Not at the finishing line yet...a mental health check in.
Lockdown check in - how are you all going out there?
The funny thing about life is we all react in different ways - just check your social media. How many of your friends are taking the time to ACTUALLY exercise daily, or eat breakfast when they are usually too busy, or making meals from scratch? Some of us are taking the time to catch up on Netflix and the books they wanted to read - or nap. Some of us probably haven’t really had their day to day adjusted that much - but for most of us the recent restrictions on how we move in this world might have induced some anxiety or at least some extra comfort baking/eating...
A bit of self care goes a long way
The thing with stress and emotional reactions is how we respond is totally personal - you might go for a run at the beach when stressed, I might go to my favourite cafe, your partner might go to the mountain bike track - all of us have individual coping skills and individual things we like to do for our own mental health - and with this level 4 lockdown a few of our favourite things have been temporarily removed leaving us feeling probably a little bit annoyed, possibly a bit more stressed and even a bit down.
This is totally normal. Our modern life is pretty much built for instant gratification - want something - you can have it. Right now - that is not possible. This can leave us feeling frustrated and this can lead to annoyance/anger which is another form of stress.
So what happens when we are stressed? Well our body is built to withstand stressors (physical/mental/emotional) without us noticing too much - but with everything there is a point in which it becomes a bit much.
You will have heard of the fight or flight response - this is your classic car coming for you stress - you either jump/run or you freeze. Right now there are not too many actual cars coming for you but the metaphoric ‘cars’ are still there and can be just as activating as a real one heading straight your way.
Your adrenal glands are what help you respond to stress and they produce 3 hormones that help and they have some pretty full on responsibilities:
Your adrenal glands
- Adrenaline – a hormone responsible for the above mentioned ‘flight or fight’ response. This helps move and increase in blood flow to muscles, but also has a role in heart output and blood glucose.
- Aldosterone - this affects and is affected by sodium, potassium, and total fluid in the body, and by blood pressure. It causes the kidneys to hold onto more sodium, which leads to more water staying in your body (fluid retention). The more fluid the body holds onto, the higher the blood pressure may become. Aldosterone also directly affects the heart and blood vessels – high levels can increase blood pressure, pulse and anxiety.
- Cortisol - Cortisol is a steroid hormone. Almost every cell contains receptors for cortisol and so cortisol can have lots of different actions depending on which sort of cells it is acting upon. Our cortisol is higher in the morning and is supposed to fall throughout the day. But with the way we live (busy/caffeine/poor sleep/stress) often in response to this extra cortisol is released to help the body to respond.
So basically the idea of these 3 is to keep us balanced and in homeostasis (the body’s preferred natural state). But if we are stressed and anxious for a longer period of time our body can struggle to get us back on track and sometimes that is when we need a bit of a hand…
So right now at home - what can you do? Apart from watching Tiger King on Netflix..
- TRY and go to sleep at a normal(ish) time. A hot bath/nice shower might help with setting up a better night routine that preempts sleep.
- Consider wearing an eye mask to block out any extra light - darkness helps with melatonin production which supports a deeper more restful sleep
- Try having something ‘green’ at 3 pm. A smoothie/nettle tea/green tea even. Chlorophyll (green stuff in green plants) helps with oxygenating the blood and may give you a bit more energy. Same with water - drink it regularly through the day.
Chuck in whatever green with have (spinach or wild nettles with an apple or banana base)
- Stop trying to do EVERYTHING. You can not be an employee/parent/partner/friend/family member all at once. Something is going to have to give. And parenting at home while working is intense. Nigel Latta said screentime is ok. Believe Nigel Latta.
- It is ok to not be ok. I am hugely grateful for where I am in the world, my immense privilege and my bubble. BUT I miss the sea and I miss the freedom of going to see my family and that is ok. That doesn’t make me awful - that makes me human. I am still grateful for all of the great things I do have but I am allowed to feel sad for a bit. Acknowledge your feelings instead of trying to ignore them.
- I know that lots of people are doing great things in lockdown like writing a thesis, or cleaning every inch of their pantry. But if that is not you and all you want to do is eat cereal in your PJ's for a bit that is cool too. Don’t buy into the productivity guilt - this is a worldwide pandemic. You are so allowed to do nothing - see I gave you permission if you needed it.
- Consider adjusting what you are eating - just a little. LOTS of sugar/wine/caffeine sounds great fun (and it is) but too much can make you feel worse later on. So before starting the day with leftover easter eggs - try a protein filled breakfast first. Something simple like a smoothie with nut butter and extra fibre (like soaked chia seeds or LSA) or eggs on toast. Simple - easy - filling, your blood sugar and liver will love you for it. Then have the easter eggs… Same with coffee TRY and have some food in your stomach first if you are feeling a little frazzled. Coffee on an empty stomach can increase your stress response further if you are feeling a little bit stressed in the first place.
- Get outside at least once a day. Even if it is only to walk around your house. Air is helpful. Change of scenery is good. And Autumn walks are beautiful...
Ged, Emerson and Mae enjoying a wander in their bubble
- Consider plants. Chamomile in particular has been used FOREVER to help support your nervous system. It is effective and useful for treating mild anxiety, insomnia and digestive upsets, particularly when they are related to stress and tension. PLUS is a really safe sedative for all ages. So great for supporting healthy sleep. Passionflower - is another plant with relaxing properties to help switch the body into resting mode and reduce tension. Californian Poppy is also great for helping support your nervous system, it helps regulate stress and also promotes health sleep.
Rest and Calm- Nervine Tonic
- Talk to people. On Zoom/Facebook/the phone. We can still connect with those we love. Just not within 2 metres…
We are thinking of you all out there.
Skye and the WD team. Much love x