A Holistic Approach to Healthcare
As a naturopathic doctor, I believe in treating the whole person, not just their symptoms. With each therapeutic encounter, I am assessing how various aspects of someone’s life impacts their wellness. This means at every consult my clients and I discuss how their stress, lifestyle, relationships, environment, beliefs, sleep, and spirituality are effecting their current health outcomes.
Many of my new clients are sometimes taken aback when I dive deep into the mind-body-spirit aspect of the functional medicine matrix. They report that with previous integrative providers lifestyle medicine was mostly focused on nutrition, exercise, self-care, smoothies, and sleep. Yet, most intuitively know that health is so much more.
Along with taking into account biochemical individuality and genomics for a personalized nutrition and supplement support protocol, I explain how any underlying emotional or psychological imbalances are just as important. If these are not addressed any physical modality is a Band-Aid, at best.
Stress Impacts Your Whole Body
Trauma, even in our past, touches upon our vulnerable “sweet spots.” It alters our biochemistry, especially our nervous system, hormones, and immune responses. In the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Events) study it was shown that for every negative event in childhood the risk for chronic diseases in adulthood increased. Furthermore, long-term chronic stress, and even acute stress, has been found to produce functional changes in the brain. (source)
The State of Mental Health in the World
A recent study by Qualtrics included 2,700 people from the US (35% of the sample), UK, France, Germany, Singapore, Australia, and New Zeeland across a wide variety of industries to measure the mental toll of the current world situation. The survey was from the end of March to early April 2020. According to Forbes:
- 67% experienced higher levels of stress
- 57% reported greater anxiety
- 54% are more emotionally exhausted
- 53% say they feel sadness daily
- 50% feel more irritability
- 42% report an overall decline in mental health
During this turbulent time in the world, we need to ensure our mental health is an important priority as our physical health. Making time for dancing, mindfulness meditation, deep breathing are all important to keep sane and let go of negative brain effects that occur with chronic stress.
Ten ways to Calm the Brain and Body During a Crisis
1. Breath Work
The act of just breathing can calm the nervous system and help to regulate the mood. There are many different methods. This link will give you some examples of various techniques.
If you do not want to get fancy, even a few deep breaths will be helpful when you’re experiencing “monkey mind.”
2. Mindfulness (paying attention to your thoughts)
Besides bringing you into the present moment, mindfulness also entails watching for and correcting cognitive distortions. These thoughts can occur during times of stress, isolation, or feelings of loneliness. Their names pretty much sum up their definition and include the following:
- Jumping to conclusions
- Mental filtering
3. Spend Time in Nature (every day)
Nature can soothe the nervous system and enhance overall health. For those in self-isolation, you can still receive some benefit by just viewing nature scenes or through inhaling phytoncide-rich essential oils. Even just looking at the great outdoors or inhaling the pinene-rich oils can create some of the positive benefits in your mind and body that you’d receive among the trees.
In the mentioned article, the authors explain how acupressure can help release tension and enhance sleep. They state:
Here are a few acupressure points you should know about:
- The spot between your eyebrows
- Webbed space between your thumb and forefinger
- Base of your wrist, the crease where your hand meets your arm
- Two points on the base of your skull, where your head meets your neck
Holding these points for 30 seconds to five minutes will help release tension in your body, providing a sense of calm, and enhancing sleep. For added effect, you can press these points and massage in a small circular motion.
5. Unplug (from the hysteria) and Restore
Negative news can detrimentally rewire your brain. Rather than hypothesizing and catastrophizing, focus on the action steps you can take to empower yourself. Additionally, fearful news can destroy your ability to rest and think clearly. Turn off the news and tune-into self-care and soothing activities in the evening to help you to relax and get to bed. Sleep is important to restore your brain and help it reboot and detox from the previous day.
6. Ensure Human Connection (for mental and heart health)
According to a new study of over 4,100 participants:
Social isolation is associated with an increased risk of a cardiovascular event by more than 40%, and of all-cause mortality approaching 50%, new research suggests.
Most importantly, these participants had no underlying cardiovascular disease. As noted on Medscape:
Additional models that also adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors, health behaviors, depression, and socioeconomic factors, did not significantly change effect estimates.
“Social relationships protect us from cardiovascular events and mortality, not only via good mood, healthy behavior, and lower cardiovascular risk profile,” commented Gronewold. “They seem to have a direct effect on these outcomes.”
Having strong social relationships is as important to cardiovascular health as classic protective factors such as controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and maintaining a normal weight, said Gronewold.
As we head back into reopening society, following the CDC and WHO guidelines, we need to connect with loved ones in safe ways to ease some of the negative effects of isolation. (source, source, source)
7. Create a Daily Routine
This may help you to establish a feeling of being more in control, decreasing anxious thoughts. Consider yoga, this has been shown to help with mood in those with mental health issues. (source, source)
8. Use Herbs & Supplements for Promoting Calm (and essential oils)
This post lists five apoptogenic herbs for stress resilience.
9. Conscious (Cognitive) Reframing & Finding Gratitude (with Essential Oils)
Changing your perspective on things that can be triggering can help deescalate panic. This can mean setting boundaries on the amount of news watched and finding the positive from the negative. Studies find that training oneself to be grateful can benefit mental and physical well-being. (source, source) Previously, I discussed how a specific blend of essential oils can be used to entice one into a state of being thankful. I suggest to my clients to combine essential oils with most of their mind-body practices to enhance the effects.
10. Keep the faith
Unfortunately, both suicides and substance use have been on the rise with the crisis. Perhaps a little faith may help reverse this. A recent associative study demonstrated a decrease in deaths of despair in those who attended religious services once a week. Furthermore, spiritual approaches have been found to assist with addiction and substance abuse.
Bonus: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Something I suggest for all my clients to calm their brain and balance their body is the use of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This technique uses acupuncture meridians and a tapping technique that has been shown in clinical trials to relieve anxiety and PTSD.
Here is a link with free stress relief tapping downloads, each 7-8 minutes in length.
Breath work, mindfulness, spending time in nature, acupressure, unplugging, human connection, staying on schedule, herbs and essential oils, finding gratitude, faith, and EFT are all methods to help one keep their sanity during these trying times.
As we continue to navigate through this crisis, let’s remember the steps we take for our own emotional, mental, and self-care can have big effects.
I welcome you to comment and share your insights below.
We are in this together.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
For additional safety and medical information, visit my essential oils database. It includes a full category on how to use essential oils safely and potential drug interactions that can occur.
Please be extra cautious and be sure to check with your doctor if you have a seizure disorder. The Epilepsy Society of the UK lists certain essential oils implicated for their antiseizure effect as well as those that have stimulating properties.
If you and/or your physician are interested in consulting with me to assist with supporting the integration of essential oils safely into a therapeutic protocol, essential oils consultations are available.