6 Simple Steps to Stress Relief in the Era of Coronavirus
With all the hype surrounding Coronavirus, many have been focusing on precautions to stop the spread of germs. We know the constant media coverage is causing frenzy-induced shortages of household goods and immunity boosting supplements. Store shelves that used to hold germ-killing cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and elderberry gummies now sit empty. There is also fear about other effects of the virus, like economic and social concerns.
The hysteria is causing a bigger problem, though. Almost nobody is talking about its potential contribution to the virus epidemic.
Stress can be more damaging than the virus itself. In his book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body, Dr. Daniel Amen says, “…the human brain is so advanced that merely imagining a stressful event will cause the body to react to the perceived threat as if it were actually happening.”
In the case of COVID-19, as with any high-profile media event, this creates a snowball effect. Repeated visual or auditory exposure to the threat results in higher stress levels. This lowers our defenses for if/when we need them. Stress relief is key to boosting our immunity.
Compounding this, stress itself can explicitly affect our immune systems. Two pathways link the brain and the immune system. Both are directly involved in processing the body’s stress response. Simply put, these are:
- Autonomic nervous system (performs the vital bodily functions without our having to think about it. It keeps our hearts beating, lungs breathing, digestive systems utilizing nutrients).
- Neuroendocrine outflow via the pituitary gland (needs balance to avoid adrenal fatigue and maintain the body’s healing mechanisms).
If our bodies’ resources are depleted in managing the effects of stress, we compromise our chances of fighting off any virus.
Taking the recommended precautions is essential for prevention of physical spread:
- Wash hands thoroughly with hot soapy water throughout the day.
- Sanitize surfaces.
- Isolate when sick.
- Nourish yourself with immunity boosting foods & supplements: garlic, elderberry, ginger, cinnamon, raw honey, and
high-vitamin-C foods like sweet bell peppers, kiwi, oranges, pineapple, strawberries, grapefruit, mango.
Equally important, is self-nurturing with stress relief practices. Individual recentering can make a massive impact on physical, mental and emotional health
– — not only for ourselves, but also our children, extended families, communities, and the world.
You may not need to worry about contracting this illness yourself. But what if you could be part of the calm and strength necessary to support those who do? What if your self-support could create a ripple of calm, helping to prevent high-risk people from the stress that increases their risk even more?
Here are 6 quick and easy stress relief practices you can make part of your everyday.
Most take as little as 2 minutes, and you can do them almost anywhere.
(Get the visual guide/ Cheat Sheet below.)
For maximum effectiveness, it is important to fully pause, set the intention, tune into yourself, and enjoy these moments. You may experience immediate relief. It’s also helpful to weave in at least one of these methods on a regular basis. Routine creates autonomy, so you will start to do this without even having to think about it. Consistency creates the greatest benefit.
1. Acupressure Massage
Relieve anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Perfect for calming at bedtime for restful sleep.
Locate the ‘heavenly gate’ point, in the upper shell of your ear, at the tip of the triangle-like hollow there. Massage this point between your thumb & index finger for 2 minutes, using a firm & gentle circular motion.
2. ‘B’ Calm
B vitamins boost physical & mental energy without jitters or crashing. They help the body manage stress levels & relieve anxiety.
Best absorbed when combined with Vitamin C (see high-content vitamin C foods above)
Best easy sources: sublingual B-complex drops, spinach, salmon, tuna, broccoli, brown rice, beans, whole wheat flour
Lavender supports the deep limbic system, the brain’s emotional center.
Other relaxing scents: sandalwood, cardamom, rose, sage
Add a few drops of essential oils to diffuser, bath, cup of hot water, or unscented candle.
Pause and focus on breathing in the scent.
4. Gaze Up at the Sky
Fresh air & daylight (sunshiny or not) calm the nervous system and stimulate feelings of happiness.
Gazing upward & focusing on the expansiveness of the sky improves mood and helps us recover from attention overload / mental fatigue.
Being close to trees & greenery enhances this effect even more.
Go for a walk, step out on your porch, or relax on a park bench.
5. Limit caffeine and avoid it after 12pm
Enjoy the brain -boosting, energizing benefits of green tea in the morning.
One compound found in green tea, L-theanine, is known to reduce stress by boosting GABA, an amino acid that helps to calm overfiring in the brain.
Soothe yourself with a hot cup of relaxing decaf tea in the afternoon & evening.
Some sleep-inducing teas for bedtime:
lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, cinnamon, passionflower, blends that include valerian root
6. Medical Meditation Techniques
MUDRA / BREATHING Technique:
Sit comfortably (on floor with legs crossed / on chair with feet on floor), spine straight, eyes closed, hands at heart, thumbs touching & each finger touching its opposite.
Note: This mudra, or positioning of the fingers, supports the 4th chakra, which is an energy center in the body that is directly related to stress recovery and immunity. It is connected with the autonomous nervous system, as noted above, as well as the thymus (immunity) and vagus nerve (healing, rest and repair).
Breathing through the nose: Inhale slowly for count of 5, hold for count of 5, then slowly exhale for count of 5. Repeat for up to 11 minutes.
These simple acts of self-care have the power to shift our mind-body wellbeing. By practicing self-care with intention, we can lessen the impact of a media-frenzy-induced stress epidemic, as well as the potential for more widespread physical illness.
Take two minutes to try one today, and see how different you feel.
Your physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as the people around you, will be thankful.
UPDATE: This article is now published on Medium!
- Ader R, Cohen N, Felten D (1995) Psychoneuroimmunology: interactions between the nervous system and the immune system. Lancet 345(8942):99–103
- Meditation as Medicine: Activate the Power of Your Natural Healing Force, Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D. and Cameron Stauth
- How to Relieve Stress, Robert M. Sapolsky, Ph.D. via Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley
- 6 Pressure Points for Anxiety Relief, Written by Crystal Raypole; Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT