5 tips to improve your Mental Health during Lockdown(s)
We know that stress is apart of everyday life. From meeting deadlines, family commitments, finances, traffic jams and more. As you may know, we are in Lockdown #4 in Victoria (and about to be eased), however extensions and snap-lockdowns are unfortunately a potential possibility. How often have you thought, said or heard “hopefully it’ll be over by ___”, then an announcement happens and hope is gone where you’re left disheartened. This builds stress within the body.
Stress can come from pre-existing physical, mental, emotional, and environmental factors; from a fatigued body that struggles to digest and absorb nutrients, being in unhealthy relationships or a workplace that doesn’t align with your values, to being exposed to a mouldy household. Add the divide amongst the community, online platforms and media, we are bombarded with more information to process, more changes to adapt to, and confronting our suppressed fears, be it feeling isolated and disconnected, unable to be still with your thoughts, or fear of death and illness.
This could be a whole other topic, but this blog is to show you how you can better cope with the stress. No matter what happens. WHY MANAGING STRESS IS IMPORTANT Stress affects:
Digestion The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for your Fight-or-Flight response, no matter what form of stress you experience, the body kicks into action the same way. Heart pumps blood towards your extremities to prepare your muscles to fight or run, and away from the digestion tract, making it easier to experience bloating, indigestion, poor nutrient absorption, bowel changes and increased risk of gut infections such as SIBO and parasites (1, 2).
Worrying, overthinking, overanalysing requires a lot of energy from your brain. Not only does it fatigue the brain it will drain your energy. The overactive and stressed mind affects the gut that is connected via the vagus nerve, worsening intestinal permeability, inflammation and affecting the microbiome (2). This increases risk to poor mental wellbeing.
Sleep With Lockdown(s), it’s not uncommon for people to have increased workloads, stay up late binge watching Netflix or Youtube videos, catching up on the news or social media, or overthinking and unable to fall asleep or stay asleep. By the time you go to bed you feel wired and can’t switch off your mind. You experience a restless night's sleep and wake up exhausted and need stimulates like coffee to give you energy (3).
Autoimmunity flare ups Prolonged stress keeps cortisol elevated which doesn’t provide it’s anti-inflammatory effects effectively. Instead, there is dysregulation of inflammation may cause people with autoimmune conditions flare ups (2, 4). For example, joint pain in Rheumatoid Arthritis, bouts of diahorrea and pain in Crohn’s disease, or worsening of thyroid symptoms in Hashimotos.
Immune system During the Fight-or-Flight response, prolonged stress hormone cortisol is elevated and the immune system is suppressed to preserve energy for the stressful event. When the immune system is not effective in finding and killing pathogens, it increases the risk of infections from bacterial to viruses (5).
WHAT CAN YOU DO Magnesium Women have a daily requirement of 320mg per day whilst men require 420mg per day. This is to prevent deficiency but are not optimal amounts. Food sources include dark green leafy greens, cacao (not milk chocolate!), pepitas and sunflower seeds. It can be difficult to meet your requirements through food alone as magnesium is an essential mineral needed for over 325 enzyme reactions (6). A high quality magnesium supplement may be indicated depending on deficiency symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness, muscle cramping, insomnia, headaches, and mood swings Avoid magnesium oxide, it is NOT well absorbed where you think you’re getting magnesium, but if poorly absorbed you won’t get the effects of magnesium. B vitamins B vitamins work together and are needed for a biochemical process called methylation. Think of it as 'Creating'. Creating neurotransmitters, hormones, DNA, detoxification, energy systems. When you are deficient in B Vitamins you cannot handle stress well as B Vitamins are needed to make you feel calm and break down food for available energy (7). Ever felt wired but tired? This will play a role. B Vitamin rich foods include red meat, especially offal or organic liver pate’, poultry, eggs, salmon, shellfish and nutritional yeast. If you’re not sure if you’re getting enough Magnesium and B Vitamins, speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian. Sleep You must get enough sleep. Staying up late binging on Netflix, reading comments on an argument on FB, mindlessly scrolling on Instagram, or eating late at night, will affect the quality of your sleep. Without adequate sleep, your body cannot:
· remove the plague that builds up in the brain called Amyloid β (Aβ) plaque (8)
· regulate inflammation that may worsen your anxiety and depression (2, 5)
· regulate your immune system to help you fight off infections such as cold and flu, and ability to recover from a certain virus in our Pandemic.. (5)
· regulate your hunger and fullness hormones, to prevent weight gain (9)
Aim to sleep at the same time every night and wake at the same time every morning, and avoid screens 1-2 hrs before bed.
