18 PST) to be eligible to win. (And be sure to use a functional email address when you comment. We’ve had to choose alternate winners on a few occasions this month because emails were undeliverable to the listed addresses.)

Thanks for stopping by today, everybody. Take care.

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

172 Comments on "The Anti-Stress Tool I’ve Used For 20 Years (and a Giveaway)"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest
paleofam321
paleofam321
1 month 2 days ago

I’m curious about how to best turn chronic stressors that the modern world provides into hormetic stressors. It seems like there is probably a more advanced strategy than standing up every 20 minutes or so (though that is really helpful). In short, what is it that those who are able to perceive stress healthily are able to do that the rest of us aren’t?

Kelli
1 month 2 days ago

I’ve had terrible stress since moving two years ago. Does Primal Calm help with the stress of maladjustment?

Jenny
Jenny
1 month 2 days ago

My question is about life stress vs. exercise-related stress. If you’re stressed and/or run down, but you think a workout might give you endorphins, is it okay to work out? Or would it be better to skip the exercise and do something to reduce stress so you’re not contributing to adrenaline/cortisol, etc.? I know you advocate more lifestyle activities, like hiking or surfing, than something like Orange Theory, but how important is it to get something like 30 minutes of movement every day versus catching up on sleep?

Grant
Grant
1 month 7 hours ago

In my experience, sleep trumps all. You want to be very careful with arenaline and contributing hormonal changes.

Rest should always come first. You know your body. You know the difference between “I don’t want to work out” malaise that leaves as soon as you get started with your routine and true tiredness.

Lack of sleep throws everything off.

Robert T
Robert T
1 month 2 days ago

I’d like to know more about managing cortisol and training related stress

Louis Abbott
Louis Abbott
1 month 2 days ago
I’ll have to look into Primal Calm some more. My daughter has recently started taking Omega 3s and Phosphatidylserine for mild ADHD. It has been over a month, and she is not seeing much difference. While I am going keto after reading your book over Thanksgiving break, the rest of the family including this daughter are not. I’d love to see her try some dietary changes, but do not intend to push her. Looking at the ingredients, would Primal Calm be a good alternative to the Phosphatidylserine supplement alone for a 16 year old? I do think the additional ingredients… Read more »
Michelle
Michelle
1 month 2 days ago
Hello Mark, I would like to know more about handling stress when you have a full-time job and school age children. While I think that some of the school demands are not in line with what i believe – ie they get too much homework and not enough recess, I still must prepare them for the world they live in. Thus some of their stress and responsibilities fall on me. I do have routines in place to keep the house running, ie put clothes out before bed, load backpacks every night etc. but It is difficult to not be the… Read more »
Michelle
Michelle
1 month 2 days ago

Can you address ways to manage short term high stress times? I’m thinking specifically of non-chronic issues like moving, changing jobs, death of a family member, etc.

Erin
Erin
1 month 2 days ago

Should we concentrate on shoe-horning in anti-stress time every day, or can we get similar benefits from taking a “real” day off?

Catherine
Catherine
1 month 2 days ago

I would love to see information about how stress directly damages organs we need to preserve. I know that stress contributes to thyroid disease, but I don’t have a direct progression in the body. We often discuss how it works the adrenals, and what adrenaline does in the body. But that’s often the extent. Is it direct in the sense that adrenaline starts cortisol that then changes our digestion and taxes our organs by sending the wrong fuel? Or is it that cortisol directly inflames some body parts?

Bethany
Bethany
1 month 2 days ago
Hi Mark! I have a question that is perhaps too complex/involved, but here goes: I’m a 39-year-old female. I grew up with (undiagnosed and untreated) depression, anxiety, and OCD that I believe kept my cortisol levels at high and unhealthy levels from basically ages 5-30! I believe this is what has caused me to always have a somewhat bloated belly, no matter how much I dial in my eating and exercise. My question is: is there any hope for me to recover from this long-lasting cortisol assault on my body? I quit my high-stress career, got therapy and medication to… Read more »
NaturalGirl
NaturalGirl
1 month 2 days ago

I am always open to new ways to handle stress. I like how the term “mellowness,” rather than fight or flight. Great food for thought.

Hannah
Hannah
1 month 2 days ago

I have been losing a ton of hair lately. I’m trying to figure out if it’s stress, not enough macro nutrients on my Keto diet, or possibly something g else. I could use help. Would your primal calm help with this issue?

jade
jade
1 month 2 days ago

I am having exactly the same hair loss issue Hannah and wondering if primal calm would help.

