Tips to navigate stress and anxiety during COVID-19

Updated: Apr 24, 2020



KEEPING CALM AND HEALTHY


We find ourselves amidst uncertainty, a time of unknown. No matter where we are in the world COVID-19 is bound to be having an effect on us all in some way.


There is so much information out there, some repetitive, some conflicting which can be confusing an d scary. There are many blogs on boosting your immunity so I thought I would take the opportunity here to share some tips with you on how to stay healthy by reducing stress and anxiety to keep us safe.


Why so?


Stress has a direct effect on our immune system function. The nervous system and immune system are intrinsically linked. Millions of messages are communicated between the two on a constant basis. When we find ourselves in stressful situations, the bodies sympathetic nervous system "(SNS)" is activated, causing the body releases stress hormones such as cortisol, from the adrenal glands. These hormones can have a detrimental affect on our immune system by suppressing our immune cells, that could lead to inflammation in the body, in turn affecting the bodies ability fight infection, slow wound healing, alter autoimmunity and exacerbate both viral and bacterial pathogenesis/ . One major way this happens is through the adrenal glands which are weakened through stress and anxiety


When the SNS is 'switched on' through the fight or flight response, the body typically responds in some of the following ways through an alarm response, which reduces our body defences;


+ increased blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate

+ increased metabolsim

+ suppression of appetite and disrupted feeding behaviour and patterns

+ inhibition of immune function through increased release of cortisol

+ inhibition of digestion, GUT motility and function


Yes, in acute situations these hormones can be helpful if we were to find ourselves in fight or flight mode but when we have chronic levels (caused by prolonged periods of stress in the body) it can cause significant harm with longer term affects to our health.


What you can do to reduce stress;


+ EAT TRYPTOPHAN, B VITAMIN, MAGNESIUM, POTASSIUM & OMEGA 3 RICH FOODS


Tryptophan, B vitamins, Magnesium, Potassium & Omega3's are all key nutrients when it comes to looking after the nervous system, and help towards the reduction of stress, anxiety, depression, inflammation, sleep distubrances, and disrupted neurotransmissions.


Eat: green leafy veg, pumpkin & sesame seeds, squash & pumpkin, avocados, tomatoes, high quality and organic meat and fish where possible (turkey and chicken, mackerel, sardines), walnuts, oats and chia seeds.


+ INCREASE INTAKE OF FRESH FRUIT & VEG


This is a no brainer if you’re also wanting to protect your immune system. Fresh, low starch fruit and vegetables are the best natural way to pack your body full of vitamins and minerals. High in antioxidants, they can support both your immune and nervous system.


Eat: green leafy and cruciferous vegetables, mushrooms, onions, peppers, artichokes. Cook with spices, especially ginger and garlic as these are anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-parasitic and high in antioxidants.


+ INCREASE FIBRE INTAKE


Fibre can aid the removal of toxins in the body by helping maintain a functioning intestinal tract. Fibrous foods also contain an abundance of minerals and vitamins.


Eat: Load up on insoluble and soluble fibre containing foods, such as green leafy and cruciferous veg, whole grains, oats, lentils.


+ STAY HYDRATED


We should all be drinking 2L of water a day but who reading this can honestly say that they do this?


A huge percentage of the human body is made up of water which we require for our bodies to maintain healthy functioning. To aid with immunity and general health, try adding apple cider vinegar and a squeeze of lemon to warm water and drink first thing in the morning, this will also help boost and aid toxin removal and boost immunity. You can also try adding different fruits or herbs to water to boost taste and potency. Try some of the following; mint and lemon, watermelon, rosemary or orange.


+ HAVE EPSOM SALT/MAGNESIUM SALT BATHS


You don’t need scientific studies to show that taking a bath can reduce your stress levels. Adding Epsom salts or Magnesium or even Himalayan salt to your bath is a great addition to reduce stress, relax muscles, loosen stiff joints, aid sleep and reduce inflammation. If you want extra relaxation, try adding an essential oil like lavender oil.


+ MEDITATE


The time is finally upon us to take up a regular meditation practice if you don't have one already.


Mediation doesn't have to be sitting cross legged for hours, we can meditate for 5 minutes, and it can be as simple as following your inhale and exhale. The calm app is a great place to start.


I myself have been focusing my daily meditation in this past week (which you may also want to try) on imaging a collective healing of the human race and the earth. By focusing my thoughts and imagining a healing light from the sky, coming deep from the universe, reaching down and touching each and every person, animal, organism, molecule on this planet. That through this light we clear any illness, any disease, any pain or suffering and envisaging healing of the whole planet. This instantly brings me back to a feeling of calmness, stillness and a sense of peace.


