The Holidays bring a unique blend of nostalgia, generosity, traditions and love. Getting together with family, donating to causes, and encompassing selflessness, are just some heart-filled traits that come to mind during the holiday season.
2020 was a hard year for most of us. Mentally, physically, emotionally, it felt like 2020 lasted 20 years. When I’m with my patients, we have regular conversations about mental health. I have found that when a person is going through a chronic disease, cancer or any other health hardship, if they don’t address their mind and body, complete healing is hard to achieve.
I have also noticed a lot more emotional trauma this year than I have in previous years. If I ask my patients if they have anxiety, anxiousness or stress, most all of them admit these are common emotions in their lives.
In this article, I want to identify what stress and anxiety can look like, and I also want to give you tools to help stay grounded, clear your mind, and head into 2021 with a clear mind.
Symptoms of Anxiety or Stress:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Irrational thoughts
- Overly forgetful
- Agitation | Easily annoyed | Feel like crying |Irritable
- Difficulties communicating clearly and effectively
- Easily scared | Fear of death and dying
- Chest tightness |Difficulty taking full breaths | Muscle tightness
- Lowered immunity | Easily get sick | Cold Sore Breakout
Stress and anxiety can show up as mental, emotional, or physical signs and symptoms. When we are feeling stressed, it dramatically impairs our immune function. Ask anyone with cold sore breakouts, this virus typically flares when their immune system is depleted and they have stress on top of everything going on.
What can you do to lower stress and anxiety in your life?
- Download a meditation app on your phone. I love “Headspace app” or “CALM app”. These apps have 10 min. meditations that you can do basically anywhere. Lock yourself in a closet or office at work. Put a sign on your door that says, “Will be back in 10 minutes”. Your family and co-workers will be glad to give you this time away, because they will soon start realizing that your overall mood and presence have improved.
- Find a creative outlet that allows for you to step away from your normal day-to-day habits and lets you create, without a timeline. You may feel anxious at the beginning when you are trying new habits, but if you go about your life without stopping to hold space for your creative mind, you will have a hard time finding that deep inner peace. My business mentors always proclaimed they had their biggest breakthroughs while they were away, relaxing somewhere disconnected from their daily tasks. I didn’t believe this until a few years ago, when I truly found my most magical ideas took shape on a sunny beach in Mexico (where I had no internet connection).
- YOGA. Yoga can help you ground and feel balanced. Yoga doesn’t have to be crazy poses or end with you looking like a pretzel, it can literally be sitting on your mat (or the floor) and taking conscious deep breaths. Tai Chi is another great, slow-moving, grounding exercise practice for the body and mind.
- Supplement for your mental health! If you feel like stress or anxiety are words that can describe your most recent emotional health, then help yourself. Doing the above will set a great foundation, but sometimes we need help with the neurochemicals in our brain. I have had so many patients come to me with excess stress in 2020. I start these patients on “Anxiety Support” which helps to keep people in a more relaxed state throughout the day. The main ingredient is an amino acid, L-Theanine. Unlike benzodiazepines (ie, xanax, lorazepam, diazepam, clonazepam), L-Theanine is not habit forming, not a synthetic chemical and not addictive. It increases brain levels of dopamine and serotonin, resulting in general feelings of calm and well-being.
- A calming effect is usually noted within 30 to 40 minutes after L-Theanine is taken at a dose of 50 to 200mg, and typically lasts 8 to 10 hours. Moderate anxiety symptoms often improve with a regimen of 200mg once or twice daily. More severe anxiety symptoms may require doses up to 200mg four times a day.
- L-Theanine can also be taken at bedtime to calm the racing mind and have a restful nights sleep.
- Lastly, looking at the food intake can be something that easily triggers stress and anxiety. High amounts of sugar can decrease our immune system, making us feel sick and keeping us in a cycle of the blues. Decreasing sugar consumption and packaged foods will help improve your mood. I challenge you to try a gluten free, dairy free diet for 4 weeks and see how your body does (this eliminates a lot of sugar and processed foods easily). We have Natural Grocers and other local grocery stores that carry a variety of delicious foods to make this transition easier.
By implementing the above recommendations, I have not had to put any patient on medications for their mood. When we assist our mind, body and spirit, our overall sense of wellbeing and mood, quickly follows.
Please take care of yourself this Holiday season. Reach out to others when you are feeling down. You are definitely not going through this alone, and if we can all help check up on one another, we can stay healthy.
As always, have a conversation with your providers about starting new plans. And remember, if you are having day-to-day symptoms limiting you mentally or physically from your daily routine, keep asking questions until you get to the root of your problems.
I hope you have a wonderful Holiday and Fruitful 2021.
Stephanie Grutz, ARNP, FNP-C
Owner of Vive IV Therapy and Balance Integrative Health & Wellness
Anxiety Support can be found at www.select-balance.com