Adapting to a Post-Pandemic World

Since the beginning of 2020, whenever we turned on the TV, listened to the radio, browsed social media, or even while speaking with our friends and co-workers we have been bombarded with COVID-19 information. Numbers of infected, numbers of deaths around the world, constantly changing restrictions, and more have flooded our minds daily. The once normal social activities we enjoyed participating in, were now considered unsafe and many of us were also required to work from home or lost our jobs completely.

A new collective experience of social anxiety has been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether you suffered from social anxiety before or you’ve slowly developed social anxiety since being isolated and distanced from others, returning to post-pandemic “normal” life can seem more daunting than the onset of the pandemic itself.

You are not alone in your concerns. Studies show that symptoms of social anxiety have increased significantly since 2020. The good news is, there are natural and effective ways that may help to manage and cope with anxiety that may allow you to make a smoother, at-ease transition back into society.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

To manage and cope with anxiety you must first understand the symptoms associated with it. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following symptoms, consult your healthcare provider or physician for clarification.

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, the signs and symptoms of anxiety can include:

● Feeling nervous, irritable, or on edge
● Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
● Having an increased heart rate
● Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
● Feeling weak or tired
● Difficulty concentrating
● Having trouble sleeping
● Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems

Over the last year, social anxiety has been front row-center as we have trained our brains to perceive people themselves as a threat due to the risk of contracting the virus. Fear of going outdoors, interacting with strangers and even fear of the air we breathe in proximity to others has been a concern for many!

As more and more have either already contracted the virus and built up an immunity to it or have become vaccinated, the threat ratio has lowered, however, our brain may not recognize the change and continue to ignite our fight or flight response.

Get Ready to Face Society Once Again

Before the pandemic, you may not have had to deal with anxiety and fear of social settings as you are now. You may also be feeling the pressure from work responsibilities, friends, and/or family to return to your normal routines.

If the idea of re-engaging with society is causing you worry, here are some tips to help:

● Get outside of the house every day. Go for a walk, go to the pharmacy, do the groceries rather than store pick up.

● If your workplace will soon require you to return back to the office, head to your place of work and walk around to regain that comfort and routine. The same goes for those attending college/university or children who attend school and fear going back to the classroom.

● Start socializing with others on the phone, video calls and gradually return to seeing them in person one at a time when you can.

Start off slow and steadily work towards the more challenging activities until you can feel comfortable engaging with others in society again.

Coping Strategies to Help Reduce Anxiety

There are many safe, effective, and natural ways to help cope with anxiety, whether you have been dealing with social anxiety for some time or if this a new onset of the pandemic. Psychologists note that avoiding these issues can have the opposite effect than what you would want and only provide a temporary sense of relief while in the long run actually lead to an increase in anxiety. So getting clear on what you can do to ease your anxiety and taking action right now is important.

Exercise

Exercise has long been known to benefit our overall health and no matter your age, current physical activity, weight, abilities, or size, even small amounts of exercise have been shown to reduce anxiety, improve sleep, reduce tension, and boost overall mood.

If you are unsure how to begin to increase your physical activity and are anxious about going too far from home, try these simple changes to your daily routine so you too can reap the benefits of physical activity.

● Engage in active family playtime. Any game that gets everyone up and moving counts!
● Catch up on household chores such as cleaning out the closet. Vacuuming is also physical activity.
● Mow the grass, go for a walk, or take a bike ride.
● Make television watching more active by doing jumping jacks or push-ups during the commercials.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation is a form of calming your mind to increase focus, reduce stress, ease tension, and reduce anxiety levels. It has been scientifically shown to help alleviate the chaos that can crowd our minds, especially when faced with a fearful or anxious situation.

Using meditation to ease anxiety takes practice as in the beginning it may be difficult to calm our racing minds while diving deeper into our inner selves.

Try these mindfulness techniques that can help ground you when feeling anxious and out of control:

● Deep breathing exercises. Breathe in for five seconds, hold, breathe out for five seconds. Repeat 5 times or until you feel more calm.
● Visualize calming places like a beach, the lake or somewhere you have fond memories.
● Keep a gratitude journal. Each morning or evening, write down 3 things you are grateful for. Reach for this and read back on your thoughts to stay positive.

Supplements and Natural Therapies

Many people turn to medication in an effort to manage anxiety but the reality is the side effects from medications can have their own impact on overall health. Natural supplements like adaptogens may help you cope, reduce depression, may help with sleep and keep your system balanced while you are working through new and past anxieties. Speak with your natural health practitioner to find out what supplements will work best for your unique body.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a derivative of the cannabis, or marijuana, plant and has been used as a treatment for a range of neuropsychiatric disorders including anxiety with positive results.

Unlike other forms of cannabis, CBD oil does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the ‘high’ causing substance of marijuana, therefore, it is an effective anxiety reducer without affecting mental function.

