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Keeping Mind and Body Healthy: Coping with COVID-19 Anxiety (Part.2)

I mentioned in Part.1 how the COVID-19 pandemic is a difficult time for everyone, particularly those who have issues with anxiety and anxiety disorders. I’ve been living with chronic anxiety long before this crisis started, but I’ve learned how to manage it in a holistic way. I’ll be sharing with you how I’ve been coping with COVID-19 anxiety.

I don’t have the luxury of working from home and I’m an essential worker, so it’s important for me to stay healthy and take a proactive approach toward my health by not only protecting my physical health, but my mental health as well.

I mentioned in my previous post about the mind-body connection; our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes can have an effect on our overall health. How you cope with anxiety is very important.

Ways of Coping Include:

Attempt To Maintain a Routine: This pandemic has thrown my normal routine off and it’s difficult to stay focused. I’ve been using block scheduling to maintain a routine for not only work, but also for exercising and for writing this blog.

Focusing on Breathing: Just simple breathing works its magic on anxiety. Taking deep breaths while meditating calms your brain down while you’re focusing on the present moment.

Exercise: An excellent way to maintain a good mind-body connection is to get moving and exercise. Since the gym is closed and I don’t want to risk getting bit by ticks by walking in the woods, so I’ve been taking time after work to take long walks while social distancing.

Watching What I Eat: I mentioned in a post about how there’s a negative connection between processed foods and mental health, and that it’s really important to watch what you eat.

Recommended Foods To Reduce Anxiety Include:

  • Turmeric
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Green Tea
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Almonds
  • Blueberries
  • Turkey Meat

Food To Avoid include:

  • Fried Foods
  • Artificial and Refined Sugars
  • Caffeine
  • Soda
  • Foods High in Sodium

Getting Enough Sleep: Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep is important, pandemic or no pandemic, because when you don’t sleep well you not only have worsening anxiety, but also a weakened immune system.

Putting Limits On How Much Media I Consume: The 24/7 news coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic will take a toll on my mental health and at the same time I need to stay informed about what’s happening, so it’s beneficial to limit how much news media I consume.

Limit alcohol consumption: In the short term having a drink or two is relaxing, however overtime excessive drinking can interfere with the chemicals in your brain that regulate mental health and cause worsening anxiety, depression and stress becomes harder to handle.

Connect with Friends Remotely: One of the most difficult aspects of this pandemic has been lockdowns and social distancing. Once a week I like to get together with friends to go hiking; I get my exercise and I socialize. However, due to social distancing I haven’t been able to go, so I connect with friends remotely through texting, social media and phone calls.

This is a tough regiment to live by to keep chronic anxiety under control and this challenging time we’re living in is making it even tougher.

How Are You Coping With This Tough Time?

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The Positive and Negative Effects of the Internet.

The world we live in is experiencing rapid technological change. The technology that is leading the way is the internet.

What is the internet?

A worldwide network of interconnected computer networks that utilize standard communication protocols. Sometimes nicknamed “the Net”.

How has the internet changed the world?

No technological innovation since the development of the printing press has changed how information is made available.

The internet has been the biggest driver of social evolution since the 1990s. 

It has changed:





How we interact with loved ones

How we date and make new friends

I mentioned in a past blog about how the internet is changing how we get jobs and obtain education and the growing importance of social networks such as Linkedin.

What are the positive impacts of the internet?

The internet has led to many positive changes including:

Staying in touch: The internet makes it easier for you to stay in touch with other people like never before. We keep in touch through email and instant messaging but also through social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. It’s now possible to keep in touch with a loved one that’s 3000 miles away everyday.

Improvement in business interactions and transactions: Sellers and buyers can now make transactions online through payment services such as paypal or through credit cards. The growth of online businesses has led to changes in money. Since 2009 there has been a rapid growth in cryptocurrencies that buyers and sellers trade with each other in exchange for goods and services. An example of a cryptocurrency is Bitcoin.

Easier to do Research: If it weren’t for the internet, it would not be as easy and fast to do research for my blog. Search engines such as Google and Bing have made doing research a lot easier.

Easier to work at home: The internet has made it possible for someone to work from home. Companies such as Google and Amazon have allowed their employees to work from home, but it’s possible to earn an income from home as a writer and also by having an online home based business.

What are the negative impacts of the internet?

