Buddha was asked: What have you gained from meditation?
He replied: Nothing. However, I have lost anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age, and death.
I’m sure all of you have faced some form of anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, and fear of age and death in the last couple weeks. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out our worst fears and that stress has left our body, mind and spirit in imbalance.
The fact is we Americans were already severely stressed. The American Psychological Association released a report in November 2019, detailing the number of Americans who felt stress from issues including healthcare, mass shootings and even the upcoming election. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “little or no stress” and 10 being “a great deal of stress”, most Americans were around 5.5. Boomers and older adults had lower scores and Gen Z had the highest stress level at 5.8. Add COVID-19 pandemic to the mix and we are probably at a 9 or 10 right now!
When stressed, your body releases cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Normally these hormones would save your life in a truly dangerous situation, for example if a tiger is chasing you! However, constant release of these and other hormones as a result of life’s daily stressors, can have dire and long-term consequences. These stress hormones can suppress your immune system, increase your blood sugar, increase blood pressure, and increase body dysfunction and inflammation.
What can you do to maintain normal hormonal balance in times of stress?
· Eat healthy with plenty of vegetables, whole grains, some fruit, and fish and poultry for meat.
· Choose low impact exercise like swimming, walking or yoga which doesn’t increase cortisol levels like other more intense exercise.
· Sleep 7-8 hours and use an app to get to bed on time.
· Stop caffeine which can increase anxiety.
· Make sure to schedule time to let loose! Hang out with friends and family.
· Start daily meditation and even 5 minutes once a day can calm the brain.
· Consider a spiritual practice or prayer which has been proven to lower anxiety and depression.
· Having positive relationships with people or pets can help reduce stress significantly.
What can you do if you are feeling bouts of extreme anxiety or panic attacks?
· Deep breathing and closing your eyes can help slow down the body’s response to anxiety.
· Try a meditation or mindfulness exercise. Here are some examples:
· Try body scanning techniques: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo3PetVUcIc.
· Try tapping, this can decrease cortisol and release emotions. Check out https://www.thetappingsolution.com/tapping-101/.
· Drink anxiety or bed time teas that calm the body, like Yogi Honey Lavender Stress Relief Tea. These herbal teas are natural, tasty, and well tolerated.
· See a mental health professional and your medical care provider who can suggest other techniques, medications, or herbs to help relieve your anxiety.
It is not easy to deal with what is happening right now, feel free to reach out to a helping hand. You are not in this alone!