Finding
self-nurture

Finding Calm in the Storm

Amy Wilson

This last year was a whirlwind of emotions. The challenges we faced have impacted many aspects of our lives, thus playing a toll on our mental and physical health. As we navigate our way through 2021, we can reflect on the strengths Canadian have demonstrated so far. In order to keep our stamina in the new year, we have to prioritize our health. Our best bet is to stay positive, work together and keep our mental and physical health in top priority.

The way we feel mentally, has a profound effect on how our body physically reacts to stress. A state of mind is easily influenced by external and internal factors. Some of these are in our control and some are not. Taking charge of what is in your control is a good way to start.

Internal Work

We have all heard it before, but I am going to echo it again: exercise, eat whole foods and meditate. All of these actions will have a profound and positive effect on your mental health.

Daily exercise

Exercise in particular, has an immediate positive boost to your mental health and well-being.1

Exercising releases endorphins that make you feel good both mentally and physically. If it has been a while since you have been active, start small with daily walks and challenge yourself to increase your activity level a little more each day. Consistency is key when it comes to creating healthy habits.

Starting a mindful practice

Mindful meditation is a great way to calm your mind and combat anxiety.2 Meditating daily only requires a short amount of your time and focus. Start in small increments like 5 minutes a day and work your way up gradually. This is a great practice to start your day or, implement mid-day when you might be feeling a little overwhelmed.

If meditation isn’t your jam, try laying down in a dark room and taking deep breaths in through your nose and out your mouth, in a slow and controlled manner. Practicing deep breathing will calm down your nervous system and help reduces anxiety.

Eating whole foods

By eating whole foods and cutting out processed, sugary foods, you will better be able to cope with stress and anxiety. Processed and sugary foods lead to inflammation in the body, including the brain. When your body is inflamed, your response to stress will not be optimal and you may be at an increased risk for depression.4

Supplements for stress management

Besides eating a well-balanced diet, consider supporting your body with vitamins, minerals and herbs which will aid in daily stress management. Below is a list of a few well researched supplements to help optimize your body’s ability to better cope with stress.

Magnesium

Magnesium is used in over 300 reactions around the body. It is especially essential in the stress response.5 Keeping magnesium levels optimal through supplementation, will help you cope with stress and relax your body and mind.

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are herbs that help you ‘adapt to stress’. Some well-known adaptogens include Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, Ginseng and Maca, just to name a few.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms such as Reishi, Cordyceps and Lions Mane, help support our body’s ability to cope with stress. Mushrooms support our overall immunity. This helps keep us strong both mentally and physically.

External factors

Our external environment has a major impact on our mood and behaviour. If you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, it may be a good idea to tune out media for a while. It is good to stay informed and up to date, however, keep it at minimum by checking in briefly through trusted sources and then putting the news updates away for the day. Spend the extra time working on a project that will benefit your mental health such as yoga, learning a new skill like knitting or reading a soulful book.

Another external factor to consider is community. Keep your community strong and be present to support one another during these trying times. Work on making these connections essential. Pick each other up when one is feeling down, look for red flags that may suggest someone is in need of support and offer help. Remember, everyone acts differently to stress and by helping others, it may help you feel better about yourself at the end of the day. Know your limits, boundaries and learn to ask for help when YOU need it.

We are all in this together. Let’s continue to be understanding and kind to one another and do our best to prioritize ourselves. In order to take care of someone else, we must first take care of ourselves.

References

  1. Fox KR. The influence of physical activity on mental well-being. Public health nutrition. 1999 Mar;2(3a):411-8.
  1. Hoge EA, Bui E, Marques L, Metcalf CA, Morris LK, Robinaugh DJ, Worthington JJ, Pollack MH, Simon NM. Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for generalized anxiety disorder: effects on anxiety and stress reactivity. The Journal of clinical psychiatry. 2013 Aug;74(8):786.
  1. Busch V, Magerl W, Kern U, Haas J, Hajak G, Eichhammer P. The effect of deep and slow breathing on pain perception, autonomic activity, and mood processing—an experimental study. Pain Medicine. 2012 Feb 1;13(2):215-28.
  1. Miller AH, Raison CL. The role of inflammation in depression: from evolutionary imperative to modern treatment target. Nature reviews immunology. 2016 Jan;16(1):22.
  1. Cuciureanu MD, Vink R. Magnesium and stress. University of Adelaide Press; 2011.

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