If you struggle to meditate, it's also O.K. to find your form of meditation, that could be walking or running, cooking, gardening - something that brings you back to yourself and instils a sense of calmness within.


+ BREATHE


Breathing is something we do automatically but many of us struggle to breathe correctly. When we use our diaphragm to breathe (not all of us do), it allows an oxygen exchange process within the lungs and can help slow down the ‘fight or flight’ stress response. Have you ever felt anxious or scared and noticed how we stop breathing? We tend to hold our breath when we face fear or are nervous often increasing the emotion and making things more overwhelming?


Relax your jaw, don't try to control your exhale and breathe deeply in to the diaphragm. If you need help in identifying how you are breathing and how to improve the breath then try Inspirationalbreathing.com.


+ YOGA/EXERCISE


If you are stuck indoors, get online and find a simple HIIT training or an online yoga or pilates class that you can do in your living room. Exercise has positive effects on mood, releases endorphins and will allow you to clear your mind and focus your energy elsewhere. Most importantly, exercise can help improve adrenal gland functionality.


If you don’t have a current regime or practice, then YouTube is a great starting point for online and free classes to follow. Alternatively, if you are able to, get out in nature and take a long walk in your nearest park or forest, connect with nature, get your feet in the earth and ground yourself.


+ HAVE A POSITIVE MINDSET


Let’s use this time to reconnect with ourselves, what we have in life, taking time to appreciate things, rather than focusing on a lack of what we don't have or what we think we might need.


Times of crisis provide the space for reflection on what is really important in life such as family, friends and our health. Let’s take the time to slowdown from our busy lives, we have been given this opportunity to step back from the school run or the commute to work and have been given the opportunity to stay at home, reconnect with our families, reflect and have some time to ourselves.


When we create positive thoughts it manifests into positive energy so that we dont get tied down in a spiral of fear. Focus on what you can do, not what you can't do or what is out of your control. Positive vibes, love and gratitude that we can share with those around us. Collectively, a positive mind set can change everything and boost your immune and nervous system.


Although we have been isolated we are all together and connected and we must remember this - that together we are stronger, and that separation only weakens us.


WHAT TO AVOID


- CAFFEINE


Caffeine is a stimulant which can increase our heart rate, blood sugar, levels, disrupt body temperature and increase restlessness, which all contribute to disrupted sleep patterns, fatigue and compromised immune system. Too much caffeine also has a major impact on the functioning of the adrenal system. Caffeine can also deplete important nutrients including B vitamins, Magnesium, Zinc and Calcium, also increasing pressure on our adrenal glands.


- SUGAR


This includes refined sugar, pre-packaged foods and refined foods like white bread and pasta. When we eat refined sugar, processed and pre-packaged foods, it can cause fluctuation in the body’s blood glucose levels. When we have stable blood glucose, our mood, energy, focus and sleep remains more balanced.


Fruits are a good substitute if you have a sweet tooth as they contain many vitamins and minerals that will boost your immune system but opt for those with lower sugar content such as berries which also have higher antioxidant values than other types of fruit.


- ALCOHOL


Alcohol can increase low moods and contribute to feelings of anxiousness, as well as depleting the immune system of vital minerals and nutrients. Alcohol also affects the metabolism of tryptophan which is essential for serotonin. Low serotonin levels can lead to sleep problems, sugar cravings.


- THE MEDIA


Try and take some time out of social media, watching the news or listening to the radio. Whilst it is important to keep up to date with what's going on, by listening to negative streams of information from your phone, tv and computer screens only raises stress and fear in people.


Where possible, keep your exposure to this negative stimuli to a minimum, you might even want to take a digital detox, creating more space to and time for you to explore your new meditation practice or cooking skills.


Keep focusing on positive thinking, spreading joy, love and peace in the face of this adversity. If you feel the need to share something, share something positive. Speak about positive things to and with others. By adding to the fear or listening to the fear, it only spreads, like a domino affect. This is the time, more than ever, that we should be spreading positivity, love, compassion and working together as a community and looking out for one another.



Remember, we are all in this together. Whilst we must keep ourselves protected, let's use this time of uncertainty to put ourselves first, before our jobs, before the errands that we have to run. Let's use the opportunity to SLOW DOWN and appreciate what is around us and what we can do, not what we can't.


Let's help others where we can, spreading compassion, giving help to those who're in need and even to those who don't. We have to take responsibility for our thoughts and our actions because all of us have an impact in some way on everything that’s happening around us.


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