Online bullying: Online bullying occurs particularly on social media platforms such as facebook and twitter. 

Cyber crime: A grim reality of being online is the risk of cyber crime. Examples include identity theft, transaction fraud, hacking, piracy and phishing. 

Internet addiction: Addiction comes in many forms, but internet addiction doesn’t get as much attention as it should. It comes in many forms including addiction to cybersex, online gaming, cyber relationships and compulsive online shopping.

Never being able to disconnect from work: There is a huge problem with a growing number of people not being able to disconnect from work. Thanks to technologies that allow us to connect to the internet from anywhere there is a wifi connection. The defined barrier between work life and personal life has been blurred. A negative consequence of being unable to disconnect from work is not being able to decompress and destress from the work day. The inability to escape from work related stress can lead to a lack of sleep. The lack of sleep overtime leads to increased stress and higher rates of obesity and heart disease. Mental health problems caused by not be able to de stress lead to depression, anxiety and lower morale that contribute to burnout.

Affects patience and focus: The internet has led to a loss of patience and focus. The need for instant gratification has caused many people to have a hard time coping with uncertainty, inconvenience and boredom.

Physical and Mental health effects: The amount of stress that people feel from prolonged internet usage has led to problems with physical and mental health. Physical ailments include obesity, heart disease and carpal tunnel syndrome . Mental health problems from excessive internet usage include depression, anxiety, hostility, social isolation and in some cases psychosis.

What can we do?

Technology like the internet is neither good nor bad. It brings us a lot of benefits, but also a lot of problems, also.

There are things we can do to improve our wellbeing:

Making time for actual face-to-face contact: The tide is starting to turn. People are actually craving real human contact. There’s a huge difference when you communicate with someone through social media vs. communicating with someone face-to-face. This can be achieved by simply spending time with family and friends you already have or going outside your comfort zone by making new non-internet friends through group activities.

Exercise: A great way to not only manage your health but to improve it also. Even something simple like walking for twenty minutes a day over time can go a long way. After your work you should consider taking up yoga and meditation.

Limit electronic usage before bedtime: In a previous blog I was discussing the causes of sleep problems and these included the use of electronic devices before bedtime. Laptops and smartphones emit a white light that interfere with your body’s ability to produce melatonin. These devices basically act as artificial suns that trick your body into thinking that the sun is still out. Lack of sleep can cause online induced anxiety to become worse.

Limit caffeine intake: It’s important to limit caffeine intake. If you’re already in an anxious state due to being online too much excessive caffeine intake can make it worse.

Spending time outdoors: Exercising in general is great for your overall well being. There are plenty of benefits of exercising indoors, but it’s even better when you’re outdoors. Along with improved energy levels and decreased stress being outside in the sun increases your Vitamin D intake that leads to strong bones and a strong immune system. Fun outdoor activity include hiking, kayaking, running, walking, cycling, rock climbing and camping. It’s important to wear sunscreen when going out in the sun and be mindful of current weather conditions, for example if its too cold you’ re at risk of frostbite and hypothermia and when its too hot you’re at risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration.

How has the internet change your life?

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Hiking Away Anxiety! Version 2.0

Among the most common ailments that inflict us are anxiety and depression. These conditions are treated with therapy and/or medications, but a treatment that is overlooked is hiking.

Hiking along with other outdoor activities such as walking, running, camping and kayaking can have many benefits.

What are the benefits of hiking?

Physical Benefits:

Build Stronger Muscles and Bones: Hiking is a good weight-bearing exercise to maintain strong muscles and bones. Along with building strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and the muscles in your hips your also increase bone density.

Improve Balance: Hiking involves navigating uneven ground. Many muscles in your hips, knees and ankles that are usually not used while walking on a flat surface are strengthened and improves balance.

Improves Heart Health: Hiking can lower the risk of heart disease. However, your age, current health issues and family history are also factors to be mindful of before you hit the trails.

Decreases the risk of developing certain respiratory problems: Hiking along with other forms of exercise can make your lungs stronger and better at giving your body the oxygen it needs.

Mental Benefits:

Reduce Stress: There are interesting facts I found on that state that when you spend a lot of time near trees your body takes in more oxygen. The extra oxygen can cause the release of serotonin; a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood by reducing stress and anxiety.

