2022: A New Year of Anxiety and Stress - But Self-Care Can Help You Thru
Before COVID-19 changed all of our lives, we would look to the New Year as an opportunity for positive change, growth, and a clean slate. However, as we enter into 2022, I’m seeing more and more patients entering the New Year with high levels of stress and anxiety, and COVID is only part of the equation.
Yes, the threat of COVID remains very real. The Delta and Omicron variants have made sure of that. But there’s more. Economic pressures, like inflation, impact just about everything we buy, for one. Adapting to changes in the workplace is another. These are just a few of the many factors that may be contributing to your anxieties and stresses.
But these are not the only reasons that may be contributing to the anxiety or stress you may be feeling. As the world has changed the way we work, play, and engage with others, I’m becoming more and more convinced that many of the patients I am now seeing for anxiety and depression is being brought about by a number of physical culprits. As a general note, as a certified psychiatrist, I am a Medical Doctor (MD), and I have a keen understanding of how your physical health and mental health are often linked.
- Nutrition: It can’t be overstated how much nutrition plays a role in mental health. Poor diets can sabotage patients’ best efforts to reduce their anxiety and overcome their depression. Click here to read an article from Harvard Medical School that describes really well how what you eat directly impacts how you feel. As you look to improve your nutrition, look for food rich in B-12 and B-9 (folate) to help with your mood, and vitamin D3 found in fatty fish, like salmon, can help with depression, too.
- Screen Time: As we stare at screens for hours without taking regular breaks, cortisol (the stress hormone) spikes as we await the next screen scroll that can change our day. Cortisol (the stress hormone) specifically plays a role in metabolism. It stimulates the liver to increase the production of blood sugar. It also helps the body convert fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into usable energy. As part of the body’s fight-or-flight response, cortisol is released during stressful times to give your body a natural energy boost. This boost is meant to fuel your muscles to respond to a threatening situation. But when cortisol levels are constantly high due to chronic stress, these same effects can lead to high blood pressure, foggy thinking, and depression, to name a few.
- Exercise, or Lack Thereof: Before the pandemic, I looked forward to getting to the gym at least a few days a week. Between seeing patients, managing the practice, and raising four children, I relied on that outlet for not just my physical well-being, but for my mental health. Like many of us, there were days I’d go to the gym and think “I’m just not into this,” but I always, ALWAYS left feeling better. Since the pandemic, I stopped going to the gym, and while I do walk with my daughter and attempt to eat right, it’s not the same. Exercise is a powerful depression fighter. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression. You don’t need a gym to improve your physical health. We may justify not working out because we can’t get to the gym but search for videos about working out at home and getting to work. You will literally be “happy” you did, and it just may save you a trip to my office.
If you feel anxiety or depression, or both, are getting the best of you, DO NOT HESITATE TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT AT OR WINSTON-SALEM OR RALEIGH OFFICE!