There. Don’t you feel better just reading that?! You’ll feel even better if you actually do it.
What a freakin’ year this has been! And this week has been like the rest of 2020 on steroids. Most people I know are on edge in a way that we haven’t been in a long time, if ever. And it’s really not helping us. At all. You probably know this, but in case you don’t, this stress response was designed to get us quickly out of dangerous situations, then our bodies should return to normal. But in 2020 – it’s not working that way. Any return to normal is short-lived, then something else happens.
Here’s some top level science: When we get hyped up on anxiety, the body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Since it’s responding to a perceived danger, it wants to spend resources on that – to keep us safe. Not on things like digestion, hormone balance (including menstrual regulation, sex drive and baby making), blood sugar regulation, nutrient absorption, sending resources to the brain. So all of those things suffer. Keep it up for long enough, and there’s some major damage.
But it’s 2020! What are we supposed to do?!
It seems so trite to say this, but it’s the truth. I can’t change what’s going on around me, but I can change my reaction to it. UGH. Honestly, I hate that. I would much rather change the situation. Or have someone else change the situation.
This week, say, on Tuesday, the anxiety got the best of me. And a lot of other people I think. Doesn’t matter who you voted for, it feels like if the other guy wins, it’s the end of democracy as we know it. News flash. It’s not. But it feels like it. And those feelings are what we need to address and calm down. So, I hit my limit on Tuesday. I had seen it coming, so I’ve already been implementing some other practices, like meditating every night, but this week, I decided it needs to go even further. Here’s what I’m doing, along with some other suggestions, to keep ourselves in the best mental and emotional condition possible, so that we don’t destroy our health, our relationships and our enjoyment of life.
- Stay in the moment. Like get really aware of what’s actually going on, right now. I can hear my dog snoring – such a sweet sound! It’s a beautiful day and I can get outside for a bit. I’m in a nice house, with plenty of food in the refrigerator, I have enough of everything I need and a whole lot of what I want. And the outcome of the election isn’t going to change any of that (regardless of what you might see on Facebook).
- Move. Doesn’t matter what kind of movement, as a matter of fact, if you’re really stressed out, a hard workout can be unhealthy, because it too releases even more of those stress hormones. Walk around the block. Take a yoga class. As a former yoga teacher, I know some great teachers, who are now teaching on Zoom. Do something for your anxiety levels AND help someone continue making a living. Win-win. Email me for their information.
- Spend time outside. When I was in major stress overload some years ago, I was beyond exhausted. I had no words for how tired I was. One day I was walking my dog and he had to water a tree. I was so fatigued, I leaned on the tree while he did that. And you know what? Touching that tree gave me a jolt of energy. Nature is healing. Sunshine helps the body to create Vitamin D, which is crucial for a number of functions in the body, including immunity, which is, you know, kinda important during a pandemic. Spend as much time outside as you can.
- Breathe. I know, you’re like, duh, I breathe all the time. But the breath is also affected when we’re stressed out, and we breathe more shallowly, from our chest, rather than from the deepest part of our lungs. This affects the ability of the body and brain to get oxygen, so we get more tired and don’t think as clearly. Here’s a link to a breathing practice that will bring some balance.
- Eat good food. The more nutrients we eat, the healthier our cells and tissues and organs are, and the more they’re able to withstand the onslaught of stress. Salmon, chicken, eggs, legumes and greens are all good sources of B vitamins, which help to support mood. Zinc is important for neurological function and immunity. Get it from pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and grass-fed beef.
- Avoid sugar. I know, it’s the first thing we reach for when we’re stressed! And it’s the last thing we need. Sugar creates a blood sugar rollercoaster, which increases anxiety. If you have to eat something sweet, try to get it from fruit, which also has fiber, which helps to slow that rollercoaster. And add a little fat or protein which also slows the sugar absorption and therefore the rollercoaster. Think about an apple with almond butter, some berries with nuts, something like that. If you absolutely have to have that cookie, eat a hard-boiled egg or a little bit of leftover chicken first.
- Prioritize sleep. Just like food, sleep supports every system in the body. And admit it – you feel better after a good night’s sleep than after an extra episode of whatever you’re binge-watching. Meditating before bed amplifies it. I like to use a meditation app with guided programs just for help with sleep. There are several good ones out there.
- Rethink your relationship with news. This is part 1 of the decision I made on Tuesday. I’m limiting news to about 15 minutes a day, at set times, then avoiding it the rest of the time. I want to know what’s going on, but I don’t need to hear the talking heads analyzing it to death. Choose your news sources carefully for the most information with the least drama, hype and misinformation. Facebook is not a news outlet.
- Rethink your relationship with social media. It’s such a blessing and a curse. I wanna see your babies and puppies and celebrate your birthday and mourn your losses with you, but OMG (see what I did there), it can be overwhelming. And of course, in order to see those things I wanna see, I have to scroll through ads and some posts that get me riled up. I regularly unfollow people who post those things that twist me up. It’s not worth it. And again, I’m limiting my time on it and doing it only during set hours. And bonus – if you spend a lot of time on social media, you’ll get some of it back to do other things!
- Practice compassion with yourself and others. Life is HARD right now. For all of us. Let’s all cut each other some slack.
- Live your life. It’s YOUR life. It lasts a limited time. I don’t want to spend my physical, mental or emotional energy mindlessly or needlessly. It’s November 6. Thanksgiving is 3 weeks away. I’m going to cook up the full dinner for myself, my husband and my mom. We’ll get in the car and take a plate to my 93 year old aunt who hasn’t left her house since March. Yes, the holidays are going to be different this year, but I plan to enjoy them more than ever. No office holiday parties – WOO HOO! More time for goofy holiday movies! Time at home to enjoy my house that never looks better than it does in December. Time to reflect on the past year, put it behind and decide what I want to do and how I want to think in 2021.
So what about you? How do you want to live your life? Spend your time and energy? It’s possible to get off the 2020 whirlwind and start living more deliberately again. What will you do to get back to emotional balance?
PS – On another note – over the next few weeks, I’ve got some great resources coming to help you get healthier and happier. Keep your eyes open!