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Simple Ways to Decrease Your Stress and Anxiety During the Coronavirus

Woman stressed and anxiety looking at laptop

The Coronavirus Pandemic has created an upheaval in our normal routines and lifestyles.  Whether practicing social distancing around daily activities, managing your health or financial concerns, it is not surprising that more people are feeling more stress and anxiety.  Here are some simple ways to help to mitigate your stress and anxiety while at home.

1.  LIMIT YOUR NEWS INTAKE

It might be hard to peel your eyes off the daily updates on the Coronavirus Pandemic.  However, studies have shown that even hearing or watching a traumatic event unfold, we can go into stress mode. We can feel fearful causing our bodies to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.  Over time, if this occurs over and over again, our adrenal glands can become fatigued.  Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include: being tired in the morning, lack of restful sleep, anxiety, and depression; and can eventually lead to other health issues such as muscle tension or pain, headaches, and stomach problems. Older or unhealthy individuals are more at risk of the long term effects of stress damaging health. 

How can I still stay informed?  You can still watch or listen to the news, but limit the amount to one program.  You can set your phone for breaking news if you feel like you may be missing important updates. The time of the day to watch the news also makes a difference.  Avoid watching the news at bedtime when cortisol is naturally low. 

Here are some recommendations:

NPR hourly report (usually less than 5 minutes!)

Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings

Tanks Good News

2.  MASSAGE YOUR EARS

In acupuncture, the ears have areas that represent every part of the body.  Using gentle massage and acupressure of the ears can help reduce stress.  Massaging the outer rim and the lobes of the ears with your thumb and index finger can help to relax the muscles of the face and body.   Use the chart below to massage areas that need more attention.   Spend 1-2 minutes massaging your ears. 

3.  CONTRIBUTE

A global pandemic can make anyone feel helpless while being confined to the indoors.  If you want to contribute to the fight, you can work on making masks for yourself and others, make meals for isolated friends or family, elderly neighbors or healthcare providers working on the front lines, or care packages/cards for those in need of a smile.  Helping others can reduce stress, improve mood, and can give us a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Here are two sites to make masks:

     Mike Shouts:  Doctor Explains How to Make The Safest Mask

     New York Times:  How to Sew Your Own Mask

Here are ways to donate to the front line healthcare workers:

https://www.frontlinefoods.org/

https://www.feedtheline.org/

4.  CREATE A SCHEDULE

There has not been much time to adjust to the “new normal”.  Whether you are working from home or not at all, make a weekly schedule to help create routines that decrease stress and anxiety.  Use the time that you would have spent on commuting to take a walk.  Schedule time for art projects, video calls with friends and family, exercise videos, and online classes and events. 

This is the time we’ve always wanted to start or finish up projects:  KonMarie your closet, write that book, organize your photos.  Put them in your calendar for these projects to happen! 

5.  LIMIT YOUR CAFFEINE INTAKE

Have you noticed grabbing another cup of coffee or tea during this shelter in place?  Caffeine is a stimulant and can increase that “fight or flight response”.  It can, therefore, increase cortisol and adrenaline resulting in feeling anxious and irritable.  It can exacerbate adrenal fatigue and worsen existing anxiety symptoms. 

Instead of caffeinated beverages, switch to water or herbal beverages.  Make sure that you are staying hydrated in your new routine.

6. HAVE SCREEN-FREE TIME

Many people have spent the last few weeks on Netflix and news binges.  A study conducted on children and teenagers showed more hours of daily screen time were associated with lower psychological wellbeing and emotional stability.  There were no differences between no screen time and 1 hour per day of use.  If you have excessive screen time usage, take a break!  Screen time in adults is associated with weight gain, eye strain, sleep problems, anxiety, and depression. 

With the amount of screen time we are spending, we are on track to look like Emma, the office worker of the future:

7.  AVOID SUGAR INTAKE

This may be a difficult time for stress eaters.  Eating sugar to numb your emotions can cause a cycle of highs and lows in blood sugar.  This can weaken your body’s ability to respond to infection, increase cortisol, and can lead to feelings of fatigue and hopelessness.  Sugar is known to exacerbate anxiety and depression.

If you are craving sugar, try some of these options instead:

- Fruit, esp. the berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)

- A piece of dark chocolate

- Herbal tea

- Nuts or seeds

- A glass of water - sometimes hydrating will help get rid of the cravings

- Coconut chia seed pudding

- Stevia (sugar substitute)

8.  LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF

This is a great time to spend time learning about who you are, ways to embrace your strengths and prioritize your values.  You may gain insights to managing stress and anxiety.   For example, if you are an introvert and shelter in place with your entire family, ask that you have some quiet time each day.  If you are extroverted and alone, you may want to schedule calls with friends and family on a regular basis.

Here are some recommended tests:

Strengthfinders

16 personalities

Emotional Intelligence Quiz

Color Code

9.  TAKE SUPPLEMENTS

There are shortages for nutritional supplements for immune health and stress since the coronavirus pandemic started.  These are my recommended products found on Wellevate and should be discussed with your healthcare provider:

Natural Calm Magnesium (Natural Vitality) - Magnesium helps your muscles relax, supports a healthy immune system, and an essential mineral to help regulate blood sugar levels promotes normal blood pressure and is required for producing and storing energy. Recommended dose:  1-2 teaspoons in water before bedtime. 

Lavela WS 1265(Integrative Therapeutics) - Clinically studied lavender oil.  Indicated for occasional anxiety, Lavela WS 1265 has been shown to promote relaxation, foster sleep quality, calm nervousness, and support general mental health as demonstrated in controlled trials published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

200mg of Zen (Allergy Research Group) - A combination of L-theanine and GABA.  This is a formula that helps to ease stress and anxiety quickly.

CatecholeCalm (Designs for Health) - Promotes calmness and relaxation, supports the adrenal glands, which may help to manage stress more effectively. 

10.  ASK FOR HELP

Never before in history have we had an event like the Coronavirus Pandemic.  If you are struggling with unmanageable stress and anxiety, please ask for help.  There are resources available even during the shelter in place.  There are therapists, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists that are available through telehealth appointments during this time.  If you suffer from adrenal fatigue or anxiety and looking for a natural alternative, you can schedule an appointment at Bay Natural Medicine.

May you stay calm and stress-free!  

Author
Dr. Minna Yoon, ND, L.Ac.

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