Yesterday I was talking with my husband and he was expressing how down he has been feeling lately about the current state of events in the world. I know he’s not alone. So today I thought I’d dedicate a blog post on how to immediately boost a sense of resiliency and remain hopeful even during times of immense stress and darkness.
There have been several major medical studies released in the past few months that show the major, physical, measurable impact that poor outlook has on our brain function and brain chemistry. Like this one, published in Neurology on May 28, 2014, that found that a high level of cynical distrust — for example, believing that no one cares about you or that it’s not safe to trust others — is associated with a three times higher risk for dementia and a 40% increased risk of death over those with the lowest levels of cynical distrust. Or this one, published in Neurology on Oct 1, 2014 which found that being easily worried, anxious and stressed in midlife was found to double the incidence of late-life Alzheimer’s disease.
Hope, it turns out, is actually brain protective.
The problem is, just when you need hope most is just when your life is crashing in all around you. It’s much easier to remain positive and have positive expectations during times of relative peace and happiness in life. It’s damn hard to have a consistent basis of hope when an unexpected life change, diagnosis, world event or traumatic incident shakes your very foundation.
But you can do it.
Here are 10 things can you do today
to restore your sense of hope:
1. Reconnect with nature outside:
If you are feeling utterly overwhelmed, all you have to do is walk out your front door, step out of your office, or stop driving and step out of your car. To reconnect with nature is to reconnect with the bigger picture and instantly release pent up frustration, tension, anger, anxiety and fear.
Whether it’s just a few deep breaths as you sit on a patch of grass, taking a walk through a local park, or standing outside at night looking up at the stars… reconnecting with the wonder of being a human being standing on a rock that spirals through space and seeing the earth for the vast support network it is can’t help but lift your spirits for the better.
Taking even one minute to surround yourself with the power of nature has a way of creating a perspective in life that is real, is powerful, is strong.
The power of nature can hold even your worst of days and remain an immovable source of strength.
Don’t believe me?
The next time you are having a panic attack, or a pounding headache, or a knot of worry grow in your stomach, just go outside. Get out there. Don’t force anything, just start walking and let nature work its magic.
I wrote an uplifting, inspiring guide detailing for you exactly how grounding supports your inner resiliency, strengthens your physical health, and even boosts positive mindframe and spiritual wellness. Then I filled it with thousands of ways to get that support from nature, no matter where you live (even in a city it’s super easy to get grounded outside!) and no matter what the weather is like:
I’m very heart-warmed to see so many families where I live going on after dinner walks, riding their bikes, jogging in the early hours of the morning, shooting basketballs in driveway hoops, jump roping, etc… Whether you do it alone or with those you are voluntarily quarantining with, be sure to find some way to get your circulation up daily, and push yourself to make that an outdoor activity.
Go outside even if you don’t want to exercise.
If you have limited mobility due to medical conditions or just want to relax when you are outside, still do it.
Even taking a hot cup of tea outside at night and looking up at the stars and moon, when the rest of the world is shut up tight at bedtime, is wonderful for clearing the mind and grabbing a few minutes of beautiful fresh air.
2. Increase ventilation indoors too:
Increase the number of houseplants you have in your home, open windows whenever possible, consider sleeping with open windows at night, open doors when you can (I have an upstairs balcony door that I love to keep open all day, every day and I’m so grateful for it) and never let the opportunity pass you by to open windows, like when you need to drive — keep car windows open at least a crack.
When you have no control over ventilation (like at the grocery story) you can still make deliberate changes to your behavior to decrease viral transmission:
- wash hands repeatedly throughout the day, especially before eating or food preparation, and use re-usable, washable silver hand wipes when you don’t have access to hot soapy water for hand washing
- use the same silver cloth as an antimicrobial barrier when touching easily contaminated surfaces like doorknobs, gas pumps, key pads, etc… as I show you in this video here:
- don’t touch your face and wear glasses instead of contacts
- change clothes right when you get home from being outside, I also like to spray colloidal silver up my nose and in my mouth after I’ve been inside any store or anywhere I need to breath re-circulated air
- get into the habit of putting on fresh clothes before touching surfaces in your home that are less easily washed, like your sofa
- switch from morning showers to nightly showers to keep bedding decontaminated, or do both
- use disinfectants on indoor surfaces, my favorite are colloidal silver sprays like this one
- wear a face mask made out of silver over your nose and mouth if you must be out and about in highly populated areas… consider keeping a reusable, washable face mask made from antimicrobial silver (like this one) in your purse or car so you are never caught without one when you need it
- similarly, wear disposable gloves if you must be out and about (grocery shopping for example) or working in field where you touch potentially contaminated surfaces
3. Focus on Spirit:
This is something shown over and over again in the medical literature — the power of prayer to improve clinical outcome (like reducing pain, enhancing recovery after cardiac surgery, even helping substance abuse recovery) and the power of spirituality to support general wellness (like boosting physical well being, increasing functional well being, and decreasing physical symptoms in cancer patients) is well documented.
