Post-Covid Anxiety: After a couple of years of living through the changing rules and ways of life within the pandemic, anxiety and other mental health challenges are skyrocketing. Today we explore this post-covid phenomenon and how you can overcome anxiety without pharmaceutical medications.
Mental Health in the Post-Lockdown Era
Recent studies highlight the long-term impact of the covid lockdowns, including various mental health challenges like psychological distress, depression, and anxiety.1 The past couple of years have induced high amounts of stress for many, and although stress is a normal part of life, we only have a certain capacity before it takes a mental and physical toll.1,2
Chronic stress places an enormous burden on the body that can result in a wide range of health issues, including;2
- Digestive problems
- Muscle tension and pain
- Heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
Experiencing negative emotions is a normal and healthy part of human life. It can help orient us toward our values and goals, but prolonged bouts of such feelings can lead to diagnoses like anxiety and depression.
Post Covid Anxiety: All Stress is Stress
One of the fascinating things about stress is that your perceived stress (mental and emotional) has just as real an impact as physical stress.3 Everyone has a unique combination of stressful influences; none are more or less real than any other. For example, during the pandemic, studies showed that women were more impacted by stress or work/ life balance, while financial stressors more influenced men.1 At the end of the day, the importance is minimizing the inputs of stress and addressing our physical health and mindset so that we can be more resilient when we come in contact with life’s inevitable stressors.
This article focuses on how chronic stress influences our mental and physical health. Stress is a natural response involving an array of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, reacting like an internal alarm system. Although it has a place, problems creep in, resulting in diagnoses like anxiety when stress becomes chronic.2
How to Manage Post-Covid Anxiety Naturally
Although mainstream medicine clumps all people under the title of a diagnosis, the reality is that you cannot blindly treat everyone’s particular set of symptoms the same since we each arrive at our symptoms differently. Although two people may have “anxiety,” no two people experience it the same way.
Dealing with anxiety from a holistic approach requires dancing between increasing your capacity to experience stress and minimizing the stressful inputs within your control.4 Understanding and exploring your life’s story, beliefs, and habits and tailoring an approach to mitigate stress and increase resilience to stress requires a bio-individual approach.
The tips below are not exhaustive but will create a strong foundation to enable you to manage anxiety without pharmaceutical interventions.
Although getting enough sleep is important, the key to restorative rest is more about the quality of your sleep.5 A single night of poor sleep quality can impact your cortisol levels for the next 24 hours, making you less resilient to stress and less insulin sensitive.6
Quality sleep starts with a strong and healthy circadian rhythm, like an internal alarm clock. This regulatory system is set by your habits and influenced enormously by exposure to light. You can support your body’s natural rhythms by exposing your eyes to sunlight within the first hour of waking and avoiding artificial light (especially blue light) within the few hours before bed.7
Other ways you can support your circadian rhythm to encourage better sleep quality include:
- Having a set bedtime and waketime
- Winding down at least an hour before bed (opt for books instead of TV)
- Avoid staring into any screens (phones, TV)
- Wear blue light-blocking glasses if you cannot avoid artificial lights
- Opt for red light bulbs, salt lamps, or candlelight after dark
- Avoid too much stimulation 2-3 hours before bed (vigorous exercise or big meals)
- Have a bedtime routine that relaxes you (self-massage, reading, a bath, or meditation)
- Turn off the wi-fi at night
- Make sure your bedroom has no artificial light at night (use blackout blinds)
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon
Movement and Play
When we think of movement, we typically think of exercise, which can help reduce cortisol when engaged mindfully.8 The key is to be in the right relationship with exercise and not overdo it. Moderate exercise requires tuning in and not pushing it to the max every time. Cycling through lower-intensity movements like yoga and walking and pairing it with some days of moderate or more intense activity promotes sustainable habits.
Play is more important than formal exercise in reducing cortisol levels. Although play often can involve movement too, the key difference is that play is not done with any particular intention other than having fun and being in the moment. We typically associate exercise with goals (weight loss or muscle gain), but play is just about getting into a flow state and experiencing joy. Playing is linked to various health markers, including lower cortisol levels, improved heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and boosts your immune system function.9-11
Dialing in proper nutrition for your body requires a bio-individual approach. Unfortunately, there is no cookie-cutter approach that works for everyone. But focusing on stress mitigation can highlight some general rules of thumb to be mindful of as you navigate nourishment.12
- Getting enough protein as a foundational macronutrient
- Keeping your blood sugar balanced by having enough fat and protein with your carbohydrates
- Eating enough (especially if you have been chronically dieting for years)
- Focusing on nutrient-dense animal products as the backbone of your diet
- Opting for the best quality (organic and regeneratively farmed) foods you can afford
- Rotating your diet with the seasons
- Take a break from fasting if you’re chronically stressed, and play around with it once you have restored energy and capacity for more stress.
- Focus on getting enough minerals like salt, potassium, and magnesium
- Prepare your food for optimal digestion and bioavailability by soaking, sprouting, fermenting, and cooking your foods (avoid too many raw foods
Community and Connection
A sense of community and healthy relationships is vital for health and well-being.13 Studies link belonging to a wide range of health benefits, including longevity markers and reductions in cortisol and inflammation.