Marilee
Marilee
1 month 1 day ago

Very low carb can sometimes down regulate the thyroid and hair loss can result. Zinc and selenium can help support the thyroid. You may have to up your starchy carbs some. I found I do much better with some in my diet.

Greg Harrington
Greg Harrington
1 month 2 days ago

Does Phosphatidylserine help with mental-related stress? (i.e. stress about work, finances, relationships, etc.)

Chris Hatcher
Chris Hatcher
1 month 2 days ago

Is there any evidence of the keto diet adding to stress, especially making one more irritable? I going myself easily irritable while on it.

Kelly B
Kelly B
1 month 2 days ago

You’ve probably already addressed this somewhere, but I’d love to hear more about strategies to deal with stress-related eating – or cravings. About 2 weeks ago, I went on a Skittles-and-Starburst bender due to work stress that added a couple of pounds I’m still trying to get rid of.

BG from Texas
BG from Texas
1 month 2 days ago

Group dynamics…. my work place consists of over 150 fellow employees. It is a very, very cynical place. My attempts at positivity are met with jaded skepticism, which causes anger, frustration and stress on my part. Not good.

I’m sure there are some universal lessons in there, regarding group dynamics, personal stress management and so forth. I start every week off optimistic and fresh, but by late week I’m worn down and frustrated. I want to be a difference maker and a positive influence. I’m not sure I have the tools. I know I can do it, though.

Nick
Nick
1 month 2 days ago

Hey, Mark! This could be a pretty broad question so I’ll try to narrow it down but when/how do you recommend taking Primal Calm? What time of day? Consistent timing and dosing over time or increasing in response to elevated stressors?

kristos
kristos
1 month 2 days ago

i used this a few years ago and loved it. i have been thinking about bringing it back into my rotation

Liz B.
1 month 2 days ago

My question about stress is about best practices for recognizing when you have hit your own personal threshold for enough? For example, when in the midst of a stressful period at work, how do you correctly identify when you’ve hit that point at which you’re better off NOT working out that day because the cumulative effect of your stress levels and cortisol response will negate the physical benefits? On some level most of us coming to this blog are Type A in nature, and at least I personally find it hard to know when I’ve hit my limits.

GreekGrok
GreekGrok
1 month 2 days ago

An interesting metric to look into for this is HRV (Heart Rate Variability). It’s not a definitive marker but can be a good indicator that you might need to take a break. I keep track of my HRV every day and notice worse scores the morning after a hard workout or lack of sleep, etc. and always plan a “rest” day meaning a slow bike ride or a lot of walking.

Brad
Brad
1 month 2 days ago

When I stress it’s usually financial stress. Grok didn’t have dollars to worry about so in primal terms I suppose I stress over the uncertainty of vital resources. How would Grok have dealt with the stress of not being certain where the next meal was coming from to feed his family?

Nick Holderbaum
Nick Holderbaum
1 month 2 days ago

Hey Mark, I am a full time firefighter/Paramedic and soon to be PHC. I walk the talk most days on living primally but 24 hour shifts with random cortisol dumps every time the tones go off throughout the day and even worse in the middle of the night can quickly sabotage my fitness goals. I know sleep deprivation and stress of the job can ruin my health but I love the job and it pays the bills. I would love to see the topic of Firefighter/first responder sleep deprivation and stress covered. #primalosophy. Thank you sir.

Matt K.
Matt K.
1 month 2 days ago

I have noticed over the years an uncomfortable spike in anxiety post workout that can last a few hours and even sometimes the rest of the day, most likely from elevated cortisol. I wonder if the PC supplement would help to blunt some of these symptoms. It can be very frustrating and can sometimes become a demotivating factor for exercise.

KTT
KTT
1 month 2 days ago

My question doesn’t really have to do with stress, but more of supplements like Primal Calm. I often hear advice not to take supplements because you are just generating expensive pee. I eat a balanced diet, with nutrient dense food, which is suggested over taking supplements/vitamins. I’m just curious to hear your thoughts on supplements. Thanks Mark!

Susanne
Susanne
1 month 2 days ago

I wonder if PS would help or harm those of us with hyperandrenergic POTS?