The surest way I know to alleviate stress and suffering is to find a deeper spiritual meaning in it.
Whether it’s through mediation or mantra (read my blog post here on how to do this — it’s so easy!) personal prayer, asking friends and family to pray for you, joining online spiritual groups (especially right now with many spiritual centers being closed for social distancing reasons, online groups are a fantastic option,) downloading spirituality apps that will send reminders to your phone, or reading books that align with and strengthen your sense of spiritual presence… cultivating a deeper sense of spirit surrounding and supporting you is such an important way to alleviate stress.
The divine support system is around you, whether you are able to feel it or not. I’ve painted many paintings over the years to help reminds us:
Calling on the power of prayer and connecting with a universal reservoir of love is an instant boost that strengthens your resiliency and changes outcome, no doubt about it. Need some more inspiration? I really loved the book
Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl.
He is a concentration camp survivor who writes beautifully about how the people who survived these horrific conditions were not the strongest, or youngest, or even the healthiest… they were the ones who found meaning in what they were going through, even in the pain itself.
Finding a deeper, spiritual meaning in what you are going through is — in and of itself — enough to sustain you.
4. Leverage the power of music throughout the day:
My kids will tell you that if I am really grumpy, all we have to do is hop in the car and turn on the radio and within a few songs, all of a sudden I don’t feel so hopeless. In fact, I feel optimistic and grateful and filled with the same sense of wonder and possibility that I feel when I spend time in nature.
The power of music to wash through you and lift you is amazing.
This is how powerful music is: if you play music that holds special meaning to a patient experiencing memory loss, they can recover context and depth and recognition in the form of long term memory recall while the music is being played. (watch this fascinating trailer for Alive Inside to see this happen!)
Playing music that is personally relevant to a patient has been shown to:
- increase communication skills
- increase long term recall
- increase activity level and energy level
- increase social function and engagement
- decrease high blood pressure
- improve mood
- reduce pain levels
- enhance sleep
So if you are feeling stressed or depressed, especially if you can not leave your current surroundings to a new change of scenery, slip on some music and allow it to sweep through your soul and lift you higher.
Music is an invaluable tool for self-soothing and decreasing anxiety and depression rates. So play music out loud and use it to connect with everyone in your family — seniors through the youngest children — everyone can benefit! Take turns playing your favorite music, having a family dance battle, or creating playlists for different times of the day.
Music is universal and can meet you wherever you are.
5. Ask for help:
I know, I know, nobody wants to do this and especially at a time when everyone is facing huge challenges, it can be tough to ask someone to help you out. But bonding together, even — and perhaps especially — during the bad times is a game changer.
Of course the typical advice to ask family and friends for simple, actionable things that will help you stands (for example, ask your neighbor to pick up some cereal for you at the store, ask your sister to meet up with to sit outside, drinking some tea or coffee together, and share what your worries and concerns are, asking your old friend to text you every morning when you wake up so you don’t feel so alone, etc…) but people are also willing to help you out even if they don’t know you yet.
Do a search to find contact information and call your local support groups, local food banks, local ministries, local disaster relief and emergency financial assistance (to help pay bills,) join online support groups or enroll in private online counseling, all from the comfort of your own home.
I know I didn’t fully realize how many people I had, providing back up support in my life, until I went through a personal crisis. Some of my most meaningful sources of support during a very overwhelming time in my life were from people I had never ever met before, like the manager at my local bank and the complete stranger who came to pick up the furniture I got rid of as I downsized everything.