Life gets hard sometimes; the past couple of years have been especially challenging for many, and having people who can help you feel seen and heard is important. Keeping and maintaining healthy relationships also requires cultivating communication and listening skills. Becoming the friend you want to attract can need work, but exploring styles like “Non-Violent-Communication” and other techniques can help you better express yourself and connect with a supportive community.14
Earthing is a fantastic way to mitigate stress by balancing your electric charge.15 Earthing, also called grounding, occurs when your body is connected to the earth’s surface, which allows positive ions to offload. This dramatically affects various health markers, including a drop in cortisol levels.15
The easiest way to earth is just to get outside barefoot on the earth. Immersing yourself in nature has added health benefits, but having actual skin contact with the earth is key. There are other ways to ground yourself indoors, like getting an earthing mat or grounding your bed using sheets lined with a conductive material like silver that is then grounded using modern technology. Studies show a dramatic reduction in cortisol levels when individuals sleep in a grounded bed.16
Although supplements should not be the first course of action when solving your health challenges, they offer a great opportunity to bolster our resilience during periods of greater stress. In other words: you can’t out-supplement a lifestyle full of chronic stressors, but when stress inevitably does come knocking at your door, there are fantastic supplements that can help you mitigate its impact.
Minerals are depleted from the body during times of stress.17 Since so many foods are low in minerals (due to mineral depletion in the soil), it can be difficult to get enough minerals in our diet alone. Supplementing with a mineral mix is an easy way to ensure you’re getting enough for optimal physical and mental function, especially during periods of higher stress.
Our recommendation: BodyBio – Pre-Mixed Liquid Minerals. You can add this liquid mineral mix to water to enhance the mineral content. It includes potassium, zinc, magnesium, chromium, manganese, and molybdenum, essential minerals for vibrant health.
Adaptogens are plants and mushrooms that help your body respond to stress, anxiety, fatigue, and overall well-being.18 They do so by increasing your resilience and helping the body find homeostasis (balance).
Our recommendation: Biotonic Adaptogenic Tonic. Biotonic is made of organically grown traditional Chinese adaptogenic herbs to help strengthen the body’s defenses. This formula is specially designed to support the HPA axis & reduce fatigue.
Post Covid Anxiety: Summary
Stress-related health challenges are on the rise in the post-covid-era. Being mindful of our stress inputs and increasing our capacity for resilience to stress is one of the ways to manage stress-related symptoms like anxiety naturally. Some key pillars include quality sleep, movement, play, proper nutrition, earthing, and supplementation (like minerals and adaptogens).
- Leach, Corinne R., et al. “Stressors and Other Pandemic-Related Predictors of Prospective Changes in Psychological Distress.” The Lancet Regional Health – Americas, vol. 4, 2021, p. 100069., doi:10.1016/j.lana.2021.100069.
- “Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 July 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037.
- Epel, Elissa S et al. “More than a feeling: A unified view of stress measurement for population science.” Frontiers in neuroendocrinology vol. 49 (2018): 146-169. doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2018.03.001
- Cay, Mahmut, et al. “Effect of increase in cortisol level due to stress in healthy young individuals on dynamic and static balance scores.” Northern clinics of Istanbul vol. 5,4 295-301. 29 May. 2018, doi:10.14744/nci.2017.42103
- Hirotsu, Camila, et al. “Interactions between Sleep, Stress, and Metabolism: From Physiological to Pathological Conditions.” Sleep Science, vol. 8, no. 3, 2015, pp. 143–152., doi:10.1016/j.slsci.2015.09.002.
- Chorousos, G, et al. “H.P.A. Axis and Sleep.” South Dartmouth, vol. 18, 18 Jan. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25905298.
- Lockley, Steven W, et al. “High sensitivity of the human circadian melatonin rhythm to resetting by short wavelength light.” The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism vol. 88,9 (2003): 4502-5. doi:10.1210/jc.2003-030570
- Chen, Chong, et al. “The Exercise-Glucocorticoid Paradox: How Exercise Is Beneficial to Cognition, Mood, and the Brain While Increasing Glucocorticoid Levels.” Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, vol. 44, 2017, pp. 83–102., doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2016.12.001.
- Steptoe, Andrew, et al. “Positive Affect and Psychobiological Processes Relevant to Health.” Journal of Personality, vol. 77, no. 6, 2009, pp. 1747–1776., doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00599.x.
- Charney, Dennis S. “Psychobiological Mechanisms of Resilience and Vulnerability.” Focus, vol. 2, no. 3, 2004, pp. 368–391., doi:10.1176/foc.2.3.368.
- Vlachopoulos, Charalambos, et al. “Divergent Effects of Laughter and Mental Stress on Arterial Stiffness and Central Hemodynamics.” Psychosomatic Medicine, vol. 71, no. 4, 2009, pp. 446–453., doi:10.1097/psy.0b013e318198dcd4.
- Price, Weston A. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: a Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects. Lightning Source, 2010.
- Syme, S. Leonard, and Miranda L. Ritterman. “The Importance of Community Development for Health and Well-Being.” Community Development Investment Review, pp. 1–13. School of Public Health, https://www.frbsf.org/community-development/files/syme_ritterman.pdf.
- Rosenberg, Marshall B., and Arun Gandhi. Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life. PuddleDancer Press, 2015.
- Chevalier, Gaétan, et al. “Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons.” Journal of Environmental and Public Health, vol. 2012, 2012, pp. 1–8., doi:10.1155/2012/291541.
- Ghaly, Maurice, and Dale Teplitz. “The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 10,5 (2004): 767-76. doi:10.1089/acm.2004.10.767
- Lopresti, Adrian L. “The Effects of Psychological and Environmental Stress on Micronutrient Concentrations in the Body: A Review of the Evidence.” Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)vol. 11,1 (2020): 103-112. doi:10.1093/advances/nmz082
- “What Are Adaptogens & Types”. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/22361-adaptogens