As the COVID-19 Pandemic evolves, so evolves the stress and anxiety for many of us. Not only do fears fester with ongoing uncertainty, but stress builds with limited outlets to cope due to restrictions - and physical distancing. There are fortunately many natural ways that we are able to navigate and cope with our anxieties. Nutritional and natural medicines offer great stress busting options that may be well worth your while to explore.
One of my favorite all time relaxing strategies is going for a walk. When walking, I try to go out in the elements as much as possible; on a trail, in the forest, country, or city park. Walking allows you to not only exercise, but meditate. Mindful walking is about enjoying your surroundings to the fullest. Listen to the birds, observe the trees, or become zen with your stride - essentially centering your thoughts to your steps. After about 20 minutes you will start feeling better. The fresh air, nature, and the activity will do you a world of good.
Another strategy is to simply ensure that you are eating meals that support healthy blood sugars. In other words, eat small frequent meals, rich in healthy carbs, healthy fats and proteins. This is great for supporting cognitive health, mental health, and coping with stress. You see, when your blood sugars fluctuate, the highs and lows will negatively affect your moods and ability to cope with stress. While stabilizing your blood sugars will enhance your coping abilities.
Be sure to consume food rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3's are the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are considered essential for health. Research shows that these fats improve depression, cardiovascular health and cognitive function. So top up your intake of cold water fish such as wild salmon, or take a sensible dose of fish oils. Most health authorities recommend 2-3 servings weekly of a fatty fish to meet your daily needs. Vegan or plant based alternates include a tablespoon of ground flaxseed, or 1-2 handfuls of walnuts daily.
In terms of botanical medicines, herbs such as ashwagandha are well known for there adaptogenic properties, meaning that they help the body cope with all forms of stressors. Above and beyond the empirical evidence supporting this stress busting herb, there are many preliminary clinical studies showing strong therapeutic potentials.
A recent systematic review of clinical trials published in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine 2014, showed that extracts of ashwagandha significantly improved Hamilton Anxiety Scale in two studies. Similarly, another study showed that naturopathic treatment with ashwagandha reduced the Beck Anxiety Index by 16% greater than psychotherapy. Further, another trial showed a 39% stronger reduction in perceived stress scale vs placebo. In other words, significant benefits have been found for dealing with both stress and anxiety when taking this remedy.
The authors of this review suggested more well designed larger scale clinical trials are warranted to explore its anxiety and stress reducing effects. If you would like to try this natural medicine, look for a quality extract, standardized to contain a minimum of 2.5% Withanolides, the active component. Look for a brand with a proven track record that follows GMP, meaning that it tests for purity and potency.
Also, double check with your natural health practitioner or nutritionally orientated pharmacist before taking if you are on medications or have a medical condition. Some medications that may interact include thyroid medications and sedative medications. A side benefit of this botanical is that it may help support immunity against colds, flus and other infections.
So don't despair, there are many natural strategies that may help you overcome stress and anxiety, and look at life more positively; or at least help you see the light glimmering through the clouds of pandemic distress.