If you are having a stressful crisis, ask for help. Ask your neighbor, ask your family, ask your friends. And even if you have none of the above, go out into the world asking for help to show up — find online support, go to your bank and ask to speak to the manager, go to the grocery store and ask to speak to the manager, contact your local utility companies and ask for help, go to the thrift shop or the park and simply make friends. Yes, you can wear your face mask and stand far apart and still make new friends or simply ask for help.
Angels are out there waiting to embrace and help you every single day.
6. Create a symbolic fresh start:
A symbolic fresh start during times of stress can help you move on towards healing and help usher in new, positive and hopeful energy instead of feeling stuck. For me, this meant that I literally moved and relocated my life.
But even if it is impossible to literally move, you can go through your entire home with the idea of bringing in fresh energy:
- freshen up the plants in each room, repot and water them, add new plants if you don’t have any
- rearranging whatever furniture you can
- clean your living space, room by room, and declutter along the way
- adding a mirror or two to help reflect light around the space
- burning candles of light in the evenings to help create a new warm glow in old, dark and depressing spaces
- go outside to take a deep breath of air
- lighting a smudge stick or burn incense or run a aromatherapy diffuser in your home
- ring a bell or strike a chime while setting a new intention for the space you are in
- move your body to increase circulation and flexibility — find a yoga or stretch video (countless free ones are waiting for you on YouTube right now) to get your body unstuck.
No matter what you do, do something to break the illusion that you are stuck. You are not stuck. You are a new person every single day and every moment within that day.
When our physical surroundings don’t change, especially in the midst of great turmoil, you can get caught up in the illusion that your situation is permanent and hopeless. This is not so… there is always an ebb and a flow of energy through every situation no matter how unchanging it appears on the surface.
The illusion that things never change can mentally hold you in a place of worry. Release this by making small changes to your living space, changing the energy of the room you are in, physically leaving the space you are in for a breath or two, or using candles/incense/smudging/bells/chimes/lighting/a new plant… or simply move your own body in a new way, through new yoga sequences or stretches… whatever it takes to feel the energy shift in your space and remind you that nothing… NOTHING… stays the same forever. Not even pandemics.
7. Get sunlight daily:
Even while we practice social distancing, it’s important to get sunlight every single day. If you are going outside grounding daily (see tip #1, above) this will be a win-win situation! But for those that are not drawn to grounding for their health, at least be sure to get some form of sunlights.
The first reason to do this is that sunlight is germicidal. This medical study (recently published in 2020 in the Journal of Infectious Disease) found that sunlight exposure decreased the survival of aerosolized influenza virus by 93% — decreasing viral lifespan from 32 min (with no sunlight exposure) to 2.4 min in full sunlight.
This medical literature review, published in 2013 in the Journal of Hospital Infection) suggests that infections caught indoors is a major contributor to worldwide morbidity and mortality rates and urges medicine to consider optimizing sunlight when designing architecture for healthcare facilities like hospitals and clinics.
While an infected person will always be able to spread the virus to another (no way for sunlight to kill the virus inside of living tissues) so social distancing is still going to be absolutely necessary to stop the spread of any viral illness, at least you can be comforted to know that on outdoor surfaces, the virus has a much shorter lifespan. Meaning, if you are going to be out of your home — make sure you stay outside instead of in indoor venues, where sunlight can not work it’s magic.
The second is that sunlight actually prolongs life span, in a dose dependent way (meaning more time in the sun = longer life span.) I blog about this extensively in this article I wrote for you last year, right here.
And the third is that sunlight allows our body to naturally make vitamin D, which is crucial to our immune system. As this medical literature review discusses (published in 2018 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences) Vitamin D not only directly boosts our immune adaptive response (meaning our bodies are better able to fight off new, novel, mutating and never-before-seen pathogens) but it also decreases inflammation, a leading cause of mortality during viral infection.
So get direct sun exposure whenever possible, for at least 10 minutes or more daily, ideally in non-peak hours (before 10 AM or after 4 PM) even during times of social distancing. I’m not saying to gather in big groups, I’m saying seek your own sunlight exposures in a way that honors social distancing such as:
- sitting on a porch, balcony or front door stoop every morning and every evening
- eating picnic lunches outside mid-day
- observing which of the windows in your home are sunny and at what time of the day there is a sunbeam and sitting in those precious light rays while drinking your morning coffee, your evening tea, while working on your computer like I am doing right now, or while reading a good book, etc… (the glass will stop the majority of UVB waves needed for making Vit D, so open the window if you can)
- even going for a drive or sitting in your car even without driving it if you have your own car and it’s a sunny day — be sure to roll the windows down and enjoy!
