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Coping mechanisms for Covid – being kind to your mind

Praciticing the breathing

Are you one of the people whose mental wellbeing has been affected by COVID-19? What can you do about it?

Minding your mental health requires several tools in exactly the same way minding your physical health does. Often one needs to stop, reflect, and focus on the tools of coping.

Have you heard about the yoga breath and deep diaphragmatic breathing? This is such a cool tool to give your body the message that you’re safe.  Slow your breath, breathe deeply through the nose into the belly, feeling your diaphragm expand, hold for a couple of seconds and breathe out through the mouth. Concentrate on doing this for at least six breaths. 

Relaxation techniques are really helpful. Scan your body for any tight muscles, especially the neck and shoulders. As you scan each part of your body, physically feel your muscles relax,  relax. Doing this from head to toe while lying down and listening to calming music does wonders. Focusing on breathing and relaxation in bed before sleep can help you fall asleep and clear your mind of the unhelpful thoughts. Everytime you think worrying thoughts, turn your attention to your breathing and relaxing techniques

Contemporary Florist in Sunlight

Using light to reduce depression and anxiety

Dr Mariana Figueiro, a professor and expert in the area of light and how it affects our health, reminds us about the effect of light on human health. Circadian photobiology is a science studying how light can affect us positively and negatively. Light affects our sleep wake cycle. When we wake up, a healthy practice is to go out into the natural light as we start our day.  Equally important, our master gland, the pineal gland, needs a completely dark room at night to generate melatonin efficiently.  The pineal gland was named the “Seat of the Soul” by Renee Decartes.  Lighting makes a big difference to how we feel, and how we sleep.  Get good natural light in the morning and dim the lights in the evening, avoiding artificial lights such as digital devices at night.  Wearing amber glasses that block the blue light can help.

Blue light damages the retina and the photoreceptors because this wavelength penetrates all the way to the back of the retina.  The net result is oxidative damage to the tissues of the eye. (1) 

We need a rhythmic routine of light and dark for our health. Over time light hygiene can make a huge difference to your mental wellbeing.  Some people use a daylight lamp during winter to boost the message through the retina, to the pineal gland, that it is time to be awake and alert.  If we don’t generate melatonin, we can’t generate serotonin efficiently either, because these two hormones cycle. 

Woman sleeping

The restorative imperative of sleep

If you are one of those people for whom sleep is sacrificed for work or pleasure, you may not realise over time how your mental and physical health slowly suffers the consequences.  We have two distinct patterns of sleep, REM and Non REM, which occur in cycles through the night.  Non Rem, has stages, and it is in the third or deepest stage of this type of sleep that the body restores, heals and rests completely. (2)

Circadian rhythm is king. Approximately 1 in 3 adults are sleeping less than 7 hours per night, this can manifest in physiological and neurobehavioral deficits which become progressively worse over time. Sleep hygiene is imperative, and necessary for life, rats deprived of sleep don’t live very long, and sleep deprivation is a cardiovascular health risk too.   So dim the lights, play relaxing music, take up meditation and if necessary look to natural products that are calming, such as L-Theanine, dark cherry juice, magnesium, lemon balm, camomile, as well as melatonin in supplement form, which requires a  prescription from your doctor in Ireland but can be bought OTC in many countries

Which natural products or vitamins improve mood?

 Sometimes diets which lack certain key nutrients can cause bouts of bad moods, depression, and feelings of stress and anxiety.  Always look to a nutrient dense, balanced diet of fresh foods, organic if possible, to improve your general wellbeing.   If your diet is one of convenient processed food and snacks you cannot expect peak health and wellbeing.  There are several vitamins that you can supplement with to improve your status.  

Numero uno is vitamin D. The brain has a huge number of vitamin D receptors indicating that it is important for cognitive function. Vitamin D plays a major role in regulating mood. Are you vitamin D deficient? You can test your blood levels with an easy at home test to find out.  If you are, this could be contributing to low mood. 

Low levels  are often found in overweight individuals which could be because vitamin D is stored in fat cells. If you’re carrying excess weight, you need a greater intake of vitamin D. (3)

Omega 3 fatty acids, fish oils, play a role in cognitive health, boost your mood and improve depression. This nutrient can also be tested to check if you’re deficient.  (4)

B vitamins are necessary for the functioning and health of nerves, the production of serotonin, and for mood enhancement.

Magnesium helps relax muscles and improves sleep.

Vitamin C studies have shown a significant reduction in anxiety when adequate levels are taken either by diet or supplementation.

Iron deficiency results in chronic fatigue, low energy and mood changes.

L-Theanine is an amino acid that may boost alpha brain waves and increase serotonin.

Introduce as many of these positive steps into your daily life as possible and “feel” the difference. 

(1) https://www.naturaleyecare.com/blog/reason-lightbulb-choices-matter/

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3353049/

(3) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2008.02008.x

(4) https://www.thehealthy.com/mental-health/vitamins-for-depression-boost-your-mood/

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