Novel corona virus (Covid-19) has been creating upheaval throughout the whole world. Stress comes from not knowing what to fully expect all around. Protective and preventive measures can feel isolating, as well as create anxiety around money and kids. Schools are closing for unknown periods of time. Managing jobs becomes much more challenging.
With all the parts that feel totally out of control, it’s important to remind yourself of what you CAN control or manage. Basic stress management is especially important during these times. That means eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, exercise, finding meaning outside of yourself.
1) Food & Supplements:
Healthy eating is going to provide you with most of the vitamins that will help both your immune system and your mood. Sometimes supplementing your diet is helpful. Most people already know that vitamin C is good for your immune system and is thought to be helpful in reducing negative outcomes with respiratory illness like pneumonia. Other immune boosters include vitamin B6 and vitamin E. You may not know about some other helpers for anxiety, sleep and depression.
Here in Minnesota, and other northern areas, we often do not have enough natural vitamin D from sunshine alone. Vitamin D is almost a wonder vitamin. It helps reduce disease risk, including the flu. It also helps mood symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Many integrative medicine physicians especially recommend vitamin D3 supplements. Omega 3s are also very helpful in reducing depression. Best sources are from fish vs. plant based options. My favorite recommendation, especially for kids, is Barleans organic fish oils because they actually taste good!
B vitamins can be helpful for anxiety. B12 appears to be the most helpful overall. Some practitioners have suggested that a vitamin-like substance, related to vitamin B, called myo-inositol can be helpful for anxiety and panic. When stress & anxiety are interfering with sleep, magnesium can help calm you down and help you sleep. The best form for digestive balance is the magnesium glycinate and it’s best taken at night.
2) Essential oils:
Lavender is a very well known essential oil for calming as well as for sleep. In addition, it has antimicrobial qualities and many people think it smells great. Other essential oils that can be helpful for calming and sleep include ylang ylang, bergamot, frankincense, clary sage and roman chamomile. Frankincense also has an additional benefit of antimicrobial qualities as well.
Essential oils can be used on touch points or the soles of your feet. They can also be used in diffusers or even just putting a couple drops on your pillow case before bed. Be careful of contraindication with pets, however, if you are using a diffuser.
3) Calming down the mind & body:
Yoga is an excellent stress reliever. It is also my go-to recommended exercise for anxiety. Yoga helps center you as well as keeping you focused on deep breathing. Yoga has also been used for emotional purposes. When the head crosses below the belly that helps reset the parasympathetic nervous system to relax. Poses like rag doll and downward dog are great for this purpose. Child’s pose is calming. Lying on the floor with your legs up the wall (like a L against the wall) is helpful in prepping your nervous system for sleep. Finally balance poses serve to create emotional grounding which is helpful when you may feel a little out of control.
Deep breathing is obviously an essential part of calming down a stress or anxiety response. Make sure it’s a deep belly breath and take 5-6 counts to complete each in breath, 4-5 for each out breath. Hoberman spheres are great for helping focus your attention on your breathing. Kids love these and they will enjoy doing deep breathing with you if they get to work the sphere. If you want something more mobile, there is an app that is like a programmable Hoberman sphere. It’s called “Breathing Zone” and can be set for speed as well as how long you want to practice.
Meditation is well know to help create more calm, less stress & less anxiety. Meditation can also help with sleep. One of the very best apps I’ve encountered for guided meditation is also FREE. It’s called “Insight Timer” and has thousands of free meditations as well as classes in meditation too. There are options for kids as well as adult. The time per meditation can range from 4 minutes to over an hour. Lovingkindness meditation is known to help improve compassion for others which may be helpful if irritation and frustration over isolation erupts.
Have you ever watched an old video of Bob Ross painting? Yes, that seems random but these videos are relaxing and calming. WowArt on You-Tube can create the same soothing effect. I have to thank my son for that tip! Watching someone paint absorbs the attention and slows things down. If you don’t believe me, try it. Besides, beauty in and of itself is good for your mood. Notice all the beauty you can every random place you can find it.
4) Gratitude & helping others:
Research has been consistent in showing that gratitude journals improve mood. It is important that you really feel the gratitude as you are writing down your items. Sometimes smaller things produce bigger effects when you can truly feel grateful. Ideas include the smell of coffee in the morning or a beautiful sun set. Typically I recommend people write down at least 3 things each day they are grateful for and keep it for future reference.
It can also be helpful to go around the dinner table & talk about everyone’s “highs and lows”. Start with the positive first but give some time to acknowledge the lows in order to feel validated in such a stressful time. Although people are engaging in social distancing, it’s still possible to do for others. Research has also shown that doing good things for other people improves the mood and sense of well being for the do-er. Maybe it’s paying ahead in the coffee drive thru. Maybe it’s checking in on an elderly neighbor or friend, helping to make sure he or she has needed supplies or medications.
Although it can be hard in times of stress, make sure to be kind to the people in your home. Take time for extra hugs or cuddles. Touch such as that produces oxytocin which is called the bonding hormone.
If all of this information feels like drinking from a fire hose, you may want a way to keep the best tips for you all in one place. My final suggestion is another free app called “Virtual Hope Box”. You will need to take time to “fill” it with inspiring quotes that speak to you in addition to the pre-set ones. You can also write down the best coping tools you find for easy reference on a “coping card”. When we get really stressed or anxious, it’s hard to remember what to do. Virtual Hope Box is a one stop place to remind yourself of what works.
This is challenging. We can do this. Take care of your mental health as well as your physical health.