We’ve been living in the wake of COVID-19 for nearly a year, and enduring a number of unfamiliar stressors that are causing anxieties to stay elevated. Whether you’re fearful of catching the virus; missing out on upcoming activities and milestones; or struggling with the economic toll the pandemic has had on us both individually and collectively, there are things you can proactively do to make life better.
One issue that concerns me greatly as both a cardiologist and trained psychotherapist is the real impact quarantining, social distancing and increased isolation has had on our emotional and physical health. In many ways, the consequence of social distancing has unearthed a “silent pandemic,” and if we ignore it, some serious health issues can follow.
How You Can Safeguard Your Health during this pandemic
While no one can wave a magic wand and remove all of the stress and heartache we’ve experienced during this pandemic, there are things everyone can ingratiate into their daily routine to manage anxieties and regain some of our lost human interactions.
- Socialize online. Although we may be limited in how we can connect with one another in-person, technology can help us virtually connect at the “heart level.” Zoom, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp and other similar applications have made it easy to see and hear from family and friends on a more regular basis. Be very intentional about connecting online with others. Set up dates and events. Make it fun and interactive. One of the positive reframes we can take from the coronavirus is that, in many ways, technology has brought us closer together.
- Get up and exercise. Exercising is a powerful mood booster that releases tension from your muscles, reduces your levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol and boosts your body’s level of feel-good endorphins. Some studies have shown that aerobic exercise is a quicker mood elevator than antidepressants. You may be wondering what the best type of exercise is to reduce stress, but my answer is always the same — the type you will enjoy and continue to do day-in and day-out. Even just a 20-minute walk or dancing to your favorite songs can make a powerful difference in how you feel!
- Get grounded. Did you know that the Earth’s surface contains free electrons that are continually replenished through solar radiation and lightning strikes? Did you also know that your body naturally absorbs those particles when you make physical contact with the ground? These electrons keep your body’s innate electrical circuitry properly balanced, which lowers stress and increases calmness in the body by moderating heart rate variability, nervous system activity and stress hormone secretion. Plus, it helps to promote normal blood pressure. So, if conditions allow, walk barefoot outside. If not, try doing deep breathing, meditation, yoga, Qigong or Tai Chi. These practices not only release stress but also allow you to cope more easily with the stressors you encounter throughout the day.
- Incorporate ashwagandha as a preventative. This powerful herb works by stabilizing your body’s stress feedback loop, so it releases less cortisol. I’ve been taking it myself for more than 20 years, and it has made an enormous difference. The best form of ashwagandha I’ve found is called Sensoril. In studies, it has been shown to help people manage anxiousness due to stress while also improving sleep quality, physical mobility, mood and concentration. It’s so impressive that I even added it to my Omega Q Plus ULTRA supplement formula, in addition to other top-recommended nutrients to support your heart and overall health.
- Change up your diet. Instead of stress eating leftover sugary treats from the holidays, pivot and consume foods with DHA omega-3 fatty acids instead. You can find this nutrient in foods such as wild-caught salmon, flaxseeds, nuts and DHA-fortified eggs, and it serves as a powerful mood-booster to build receptors for the “feel-good hormone” serotonin. Dark chocolate also contains a mood-boosting biochemical called phenylethylamine, which is the same chemical released when we are in love. If you have trouble calming down, also try drinking a cup of chamomile tea.
Regardless of how difficult this pandemic has been on us, stay hopeful – we’ll reconnect with our loved ones, partake in the activities we previously enjoyed and have more freedom to plan for the future. Plus, if we can all take this time to practice some extra self-care habits, we’ll come out the other side even better off than before.
Bio: Dr. Stephen Sinatra is one of the most highly respected and sought-after cardiologists whose integrative approach to treating cardiovascular disease has revitalized patients with even the most advanced forms of illness. He is known as one of America’s top integrative cardiologists, combining conventional medical treatments for heart disease with complementary nutritional, anti-aging and psychological therapies. He is an author, speaker and adviser for the research and development of nutritional supplements with Healthy Directions