In podcast episode 44, The 8 Most Powerful Ways To Keep Healthy During COVID-19, my emphasis is on the Front-Line Staff & the Leaders who are deeply entrenched in this epidemic. To all the hospital staff – those on the front-line managing the patients to those who are in the backend making sure that staff gets paid on time, and those who are in-charge of scheduling, this is a very important time for you to nurture yourselves.
In The 8 Most Powerful Ways To Keep Healthy During COVID-19, my emphasis is on the Front-Line Staff & the Leaders who are deeply entrenched in this epidemic.
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I’m kicking off from my recent podcast episode on 3 Powerful Ways To Manage Stress During COVID-19 There I covered similar content, but from a stress-management perspective. Here I dive a little deeper into strategies to keep healthy. These episodes, and strategies, are slightly different. This article is about supporting your body further to build a powerful and sustainable health routine (see episode 21).
I want to help you live a healthier life. Without a wellness routine, it’s tough to put it into practice, especially one that sustainable. This requires dedication and skill. It has to be easy and do-able for you. I say “any health routine is better than none”.
Let me recap a bit. Stress and anxiety are physiological states where your body is secreting a hormone called cortisol. And we know that cortisol is secreted in the body by the adrenal glands. Burnout can happen from having repeated stress, and you’re unable to experience any relief from the constant state of ‘stress’. You might be unable to deal with your stress in a strategic way so you let your body take over. Once that stress becomes prolonged, or too high for too long, you could be at risk of creating disease. We want to avoid disease at all cost, right?
I’m not just concerned about “stress” and it’s immediate side-effects of fatigue and poor self-regulation. I’m concerned with the negative effects that sustained high levels of cortisol can do to your body: weight gain due to poor diet management, and sugar cravings, which can lead to obesity. As well, high blood pressure, reduced energy and fatigue, as well as disrupted sleep patterns all contribute to living a grim life too.
I say, if you’re going to be on this earth, why not enjoy it and avoid having disease related to too much stress?
Ultimately, you want to keep yourself as healthy as you can to combat the many types of stressors you experience on a daily basis…not just during an epidemic. Essentially, there are different forms of stress, such as physical exercise, cold-exposure stress, and mental stress. Each one of these causes different autonomic reactions in the body (Storonie, M. 2017). So, even having a hard workout at the gym can stress your adrenal glands. That is why it’s crucial to get good sleep to recover from that stress.
Here are 8 powerful ways to keep healthy
Powerful Way To Stay Healthy #1. Do Regular Exercise
I offered up this strategy in the 3 powerful ways to Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress.
It might seem contradictory, but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can relieve mental stress.
Regular exercise also regulates your insulin. Cortisol and insulin are closely related. When the body is stressed, you want sugar but a spike in sugar affects your insulin levels. There is a direct correlation between people who exercise regularly and reduced levels of anxiety vs those who don’t exercise.
Let me re-iterate a few reasons behind this:
- Stress hormones: Exercise lowers your body’s stress hormones — such as cortisol — in the long run. It also helps release endorphins, which are chemicals that act as as natural painkillers and mood-enhancing.
- Sleep Quality: Exercise can also improve your sleep quality, because you have less cortisol pumping through your veins. Cortisol interferes with the release of melatonin which is secreted by the pituitary gland and keeps you asleep.
- Improved Confidence: By exercising regularly, you’re often interacting regularly with people, and this can help you feel more confident in your conversations & your body. This can in turn promote mental wellbeing.
Try to find an exercise routine or activity you enjoy, based on your needs for social interaction as well. You might consider a gym if you want to be around people, or walking, dancing, rock climbing or yoga.
Powerful Way To Stay Healthy #2. Consider Supplements
In the revolutionary book, The Cortisol Connection Diet 9 (2004), Dr Shawn Talbott offers a wealth of knowledge on which supplements you can take to help control cortisol levels in the body….thus, relieve stress. The first line of defence is to take a comprehensive multivitamin/multimineral supplement that offers the body a good balance of what it needs.
Of particular importance are Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and a full-B complex. If you balance out the vitamins with great nutrition, exercise and some of the other ideas I offer you here, you’re on your way to living with less stress.
Here is a brief overview of some of the more targeted cortisol-control supplements :
- Magnolia Bark: Its benefits include controlling cortisol and also has general effects as an anti anxiety and anti-stress agent. But if you have too much, it can cause sedation and drowsiness so be cautious to not take too much. Recommended dosage: 200-800mg. Adreno-Calm can be ordered here
- Beta-sitosterol: This supplement balances the ration of cortisol and DHEA (a sex hormone), especially following the stress of exercise. There doesn’t appear to be any drawbacks to taking this supplement. Recommended dosage: 30-300mg.
- Theanine: This supplement modulates brain waves for achieving optimal physical and mental performance during stressful events. Same as beta-sitosterol, there are no drawbacks to taking it. Recommended dosage: 25-250mg
- Phosphatidylserine: Has a direct cortisol-lowering effect especially after intense exercise. The drawback to this one is that it can be expensive to purchase on its own. Recommended dosage: 50-100mg See Adreno-Calm, where it includes a combo of Magnolia-Bark, Theanine and Phosphatidylserine.
- Green tea: Green tea contains many polyphenol antioxidants which provide health benefits. It may lower stress and anxiety by boosting your serotonin levels (5Trusted Source).
Some supplements can interact with medications or have side effects, so always check with your primary health care provider if you have a medical condition or you’re anticipating an upcoming surgical procedure.
Shop for a quality brand like the ones I highlighted above, and respect the dosage and usage recommendations given by the manufacturer, just like you’d respect any prescription or over-the-counter meditation.
For more on the good, the bad and the ugly side of supplements, please listen to Podcast Episode 29 here.
