People you know are getting sick. Kids are home from school. You may be working from home or out of work completely. You are unable to get together with your family and friends. Places you would normally go are closed. This is a challenging time for everyone with concern for loved ones, uncertainty about the future and lifestyle being turned upside down. This environment of isolation and stress makes it easy to get overwhelmed, develop sleep issues or struggle with mood. Then to top it off typical stress relief methods like hanging out with friends, going to the gym or getting a massage are not options.
As such, it seemed like a good time to share some thoughts on stress management and mood support. Although we need to be physically apart, we are lucky to live in a time of technology that can keep us connected. You can call an old friend with whom you have lost touch, video chat with other family members, or join an online community such as a support group or book club. Despite the fact that it is called a “stay-at-home” order, you are still allowed to go outside as long as you keep a 6-feet distance from those not in your household. Make sure you get out of your house for some fresh air and hopefully sunlight so you don’t get cabin fever. Daylight can also boost serotonin levels and affect our circadian rhythm to help with sleep issues. Do things like go for a walk, garden or play an outdoor game with your kids. Even though there are many components of routine that may be thrown off, maintaining whatever aspects possible will help provide structure and stability. Maybe you don’t need to be up at 5 a.m., but still get up at a reasonable hour instead of staying in bed late so you don’t throw off your sleep pattern. If you took a midday break then continue to do so now. You may not have the same job tasks that need to get done, but create a to-do-list to complete to maintain a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Even though some stress reduction techniques are off the table during this time of quarantine, there are still a variety of ones that you can utilize. Try things like breathing exercises, journaling, engaging in hobbies, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, etc. Exercise is a great stress reliever to release tension, boost mood, increase energy and improve sleep among other health benefits. You could try yoga, tai chi, or qigong which combine activity with mindfulness. There are also so many online videos or phone apps for fitness available so try out different ones to find one you like. Even something as simple as having a positive attitude can help not just on the mental-emotional level, but physically as well.
Last, but certainly not least, reach out to your doctor — we are here to help. Not only can we provide an attentive ear, but there are natural methods to help in managing the symptoms of stress from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods to vitamins and amino acids to herbal remedies. There are numerous ways to affect our endocrine and nervous system function as well as help with muscle tension, sleep, digestive upset and more. So if you have health concerns schedule a time to discuss with your doctor, because although you may be social distancing, you are not alone.
Dr. Jennalyn McBride is a naturopathic doctor at Northwest Center for Optimal Health in Marysville, WA. Find out more at www.ncoh.net, www.facebook.com/naturalmedicinedoctors or by calling 360-651-9355.