Ways to Combat Stress
The emergence of a serious pandemic in 2020 has lead to major life changes for many Americans, creating a great deal of anxiety and stress. Stress can be very dangerous to our bodies, increasing cortisol levels from the adrenal glands. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates sugar levels, reduces stress and enhances brain function. When this is elevated, it can lead to weight gain, fatigue, difficulty concentrating as well as irritability and headaches. Luckily, there are many healthy ways to reduce stress. This post will talk about a few ways we can feel better during these trying times.
Exercise is my favorite way to destress. I have been a runner for my entire adult life. I have found that running while listening to upbeat music puts me in a better mind space. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of exercising due to recent closings of gyms and quarantine rules. Here are a few ideas to help exercise with limited space
Yoga - There are plenty of apps and youtube channels dedicated to yoga. Not only is this a great exercise, the practice of yoga focuses on deep breathing techniques that help calm the mind and relax the soul. There are many types of yoga, so if you tried one and didn't like it, please don't give up. Keep exploring. I'm sure you'll find one thats right for you.
Workout videos - Workout videos allow you to be active in the comfort of your living room. Often these do not require any equipment. These are a great option for someone who needs some motivation. It's like having a personal coach in your living room. My favorite work outs are the Beach Body series such as T25 and Insanity (no I do not work for this company). There are exercise classes for all levels from beginner to advanced. I encourage you to go on Youtube, Netflix, or any other streaming service to find a video thats right for you.
Some exercises that you can do on your own include jumping jacks, burpees, lunges, squats and planks. All of these will strengthen the body and increase the heart rate. It is also a good idea to have a set of light weights in the house so that you can lift whenever you are watching TV or have been sitting for a long time.
If you can leave the house, go on a walk outside. It is great exercise and it really does help to get some fresh air! You know the old saying: " every mile you walk adds another minute onto your life".
Jessica's tips: The recommendation from the Academy of Cardiology is about 30 minutes minimum of cardiovascular exercise daily that increases the heart rate above 130 beats per minute.
When you become anxious or depressed, it is a good idea to try to focus on the positives in your life. Sometimes we lose perspective. Meditation does not need to be an hour long process. It can be merely a 5 minute session to re-center your thinking. One way that you could start meditating is by writing down a few mantras. These are positive sayings that you can repeat daily.
A few examples are:
"I am strong, I am calm, I can do anything that I put my mind to"
"This difficult time will pass and I will be stronger for it"
"I will work hard to look at the positives in life"
Again, think of anything that pertains to your life that can bring your mind to a better place.
3. Find a Hobby
Boredom can yield negative thinking. Find an enjoyable hobby and create something you can be proud of. Learning a new skill will also boost your cognition. You can join an online book club or learn to sew or cook. This is a great time to learn something new! Take advantage of this time, because once we go back to our normal way of life, you may not have the time or energy to learn a new hobby. One of my favorite things to do is cook. I have been practicing new recipes for the family and have been learning new cooking techniques - especially ones that can incorporate more healthy fruits and veggies into our diet. Write down a list of three hobbies that you always wanted to try and then.... Get Started!
Yes, I know, social distancing. What I am saying is, call or FaceTime the grandparents that you haven't spoken to in months. They would probably love to hear from you. Call your friends to see how they are doing. Even write cards to the friends that you want to keep up with but haven't seen in a while. We finally have a bit more time to slow down, so take stock of what is important in our lives. Make friends and family a priority. Believe me, you will feel better for it.
5. Stress reducing herbals
Here are some natural ways to reduce your stress brought to you by nature.
Kava tea- In Fiji, where the kava root is harvested, it is a tradition that after a family returns home from a long day, they sit around the table and share a bowl of kava tea. Several medical studies have proven its medicinal benefits and have showed it to have similar efficacy to prescription medications like Xanax. Just don't take it with alcohol as they both are metabolized in your liver.
CBD- Its recent popularity has risen it to the top of everyones medicine cabinets. Cannabidiol, from the same family as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), yields many of the same benefits without the euphoric "high" feeling. CBDs benefits are well studied as an anti-anxiety medication. It also is a powerful anti-inflammatory, pain reliever and muscle relaxant. Fun fact, last year a medication- Epidiolex was given FDA certification for treatment of seizures. This medication contains CBD.
Valerian Root- From the valerian plant which is native to Europe and Asia. This well studied root has been a go to for treatment of insomnia and anxiety. Often taken in tea or pill form, this will help you at the end of a day to relax and get you a restful sleep.
Chamomile- When my husband lived in Ecuador, he said you could find this on every block. It was common to take chamomile flowers and place them in a pillowcase for a peaceful sleep. Commonly consumed as a tea, chamomile's use goes back thousands of years. It is a potent de-stressor as well as helping with cold symptoms and menstruation pain. I encourage you to get into a regular routine of drinking this pleasant medicinal herb.
Catnip- Well known as a treat that gets your cat high, catnip is an active ingredient in most relaxation teas. Catnip causes a light calming effect and is great to combine with any of your favorite nighttime teas.
6. Moon Milk
This is a slightly more unusual way to relax, but since I started making moon milk before bedtime, it has helped me sleep more soundly. I read about this concoction when I had found a recipe for moon milk on Pintrest. This drink is inspired by the Ayurvedic belief that warm milk helps induce relaxation and restful sleep. Start with some cow's milk, or plant based milks, such as soy milk, coconut milk or almond milk and then add spices like cardamom, ginger or cinnamon and a few other antioxidant rich herbs. I will touch on this in more detail in a future post all about moon milk. I will also provide some recipes at that time.
7. Do Good to Feel Good
While you have more time on your hands, it is a great time to help out those in need. More than ever, food pantries and meal delivery services need help. Many people are stranded in their homes without being able to leave due to their medical conditions. It is a great time to help out with programs like meals on wheels and senior services. Go online and search some great ways to help out! I hear puppy adoption is free these days...
Please stay safe! Just know that medical professionals are trying our best to help out in any way that we can. Please, follow these guidelines daily so that you can reduce your stress and stay happy and healthy. Please feel free to message me with any questions! Don't forget to wash those hands!