Feeling stressed? 5 tips and tricks to managing/reducing anxiety during Covid-19

Ways to anchor yourself during uncertain times.

I think it’s fair to say that many of us at the moment feel, or have felt moments of uncertainty, stress and/or anxiety, and this is perfectly normal. Our bodies are geared to click in and out of stress responses (info here ), just like in labour and birth, these hormones play a massive role (info here)..

But, put very simply, there’s our normal stress response (fight or flight…) and an acute onset/chronic stress.

Currently, research is showing that our frontliners, are experiencing this second type of stress, as are some of their family members. Community members are not exempt from experiencing acute chronic stress, so it’s important that we know ways in which we can help to reduce and manage our anxiety levels.

The seriousness of this form of stress is that it increases anxiety, fatigue, disturbs sleep, and reduces immune function, increases avoidance, brings up feelings of worthlessness/guilt and has long term health risks.
So how is this acute chronic stress managed or reduced?

Dr. Luana Marques, Associate Professor in Psychology, speaks to this in the Harvard Medical School’s webinar on Coping with Stress during Covid-19 (this is a free webinar that you can listen to online).

She spoke about the common three-pronged approach; eating healthily, getting sleep and exercise, but also had a few tips and tricks that may be helpful if you ever feel like you’re beginning to spin out. To paraphrase, these are:

  1. It’s important to not let our brains become future oriented…anxiety breeds thinking about the future, and how this may affect us…our loved ones…our careers etc. What is more beneficial to our anxiety levels is if you are ever beginning to feel yourself spiral about “what if” “I wonder what will….” bring yourself back to what you are doing in this moment to cease control in your day (this may be implementing a routine, with some wiggle room for flexibility).
  2. If you feel you are a person susceptible to having “monkey brain” where you can’t shut down your brain and switch off those thoughts that seem to exacerbate your anxiety levels, keep a journal. Write it down. By writing what you are thinking, you shift your brain from firing within the emotional region and begin to trigger a more practical area of your brain…helping to slow down and reduce the emotional noise cluttering your thoughts.
  3. Reduce alcohol and caffeine – I’m not a big drinker by any means, but have found I have definitely increased my alcohol intake in the past few weeks (kids and husband within ear shot 24/7 perhaps?), which according to Dr. Marques “keeps us spinning”.  Reducing your alcohol content, and limiting caffeine intake (none after 3pm) may help to improve sleep (a big immune improver, as well as stress reducer).
  4. Come back to what anchors you? Is it exercise? Is it family? Social events? Spirituality? Whatever it is that helps ground you in your sense of self – do it, once a day! Whether that’s calling loved ones, burpees in the backyard, yoga in your living room, whether you feel like it or not, do it! Your body will thank you for it!
  5. Check your fear. Fear drives anxiety in a pandemic, because what we fear is an invisible threat and that for many of us is a scary thing. The best thing you can do is acknowledge that fear. Our brains love the status quo…we love balance, and when we are overwhelmed with uncertainty, anxiety skyrockets. Dr. Marques spoke of a “bandaid approach” to reducing those overwhelming emotions associated with fear and when you’re in a funk that you can’t seem to shake…grab an icecube – hold it and let it begin to sting…leave it there for a few seconds and focus on the stinging. This exercise helps to bring your strong emotions down, as you’re focusing on the physical pain and not your emotions anymore.

It’s also important to remember that we’re resilient at our core; and the best way to improve our resilience mentally is through physical and mental exercise…so write down those thoughts, dance around with your kids in the living room (we’re doing Cosmic Yoga Kids which is awesome), implement a daily routine and whatever anchors you in your sense of self, embrace it every single day.

If you’re not feeling like you’re coping, it’s important to seek help, here are some places that can help. You’re never alone.

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
If you need urgent medical help please call 000
The PANDA National Helpline is available Mon-Fri 9am-7:30pm 1300 726 306
For 24 hour crisis support please call Lifeline 13 11 14

 

The Newborn Bubble: a balancing act during Covid-19

The newborn bubble is a special time post birth…isolation is a contributing factor to feeling unsupported. Medicare have rolled out a bulk billed service allowing you to connect with health practitioners from the comfort of home.

With Covid-19 being at the forefront of most people’s minds, for many women their pregnancy, birth and postnatal period are at the forefront of theirs. With the world slowing down, and retreating to their homes, hopefully mothers and babies will be able to “bubble” that little bit longer…with less visitors, less pressures to tidy the house, less pressure to get out and about.

I love the newborn bubble. The special time post birth when you and your new baby are learning each other, bonding and finding your way through breastfeeding, sleep (or sleeplessness), snuggles and the general explosion of love. The days blur into the nights, blurring into weeks; and for how hard it can be, it repays itself ten-fold in the love you uncover for this newbie that’s now in your world. I’m lucky enough to have felt this way throughout the early days of motherhood.

Now on the flipside of this potential benefit (a prolonged bubble) of Covid-19 is that isolation is a massive factor in contributing to feeling unsupported.  20% (1 in 5) of women will be clinically diagnosed with postnatal depression in Australia (according to 2010 stats), with more than half of these women being diagnosed in the perinatal period. It could be suggested though, that with this period of self-isolation, clinicians being stretched, and people being more hesitant to step foot into health clinics etc., diagnosis could be missed, and therefore mothers could unnecessarily suffer through an illness that seeks attention and help. It is important to remember that this is an illness and not a reflection on a mother personally, and there are ways to seek help, especially during times like now. Now more than ever, it’s the responsibility of family and friends to call to check in, with new mums.

