The winter season can be a struggle for some of us, with the long dark nights closing in on us, and this year the situation is made all the worse with a second lockdown, ‘negative’ news streams and the fear and uncertainty that many of us face at this time.
Dr Sally Moorcroft, Clinical Director of ‘Orchard Barn Health’, an integrative medicine and wellbeing centre, based in the village of Stallingborough in North East Lincolnshire, tackles issues of anxiety and depression with her patients in clinic every day. She explains,
‘I have certainly noted the prevalence of lock down anxiety in an increasing number of clients. They are presenting more than ever with classical feelings of anxiety and overwhelm, symptoms such as racing heart, sweaty palms, difficulty in sleeping and concentrating, forgetfulness, and shortness of breath. Many are worried about their future, whether it be a direct fear of contracting the virus, or implications about job security, financial implications, loneliness, and the inability to socialise as they once did. Some may even be grief-stricken too, as they have sadly lost loved ones during the pandemic.’
As an integrative health practitioner, with over fifteen years clinical experience as a doctor, Dr Sally believes in taking a holistic view to managing our health. Integrative medicine covers a whole host of tools including nutrition, positive lifestyle choices, bodywork, stress management, mindfulness, acupuncture, counselling, holistic therapies, herbal medicine and homeopathy in favour of anti-depressants or other medicines, which may bring unwanted side effects and dependency.
LIFESTYLE TIPS & ADVICE FROM DR SALLY
Here Dr Sally shares some of her healthy lifestyle tips to help us to navigate these troubled times, along with some natural remedies which she has found to be of benefit to her patients who consult her for a wide range of issues, including women’s health, gut health and auto immune conditions as well as mental health.
How does ‘Normal’ feel now? – The first aspect to recognise, is that some level of anxiety, given the events of this year is completely understandable. The human psyche thrives on regular routine and having the ability, within reason, to plan ahead. So, no wonder that sustained feelings of anxiety are present as we seek to adjust to the current landscape. However when these feelings become overwhelming, or exaggerated, culminating in despair it may be time to seek professional help.
It’s Good to Talk – Whether it’s in the guise of a professional counsellor, or a chat on the telephone with a friend, it is helpful to voice your fears and worries with another person. They may also share having similar feelings, which will immediately help you both to put things into perspective. Connection is key to our wellbeing, even if you would view yourself as introvert…this may mean adapting to the current situation with social media, resorting to the old fashioned telephone, or even cheering up a friend with a hand-written note.
Manage Expectations – It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself now, after many months of managing the Covid situation, and all of the change/uncertainty that many of us have had to face, with how we were before. In terms of concentration levels, stamina, confidence and organisation skills, it is wholly expected that we are not quite where we were. So, go easy on yourself and lower the bar, there is no race.
Back to Basics – For most of us, much-needednourishment in the form ofsleep and from our diets can certainly be areas to address. Although we have no control over the greater environment, we can help ourselves enormously by instilling a regular sleeping pattern, and turning off devices at least one hour before bedtime, avoiding caffeine (and alcohol) after 6pm, and ensuring that our bedroom space is aired and de-cluttered.
There is nothing wrong for most of us with a glass or two of alcohol (organic if poss!) at the weekends as a treat, but be wary of drinking at home to bolster our mood midweek.
Healthy eating will improve mood, and sleep patterns and a commitment to regular exercise at a pace which suits our current level of fitness will help to address stress chemicals and induce natural sleep (again, rather than causing extra stress on our bodies by vowing to run that marathon, be gentle with yourself, recognise where you are at!)
Break The Cycle – Identify your patterns of anxiety and trigger points for example, if it’s shortness of breath as the feelings spiral, you may wish to try a simple breathing exercise such as alternate nostril breathing, to bring you back to centre. Journaling, or creative artwork, even colouring books, can help to ease the mind and bring those cortisol levels down.
Create Boundaries and a Routine – Especially if you are now working from home, a routine to avoid home time and work time becoming all a blur, will help you maintain focus when it’s needed and switch off for that all important relaxation. If you are working from home, it’s so important to take regular breaks away from your desk, to refresh your mind and body. Get outdoors if possible, even just to step out of your door….afterwards you will be able to tackle work issues with renewed vigour and a different sense of perspective, your body (and brain) will thank you!
