Whatever lull we may have had in the summer and fall, the coronavirus seems to be even more in our faces now than ever. The number of cases is increasing, the easing government restrictions are now tightening once again, and, to make matters even more stressful, the holidays are just around the corner.
Many people who were starting to relax and feel better about the pandemic situation are now feeling their anxiety levels rise to new heights. The holidays are normally stressful enough without the virus, but now we have to make hard decisions about who we can see, whether we should just stay home, whether we feel safe enough to get together with younger family members but maybe not older ones, and the list goes on.
It almost makes you miss the days when all you had to worry about for Thanksgiving was which type of pie to make or if you were responsible to bring a vegetable dish.
COVID-19 and Anxiety and Depression
We wrote a few months back about how one of the biggest threats to your well being during the pandemic, besides actually contracting the virus, is your mental health. Anxiety, stress, and depression arise from the uncertainty of keeping our jobs or getting sick, isolation resulting from reinstated lock downs, and fear of what the future will hold for us.
On top of all that, we are hammered with bad news constantly from every angle on social media and through traditional media. What’s more is that this is the time of year when seasonal depression starts to kick in, which isn’t helping anything.
As we’ve pointed out before, there are some active steps you can take to help keep an even keel and maintain a healthy mindset during the pandemic:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
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How the Holiday Season May Actually Help Your Stress
In addition to the methods we outlined above, there are some other somewhat unconventional ways to help relieve stress and anxiety. Activities like gift giving, expressing gratitude, and sympathizing and communicating empathy can all actually make you feel better and reduce feelings of stress.
You might be saying, “Yeah sure, giving a gift or saying thank you is great, but it’s not actually going to improve my mental health.”
That thought, however, is not entirely true. It’s important to remember that much of what we feel is actually the result of chemicals or hormones. When things like cortisol, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin become out of balance, our mental health will suffer. Triggers like stress that increase cortisol levels for prolonged periods can lead to severe anxiety and depression. While activities that boost dopamine and serotonin will lead to feelings of contentment, happiness, and feeling comfortable.
- Gift giving - Gift giving has been shown to release endorphins and dopamine within your brain. These natural chemicals are part of the body’s reward system and are designed specifically to make you feel good.
- Helping others – Doing something nice for others helps trigger a release of oxytocin, which will improve your mood and counteract the effects of too much cortisol. The release of oxytocin also leads to a boost of serotonin and dopamine.
- Being thankful – Gratitude has been called “the most natural and healthy” human emotion. And for good reason. Feelings of thankfulness have been connected to balancing hormones like oxytocin and cortisol, while also increasing the release of “happy” neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
In a nutshell, many of the feelings and activities associated with the holiday season can actually chemically improve your mood and mental well being. Gratitude, gift giving, helping, and understanding may all help bring your high COVID-19-induced stress, anxiety, and depression under control a bit more.
CBD May Help Anxiety, Too
If you feel you need a little help in calming down and quieting the anxious, stress filled voices in your head, we recommend trying CBD. As we’ve pointed out before, there are many studies that indicate CBD has great potential for combatting anxious feelings, especially in uncertain times like the ones we find ourselves in presently.
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CBD’s potential effect on anxiety is made possible by its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, a biochemical communication highway in our bodies. There is also mounting evidence that CBD interacts intimately with your body’s serotonergic system, which is closely linked with anxiety, depression, stress, and other mood disorders. There have been cannabinoid receptors found on serotonin neurons, as well as in the corresponding inhibitory receptors.
Specifically, what this means is that CBD is thought to interact with 5-HT1a receptors that control serotonin levels in the brain and body. This leads to the conclusion that cannabinoids may increase serotonin levels in certain conditions, and reduce them in others, providing the balance necessary for proper mental health.
It’s a stressful time. For many people, the levels of fear and uncertainty might make this the most stressful time they’ve ever experienced. Feelings of anxiety are normal during situations like these, but there are steps you can take that may help. In addition to taking care of yourself and limiting your news and media consumption, try to embrace the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and the other ones that follow.
Give yourself a hand by starting to consume CBD now. If you think it may help your mental state, then it’s best to begin taking it sooner rather than later so it has time to build up in your system and become effective.
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