Grounding We have lost the important practice of walking barefooted! When we wear rubber insulated soles, we do not connect with the earth’s surface. We may have walked barefeet as children on the grass but as adults we adopted social acceptable practice to always wear shoes, even on grass. One study showed how grounding or "Earthing" provides positive benefits to body, in particular by the transfer of the earth’s electrons to neutralise oxidative stress in the body, thus helping with inflammation (10) Take your shoes off and walk in nature. Do it often.
It wouldn’t be a holistic approach if we didn’t talk about movement. Exercise increases the release of neurotransmitters (brain chemical messengers) and neurotrophins (proteins responsible for growth) that may improve neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to adapt as a result of experience) (11). Exercise also mimics the physical symptoms of anxiety within a nonthreatening context, this may form new associations with anxiety and increase day-to-day resilience (12). If you’re struggling with starting, just start with walking. Slowly build up and add more movements as you feel better, more energised and motivated. Until next time, Stay healthy and happy! Bonny. C ~ NEED ONE-ON-ONE SUPPORT? Book a free discovery call to see how nutrition can make you feel calmer, happier and in control.
References 1. Segerstrom, S. C., & Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological bulletin, 130(4), 601.
2. Karl, J. P., Margolis, L. M., Madslien, E. H., Murphy, N. E., Castellani, J. W., Gundersen, Y., ... & Pasiakos, S. M. (2017). Changes in intestinal microbiota composition and metabolism coincide with increased intestinal permeability in young adults under prolonged physiological stress. American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 312(6), G559-G571.
3. Fortunato, V. J., & Harsh, J. (2006). Stress and sleep quality: The moderating role of negative affectivity. Personality and Individual Differences, 41(5), 825-836.
4. Kinnucan, J. A., Rubin, D. T., & Ali, T. (2013). Sleep and inflammatory bowel disease: exploring the relationship between sleep disturbances and inflammation. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 9(11), 718.
5. Toker, S., Shirom, A., Shapira, I., Berliner, S., & Melamed, S. (2005). The association between burnout, depression, anxiety, and inflammation biomarkers: C-reactive protein and fibrinogen in men and women. Journal of occupational health psychology, 10(4), 344.
6. Cuciureanu, M. D., & Vink, R. (2011). Magnesium and stress. University of Adelaide Press.
7. Young, L. M., Pipingas, A., White, D. J., Gauci, S., & Scholey, A. (2019). A systematic review and meta-analysis of B vitamin supplementation on depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress: Effects on healthy and ‘at-risk’individuals. Nutrients, 11(9), 2232.
8. Boespflug, E. L., & Iliff, J. J. (2018). The emerging relationship between interstitial fluid–cerebrospinal fluid exchange, amyloid-β, and sleep. Biological psychiatry, 83(4), 328-336.
9. Patel, S. R., & Hu, F. B. (2008). Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity, 16(3), 643-653.
10. Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Chevalier, G., & Sinatra, D. (2017). Electric nutrition: The surprising health and healing benefits of biological grounding (Earthing). Altern Ther Health Med, 23(5), 8-16.
11. Portugal, E. M. M., Cevada, T., Monteiro-Junior, R. S., Guimarães, T. T., da Cruz Rubini, E., Lattari, E., ... & Deslandes, A. C. (2013). Neuroscience of exercise: from neurobiology mechanisms to mental health. Neuropsychobiology, 68(1), 1-14.
12. Smith, P. J., & Merwin, R. M. (2020). The Role of Exercise in Management of Mental Health Disorders: An Integrative Review. Annual Review of Medicine, 72.