“There is a major shift” going on in people’s emotional lives these days, according to Dr. Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. A recent survey he conducted of 5000 Americans showed that
95 percent of the emotions that people are coming up with, talking about, are anxiety, stress and fear. Only 5 percent of the emotions that people share with us that they’re experiencing each day are positive emotions, and they’re not joy or happiness. They’re more like hope and optimism.
This isn’t without reason, of course. Even as many states are starting to open up a bit, much of what has constituted “normal” life remains shut down. Routines have been shattered. Even with meeting apps, the usual range of social interactions has shrunk greatly for most of us. Millions are out of work. Household worth has taken a huge hit. None of us know when the current state of affairs will end or what the “new normal” will be going forward.
That’s not to mention worry about the virus itself, the possibility that you or a loved one will succumb to illness.
Anxiety, stress, and fear are expected and completely normal in turbulent times. While blocking them out can be tempting, feeling them when they arise is important if we’re to ultimately regain some balance and calm.
Still, there are things we can do to help manage the negative feelings in ways that increase resilience so we can weather the proverbial storm – tools such as the breathwork and mindfulness practice Dr. Brackett mentions toward the end of the article linked to above. And they’re excellent tools – but they’re not the only ones.
Food & Mood
What you eat can affect your mood. Highly processed foods, typically loaded with sugars and other simple carbs, tend to fuel anxiety – in part due to the spike/crash blood sugar patterns they tend to fuel. A Mediterranian style diet, on the other hand, based on whole and minimally processed foods, helps keep blood sugar steady throughout the day.
Shunning the processed stuff also tends to mean a better balance of bacteria in the gut, which also has consequences on your mood.
More, certain nutrients have been shown to have a particularly pronounced effect on mood, including magnesium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, antioxidants, and B-vitamins. You may want to include more foods that include good amounts of these. (Here’s one list to get you started.) Probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and yogurt have also proven helpful for alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression.
A number of herbal medicines have consistently proven helpful for treating symptoms of anxiety and depression. These include chamomile, valerian root, kava, passionflower, and ginkgo biloba – although some have expressed concerns about kava’s effects on the liver. The others, however, are safe on their own and widely available in many different forms. In fact, many bedtime teas contain several of these botanicals – that’s just how calming they can be.
That said, especially if you regularly take any medications – prescription or over-the-counter – be sure to check with your doctor before adding herbal remedies to your routine. Some combinations of herbs and drugs can be dangerous.
Similarly, there are quite a few essential oils known for their anti-anxiety effects – some of which can be diffused and/or inhaled, others of which can be used on the skin. These include lavender, passionflower, chamomile, clary sage, and more. As with many a nutritional supplement, however, you often get what you pay for. Here’s a helpful guide to using essential oils at home, including choosing good quality products.
This is hardly an exhaustive list, but it’s meant only to point you in the direction of some of the natural options you can do at home that may be helpful in riding out these difficult days.
It’s also meant primarily for those who are generally in good physical health. If you are dealing with chronic illness, it’s especially important for you to consult with your health care providers before beginning any kind of therapy – “alternative” or otherwise.
On a similar note, if your anxiety is less specific to the COVID crisis but more of a chronic condition, it’s important to get at its cause so that can be treated specifically, particularly if there are physiological factors involved, such as hormone or neurotransmitter imbalances, or nutritional issues that need to be addressed.
Dr. Joe would be happy to help you with this. To get started, just give our front desk a call…