Updated: Mar 31
April 12, 2020 was the ultimate time to blog about stress. We were living in a very uncertain time. We shared communal fear while trying to grasp the immensity of loss. In response to this, I related some strategies that alleviate some of the stress we felt and how stress affects us physically and mentally. Naturally, for those of us who deal with mental illness, this was crucial to ensure keeping current with therapy, medication, and techniques proven to be effective in the past.
Today, we are dealing with similar issues. A year later, no matter how well we take care of ourselves, we are worn, anxious, tired. And to keep going, we recommit to optimal health, to more and better strategies, and hold on to the hope of mass vaccinations and a more caring government.
Speaking of vaccines, I invite you to review these immune boosting strategies a day before and after getting your vaccination to insure maximum recovery and immunity. We’re so ready to be together again, so let’s make sure we are well and follow all the guidelines. These are the Important Ways to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control.
Avoid information overload. There’s really not enough trustworthy news to fill a 24-hour news cycle, so a lot of this information is extra or fillers, and not all of it accurate. I suggest getting news from a reliable source once or twice a day, for no more than 30 minutes at a time. This year, the news is far less triggering for me, and I’m grateful for that improvement
Healthy diet. Stress puts a toll on your digestive system and lowers your nutrient absorption. A healthy diet will also maintain your immune system. Cooking from whole foods is a great option for those or are sheltering in place. If you’re an essential worker, please remember there are very few healthy food options at Mc Donald’s. If you can avoid fast food all together, many restaurants are offering pick up and delivery, so please take advantage of your fresh and local options.
Exercise. Do it as much as you can, and outside as much as you can, while staying away from people.
Practice gratitude. Contemplate equally the loss, and the creative innovation that this crisis will inevitably generate. The innovation will be difficult for some people, and I’m mindful of people who will be left behind.
Meditation. Find apps or online meditation videos. I usually meditate with an app. Since the crisis, I have joined my minister’s meditation group. I find that meditating with other people virtually is for more inspirational than I could have imagined. Breathing-- the breathing community is big online. Meditation has been the anchor for me. It evolved and will continue to do so, right now I rely on five-minute meditations, 2-5 times a day. It is also a refocusing tool.
Helpful herbs. CBD has helped so many with pain and inflammation issues, anxiety and sleep, digestive and hormonal issues and the list goes on. If you would like to try CBD, start at 5-10 mg per day once or twice a day, and then increase slowly until you find your sweet spot -- where it works the best for you. A typical dose is between 5mg and 50mg. For those like me, who finds CBD has a side effect (it makes me depressed), use CBD topically, especially after a bath or shower, for aches and pains, and beautiful skin. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used for centuries for balancing and grounding. Holy Basil helps with focus and relaxation. Kava Kava helps with anxiety and sleep for anyone who does not have to use pharmaceuticals -- this herb is not recommended in association with any medication. This year, I have added CV Immune to my inventory, an herbal blend with Schisandra, chinese herb that helps modulate stress response.
Essential oils. They are especially helpful for stress. Smell triggers your memory. Any oil you find pleasurable is recalling positive memory and will help you slow down, take a breath and relax. Lavender is particularly helpful in a diffuser. Rose oil and vanilla are also calming, and a pleasant way to start your day. I enjoy applying rosemary with a carrier oil in the morning, as it helps blood flow and brain function.
Story telling. Brené Brown’s data shows that we are hardwired for story telling. We connect, learn, process trauma and heal through stories.
How Stress Affects your health
Deficiencies. Stress depletes vitamins and minerals from your body. Even if you follow a great diet, I recommend supplementing during this time. Try an enzyme to help with digestive issues. Take a food-based multivitamin, a zinc supplement, and a food-based B complex. I’d like to emphasize how life-changing a good Vitamin B complex can be. As a young woman, I started taking a B complex, and it quickly reduced acne and headaches. I was depleted, as many people are, and didn’t know it. Stress and most pharmaceuticals, including pain medication, decrease your Vitamin B. Vitamin B are crucial for a well-functioning nervous system and hormonal balance. Consider that stress interferes with cortisol, your stress hormone. If your cortisol levels are low, you will have a harder time dealing with ongoing stress. Stress also affects insulin levels, leading to blood sugar imbalance. Vitamin B also helps maintain your iron levels, and many people, especially women, take iron supplements when a B complex would be better suited. Many people do not convert vit B unless it is in methylated form. I have tried many different B complexes and found Garden of Life Raw B Complex to be the one I respond to the best. This supplement contains a reasonable amount of food-based methylated Bs that are well assimilated. I take it 3-4 times a week, but have it on hand during a stressful event.
Anti Inflammatories. Stress increases your inflammation response -- consider turmeric, Zyflamend, and/or CBD.
Mental health. Consulting a therapist, as well as group therapy, are appropriate resources when you struggle with depression and anxiety.
A good fatty acid supplement can also provide relief. Wiley’s offers sustainable fish oil, and their plant is in Ohio. If fish is not your preference, evening primrose, pumpkin seed oil (a good source of zinc), and omegas derived from algae are good vegetarian alternatives. Foods containing healthy fats are also crucial for hormonal balance -- nuts, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, fish (especially salmon), and sustainable meat broths are some of great ways to keep your brain healthy and your skin glowing.
My hope is that taking care of ourselves, and each other, will prove to be how we reshape the world.