Gratitude and Compassion – it’s time to be grateful for what we do have, and take extra time to notice the small things, perhaps aspects of nature that we are ordinarily too busy to notice; as well as being understanding and gentle to yourself, practise this loving attitude towards your family, co-workers and friends. Reach out to those who may be lonely or struggling, the results may surprise you!
Stay Present – That old adage, ‘take one day at a time’, is certainly good for now. It is said that those living in the past experience depression, and those living in the future experience anxiety – so whilst we navigate these times, the present is certainly the ‘sweet spot’. Each day ask yourself what can be done, in the here and now, to improve this situation. Mindfulness and meditation will certainly help you to achieve this state of mind.
Dr Sally’s recommendations when our Lifestyle Habits need a helping hand are:
HERBS FOR SLEEP & RELAXATION
These herbs are among Dr Sally’s favourites, restoring nerve pathways, soothing the stress response, and supporting the adrenals, make these herbs a go-to for Dr Sally’s patients: passionflower, oat straw, verbena and valerian, and these can also be used to help with calming nerves and inducing sleep. Used as a herbal tea or tincture, they need to be taken regularly to be effective.
Orchard Barn sell a home-blended herbal tisane, called ‘Night Time’ tea containing passion flower, see online shop (£5.45) There is also Dr Sally’s remedy ‘Restore Herbal Tonic No 1’ (£10.95 for 100 ml) to nourish and calm the nervous system which has been agitated by prolonged stress.
Ashwagandha – a wonderful herb, loved for its relaxing and calming action, it normalises/ reduces cortisol, a stress hormone, and therefore reduces the harmful effects of stress, whilst aiding sleep, energy and immunity. Take as a capsule, tincture, or traditionally as a powder, before bed.
For poor sleep, Dr Sally would also recommend Nutri Advanced Magnesium glycinate recommending patients take 2- 3 capsules before bed.
For chronic poor sleep, melatonin, which is a prescription only sleep hormone, is one of the most effective options for re-establishing a good sleep routine. This naturally occurring sleep hormone is the reason why it is so important that we switch our devices off before bed, and at least 1-2 hours in preparation, so that the body is prompted to release this light-sensitive hormone, in the waning light, signalling that it is time to rest. Dr Sally is able to prescribe this, subject to a consultation.
Don’t forget that depression may also be caused by low Vitamin D, low thyroid function and hormone imbalance. 1000iu / day of Vitamin D is a good maintenance dose for most adults, but to get immune support for coronavirus too, Dr Sally would recommend getting your levels checked as it may be necessary to have a higher dose of 3-5000iu/day.
HERBS FOR ANXIETY & DEPRESSION
Herbs have been used over the centuries as a tonic for mental maladies. St John’s Wort is a well-known and effective herbal medicine which can help lift the mood and can be taken as a tincture or capsules ideally. https://orchardbarnhealth.com/products/hypericum-perforatum-st-johns-wort. It cannot be taken with some medications though, including the oral contraceptive pill, warfarin, digoxin, some antidepressant drugs, indinavir, cyclosporin, theophylline, HIV medication and anti-epileptic drugs, so if in doubt take medical advice.
Other herbs which are used to address low mood are damiana, lemon balm and verbena. Lemon balm makes a delicious herbal tea, infuse 1-2 tsp of the dried herb and infuse for 10 -15 minutes. Drink 3 cups a day to feel the herb’s medicinal effect.
HOMEOPATHY CAN LIFT YOUR MOOD TOO
Homeopathic remedies, which work on a highly individual level, are best prescribed by a professionally trained practitioner. Depending on how you are experiencing symptoms and your own individual body make up and personality, a professional homeopath will prescribe a particular remedy.
At Orchard Barn Health, Dr Sally Moorcroft is joined by a team of experienced doctors and therapists, all of whom are highly qualified, passionate and experienced. Patients come from near and far, and some choose to have consultations via Zoom, or telephone. Alongside integrative medicine, which incorporates herbal and homeopathic prescriptions, therapies include psychotherapy, yoga, acupuncture, Bowen technique, reiki and massage techniques.
Their online shop stocks an extensive range of supplements, teas, tonics, holistic beauty and self-care products. Their eco-lifestyle and ethical gifts for all age groups will make for useful and original Christmas gifts too.