To say 2020 has been a crazy year is quite an understatement. In fact, most of my patients have shared that they are experiencing at least some bouts of depression, irritability or anxiety right now.
These mood changes directly reflect how your body is physically reacting to stress.
Here’s what happens during times of stress:
- Our master hormone glands called adrenals fire hormones that work to keep our brains sharp and our nervous system in an active state. This complex system ensures that we will survive the storm, but it also means our cells are working much harder than they do during times of rest.
- The stress hormone, cortisol, rises. Over time, high cortisol can lead to an excited nervous system, resulting in irritability or anxiety.
- Neurotransmitters (our body’s little messengers) such as serotonin and dopamine can be reduced. Neurotransmitters are directly responsible for mood balance, and reduced levels can cause depression.
While we don’t have control over the world’s curveballs, we can manage our reaction.
Practice self-care. As the saying goes, put on your oxygen mask first to ensure you can help others!
- Exercise is a wonderful form of self-care, as it assists in managing stress hormones. Do more gentle exercises like yoga, walking or Pilates if you are feeling overwhelmed, as they turn down your nervous system. Intense exercises like heavy cardio, ramp up your nervous system. Be consistent: 30 minutes, 5 times per week is wonderful.
- There’s nothing like a massage, hot bath or facial to calm you down.
- Get social. Masks and social distancing make connecting with others difficult, so get creative! Try regular, consistent video conferencing, outdoor masked/distanced hangs or just phone chats. Staying connected reminds us that we are not alone.
- Food matters. You are what you eat and if you are eating more inflammatory foods (sugar, processed foods, fast food) then you are flaming the fire of your stress which will affect your moods. If you are off-track with eating, then try adding in one more vegetable and one more fruit to your day. These foods also have more vitamins and minerals which help build your neurotransmitters to balance your moods.
- Manage what you consume. If you constantly watch news that is overwhelming, listen to negative people or watch dramatic movies, then you will feel it. While it is near impossible to avoid negativity, do make a conscious effort to absorb affirmative words, conversations, programs and images. Positive images promote the release of hormones that enhance your moods.
- Try a supplement. We can help our cellular function react to stress better by trying herbs that enhance moods or balance the nervous system. For example, 5-HTP helps to boost serotonin, while L-theanine reduces anxiety. Lemon balm, an herb in our Zen Tea, helps to relax the nervous system. Schisandra, which is in our Happy Tea, assists the body in adapting to stress.
Managing our mental health this year takes a concerted effort, but it is doable. If you are experiencing challenges around your mood, please talk to your healthcare provider.
Otherwise, do some things that make you smile and find your HAPPY in 2021!