What a change we have seen in the last few weeks! My thoughts are with you and I hope that you have had some time to settle into a new routine with the people in your lives.
There are a range of emotions that people are experiencing from panic through to finding a somewhat sense of calm. For those of you who are calm, I applaud your perspective. For those of you who have been going through some more confronting emotions, I’ve written some information that may help guide you. It may help provide some acceptance or even an appreciation for the unpleasant feelings you have and some ways we can help to reduce them. The brain is always there to support us and keep us safe, even with unpleasant feelings like fear or anxiety. Let's discuss why those feelings are important for humans to experience.
Fear has been an emotion that many around the world have experienced in the last few weeks. On an evolutionary scale, fear was an essential emotion for humans so that we would protect ourselves in dangerous situations such as recognising the threat of a predator. Fast forward to the present time and now the predator that triggers that same fear in us lurks in our homes on our televisions, in the newspapers we read, on the radio station we listen to and in the conversations we have with those around us. With what is going on currently, most people are constantly surrounded by these fear inducing triggers.
Fear activates what is known as our sympathetic or "fight or flight” nervous system. During human evolution, fear was an essential emotion to trigger the sympathetic nervous system to help us recognise danger and quickly find safety, it was meant to be a short-lived emotion. These days the “predators” that cause fear are all around us, so much so that we are now seeing a chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system. For many this can lead to psychological problems such as anxiety and depression, physiological effects such as problems with sleep, increased heart rate, digestive issues and if left for long enough, can lead to chronic health problems. It is counterproductive to our own evolution.
Always, but especially at this time with so much going on, what and who we surround ourselves with is very important, it shapes the world as we see it. Is the world friendly? Can I trust people? Am I safe? Is everything going to be okay? If we are functioning predominantly in our sympathetic nervous system, the answer to those questions is no.
With that view, our capacity to expand as humans decreases whether it be physically, mentally or spiritually. We do not create connections and deepen relationships if we cannot trust people, we do not take risks leading to exciting adventures if we feel unsafe, we do not have belief in ourselves if we believe there is something wrong with us or that we are not worthy. We can thank fear for some of our human evolution but it can also be a process of devolution. Constant fear creates sickness and disease.
Thinking about how you can reduce the fear in your life is essential. Please stay informed with what you need to know at the moment but do not submerge yourself in it. Look for the things that are good in the world, there are many. Surround yourself with the people in your life who support you and have a positive outlook, read a book that will motivate you to be a better person, think about how you can serve your community, smile at people on the street, play games with your children, do whatever it is that makes you happy. Balance out negative emotion with positive. This is for the benefit of your mental and physical health.
It is not to say that bad things don’t happen, they do. But we aren’t going to serve ourselves, our families and our communities by continually focusing on negative things and letting fear be the prime motivator for our actions. Make sure you also take the time to see that there have, and will continue to be, good things that come from COVID-19. After a wide-spread event that affects a number of people it is common to see the community come together to support each other, and it is happening everywhere around us. We see people relying on each other, trusting each other and continuing to believe that the world is a friendly place for us to be in. In the chaos I would encourage you to also consciously decide what environment you are surrounding yourself with and therefore how you are viewing the world.
When feeling overwhelmed or anxious the brain is on overdrive. We need to calm it down and since we are unable to help support your brain with your adjustments during these times, I’ve got some other activities and nutrition recommendations for you instead.
Activities such as scrapbooking, socialising, puzzles and adult colouring books are very beneficial. Get out in your community and be around people, have someone that you can share your thoughts with. Of course be mindful of maintaining 1.5m distance from those you don't live with. Activities like puzzles are also great and finally getting some work done with your hands and moving your body is essential.
In terms of exercise, if you are feeling overwhelmed, now is not the time to use up the reserve stores of energy by adding stress to the brain. The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are already high and we want to bring those levels down. It is the time for support, so don’t go giving yourself a thrashing at a high intensity workout. Opt for exercises such as yoga, light jogs or pilates. I love love love Yoga with Adrienne on youtube. Even my very inflexible boyfriend is hooked which adds some extra entertainment for me if we do it together! She has a huge range of classes you can do at home.
If you are not feeling overwhelmed you can probably handle the higher intensity workouts and this actually improves the part of the brain that helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Do not do aggressive exercise if you are fatigued or feeling stressed for a longer period of time. If that’s the case, go for lower intensity exercise.
As this is a time to get creative with how we are exercising you can do body weight exercises. I’ve found this one on YouTube as a guide but there are limitless other videos that you can find should you prefer. These can be done at home or even better, if you have the space in a park in the sun. I’ve also seen a significant increase of people out on their race bikes in the great weather so that is a great option if you have access to a bike.
• Caffeine and alcohol
• Sugar, preservatives and colours
• Too many carbohydrates such as bread, pasta as they give short bursts of energy and do not balance blood sugar levels.
• Avoid skipping meals, we want to keep the blood sugar levels stable
• Good fats: avocado, nuts, seeds
• Protein sources to give some rebuilding support. It is the building block of your cells. Particularly breakfast as this is the time to feed your body to get through the day.
• Vegetables: go for seasonal when you can
• Fresh is best. Usually the ones that deliver you the best nutrition are those that can spoil because processed foods have long expiry dates
Of course if you feel completely overwhelmed and need mental support you must take contact with a certified healthcare provider and should you need help finding someone, please contact us.