As you may know, I’m a Sociology Graduate with research specialty in Food Politics and The Construction Of Risk In The Media. I enjoy understanding how people learn about risks in society when it comes to their health and wellbeing. I also used to work as a nurse.
Powerful Way To Stay Healthy #3. Use Essential Oils to calm your senses.
Managing your stress by using plant-based essential oils has shown many therapeutic benefits that connect the body and the mind.
My favourite store, Saje, as a stress release tension blend that includes the most common scents like
- Lavender (lavandula angustifolia)
- Orange (citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) peel oil)
- Roman chamomile (anthemis nobilis)
- Vetiver (vetiveria zizanoides)
- Geranium (pelargonium graveolens)
- Clary sage (salvia sclarea)
- Myrtle (myrtus communis)
They also have an Unwind Calming Remedy that you can use to create your own oil and apply before bed, or in a diffuser. That blend includes the most common scents like the ones mentioned above, with a twist of Cinnamon 🙂
- Lavender (lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil)
- Geranium (pelargonium graveolens oil)
- Cinnamon (cinnamomum zeylanicum leaf oil)
- Bergamot (citrus aurantium bergamia (bergamot) fruit oil)
Powerful Way To Stay Healthy #4. Slow down on the JAVA, my friends!
Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks. High doses of these divine substances can contribute to poor mental health and other psychiatric disorders.
Everyone tolerates caffeine differently. For me, it’s best that I stick to decaf at home, and that way it allows me some wiggle room for a caffeinated cup of Joe when I’m out meeting friends at a coffee shop.
You can easily cut back on your daily dose by making 1/2 caffeinated and 1/2 decaffeinated. I find the flavour of a decaf doesn’t pack as much punch, so you can do that if you like.
Generally, try to moderate caffeine as much as possible and keep it to the earlier parts of your day because it can increase stress on the adrenal glands, shooting up your cortisol levels.
Powerful Way To Stay Healthy #5. Take A Day-Off & Plan It
Everyone can benefit from taking a day off work (and not feel guilty about it). It’s hard to feel anxious when you’re well-prepared and feeling productive. It’s good for your health to have a restful day away from work. You’re also allowing your body to be free from the repetitive strains you have while working. There are a few ways you can plan your day off:
- Plan for a super amazing breakfast.
- Count the hours you’ll have of leisure time and work-time well in advance of your week. Napolean Hill offers up some perspective here.
- Plan yourleisure time in advance, and record it in your agenda so you know what fun things lie ahead.
- Learn to meditate properly. Meditation is proven to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and add more funk and soul to your life.
- Shut-off your wifi for a certain period each day, that way you can free to relax knowing no emails are coming in. This is your time.
In the long term, the rest you choose to take on your day off will also help improve your immune system and mood.
Powerful Way To Stay Healthy #6. Learn To Practice Meditation
It can help combat the anxiety-inducing effects of negative thinking, and boost your creativity by allowing more creative mind-wandering.
There are several methods for meditation, including mindfulness-based meditation, mantra-style meditation, prayer, movement meditation, and focused meditation. Each of these offer benefits, with mantra-style offering the most benefits for improving brain function and IQ, increasing focus and productivity, improved recovery, better sleep quality and enhanced creativity.
Each holds their benefits based on the user, so tailor your meditation practice to how you want to feel each day. In fact, a study of college students suggested that mindfulness may help increase self-esteem. Of course, that improved self-esteem can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression due to using that strategy (18).
Powerful Way To Stay Healthy #7. Share a hug or a cuddle.
The benefits of this type of physical contact can help release oxytocin and reduce your cortisol levels. As well, cuddling can lower blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are physical symptoms of stress. And sex can help you get a good night’s sleep too! 🙂
Powerful Way To Stay Healthy #8. Use Deep Breathing Exercises
Stress in the body, mental or physical, activates your sympathetic nervous system. This signals your body to go into “fight-or-flight” mode.
During this reaction, stress hormones are released and your body experience a faster heartbeat, heavier breathing and constricted blood vessels.
Once you apply deep breathing, you disengage the sympathetic nervous system and activate your parasympathetic nervous system – which controls the relaxation response.
You can several breathing exercises, including diaphragmatic breathing where you breath into your chest, or do belly breathing where you imagine you’re blowing-up a balloon in your belly. Then there’s rhythmic/paced breathing that’s often referred to as pranayama.
The goal of deep breathing is to shift your focus on your breath, instead of pressing thoughts.
This often allows you to feel more at peace emotionally, and there also a spiritual component of breathing that enables one to connect with themselves and trust in what’s happening in your life. Ideally, you want to hold space for yourself to tap into your intuition, and move forward in life with greater meaning.
Check out this link in the Yoga Journal for more Breathing Exercises.
What if I don’t have time for my health routine?
Yep, this’ll be your default for a while too – just work for the next season at changing your thoughts patterns and adapting to a new way of being. By adding calendar reminders in your smart phone, you can get alert reminders to keep you going in the daytime.
Change isn’t easy. It requires preparation & that’s what visualization does for you. In fact, visualize where you’re phone is right now, and see yourself grabbing your water bottle for a sip.
The Bottom Line
Although stress and anxiety may arise in your personal and professional life, you have control over how to reduce the daily pressures. Although you may not feel they are working at reducing the “stress” or the “mind-chatter”, these 6 ways can reduce your cortisol levels and give your much-needed adrenal glands a break from the daily grind.
These tips are meant to teach you how to take a pause. But any new behaviour involves 2 things: Mindset, and Strategy. If you’re struggling with getting proper sleep, or you’ve got your ducks all lined up but you’re not taking action, I can help. Schedule a free consultation with me and let me see how I can help you.