The stress of staying at home and our "new normal"
I know that right now all of our focus and attention is on Covid-19 and "flattening the curve." We are looking out for any symptoms like fever and cough, shortness of breath, etc. But sometimes when we are hyper-focusing on one thing, we lose sight of other things happening around us.
In that last couple weeks, I have had more calls, texts and emails related to other symptoms NOT related to the pandemic. Here is a short list of some of them:
-elevated blood pressure
-migrating aches and pains
You get the idea.
When I ask them what's going on, there is a common theme that arises.
What do all of these people have in common?
They are all unfamiliar with how to deal with this crisis. They are uncertain about the future. They are struggling with having everyone home and trying to find space and personal time, not to mention work. Basically, people are anxious. And that anxiety is showing up, physically and emotionally.
Yesterday, I had a patient call me to discuss some dizziness she was experiencing.
She was sitting with her son explaining something and started to get a little frustrated; she noticed that her patience had been getting a little thin since the whole quarantine started. When she got up, she suddenly felt very dizzy and actually lost her balance. She started to feel a little lightheaded and decided that she would lay down. After laying down for an hour in the dark, she took her blood pressure and it was high (145/90 mmHg). She became concerned that something was wrong with her kidneys because she read that kidneys control blood pressure and she had a history of kidney stones. And wasn't an hour of laying down enough to relax and lower her blood pressure? What has happening?
Then, of course, all the other nagging symptoms over the last few months crept into her headspace. Headaches, some digestive changes, intermittent neck and back pain...and thus the vicious cycle began of scaring herself into thinking there was something serious happening.
When we chatted, it was obvious that what she was experiencing was the result of increased anxiety and stress. However, the odd thing was that she felt she was actually doing more to support her wellbeing. She was trying to meditate and exercise. So, she thought that her 30 minutes of self care, three times a week, was probably enough to counteract the added stress and overload she was now facing.
Another person was struggling with her grade school aged kids and having to explain that they were not going to "kill grandpa" but rather how they were trying to keep grandpa safe. How do you even navigate this concern with your 7 or 8 year old? Stressful? You better believe it.
What about the simple mundane of just having to clean up after everyone all day long? Or the emotional bandwidth required of moms to attend to everyones emotional needs right now?
These are the "simple" things that are affecting us every day.They are also the things that are adding up and compounding our stress response. And it's very real and results in tangible symptoms.
As I mentioned in previous posts, our stress response is a mechanism that we developed via evolution to ensure our survival. But when we encounter long term stress, our systems don't handle that too well. In the world of stress, we are better sprinters than marathoners.
Remember stress causes an increase in heart -rate, blood pressure, breathing, constriction of the arteries, blood sugar, and inflammation. It also reduces your digestive function, immune function and vitamin D absorption. Prolonged stress and lead to anxiety disorders and even depression.
The goal of my writing this is not to scare anyone but to inform you that it's okay. It's a natural response. And it's also okay that we are experiencing these symptoms and we should be talking about these as well as those related to the pandemic.
It's okay to talk about our frustrations and anxiety and our uncertainty. I think that's really what we mean when we say "We are in this together."
So, what can we do to mitigate some of this stressors and it's impact?
1. Support turning down the sympathetic nervous system (our stress response system):
Now, being a chiropractor, one of the best things is getting a chiropractic adjustment to reduce sympathetic overload, enhance parasympathetic response (relaxation part of our nervous system) and reduce pain and inflammation.
Breathing- slow, deep breaths help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. It manually slows down your heart-rate, reduces blood pressure and increases oxygen flow to your brain and body.
Exercise- initially, exercise will increase sympathetic response by driving blood and nutrients to the extremities but afterwards, your body goes into parasympathetic response and you feel a deeper relaxation.
Talk it out- there is no better time than now to call someone on the phone and connect. By nature we are social animals and the lack of social connection is difficult on our nervous system and our psyche. Simply chatting and knowing there is support and love for you reduces anxiety and stress.
Natural supplement support: ( you will see a theme appear as many things that support your overall immune function and stress response, help with anxiety).
St. Johns Wort
I am a big fan of Standard Process and their products. If you are interested you can find them here: https://www.standardprocess.com
These times can be challenging for all of us. If you feel you need to chat, please reach out to us. We are here to provide whatever support we can. Even if it's just a simple virtual hug of "I understand."
Stay healthy. Be kind. Take care of each other.
Artemisinin (an herbal supplement of Wormwood) has been shown to be effective in preventing the multiplication of Covid-19.
If you are interested you can check it out and order from Standard Process here: https://www.standardprocess.com/Products/MediHerb/Artemisinin-Complex#.Xo5y75NKhN0
If you find any of this information helpful, please share with others.
Chiropractic adjustments and parasympathetic response: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686395/
Breathing and parasympathetic response: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5709795/
Exercise and stress reduction: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24095123
Talking it out and stress reduction: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/study-confirms-sharing-shared-feelings-reduces-stress-0204141
Valerian root and stress reduction: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25495725
St. Johns wort and stress: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21336544
Echinacea and stress, immune and inflammation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29215298
Probiotic and stress, immune and anxiety: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322089
Vitamin D and stress, immune and inflammation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3751798/
Omega 3 fish oil and stress: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25732379