Guide to Self-care for COVID-19 & Beyond

During this current public health crisis it is beyond challenging to stay centered, healthy and entertained.  Practicing in Seattle, the epicenter of this outbreak, we have been at the forefront of the fight, fielding phone calls from many patients with and without symptoms.  Patients are rightly concerned for themselves, their families and their way of life.  We are all beginning to understand the role we play in protecting others from a public health perspective, but it is a challenge to change how we do everything in our daily lives.

We have all learned how to wash our hands, wipe down every door handle, adhere to social distancing, work from home and start homeschooling our kiddos — and if that wasn’t enough, we can’t help but be concerned about contracting the virus, or passing it to someone we love.  This has resulted in total ‘overload’ for many of us – anxiety, where anxiety never used to exist – and for those who already suffer with anxiety – panic attacks and after-hours phone calls to my pager.

In no way are we suggesting you should not seek help if you are in crisis mode and need assistance, but we find ourselves giving many of the same tools and suggestions to patients, so we have compiled some of our favorites here.  Health and wellness begin with stress hormones – if you’re not supporting these you will not be supporting your emotional state, heart health, hormones or, more importantly right now, your immune system:

Nutrition:  As much as we want comfort food right now – try not to do it!  Now is the time to cook whole foods, eat lots of veggies, berries and other high antioxidant, immune supporting foods!  If you have anxiety – DON’T SKIP MEALS – low blood sugar is a great way to trip off anxiety.

Hydration: Our bodies are mostly water, our cells are made up of water, they are bathed in water, the blood is water – we have the tendency to drink less already in the winter – so double your efforts to drink enough water or herbal teas of any flavor to support the system.  One suggestion for extra hydration is using Sole once a day to drive in some extra minerals and deep hydration.

Sleep: If you’re not sleeping, you’re going to feel terrible and your coping skills will be virtually non-existent – ask any new parent about this. Set a bedtime, keep a routine during this period, see the apps we suggest below for meditations or breathing exercises before bed.  Consider some Magnesium (Natural Vitality’s CALM is a favorite at Meridian Medicine) or some low-dose melatonin (Herbatonin 0.3mg) to help you quiet down those racing thoughts and bring on sleep.  There is some information that melatonin may also be a powerful antioxidant in the lungs which may support the immune system in the face of infection.  More is not better here, though, 0.3mg versus the high doses we see in some supplements will help with sleep, while not suppressing our own production of melatonin.

Exercise:   Just because the gym is closed, doesn’t mean you can’t exercise.  This is hugely beneficial to get rid of that bound up anxiety and restless energy (there are those stress hormones again).  Don’t turn into binge-watching, couch potato – and make sure the kiddos join in!  Here are a few options: Nike Training App, or for at home yoga courses, Sworkit workout app — and, for all things good —

Get outside and get some fresh air, go for a walk, explore local parks, go for a hike – do something in nature to help remind you that life is all around you!

Stay Connected: We are social distancing – not isolating.  Connect to friends and family by sharing FaceTime/Skype dinner with friends or grandma, even better have a cocktail (or mocktail) via Skype with girlfriends, watch a movie separately but at the same time, check-in on each other and your elderly neighbors.  This is good for our mental health and good for our communities.  Here is a great article on things to do:  USA Today

Straight-up self-care:  These are some tools for angst and anxiety if you need more pointed support.  You can get online counseling services via Talk Space and your counselor or therapist is likely doing telemedicine right this minute as well – reach out.  Get Headspace or SmilingMind Apps for meditation support – there is so much research out there on mindfulness lowering stress hormones!  Stop procrastinating and just do 10 minutes a day – it can be life changing!  Not into meditation – then create some quiet time, take an Epsom salt bath, get some lavender oil in a diffuser, or try calming your Vagus nerve (central controller for most of our body and stress response) with this daily exercise.

Supplementation: The previous suggestions are the foundations of health, but here are some basics for stress and immune support right now.  This is in no way complete, and there is no evidence available to date on ways to prevent or treat COVID-19 – so please talk to your provider about your specifics, but going back to some of the basics may be helpful during this stressful time:  

Do some of these, do all of these, do whatever floats your boat so that you feel supported, re-energized and ready to take on these uncertain times!  And remember you are not alone, even if you are stuck at home.