Smells and aromas have a way of triggering memories and many plant oils have a calming effect on our body and mind. Lavender for example has been shown to reduce heart rate in the short term and help to ease sleep issues in the long term.

Do Things That Bring You Joy

Remind yourself of all the things that bring you joy and can help soothe your feelings of anxiety. Watch a funny movie or TV show, read a good book, or learn a new skill.

If you have pets, they can be a great comfort and you can rely on them for emotional support and calm your anxious feelings. Plus, walking a dog routinely outside can help ease you back into socializing with others.

Set Boundaries & Goals

How you choose to reintegrate into ‘normal’ life is your own personal choice. You may be comfortable visiting friends in an open area such as a park, but uncomfortable socializing indoors. Make a list of what you feel comfortable doing and express your fears and concerns with your loved ones so they can clearly understand your needs.

Go a step further and record your feelings, emotions, fears, goals, and expectations in a journal or diary. Often when we see our thoughts on paper, they are easier to face and approach with a calm mindset.

Lastly, be open minded and allow yourself to be friendly (you never know if others are feeling the same way as you). While you need to have empathy for yourself and validate how you feel it’s important to understand that many people are dealing with this reemergence too and are equally anxious about what it all entails.

Can You Achieve an Anxiety-Free Return to Society?

Peer pressure exists in all stages of life so always remember you have the choice to say “no” when a situation makes you uncomfortable. Your optimal health and mindfulness are vital to reengaging with society, therefore, when feeling anxious or stressed, try the methods above to calm your mind and release your body from the fight or flight mode.

There are, and always will be, stressors in your life. Reengaging your inner peace by actively recognizing your anxiety triggers will allow you to focus on moving past them. Knowing your own values, fears, hopes, and future goals will help to set your mind on a new course allowing you to act on resolving your anxiety.

If you are finding your anxiety is increasing affecting your relationships with others, or controlling your life, don’t hesitate to give us a call to schedule a consult. There are natural ways to help manage your stress and keep your body balanced so these new stressors are not taking control.

References:

Bohlmeijer E, Prenger R, Taal E, Cuijpers P. The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic medical disease: a meta-analysis. J Psychosom Res. 2010;68(6):539-544.

Hofmann SG, Sawyer AT, Witt AA, Oh D. The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: a meta-analytic review. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2010;78(2):169-183.

Blessing, E.M., Steenkamp, M.M., Manzanares, J. et al. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics 12, 825–836 (2015).

Li-Wei Chien, Su Li Cheng, Chi Feng Liu, “The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Autonomic Nervous System in Midlife Women with Insomnia”, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, Article ID 740813, 8 pages, 2012.

Claire Thompson, Maria C. Mancebo, Ethan Moitra,
Changes in social anxiety symptoms and loneliness after increased isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Psychiatry Research, Volume 298, 2021, 113834, ISSN 0165-1781.

The Secrets Of Aging And Longevity

The search for the fountain of youth is as old as time. Here’s an idea. What if the fountain of youth is simply the sum of our decisions? If that’s the case, then the power to live long and well is (somewhat) in our hands! We can influence our longevity by making a daily commitment to healthy, longevity-based lifestyle choices. Research shows that only about 25 percent of our longevity is inherited and the remaining 75 percent is determined by the way we live. If the factors that influence the aging process are few enough to control through healthy living, we stand a chance at increasing our longevity by making the right choices.

Thankfully, evidence suggests there are a finite number of ways to influence aging. This means we’re not doomed by bad genes, nor can we rely solely on good genes to carry us through long and healthy lives all the way into our 90’s. We can, however, do certain things to increase our chances of getting there. So let’s get down to the conditions for living a long and healthy life. After all, what good is living a long life if we’re not disease and disability-free in old age? That’s the goal!

Why Do We Age?

There are many compelling theories on the subject of how and why we age dating back to antiquity. Some ancient philosophers believed in a version of the “rate of living” theory, which suggests each person possesses a mysterious “vital substance” that keeps them alive. This elusive life-giving ingredient was thought of as a predetermined, finite amount of heartbeats and breaths awarded to each person at birth to last throughout their lifetime. Luckily for us, this isn’t the case! However, the mystery of exactly how and why we age has yet to be fully solved.

Aging Occurs At The Cellular LevelFree Radicals

Evidence also suggests aging can be caused by free-radicals causing oxidative damage to cells. Free-radicals are the toxic byproducts of normal cellular metabolism. This creates a vicious cycle in which free radicals cause oxidative damage to cells, which in turn produces more free-radicals. This unavoidable side-effect of cell production leads to cell death, the result of which are the signs of aging.