And even if you get direct sunshine outside or through a window daily, I highly recommend that you supplement with Vitamin D as well. Some of the other supplements I feel are crucial in times of increased infection rates include Vit C, Vit D, Probiotics, Melatonin (more on this below) and Colloidal Silver Nasal and Oral sprays. Also washing with Colloidal Silver Shampoo and Soap. I have every single one of these supplements and personal hygiene products available to you in my online dispensary right here, at a nice discount just because you are a reader of mine!
I’ve put them all in my online catalog under the “immune support” category:
Lastly, along with these tips to get direct sunlight and supplement with Vitamin D, take advantage of the fact that viruses can be heat-inactivated and bath daily in comfortably hot water, drink hot beverages often, wash clothes on the hottest water setting possible or run them through the dryer on highest heat setting available, and use the heated dry cycle on your dishwasher to sanitize dishes.
8. Increase Gratitude & Compassion:
This is a no-brainer — one of the gifts of going through suffering is that you can witness and hold other people’s suffering so much more fully. Compassion and gratitude for the journey and knowing that others have made it through similar, and even worse, ordeals can really help instill hope to your own journey.
As contrary as it sounds, topics that would have felt dark or depressing during easier times can somehow feel powerful and empowering now. For example, during our own harsh life changes, the kids and I dove deeply into WWI and WWII studies, reading Anne Frank’s diary and having long, meaningful discussions about suffering and triumph… those felt incredibly moving and fortifying to us.
Knowing the darker side, leaning into it, persevering through it, witnessing with compassion what others have gone through… all of these things make traveling your own dark night feel less lonely and more optimistic in the sense that you know you will reach the other side. And you WILL reach the other side.
Focus on witnessing suffering in others around you and holding compassion for the entire yin and yang of it all, the darkness and light of the world… the richness here is a different twist on helping to find meaning in suffering and the gift here is being able to open your heart even wider then you thought possible before.
One of the simplest ways to increase gratitude is also one of my favorite, and as a bonus it helps me fall asleep, the topic that’s coming up next! All you do is, as you close your eyes to fall asleep for the night, run through the day in your mind’s eye. Specifically look for moments you had — even if it’s just one — that you were glad happened. And when you find that moment in the day, pause mentally and just say to yourself “I’m grateful for that.”
That’s it. Even on a really horrible, tough, gut wrenching, miserable day, there are singular moments that happened in your favor or helped strengthen you to get you through. Something as simple as eye contact with someone who smiled at you. Or chancing into a food that was previously out of stock in the store. Or hearing a bird outside your window singing to remind you that all is well in the world. Or finally carving out time to take a warm bath. I go chronologically through my day and pause here and there to say “I am grateful for that.”
I generally find I have fallen asleep before I’ve gotten to the end of my day and caught up with my own self, laying in bed that night in my “daily rewind.” Please try it and see if you enjoy this nightly practice too.
9. Deepen Sleep:
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation is even harder to bear on folks with anxiety or stress. If you are going through a time of great stress, it is more important than ever before in your entire life that you sleep well.
You MUST SLEEP in order to recover from the stress of the day and the stress of the situation. Everything living on this earth has a unique circadian rhythm — even microbes and pathogens if you can believe it — as discussed in this 2019 article published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. Another article, published 2019 in Nature Communications, specifically shows the incredible impact of circadian rhythm on the inflammatory reaction of the human body — circadian rhythm has even been shown to play a role in lung inflammation during influenza infection.
The two ways we maintain a good, vibrant, healthy circadian rhythm is through exposure to sunlight and direct contact with the earth, both of which we talked about above (#1 & #7). So decreasing proximity to others and practicing social distancing likely has been having a dramatic impact on your ability to sleep at night, because it keeps you out of the sunlight and off of the earth outside.
Add to that the increased exposure day and night to artificial light, blue light input to the eye, and artificial electronic EMF exposures, and your body becomes easily confused as to what is day and what is night. Melatonin production goes down and cortisol (your stress hormone) goes up during times of forced isolation, decreased activity, decreased natural exposure to daylight, increased exposure to artificial lights, and of course increased times of fear, anxiety and depression.
