How to stay well and de-stress during trying times.
A friend of ours recently showed up to a socially-distant dinner sporting a t-shirt with the words “2020: Very bad, would not recommend” alongside a graphic of a 1-star rating. Yup, that about sums it up.
Everyone we know is experiencing some sort of challenge this year. Quarantining away from friends and family, dealing with economic struggles or job loss, and navigating unprecedented health concerns—all while trying to perform at work and homeschool children at the same moment. Add to that a long-overdue reckoning with social justice and a rabid political climate, and 2020 has pushed us to the max.
That’s why now more than ever it’s important for us to take care of ourselves so we can emerge from the rubble healthy and well—and so we can care for loved ones who depend on us to be at our best. We’ve got some tips. First, let’s start by looking at how our bodies respond to stress.
Stress and your body.
Your body has an amazing ability to rise against life-threatening circumstances. We’ve all heard stories of a mom who tapped into superhuman strength to save a child in danger. It’s all thanks to a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. When our body perceives a threat, the hypothalamus sends out a sort of SOS signal that floods our system with adrenaline and glucose—enacting the “fight-or-flight” response. It also shuts down any non-essential systems not needed in that moment, like the immune system and digestion.
This flood of adrenaline and glucose—brain food and energy—helps us act quickly and think clearly. It also gives us the strength and agility to respond to anything in our paths. But unfortunately, our brains aren’t very good at discerning grave threats from day-to-day stress, resulting in many people living in an unhealthy state of perceived danger. And the added stress of a quarantine isn’t helping.
Wellness in today’s new world.
The pandemic has created unusual circumstances for many of us. Social isolation. Lack of routine. Reduced ability to exercise. Less face time and more screen time as work shifts online. A hyper-focus on the news, which is often frightening or alarming.
Daily stressors exacerbated by the pandemic have put our systems into a hyper fight-or-flight mode that’s unhealthy for sustained lengths of time. As a result, many people are experiencing negative impacts on their sleep, mood, cognitive function, weight management, energy levels and more.
But here’s the good news: There are actually many ways you can help your body combat these effects. Starting with …
Connect with friends and family.
There’s a huge amount of research which suggests social interaction is critical for mental and physical health. A nine-year study of 7,000 men and women found that people who were disconnected from others were about three times more likely to die (yes, die!) than those with strong relationships. Yikes.
Admittedly, quarantining has made it hard to safely socialize. But with a little creativity, it’s far from impossible. Try using technology in an interactive way to connect with friends. FaceTime your mom. Host a Zoom party with your girlfriends. Or enjoy a virtual movie night by streaming a film with friends using Discord. The key is interactive. When you use technology with others (versus numbly scrolling through your Instagram feed), it actually helps you feel closer and more connected—which is especially important when being together physically is out of the question.
Unplug, especially before bedtime.
Now that we’ve sung the praises of using technology interactively, here’s the rub: Time of day matters. Too much screen time before bed makes it harder for your brain to wind down and settle into sleep. The National Sleep Foundation's Sleep Health Index found that those who used technology prior to sleeping scored lower on sleep quality than those who didn't.
That’s because electronic devices emit an artificial blue light that suppresses the body’s release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. This interrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, the internal clock that tells us when it’s time to fall asleep and wake up. Experts recommend limiting your overall screen time throughout the day and—we know it’s hard!—abstaining from screen time two hours before bed.
For additional support, you can add non-habit-forming sleep supplements to your bedtime routine. Look for ones with proven ingredients like CBD, saffron, magnesium, lavender and melatonin. KAMU Dream nightly sleep drops contain full-spectrum CBD and a variety of powerful botanicals to help you get the peaceful, restorative rest you need during these challenging times.
Take it outside.
Nature heals. As herbalists and passionate proponents of the curative powers of botanicals, we know this deeply because we live it daily. But did you know that simply being outdoors, surrounded by nature, can improve wellness, relieve anxiety and even boost empathy?
We’ve felt this in our hearts for ages, but now we have science to back it up. Don’t you love when that happens?
Researchers from the University of Chiba and Nippon Medical School in Japan used field tests, hormone analysis and brain-imaging technology to crack the mysterious forces at work here. Their studies showed that walking in the forest decreased the stress hormone cortisol by 12.4%, sympathetic nerve activity by 7%, blood pressure by 1.4% and heart rate by 5.8%. Study participants also reported a better mood and less anxiety.
The Japanese call this phenomenon of submerging oneself in nature to improve health “shinrin-yoku,” which roughly translates to “forest-bathing.” The fancy name may make it sound complicated, but it’s really quite simple. All you have to do is unplug (as in, leave your phone in the car—seriously) and wander outdoors in your nearest field or forest. Even a quiet, wooded park will do. Allow your thoughts to clear and your mind to take in the sights and sounds of nature in a sort of moving meditation as your brain and body reap the benefits.
Stave off stress.
All of these recommendations contribute to lowered stress, which, in turn, contributes to improved health and well-being. In addition to connecting with friends and family, unplugging and spending time outdoors, incorporating a healthy dose of CBD into your daily rhythm is helpful. KAMU Vitality is an everyday wellness formula with a powerful blend of botanicals and broad-spectrum CBD that helps your body cope with the negative effects of stress—all while revving your immune system to build your defense from the inside out.
There are many other things you can do to survive this brave new world we find ourselves living in. Meditation. Mindful breathing exercises. Yoga. Ice baths. The list goes on. The important thing is to, occasionally, put yourself first and do what makes you feel peaceful, healthy and happy. Because when you’re at your best, everyone around you benefits, too.
How have you been dealing with the current crazies? Share your secrets in the comments below.