Stress Is The Killer

All of the most compelling modern theories on aging point to cellular damage as the main cause for the deterioration of our bodies as we grow older. Both physical and emotional stress cause free-radicals, oxidation, and damage to DNA–all factors that cause cell death and aging. Stress has the power to lower our immune system, increase inflammation, and destroy the brain cells that are responsible for memory. This is because when we’re stressed our bodies produce cortisol, a hormone directly linked to causing cell damage.

It only makes sense that finding ways to lower stress is the best overall anti-aging remedy. Besides, why all the concern with living a long time if we’re always stressed out beyond belief? Incorporating stress-reducing tools day to day increases our quality of life, and that’s a top priority!

Physical And Psychological Stress

Both environmental as well as lifestyle choices can impact stress levels in the body. Heavy metals from polluted water, EMFs, chemicals, alcohol, cigarettes, and poor diet all contribute to the production of cortisol which means more stress.

People who suffer from chronic stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, and social isolation have similar damage in common at the cellular level. Studies show that stress shortens the length of a part of cells called telomeres. Shortened telomeres are a leading cause of cell death and aging.

The good news is we have some control over how we deal with stress. All we need is the awareness and the willingness to confront stress, and the right tools available to help us do so.

Holistic Stress Reducers

Living a stress-free lifestyle is the key to a long, happy, healthy life. The challenge, should we choose to accept it, is committing ourselves to reducing stress in our lives. Afterall, we can’t show up for life effectively if our minds are always clouded by stress. So what are some tools we can use to manage and eliminate stress, one day at a time?

● Meditation. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress by creating new neurological pathways in the brain. This makes new thoughts possible and helps shake us out of old habits. Taking a moment to quiet the endless stream of thoughts running through our minds allows us to take a piece of that tranquility with us throughout the rest of the day. Meditation makes a world of difference and doesn’t have to be intimidating! Even taking 5 to 10 minutes to center yourself before starting your day can be life-changing.

● Healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet full of fresh organic vegetables, whole grains, and nutrient-rich proteins is key to longevity. Eliminating sugar and processed foods is a must for anyone concerned with living long and well.

● Physical activity. Implementing an exercise routine is essential to mental and physical wellness. Physical activity releases powerful stress-reducing endorphins in the brain. Yoga is especially helpful, as it combines meditation with exercise, naturally relaxing the body and mind.

● Good sleep. Sleep facilitates the function of the lymphatic system, which can be thought of as the brain’s garbage disposer. While we’re asleep, the brain works 10 times as hard to remove toxins, like the protein build-up responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

● Limiting exposure to toxins. The effects of environmental toxins such as polluted water and poor air quality can seriously impact longevity over time. It’s been proven that people who live in places with cleaner air and access to fresh, clean water are known to live longer. Avoiding toxic materials, such as using plastic for food storage, is an easy way to start reducing toxicity in the body.

● Purposeful living. Living a purposeful life is the most important thing we can do to extend our longevity. One thing centenarians all have in common is feeling they have lived a life worth living. Studies show that people who live with a greater sense of purpose experience better quality sleep along with receiving the regenerative benefits of being well-rested.

● Gratitude. Practicing an attitude of gratitude is one way to ensure we live long and prosper.

A Note on Blue Zones

The places on earth with the greatest longevity are known as “Blue Zones,” and people who live there all have some major things in common. They tend to live with a greater sense of purpose and value healthy eating, exercise, and maintaining positive relationships with themselves and others.

Japan is the country with the greatest longevity on the planet, one out of fifteen-hundred Japanese citizens are over one hundred years old!
The answer is in the culture. Obesity rates are low, as the common Japanese diet consists mainly of plant food, fish, and non-sugar sweetened beverages. The Japanese value purposeful living and meditation is a regular practice among common people. Managing stress and living with purpose are the most important things we can do to increase longevity. The Japanese culture supports both, and the proof is in the population.

You Only Live Once!

As far as we know, this is our one and only life in this form. It’s up to the individual to tend their own garden by implementing life-affirming, longevity-boosting lifestyles to ensure this life is meaningful, enjoyable, and lasts a good long time!

The good news is we’re definitely not alone on the journey. If you’re curious about ways to increase your longevity and overall quality of life, give us a call. We may be able to help!

Sources:

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Schultchen D, Reichenberger J, Mittl T, Weh TRM, Smyth JM, Blechert J, Pollatos O. Bidirectional relationship of stress and affect with physical activity and healthy eating. Br J Health Psychol. 2019 May;24(2):315-333. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12355. Epub 2019 Jan 22. PMID: 30672069; PMCID: PMC6767465.

Tsugane, S. Why has Japan become the world’s most long-lived country: insights from a food and nutrition perspective. Eur J Clin Nutr (2020).

Alimujiang A, Wiensch A, Boss J, et al. Association Between Life Purpose and Mortality Among US Adults Older Than 50 Years. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(5):e194270. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.4270

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