Let’s start with this:
“The number of prescriptions filled for anti-anxiety drugs spiked 34% and orders for anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia medications also increased from mid-February to mid-March and peaked around March 15, according to a new report released Thursday.
The increase “demonstrates the serious impact COVID-19 may be having on our nation’s mental health,”…– Webmd.com article found here
While not totally surprising, it’s still a sad statement and in many ways could have been avoided. I’m not going to debate the necessity of the stay-at-home orders. My research and findings are about how we can all stay sane and keep our immune systems healthy and happy.
Everywhere I have looked, I continue to see references to immunity. The vast majority of deaths attributed to the virus were people who had one or several underlying health issues and therefore were immunosuppressed. So, obviously, staying healthy means maintaining a healthy immune system.
Let’s start by looking at some of the signs and symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety and fear.
Stress and Chronic Stress
- Irritability, which can be extreme
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty sleeping
- feeling helpless
- a perceived loss of control
- frequent infections or illnesses
Find more information about stress at webmd.com here
- Loss of interest in otherwise pleasurable things
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Aches, pains, cramps
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite or weight
Find more information about depression at healthline.com here
- Panic attacks
- Pounding heart
- breathing problems
- upset stomach
- extreme fatigue
- increase in blood pressure
- muscle aches and other pains
Find more information about anxiety at healthline.com here
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- pain or tightness in the chest
- headaches, dizziness, feeling faint
- confusion or disorientation
- fear of losing control
- feelings of dread
- fear of dying
Find more information about fear/phobia at nhs.uk here
After researching and compiling these lists, what I find most interesting is the similarity between all four. When you review the lists, do any of these sound familiar? I think most of us would (sadly) have to say “yes.”
If you are experiencing many of the symptoms from any of these lists, I hope you will seek professional help. I am not a doctor — and I don’t even play one on TV — my goal here is to provide information that might prompt you to do some research to help improve your own personal condition. Another goal is to help you find NATURAL ways to help calm you and improve your overall well being, which can also boost your natural immunity.
So, how can we improve these symptoms of stress, depression anxiety and fear so that we feel better AND help boost our immune systems?
This one didn’t make any of the lists, but I think it should: turn off the “news”!!
“It’s important where you get your news” someone recently told me. I couldn’t agree more. But instead of arguing about which talking head is telling us fact or fiction, how about we just turn them ALL off? Ingesting too much “news” is a major culprit of increased stress, anxiety, depression and fear. Sadly, instilling fear seems to be one of MSM’s (main stream media) favorite games these days. Tuning OUT/turning OFF all of the chatter will be helpful to all of us.
#1 on many lists: Be Observant.
I like this one. Instead of ignoring your body, listen to it! Check the list of signs and symptoms again – my guess is that you will find a few things that you are struggling with. Understanding what is happening might help you find the right solution to feel “better” or “normal” again. Hopefully some of the suggestions offered here will help you manage and improve the symptoms.
I recently wrote an article about how to boost your immune system. Interestingly, the list to help you reduce stress, anxiety, depression and fear has a few crossovers to the list I wrote to help boost your immune system. Check out the list here and think about adding a few of the activities to your daily routine. Hopefully, that list and the suggestions I offer here will not only help you feel more relaxed mentally and physically, but will also strengthen your immune system.
Get Outside and Exercise
This one is so important that in addition to the article I wrote about boosting your immune system, I felt compelled to include it here too. Just about every article I read about how to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and fear included exercise. Why is that? Exercise lowers your body’s stress hormones – such as cortisol – and helps release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers.
I don’t know about you, but there were several nights when I was really struggling to sleep. My mind was racing, and I was unable to shut it down. Luckily, my 3-ish mile morning walks with my dogs allows me the opportunity for fresh air, sunshine, time to think/meditate and to give me the ability to commune with nature and neighbors. Pippin’s energy now has us doing an additional 30-minute walk at night and it has really helped me to shake off much of the day’s stress. All very good stuff.
So, take a walk, get on a bike, dance to your favorite music or practice yoga. All of these activities will help improve your mind and body. And, if you are outside, you get the extra benefits of fresh air and sunshine – both HUGE immune system boosters.
Check out more great information about how exercise can reduce stress from the Mayo Clinic here.
Read a Good Book
When was the last time you visited a library? I know most of us will buy online but there is something truly awesome about a library. If you don’t want to leave your house, there are a gazillion online outlets for downloading books to read and books to listen to. I recently discovered Chirp, which offers discount audiobooks. First, I downloaded several self improvement books and then I treated myself to a classic and one of my favorites – A Tale of Two Cities. For almost 17 hours, I was consumed by the awesomeness that is Charles Dickens. If you haven’t read a classic in a while (or ever) I highly recommend you pick one and learn why it has withstood the test of time. Here are some great options.
Get your hands dirty and grow something!
“Getting your hands dirty is actually a good thing. The more soil you get under your fingernails, the more you are exposing yourself to bacteria. And, the more bacteria you expose your system to, the harder it will be for them to invade your body.”– stress.org article found here
Lucky for me, I seem to have inherited a green thumb. Both of my grandmothers were gardeners and if you drive by my mom’s house, there is no doubt that she loves the chaos of flowers of every color beautifully arranged around her yard. And, I don’t know about you, but I just can’t wear gloves when I am working in the yard. I need to *feel* the dirt and the roots and leaves and the flowers. My guess is I have probably ingested a bunch of dirt along the way too – not on purpose, but if you have dirt/potting soil up to your elbows and your nose itches, things happen. Turns out that can be helpful too. I absolutely love this.
Another great thing about gardening, as if there aren’t enough great things already, is that when you are busy digging and planting and watering and enjoying, you are actually doing a form of meditation, which will help to create a sense of calmness and well being. My Grandma Mitchell used to hum while she was gardening. Maybe you will too.
Learn a New Language
If someone could explain the allure of Candy Crush, or any repetitive “game” like that, I would appreciate it. If I have some free time, I prefer to read and actually learn something. A few years ago, I discovered Duolingo – a free program that will systematically guide you through the process of learning to read and speak a new language. I kinda fell off the wagon when I had my hip surgery, but I am hoping to pick it back up soon. I really enjoyed the learning process. So maybe try Spanish one week, French the next week and one of the 22 other languages they offer during the third week and then decide which one really speaks to you. (Ha – pun intended). You can get started here.
So there you go – SIX great ideas to help you relax, refocus, and reenergize:
- Tune out the Noise.
- Pay attention to You.
- Move your Body.
- Engage your Mind.
- Grow Something.
- Learn something New.
I hope this information will help you find something that will calm your mind, body and soul. There are links to just about every source I found/used, but if you would like more information about anything listed here, please feel free to contact me.