Photographs by Coliena Rentmeester
Art Direction Claudia Lebenthal
Back in October we did a feature with our contributing nutrition editor Sarah Wragge on energy and how to get more of it. With the crazy busy lives we were living then — going from home life, to the gym, to work, and out at night — energy seemed a priority. While we are certainly still living crazy lives, ones that have been upended by the Coronavirus pandemic, our priorities have shifted. What we really need now are strategies to stay calm and relax. Not easy to do!
We are all super stressed out by the direct and indirect effects of this virus in ways we might not even be consciously aware. All we hear is bad news 24-7 and there seems to be no end in sight. Our baseline emotional state is one of high anxiety, which is very taxing on the immune system as well. With all this in mind we conferred with Sarah again on some tactics to chill out and relax in these unprecedented times…
STYLE OF SPORT: Exercise is a great emotional outlet and while most of us are trying to stay fit at home while gyms are closed, it’s not like we’re getting the same benefits from our workouts. I’m doing the best I can, but my workouts just aren’t as intense on my own.
SARAH WRAGGE: With screaming kids in the background, technology glitches with Zoom workouts, and other distractions at home, you’re not getting that exercise high you normally would with the energy and support of a classroom and teacher pushing you. Our usual stress outlets have been taken away, so our exercise needs to be more harmonious and calming. Maybe your workout style shifts. It might be different now than it was before. I find I’m doing more yoga because it’s relaxing, Yin and Restorative yoga in particular, as opposed to a HIIT workout which revs me up. Figure out what type of movement is going to benefit you not just physically but emotionally — after the workout as well.
SOS: Maybe we shift when we do those workouts too…
SW: After I do a yoga flow I’m so zen and calm, and the time for me to do that is at 5pm when my husband takes over and gives our 3-year-old son dinner. He can’t get out of the chair because he’s strapped in. I’ve got 35 minutes to get my flow on and it makes me an entirely different human. I was never a nighttime mover but now I have become one because the timing works better — and it sets me up for a fantastic night’s sleep.
SOS: You said something else too… 35 minutes. Maybe it’s not your usual hour, but if you can get a quality 35 minutes as opposed to a distracted hour, that’s going to be much more beneficial. I was also not someone who worked out a night, but now I go for a walk or a bike ride at the end of the day. Normally I’d do a hard workout in the morning, run around to appointments, and be somewhat active in my daily life. Now I workout in the morning and sit on my butt for the rest of the day.
SW: Maybe you’re doing workouts that are more intense in the morning and more calming in the evening. Fresh air and a walk are everything!
SOS: Whether it’s yoga flow or going for a walk – doing something after a day of sitting gets us out of our heads and out of the house so were not going crazy.
SW: It also gives our metabolism a little bit of a boost.
SOS: You hear everyone talking about comfort foods and that’s something we are all craving. Are there ones we can be eating that won’t pack on the pounds? There is nothing more stressful than gaining weight!
SW: Yes! You want to be eating nourishing comfort foods, and if you’re craving carbs, healthy ones that are satisfying but don’t spike your blood sugar levels. One of my latest obsessions is black wild rice! It’s not a grain, but a seed, like quinoa. Both give you that yummy carb satisfaction, and have tons of fiber that counteract the carb counts. They are complex carbohydrates which slow the release of insulin, as opposed to eating a donut which shoots your blood sugar through the roof — or mac and cheese which is just a fat bomb. Other great comfort food options are sweet potatoes and starchy squashes butternut and acorn. Or try gluten-free oatmeal with a healthy fat added like flax seed and chia seeds.
SOS: This sounds like the Life Changing Bread I’ve been making! It’s everything you just listed in a bread! It’s super comforting and delicious — just gluten-free oats, seeds, and nuts!