Brad Duncan
Brad Duncan
1 month 2 days ago

I’m particularly interested in the effects of cortisol, and precisely how it manifests physically in response to stress. Does it manifest differently in response to “life” stress (work, family, etc.) than to “training” stress? How do we know we’re actually having a cortisol issue, as contrasted with those times it’s under control? Is it easily measurable? Is it just a matter of feeling crappy, or the accumulation of body fat? I’d love a detailed walk-through of the cortisol phenomenon and strategies for managing it. Thanks.

Matt barenie
Matt barenie
1 month 2 days ago

As a graduate student as well as avid CrossFitter would it be wise to take PS immediately pre-examinations/WODS or post? If pre and/or post stressful events what should the timeline be like (15 minutes before/2 hours post?). Is it possible to over consume PS to negate exercise improvements? Would just taking PS at a certain time each day no matter what the day entails be best? Is there a so called reset period for PS (example off weeks/days for caffeine re-sensitivity)?

Peter
Peter
1 month 2 days ago

Is there a relationship between vitamin D levels and baseline stress? How might Omega 3 & D supplementation influence the body’s reaction to stress, and where does L-Theanine fit in the conversation? Thanks!

Kim
1 month 2 days ago

I’d like to see a discussion of stress and sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone). For me, intermittent fasting was associated with increased Cortisol and contributed to an Estrogen/Progesterone imbalance. Do we know anything about the interaction between Primal Calm/Phosphatidylserine and sex hormones?

Stefan M
Stefan M
1 month 2 days ago
The line about blunting performance was so fascinating. Can we make a more thorough dissection of the interplay between mood and (specifically anti-stress) supplements? There’s a huge link between creativity, intelligence, and mental illness. While we can all agree mental illness is not preferable, since it’s a chronic twisting from the inside out, it’s dearly bewildering to me how certain imbalanced states of consciousness in humans can result in creative insight. And how sometimes, there are humans who can remain balanced and still achieve great insight. I’m not sure if I’m clear enough here. Let’s take, for example, Johann Goethe… Read more »
GreekGrok
GreekGrok
1 month 2 days ago

+1 I’m not sure if this is exactly what you are saying but another question I have is are we really better off taking a pill to help us become calm? Or would we be better of channeling our stress and emotions into better coping mechanisms engaging in other pursuits to manage that instead?

Stefan M
Stefan M
1 month 1 day ago

This is what I’m saying, yes. I’m sure there’s no right answer; it’s a very personal choice. I’m also pretty positive that the majority of the population would rather not have to carry the burden of emotional excess.

But there will always be exceptions. And I’m very interested in deeply understanding the interplay between supplements, biochemistry and mood for people that need something a little bit more specific than “mellowing out”; the strange cases.

Anyway, very interesting discussion topic overall.

Alicia
Alicia
1 month 2 days ago

Can you talk about the stress of loneliness and isolation? I am a senior but still work full time. My life partner died and I moved across the country a few years after. I work from home so I don’t get to hang out with co-workers and I only know 2 people here even after several years. I have no living relatives so it’s me and my pets 24/7.

Alisa
Alisa
1 month 2 days ago

I’ve had a lot of work related stress lately. Would love to know best techniques for managing when work demands make it difficult to get to the gym. Trying to get good sleep is my current #1 tactic.

paprika
paprika
1 month 2 days ago
As a working mom, I struggle with stress and balance (like everyone else!). Personally, I find stress to be almost a zero-sum game. Any stressor — changing diet, strenuous exercise, work deadline, sick children, house or car repairs needed, business travel, righteous indignation over something in the news — seems to take away from the total stress I can manage. Even good stress can add in; exhilaration can be as exhausting as frustration. I have to work at it, but the key for me is to keep as calm as possible as much as possible. The more I get worked… Read more »
paprika
paprika
1 month 2 days ago

I meant to add at the end: Does anyone have a similar experience, where stress seems to be zero-sum?

Brandon
Brandon
1 month 2 days ago

How does stress benefit us? Is that an outdated system that’s now causing more harm than benefits? What sort of stresses can be beneficial? Isn’t exercise, for instance, intentional stress induction? Are there other types?

Alane
Alane
1 month 2 days ago

Hi- I wonder if physical stress and emotional stress affect the body in the same way? Thx, Alane

Mike
Mike
1 month 2 days ago

I’d like to know more about how the effects of stress are modified by how we think about or perceive stress.

