As if we needed any more stress in our modern world…then along comes Coronavirus 2019. The virus and its disease COVID-19 is boosting our collective anxieties. This is an exceptionally bad time for those that normally suffer from anxiety disorders. The extra daily stressors created by the COVID-19 crisis, the ever present 24/7 news cycle and social media combined with increased time on our hands has been a recipe for heightening anxieties, depression, and sleeping disorders.
This is part 1 of a 3-part blog (Mild, Moderate, Severe Anxiety) on anxiety coping mechanisms. As a naturopathic doctor, my suggestions are holistic in nature, which I hope will challenge some to break harmful habits and try some new ways to help create a more balanced mood.
Everyone is feeling more anxious during these times of sudden and uncomfortable changes. Getting more control over your environment and establishing reoccurring healthy practices is key to controlling mild anxiety.
Manage the News
“Headline Anxiety” is a term being used to describe the ill feeling people experience when getting updated news. It is important to limit the amount of news you consume. Do not keep checking your favorite news websites or keep the TV news on all day long. You don’t have to tune out, but you need to create a daily news schedule, so you remain updated, but not inundated.
First, determine how much time you will dedicate to reading and/or watching news. Try and only have at most two times daily you check in with your media of choice.
Secondly, turn off push notifications on your mobile devices. A study found that push notifications exerted a negative influence on cognitive function by disrupting our daily tasks.
Lastly, no news before bed. It is imperative you do not consume any news media before your nightly sleep routine. Stressful news stimulates your stress response, which can interfere with sleep. Turn the TV off, put the iPad down, charge your phone for the night, and pick up a book.
Eat Simple and Fresh
Stress-eating is a popular coping mechanism. Unfortunately, most people choose unhealthy snacks and meals. Additionally, the average American lacks basic cooking skills, contributing to increased consumption of snacks, processed foods, and repetitive meals.
A common scene at grocery stores throughout the USA during state Stay-at-Home orders has been bare toilet paper and processed food shelves. Interestingly, fresh produce is still relatively abundant.
When planning a meal, first think “What’s simple and fresh?” Meals need not be complex to be delicious. Likewise, you don’t need massive doses of protein and fats if your daily activity has decreased.
More beans anyone? Eating fewer animal proteins and more beans simplifies a diet, saves money and improves overall health. Not everyone tolerates beans. But, starting off with smaller amounts and slowly increasing portion sizes helps to improve legume digestion.
Beans Indian dal, lentil soup, vegetarian chili, and beans and rice are classic, low-cost dishes that also pack a nutritional punch. They are also easy to make and allow for the use of large quantities of fresh vegetables.
Tip: Pressure cookers, such as Instant Pot, are fantastic kitchen tools to quickly cook dried beans (no overnight soaking needed) and make quick broths out of your vegetable and meat scraps.
Stir Fries These tasty and quick meals are an easy way to consume large quantities of fresh vegetables such as bok choy, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, onion, green beans, bean sprouts, carrots, celery, etc.
Soups Use up all that home-made broth (yes, make broth from any unused veggies).
Salads Salad varieties are endless. Choose from kale quinoa salad, roasted vegetable, and anti-pasta to name a few.
Decluttering has been shown to calm the mind, reduce its wandering, and energize. It can also create more self-confidence and self-sufficiency.
When you clean and organize, your brain feels more balanced and in control. Especially now, when families are spending a lot more time in the home, decluttering will reduce family tensions and make social distancing less stressful.
Tip: Learn from Marie Kondo: NETFLIX Tidying Up, read a NY Times article with her, or view one of her many online videos (e.g. Top 10 Tips).
Physical stress actually reduces your mental stress. It helps to reduce your 24-hour cortisol (stress hormone) levels, improves blood sugar, promotes healthy levels of mood stabilizing neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine), improves sleep quality, and builds your self-confidence and esteem.
Exercise is essential for optimal health. While state COVID-19 Stay-at-Home orders have shut down gyms, people everywhere are finding ways to exercise at home.
Here are some activities to consider:
Daily walks with or without family, depending on your sanity needs
Daily run (if you like to or able to)
TV or online classes: yoga, PIYO, stretch and strength, bar, etc.
Reduce Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, and chocolate, as well as some supplements and energy drinks. High doses can increase anxiety and result in insomnia. Did you know that 25% of all caffeine you consume daily is still circulating in your blood at bedtime?
Not everyone metabolizes caffeine the same way and an individual’s ability can change depending on levels consumed. It is a great time to set a goal of reducing caffeine consumption by 25-50%.
Increase Magnesium Intake
Magnesium is a mineral used throughout our bodies for proper function, including:
Energy: Helps convert food into energy
Protein formation: Helps create new proteins from amino acids
Genetic maintenance: Helps create and repair DNA and RNA
Muscle health: Is part of the contraction and relaxation of muscles
Nervous system health: Helps regulate neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout your brain and nervous system
Magnesium has been shown to help reduce depression, support better sleep, improve blood sugar metabolism, is helpful against headaches, and has anti-inflammatory activity. Everyone who suffers from sore muscles, muscle cramps, sleep issues, or anxiety should be adding Epsom salts (1-4 cups) to their bathwater nightly.
There are different forms of magnesium available for different purposes. Below is a list of magnesium supplements our clinic carries with general recommendations for use:
Reacted Magnesium (OrthoMolecular): Made up of three different chelate forms (DiMagnesium Malate, Magnesium Citrate USP, TRAACS® ). Great product to start with for muscle cramps, poor sleep, hypertension and mood.
Laxative Formula (Integrative Therapeutics): Magnesium Hydroxide is used along with mucilage and motility supportive herbs to help keep the intestines moving. Use against constipation. Does not contain senna or .
MagMind (Jarrow): is a form of magnesium proven in studies to help with cognitive functioning and memory. Use it against brain fog, memory loss, or difficulties paying attention.
Manage Your Anxiety Naturally
As can be seen, there are many easy, natural options you can do on your own if you are experiencing mild levels of anxiety. However, while everyone suffers from mild anxiety at some point in life, others experience much more intense feelings of stress and anxiety. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of our series on managing stress as we discuss natural options that work with your body for dealing with moderate and severe anxiety.
If you need help managing your anxiety, contact us for a secure video appointment today.