SW: Dark chocolate is great too. It’s got tons of magnesium, tryptophan, and also serotonin — the mood-elevating, feel-good hormone. My faves are Taza and Alter Eco which are low in sugar. Also anything warm is calming. Some soothing teas I like are chamomile and Pukka Cleanse tea. Also Golden Milk! It’s a blend of turmeric, cardamom, dates, and ashwagandha too (more on that to come) that you mix with almond milk.
SOS: As you and I have discussed before, meditation is one of the best things we can do for stress relief and to boost the immune system. I know you meditate regularly.
SW: I do TM (Transcendental Meditation), but there is a meditation app I’m currently obsessed with called Braintap Pro. It has meditations that talk you through a particular scenario — like SleepRX, Stress-Free Me, and Weight Wellness — with a professional talking you through in a calm way.
SOS: That sounds like a couple of meditation apps I like, Calm and Breethe, that are also targeted to specific life situations. I’ve also been doing sound baths lately, which is a style of meditation that uses the vibrational sounds of chimes, gongs, crystal bowls, and other instruments as a relaxation technique. The sounds are very soothing and drown out the chatter in my head, which I find very hard to do with regular meditation. It’s a nice way to fall asleep too.
SOS: Are there any nutritional supplements we can be taking to help calm our nervous system?
SW: I’ve recently been working with Dr. Daryl Gioffre. He’s a celebrity nutritionist whose focus is the level of acidity in our bodies, one of the root causes of inflammation. His theory is that with diet, stress, and even exercise, acid levels build up in the body. This creates acidity in our system and inflammation which can manifest as bloating, weight gain, and fatigue.
SOS: You and I have talked about the importance of a balanced pH level of acidity and alkalinity — most recently as it pertains to gut health and the gastrointestinal tract, where over 75% of our immune system lives!
SW: When there are toxins present in our system, or we’re fighting infection or stressed out, our bodies are more acidic, and as such often deficient in key minerals. Dr. Gioffre has his own line of products to support that PH balance. I particularly like the Daily Minerals.
SOS: What are the key ingredients?
SW: It’s a powder that is basically magnesium, sodium bicarbonate, potassium, and calcium. It’s a fizzy drink you take a night that counters the negative effects of a diet that is hyper-acidic.
SOS: Magnesium we know is great for sleep. It’s funny because those other ingredients are what you find in electrolyte replacement and hydration tablets like NUUN. I take those before a long run in the summer, but maybe I should be making a tablet a day part of my nutritional routine!
SW: Basically you want to make sure you are supporting your body and replenishing the system with the right balance of vitamins and minerals. If you’re not getting those from your diet, you want a good complete multivitamin like Quicksilver Liposomal Ultra Vitamin.
SOS: Are there any other specific supplements for calm and relaxation?
SW: There are adaptogens like Ashwagandha, that “adapt” to each individual’s blood type to help the body regulate its physiological stress reactions. Ashwagandha is nature’s Xanax. It’s super calming and relaxing. I also really like Yin Power by Sun Potion.
SOS: Something I’m finding relaxing right now is music – tinkling jazz and bossa nova in the background specifically. My assumption is music affects us all differently depending on what styles you like that make you feel good.
SW: A slower tempo does quiet the mind and relax the body. It has actually been proven to be an effective tool for stress management. Researchers at Stanford University found that listening to music can change brain functioning to the same extent as medication! Music around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat, creating alpha brainwaves that indicate that you are in a state of wakeful rest.
SOS: Wow! I also love a hot bath – either a bubble bath or Epsom salts.
SW: The magnesium in Epsom salts is great for sleep! For extra replenishment you can add 1 tbs. of baking soda which also calms nervous system. It promotes perspiration so you detox a little as well. Also add essential oils into that bath cocktail! Lavender is very calming.
SOS: Dr.Teals makes really nice lavender scented Epsom salts — also ones with spearmint and eucalyptus I love! Lots of great ideas here for everyone.
SW: And remember the simplest thing we can do is just breathe. Take a deep breath… literally. Inhale through the nose, hold it, exhale through your mouth — and remind yourself everything will be ok.
SOS: …and that we’re all in this together!
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