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We are navigating uncharted waters during this unprecedented time of social distancing. We are slowing down our fast-paced lives and spending most of our time at home. We are cooking more, sleeping more, reconnecting with friends on social media, and reflecting more on our personal lives and the world as a whole.
On the positive side, we are seeing people come together with increased compassion and unity. People are less focused on themselves and more concerned about neighbors, family and friends. And we are truly seeing the value of spending time with loved ones.
When faced with tough times, we find out exactly how well we handle stress and adversity. I know that for most of us, this has been a strange and difficult time. Social distancing may be turning into isolation, financial strain, and overwhelm. For some of us, it has even crossed over into situational depression.
For most of us, our daily lifestyles have made a dramatic shift during this pandemic. On the surface, it sounds wonderful to replace the hustle and bustle of a hectic morning commute with a little extra time to sleep in and a leisurely walk across the house to tune in to your online meeting. But, when it isn’t something you planned or prepared for, the sudden change by itself is a stressor for many. And if that isn’t enough to do it, then taking a trip down empty streets to a grocery store with empty shelves and masks on every face you meet may be enough to make you feel the upheaval and strain of what we’re collectively going through right now.
There is no one I trust more for insight into coping with our current crisis than Gabor Mate, MD, a survivor of the Holocaust and an expert on mental illness. A large part of his career has been devoted to understanding how prolonged stress affects our mental and physical health, which I feel is at the core of our challenges today.
According to Dr. Mate, our interactions with our environment determine much of our brain’s chemistry. Moods and mood disorders are often a reflection of the stressors in our immediate environment. In a stressful situation like we’re currently experiencing, where we feel like we have no control, it’s normal to not know how to cope, and our brain chemistry changes as a result.
Reacting with fear or sadness as we come to terms with this dramatic change in our lifestyles is completely normal. But when we struggle to move on with our lives and experience any of the following symptoms, we’ve crossed over into situational depression.
Symptoms of situational depression may include:
If you are experiencing depression, I assure you that you are far from alone. And the good news is that there are things you can do to overcome it – you don’t just have to wait it out.
1. Put yourself (and your family) on a schedule. Right now, it feels like a lot of what is happening is out of our control and that can be disconcerting for many of us. One way to take back your control is to create a schedule and stick to it. Healthy sleep is essential for mental health, so set a time to turn off the wifi and get some much needed rest. Emotional eating or eating from boredom is also an issue right now, so set meal times and snack times to keep your kitchen temptations to a minimum.
2. Eat healthy. Snack foods, junk foods, and comfort foods are tempting when we’re stressed, but if you want to avoid the “quarantine 15” weight gain and keep yourself healthy enough to overcome illness, then eating for wellness is essential. Cutting out processed foods with inflammatory fats, pesticides, growth hormones, and other chemicals is crucial for not only your health but also your weight loss success. Create a meal plan for yourself and your family based on the fresh produce and meats available in your area right now. If you’re looking for inspiration, grab a copy of my new Radical Recipes cookbook!
3. Exercise regularly. I know it’s hard to feel motivated when you struggle with depression, but it’s a key to overcoming depression. Exercise increases endorphins, the feel-good hormones your body makes that keep your moods up and increase your sense of wellbeing. Studies show that regularly exercise is as effective as antidepressant medication and is great for your immune system as well.
4. Get outside. There’s nothing like breathing fresh air and getting your feet on the ground. If you don’t have a yard of your own, parks, hiking trails, beaches, and golf courses are open in many areas of the country. Earthing, the practice of putting your body in conductive contact with the earth, for even one hour has been shown in studies to reduce stress, improve sleep, decrease inflammation, boost the immune system, improve moods, and increase feelings of wellbeing.
5. Find creative ways to connect with loved ones or others in your community. Social distancing has made quite a few of us feel isolated from our loved ones and communities. Creative solutions from all over the world have popped up on social media, from people singing on their balconies together to online meetings for families to connect all at once. Even old-fashioned letter writing is picking up again.
6. Join an online support group or get counseling. According to Brene Brown’s research, people are not meant to go through difficult situations alone, and they experience less stress and anxiety during adversity when they have the proper support. There are free support groups on Facebook and other platforms, and therapists have brought their practices online to accommodate clients during this time. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. I invite you join one (or more!) of my Facebook groups: Radical Metabolism Revolution, Fat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle.
7. Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby. When we found out we were going to be spending so much time at home, many felt inspired to do new things like meditating, taking an online class, learning how to cook a new cuisine, starting a garden, dusting off their sewing machine to make masks, or learn a new skill or hobby. If you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands now, challenge yourself to find a new passion or tackle a goal you’ve put on the backburner. If that sounds overwhelming, then focus on one small thing you’ve been wanting to do and take steps to get it done.
8. Unplug. Social media, television, and every online resource imaginable is consumed right now with news of this pandemic. It doesn’t take long to become overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, and depressed. I feel confident that we are at a point now where there won’t be a dramatic shift in our collective situation if we turn off our devices and walk away from all the updates and opinions for a while. Go take a hot bath, go for a walk, or even just take a nap in the sun and take a break from it all to recharge yourself.
9. Nourish your neurotransmitters. Stress alone is enough to deplete normal levels of neurotransmitters, so it only makes sense to feed your brain what it needs to cope with the increased demand. Nutrients for neurotransmitters include amino acids, Omega 3 and 6 essential fats, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, choline, and probiotics. I recommend supplementing with UNI KEY Health’s Ultra H-3 Plus, Super-EPA, Flora-Key, and Female/Male Multiple for both neurotransmitter and immune support.
10. Support your adrenals and stress response. Chronic stress also depletes our stress hormones and puts a strain on our adrenal glands, which produce our stress hormones. If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, “wired but tired” at night, waking up tired, craving sugar and caffeine, or have dark circles or bags under your eyes, these are signs you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue. The adrenals need B vitamins, pantothenic acid, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, and other supportive nutrients during times of stress. I recommend taking UNI KEY Health’s Adrenal Formula and Mag-Key to feed your adrenals and support your stress response, along with avoiding caffeine and processed sugar, getting enough good quality sleep, and avoiding over-exertion.
I’d love to know what YOU are doing to stay motivated and productive during this time? Comment below!