The Australian Government, has funded a 100 million dollar Medicare service for people in home isolation, quarantine, or unable to attend a doctors surgery for whatever reason, that allows health consultations via the phone or video link through mediums such as Facetime of Skype to consult with the general public (specifically people deemed to be vulnerable or immunocompromised). It’s a completely bulk billed service provided by GPs, specialists, nurses, mental health and allied health workers.

This will be an incredibly important service for new mums, not only for the protection of their babies (staying out of doctors clinics unnecessarily) but ensuring fast, efficient and easy access to help, if required.

Pharmacies and e-prescribing services will be eligible to participate in the home medicine services (great for mothers if they were to get mastitis, etc.).

For more info: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/24-billion-health-plan-fight-covid-19

Signs and Symptoms
According to PANDA, The Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia organisation, a combination of the following symptoms for someone suffering from PND is not uncommon:

  • Sleep disturbance unrelated to baby’s sleep needs
  • Appetite disturbance
  • Crying or not being able to cry
  • Inability to cope
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Negative, morbid or obsessive thoughts
  • Fear of being alone or fear of being with others
  • Memory difficulties and loss of concentration
  • Feeling guilty and inadequate
  • Loss of confidence and self-esteem
  • Thoughts of harm to self, baby or suicide

Need help?
– Beyond Blue and their support service: 1300 22 4636

– PANDA

– How is Dad going?

– Black Dog Institute and a self-test

– How to get help
– Contact your GP

Articles about PND:
– Men just as likely to suffer PND 

– Postnatal Depression treatment at home a huge success

– Postnatal Depression Beliefs Confused

– https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/primary-health-care/perinatal-depression-data-from-the-2010-australia/contents/summary

 

 

 

Test Yourself – the Covid-19 Challenge

Imagine if at the end of all of this, we emerge with a healthier attitude to self-care, mindfulness, and exercise; because if anything is to be learnt from this, it will be how much we have to value and protect our health at all costs.

In Australia, it’s really starting to sink in that we’re all going to be home, bunkering down, for quite some time. Nobody really knows how long and the unknown can be mentally incredibly tough to comprehend.

But what if this period of home-solation was actually a positive thing? Not the cabin fever or being (potentially) jobless or the extra kilos we all may be sporting on our hips when we re-enter life in the outside world, but the forceful nature of slowing down. An opportunity to reboot and reflect on what has gotten us to this moment in time, and to take more time focusing on our health and wellbeing.

2020 has seen bushfires, floods, and now a virus and we’re not even halfway through the year!Talk about a big F U from the planet –and maybe we deserve it? We haven’t been looking after Her, and maybe in a roundabout way, the Universe is sending us a message – maybe we need to focus on slowing down, self-care and our health, as we all know, when you’re feeling healthier you make healthier decisions, so maybe this will have a flow on effect? Cleaner living, cleaner lives, cleaner planet etc.

We all fly around the planet at a million miles per hour hoping to advance careers, get stuff done and yet anxiety, depression, obesity, mental health issues and lack of job satisfaction are at an all time high.

I saw a meme recently “Covid-19kgs heavier”, which is both hilarious and (scarily) possibly accurate. When it feels like the world is falling a part and we’re all stressed about our families, loved ones, finances, jobs and health, our anxiety levels increase and our bodies are working in fight-or-flight mode, our body’s natural stress response.

Adrenaline increases our heart rate, can elevate blood pressure and increases our stress hormone, cortisol. Increased stress and the immune system have been widely studied for many years and an interesting area to look into. A recurring attitude throughout many journal articles is that people under stress are more likely to have an impaired immune system. Something none of us want at any point, let alone at the moment.

The World Health Organisation is recommending for everyone at home to continue exercising and moving their bodies. They recommend 70 minutes of high intensity exercise every week or 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.

150 minutes divided by 7 days is 21 mins…so instead of Covid-19kgs heavier, why not Covid-19 minutes of movement per day? This is so achievable for everyone (you can definitely do more than this, but it’s somewhere to start for those not moving at the moment), kids and adults alike. Throw some meditation in there too!

I recently read somewhere that kids won’t actually remember the virus, but only the time spent with family at home.  This is a perfect activity to do as a family (and a great way to add some structure to your days).

Imagine if at the end of all of this, we emerge with a healthier attitude to self-care, mindfulness, and exercise; because if anything is to be learnt from this, it will be how much we have to value and protect our health at all costs.

Here are some local business adapting to the current climate, making working out at home easier with some freebie trials, or low cost classes (and no lock-ins so you can jump about and/or try before you buy lots of different programs)

 Please tag and shout out local businesses that we can support that will help us stay healthy at home! We’ve tagged a few that we know are doing great things!

LOCAL TO BRISBANE

  • Studio 99 App– free download and access to home bodyweight workouts
  • Unplugged yoga in Paddington are doing online classes $5 per week

NATIONALLY

  • Emily Skye Fit – usually offers a 7-day free trial and has extended that to a free 30 days, which includes full length home exercise routines, booty challenge and healthy recipes. Enter code WHESF1M

INTERNATIONALLY

  • Insight Timer- Free app that has guided meditations for all levels
  • Melissa Wood Health – Free 7 day trial on her at home workouts, power flows and meditations. She has an app, and lots of workouts of varying lengths.

 

 

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