Tips for Reducing Stress at Home from a Naturopathic Doctor
As the U.S. government struggles to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), nearly 100 million Americans are now under stay at home orders, and millions more being asked to shelter in place.
While these measures are sure to save lives, in the short term they are stressful—many people have lost income if not their jobs, and aren’t able to participate in normal self-care routines like getting a massage or going to the gym. Even worse? Stress is bad for the immune system.
So what can people do to start reducing stress at home to stay healthy and help to “flatten the curve?”
Jacob Panka, a Naturopathic Doctor who practices at Northwestern Health Sciences University’s Bloomington Public Clinic, offers creative tips on how to reduce stress at home, advice that he’s seen to be effective in his years of clinical practice using Naturopathic medicine to help people balance their bodies naturally.
- Eat a Balanced Diet of Whole, Natural Foods: “Nutrition is vital to stress relief,” says Dr. Panka. “More whole unprocessed foods and less refined sugar and alcohol are great places to start improving.” Another good goal is to try to make every plate a healthy plate, according to Dr. Panka. He offers these simple guidelines: “Make sure half of the plate is vegetables, a quarter of the plate is whole grains, and a quarter of the plate is beans, legumes, or a deck of cards portion of meat. Dress with a thumb of a healthy oil, like extra virgin olive oil, and save your favorite fruits for snacks in between meals.”
- Cut out Caffeine: According to Dr. Panka, caffeine can help stress management in the short term with improvements in fatigue and mood, but side effects of long term use include anxiety and insomnia, which make stress worse. “Try taking a caffeine holiday for at least for two days a week,” says Dr. Panka. “It’s an easy way to improve stress.”
- Take a Magnesium Supplement, and More Vitamin C: The most important supplement for stress is magnesium, according to Dr. Panka. “Magnesium is necessary for hundreds of biochemical reactions in our bodies related to stress, and stress is known to increase magnesium requirements,” says Dr. Panka. Another nutrient that is essential when the body is under stress is Vitamin C. “Stress increases Vitamin C requirements, and research finds that Vitamin C may reduce stress related to immobilization,” says Dr. Panka. It’s a nutrient that has many benefits, including immune support. “Vitamin C is a great option during the coronavirus situation,” says Dr. Panka. “Even doses as small as 200 milligrams per day are beneficial. You can get this from four small oranges.”
- Try Aromatherapy for Stress Relief: Certain scents can do more than lift the spirits, according to Dr. Panka. “Diffusing lavender augustifolia essential oil is a simple approach to stress relief,” says Dr. Panka. “This essential oil contains linalyl acetate, which has relaxant properties.”
- Apps Can Help You Stay Calm: There are many virtual stress reduction tools that people can use to stay grounded while sheltering in place. If you’re interested in meditation, Down Dog Yoga app, Hemi-Sync app and website, Wim Hof Method website, Breathe2Relax app, and Calm app and website all represent different approaches. “Choose an approach that resonates with you,” says Dr. Panka. “And know that this is a great way to boost your immunity as well. Meditation increases natural killer cells that are essential to your immune function.”
- Stay Active with the ‘Deck of Cards’ At-Home Workout: This creative workout plan will help you mix up your fitness routine, which is key to reducing stress at home. “Choose a different move per suit such as squats, pushups, leg lifts, and abdominal crunches,” says Dr. Panka. “Shuffle the deck and begin drawing cards one at a time. Go at an intensity that works for you.”
- Spend Time in Nature, at an Appropriate Distance: “Don’t forget Vitamin Nature,” says Dr. Panka. “Make time for a long jogs, walks, or bike rides through out your week. Bring a journal or an inspiring read if you feel compelled and remember to maintain social distancing recommendations.” Getting out by yourself and getting fresh air goes along way to reducing stress at home.