When you stop and reflect on how you have felt throughout 2021, what are you left feeling? With the enormous uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought, your nervous system may be reeling as it tries to make sense of something never encountered before.
It may have triggered a traumatic response, according to Nurtura Health owners and naturopaths, Colin and Olive Harris.
“From a biochemical perspective, when the brain encounters trauma, it activates the ‘fight or flight’ response,” Colin said.
“This response focuses on resourcing the body to fight or flee from the threat, shunting blood and energy to the heart, limbs and lungs, and taking it away from the brain, digestive and reproductive organs.”
Any moments of feeling stressed, anxious, unmotivated, overwhelmed, confused, scattered or forgetful, are all perfectly normal under the circumstances.
Olive said the nervous system can enter another stage after this, called the ‘freeze’ response.
“Emotionally, this can present as feeling detached, numb, exhausted or disassociated,” Olive said.
“This is also normal and is the result of your brain looking for a coping mechanism.”
Colin said after the threat or trauma has passed, the nervous system should return to what’s called a ‘rest and digest’ mode, where the brain is alert but relaxed and allows normal and health-promoting functions within the body to occur.
Here are some things Colin and Olive suggest to start this rest and digest process:
Solidify the basics! Eat plenty of clean protein, good fats and green vegetables to stabilise your blood sugar, ensure you’re getting at least seven hours of rejuvenating sleep per night, move your body daily (in nature if possible) and avoid excessive consumption of nutrient-depleting sugar, caffeine or alcohol.
Utilise resilience-building supplements. Ongoing stress and trauma can start to cause negative changes to the structure and function of parts of the brain. Individually prescribed nutritional and herbal medicines may help to protect and repair brain tissue and build resilience.
Create a mental health plan. Work with a healthcare practitioner who can help you safely processing trauma and provide you with tools to manage and heal.
Feel your emotions. Allocating yourself time to recognise your emotions can help enormously to process and let them go.
Create stillness. Quieting your mind and taking deep breaths during meditation or gentle exercise in nature can also offer additional stress-reducing benefits.
Olive said that with the unseen challenges of 2022, a naturopath may play a supportive role within your wider healthcare team to help your nervous system rebuild resilience.
“Our naturopaths at Nurtura Health can support you with individual care embracing personalised prescriptions for herbal or nutritional medicines, lifestyle support, colonic irrigation, bowen therapy or remedial massage to help you achieve your optimal health and resilience,” she said.