The typical advice, to get morning sun to help reset your internal clock, still holds true. But actually there are two ways your internal clock is set, and both are crucial: it takes both sunlight exposure and direct earth contact. Sunlight exposure will be taken care of by tip #7 above. Let’s also proactively seek direct earth contact (tip #1 above) as it will also help to reset our circadian rhythm as well!
Scientists have known for decades that the earth is equally responsible for our day night rhythm after extensive experiments in isolating subjects from the earth in shielded isolation chambers, a unique study published in 1970 in Life Sciences and Space Research. Because it is actually the frequency of the earth (along with with exposure to light) that regulates our natural biorhythms, it’s easy to understand how grounding our body with our planet can help enhance restorative sleep at night and boost daytime wakefulness. It’s also easy to see why staying indoors, ungrounded, eventually leads to daytime sleepiness, nighttime wakefulness, and decreased quality of sleep at night, which is incredibly stressful to the body and ultimately decreases lifespan.
Although I strongly feel that grounding directly outside is best, during pandemics or for my patients with mobility issues or other health concerns that keep them indoors, there are fabulous indoor grounding options that will allow you to ground your body for hours each day, even sleeping grounded all night long if you want.
You can also support a healthy circadian rhythm in other ways — using natural sunlight to light rooms during the day, using a light box if there is not good natural light in your living area, wear blue light blocking glasses if you watch tv or use electronics after dinnertime, have a goal of 9 hours of quality sleep a night if possible, and read this blog post I wrote for you with my 14 favorite holistic ways to boost your sleep, naturally.
Lastly, I urge you to take melatonin supplements. Interestingly, melatonin is emerging as a possible treatment against lung complications from coronavirus infection, as melatonin directly decreases lung inflammatory cytokines. Melatonin has even been proven to significantly decrease lung inflammation in patients who are on ventilators. This article, just published March 2020 in Respiratory Research, found that a melatonin receptor agonist not only significantly reduced lung inflammation for patients on a ventilator, it also significantly reduced their inflammatory concentrations of cytokines in the lung.
Because melatonin naturally decreases with age, it may be a unique factor contributing to the “agism” that the coronavirus is displaying. Infants and young children have the highest natural melatonin concentrations of all, which might provide natural lung protection that steadily decreases throughout the human life span.
Melatonin concentrations peak at age 6, are cut in half by age 45, and are almost non-existent in the elderly 80+. Maybe this is why lung complications and death increases in coronavirus infections at age 40 and dramatically spikes from there. My favorite melatonin supplements, along with all the other supplements I’ve recommended in this article, are all waiting for you at a discount in my online pharmacy right here.
The key with melatonin is to take it at sunset — not 1 hour before bedtime as typically instructed on the bottle. Take it whenever the sun starts to dip low — even if that is 3 and 4 hours before you think you will actually be able to sleep. This is how your body naturally works and so if you’ve taken melatonin before, right before bedtime, and thought that it did not work for you — try again, taking it as the sun sets. It will make a huge difference!
10. Add body work.
The feeling of worry and stress and anxiety is often the stress of energy that is accumulating in the body without release. I know I personally feel this as a ball of pressure right in my solar plexus, but it’s different for everyone.
Irritability, crying, headaches, diarrhea, nausea, tension, muscle stiffness, decreased or increased appetite, weight loss or gain, insomnia… often these all represent energy that just needs to be released to make room for the natural healing process and health/hope to return.
If you are feeling stuck and in need of physical release, do any or all of the following to help assist your body in letting go of old traumas… these are all ways to do body work right in the comfort of your own home:
- deep stretches
- guided meditation
- long walks
- massage — foot, neck and hand massages are all massages you can do on your own body to release tension
- heat (hot water bottles are the best!) over tense areas
- water (in the form of showers or baths, as well as increasing hydration by drinking lots of water!)
And in the future, if you feel safe heading out to a local practitioner, include
- tai chi
- deep tissue massage
- physical therapy
I really hope this list of 10 things you can do to improve your state of mind, boost your hopefulness and increase your feeling of health — even in the middle of great personal and global stress — is helpful to you and a blessing of some new ideas to consider.
Offered with much love…