Reduce Anxiety: Anxiety is reduced when you hike and reduced anxiety means better sleep. Hikers that camp out report better sleep cycles after returning from a trip. They also fall right to sleep after hiking all day. Sleep was improved even more after disconnecting from electronic devices for a few days.

Lower Risk of Depression: Along with reducing stress and anxiety hiking can lower the risk of depression.

Promotes a Healthy Brain: Hiking can promote a healthy brain; if a hike is strenuous enough to elevate your heart rate and cause you too sweat it can help the hippo campus grow in size. The hippo campus is the portion of the brain that is associated with verbal memory and learning.

Enhances Relationships with Friends and Family: A very important benefit of hiking that gets overlooked a lot is the improvement in relational health. It is more fun to hike with someone rather than solo and it could be with a partner or with a group like the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). Hiking can vary in the level of difficulty whether you are hiking casually along an easy trail or it could be a difficult hike along a 4,000 foot loop trail. Regardless of difficult it is hiking is a great way to strengthen friendships.  

Better Quality of Life: When you factor in the physical and mental health benefits of hiking you can have an overall better quality of life.

Do I have a personal story to share?

I have sleep apnea and I was prescribed a CPAP machine. My latest trip was to a campground; at first I thought I couldn’t go because I had sleep apnea. However, I found out that some of the cabins had electricity to power my CPAP machine and I was able to go.

My weekend trip to AMC’s Cold River Camp back in June of this year started immediately after finishing a class I needed to take to receive the total credit hours needed to keep my Wastewater License current. The trip started off with competing with Friday afternoon Boston area traffic while driving to New Hampshire. After driving for five hours that included the drive from Conway, NH to Chatham, NH along the very long Route 113.

I arrived at Cold River Camp around 9 pm. I learned right away that the WIFI signal in the main lodge was weak and we all only had enough signal to send and receive a few emails in a short amount of time.

The hike on June 8th was at the relaxing and scenic Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness five miles north of Cold River Camp in the Evans Notch area. There were ten of us all together hiking up the Mud Brook Trail and down the Caribou Trail.

These two trails followed the Morrison Brook as it flowed down the heavily forested Caribou Mountain (2840’). Along the way there were several waterfalls including Kee’s Falls (25 feet).

The woods surrounding us were infested with mosquitoes and black flies. I brought with me a mosquito net I wore over my head that gave some protection and insect repellent that didn’t protect too well against them. Although it is typical for this time of year to deal with mosquitoes and black flies these larger swarms were unusual.

Back in March I was with AMC on a snowshoeing trip and there was 5+ feet of snow on the ground. Combine the melting snow with a wet spring and you have a recipe for mosquitoes. Despite this problem we kept pushing on until we reached the summit.

Snow covered Mt. Washington.

The Evans Notch area does not have any 4000’ peaks but there are awesome views from the summit of Caribou Mountain.

  • The Baldfaces
  • Speckled Mountain
  • East and West Royce
  • Blueberry Ridge
  • Mount Washington’s snow-covered peak dominated our view in the west

Stats for Caribou Mountain:

  • Calories burned: 2,353
  • Avg Pace: 38:12
  • Elevation Gain: 1,982’
  • Moving Time: 4:31:16
  • Total Time: 5:52:34

After we hiked down from the summit of Caribou Mountain my group and I headed back to camp. We hung around and socialized at the main lodge before dinner was served. After dinner, a group of us headed to the campfire and socialized some more while we roasted marshmallows and made smores.

It was a blessing in disguise in my opinion that the wifi signal was weak, because it resulted in more people socializing with other people instead of looking at their phones to constantly check social media.

At night the sky was so clear due to lack of city lights that some of my friends were able to observe Jupiter through a telescope that was on site. It was also so dark outside that I slept very well. Between that and no electronic device use before bed resulted in an increase in melatonin.

Electronics including smart phones and tablets emit short wave blue light that interferes with your body’s ability to produce melatonin. When this happens it becomes more difficult to go to sleep when your body’s natural circadian rhythm is disrupted. I was in the wilderness with no electronics and I felt that my circadian rhythm was restored to its natural state.

Hiking is a great way to spend time outdoors with friends and stay healthy. I am glad I did not let being on a CPAP machine interfere with this fun activity.

What hobbies do you pursue to improve your health? Please like and comment below.