Brendan
Brendan
1 month 2 days ago
Maybe a bit of a stretch to relate this to stress, but here goes. I have been loving cold showers for some time, especially first thing in the morning as a wake-up tool (almost as effective as coffee, but much less enjoyable). Given that cortisol is already high around the time we wake up, do you feel that another physical (and mental) stressor like a cold shower right out of bed is a bit of “overload”? On a related note, how do you feel about a cold shower following a heavy lifting session? It may be the old bodybuilder-style “pump”… Read more »
Sean
Sean
1 month 2 days ago
I have started adding “minor” evening exercise to my daily regimen to try to improve my sleep quality. During the week, I wake up at 3:15 am so that I am able to get a good 45 minutes of weight training in prior to work. I am not sure how well it is improving my sleep as I don’t get enough sleep to begin with. But, I have noticed an increase in energy, overall. I feel my diet is tight: I typically have +/- 50 g of carbs (from fruit) and have been following a primal eating habit for a… Read more »
Terry Humphries
Terry Humphries
1 month 2 days ago

How to prepare for mentally stressful situation in advance.

Sean
Sean
1 month 2 days ago
I have started adding “minor” evening exercise to my daily regimen to try to improve my sleep quality. During the week, I wake up at 3:15 am so that I am able to get a good 45 minutes of weight training in prior to work. I am not sure how well it is improving my sleep as I don’t get enough sleep to begin with. But, I have noticed an increase in energy, overall. I feel my diet is tight: I typically have +/- 50 g of carbs (from fruit) and have been following a primal eating habit for a… Read more »
Ethan
Ethan
1 month 2 days ago

What other passive methods are the best for stress relief? Saunas, Cold Therapy, sunlight, walking, Burpees till you puke?

Nick
1 month 2 days ago

Any tips for handling the subconscious stress (ie: dreams about work-related stressors, stressful thoughts about the day ahead in the first waking moments, etc.)?

Leigh
1 month 2 days ago

So many good questions already! I’m interested in whether Primal Calm can help chronic stressors (work) and maybe help lower them over time. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are only so many relaxation techniques, etc. that I can do, and that at least some of my stress is purely physiological.

Mike
Mike
1 month 2 days ago

Great timing on this post! I’ve been struggling with just feeling “amped up” at all times. I just struggle to relax and nothing in particular is causing me to stress out. I’m just amped.

I’ve recently started using an Apple Watch which monitors my HRV and my HRV is usually low during rest. I understand that it should be higher so I think it just reinforces me being stressed. Any thoughts on stress and HRV?

Catherine
Catherine
1 month 2 days ago

I feel that I am pretty laid back in my waking life but at night it’s a different story. I clench my jaw and sometimes even bite the side of my tongue. I do sleep and I follow the guidance regarding sleep hygiene. I wonder if anyone shares this experience and/or has advice.

Larry G
Larry G
1 month 2 days ago

Hi Mark. Does Primal Calm work well for insomniacs? I have found over the years the less quality sleep I get each night correlates with my anxiety and stress level during the day. Thanks

Lisa Merchant
1 month 2 days ago

Can you please talk about ketosis and stress, and how it is related to prevention of disease. I’ve read that being in ketosis 24/7, 365 days a year can be a chronic stress on the body. Then again I see where this is promoted as the primary goal to health. I am especially interested in ketosis as a preventative tool for alzheimer’s and want to know whether ketosis should always be my goal.

Nate Repensky
Nate Repensky
1 month 2 days ago

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the information. In our increasingly connected world, I’d appreciate some insight on how screen time (I.E. news programs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) impacts cortisol response, and some ways to reconcile the “need” to be connected and informed, but stress free. Thanks!

Margaret
Margaret
1 month 2 days ago

Is Primal Calm helpful in relieving stress related to Aspergers for children and adults? Thank you

d morgan
1 month 2 days ago

how do seniors manage the stress of doctors who only want to push big pharma versus the unending array of supplements? we feel forgotten in this melee

Martin
Martin
1 month 2 days ago

In addition to all the other excellent questions related to stress, I’ve wondered about the effects of daily stress on cognition. I’ve only recently started using Primal Calm and haven’t been great about always remembering to take it, but when I do remember to take it regularly it feels like I’m more able to focus. Not sure if it’s a direct effect of PC, a side effect of helping alleviate stress, or possibly even a placebo effect.

wpDiscuz