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Why COVID Affects Your Mental Health and What You Can Do About It

Why COVID Affects Your Mental Health and What You Can Do About It

With all the upheaval going on in the world it is not surprising that experts are sounding the alarm on mental health concerns. The current world health crisis has impacted three specific areas, that, under normal circumstances work to support and enhance feelings of wellbeing and overall life satisfaction. These include, simple routines, social and family connections and positive economic and job prospects.

Canadians right across the country have felt the impact of COVID on one or more of these areas and the pausing of foundational structures within our society can naturally lead to an increased sense of isolation and disorientation. 

While some people may only be experiencing impact in one area, many are experiencing disruptions to their whole way of life. From parents struggling to work from home while their toddlers are pouring cereal on their laptops to small businesses not knowing how they are going to pay their staff or rent, these are certainly disorienting times.

It is so important now more than ever that we are checking in on each other while also ensuring that our own self-care routines are on point.

Mental health issues may not be overtly noticeable until they have gotten to the point of crisis so it is important to recognize the early warning signs in ourselves and our loved ones. 

Here is a simple short checklist to some early warning signs to be watching for. warning signs of mental health

It is also vital that we prioritize our own self-care strategies because we cannot help others who are depending on us if we, ourselves, are struggling to stay afloat. 

Here are FIVE proven strategies for maintaining mental health and wellbeing during times of upheaval. If we can focus on the things we CAN control, rather than the things we can’t, we give ourselves a much better chance at lowering negative outcomes of stress.

1. Get out in nature

As we head into the colder season we will naturally be spending more time indoors. However, this is not the time to hibernate and avoid the fresh air and sunlight. Getting outside in nature has been proven to promote health and feelings of wellbeing.  

The Japanese have a practice called Shinrinyoku or “forest bathing” which involves intentional time in nature. Research has shown that “forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.”

The benefits of being outside on mental health

If you can’t get routinely get out of the city, at least get out for a daily walk in the fresh air, or play in the leaves or build a snowman with your kids. It will lighten your mood and get you a bit of exercise and fun family time. (Pro tip: kids sleep GREAT after being outside!) 

2. Find a routine that works for you

Having a routine, no matter how simple, can help to bring structure and purpose into our day. When our routine has been completely disrupted or we are no longer leaving the house it can be tempting to stay in our pjs, eat junk food and stop exercising. All of these things can have a negative impact on our mental health.

benefits of a routine on mental health

Being productive leads to feelings of wellbeing and having a routine ensures that we have a reason to get out of bed.

Drinking a big glass or water, cooking regular, healthy meals, and making time for exercise are some of the best things to add to our routine to support mental health.

3. Make sleep a priority

When we start sliding on our routine this begins to impact our sleep schedule. If we don’t need to be out of bed at a certain time in the morning we may start to stay up later, watching TV or browsing online. This increased exposure to artificial blue light can impact our production of melatonin and throw our sleep/wake cycles out of sync.

Benefits of sleep on mental health

Other things that can lead to poorer quality sleep include drinking alcohol, having a cluttered bedroom, using a bedroom as a work/office space, having a partner or pets in the room, or trying to sleep in a room that is too warm.

Poor quality or lack of sleep can lead to emotional and physiological stress and exacerbate mental health issues so it is vital to make good sleep habits a priority

4. Stay connected

Not being able to socialize or see some loved ones as often as we would like can lead to feelings of isolation. Isolation and lack of community connection is a big contributing factor to both increased addictive behavior and mental health crises. 

We must become creative in our efforts to stay connected. Video calls and outdoor socially distanced get togethers can help to fill the void of regular get-togethers at least partially. With the shuttering of religious and community gatherings it is important that those who are most vulnerable to isolation are not forgotten. 

Staying connected helps with mental health

Get-togethers may currently involve more work and proper planning but we need this connection to stay healthy. 

5. Practice gratitude

One of the biggest factors that impact stress and anxiety is perspective. It has become such a cliché to remind people to “be positive”.  Telling a depressed or anxious person that they just need to change their perspective can be more hurtful than helpful as it comes across dismissive and uncaring. This is why a daily time of intentional gratitude may be more practical.

A randomized clinical trial conducted with 1,337 participants found that gratitude intervention managed to increase positive affect, subjective happiness and life satisfaction, and reduce negative affect and depression symptoms.

An intentional time of gratitude can be added into a routine of self-care at any point in the day but most people prefer first thing in the morning or right before bed. Simply voice out loud or journal out 5-10 things that you are grateful for. 

These don’t need to be life altering things. Something as simple as “I enjoyed my coffee, “ or “traffic was good today” can shift our perspective from looking for all the small, annoying things that go wrong in a day to all the small, amazing things that go right.

The other cool thing about gratitude is that we cannot hold a grateful thought and an anxious thought in our mind at the same time so gratitude can offer a temporary respite from overwhelming or anxious thoughts.

BONUS TIP: What about supplements?

Along with these five self-care tips, it is also important to consider taking vitamins or other nutrients to support mental wellbeing. Nootropics and Adaptogens are types of nutrients that many Canadians have found to be an essential part of their mental health strategy. For more information, check out our SHINE blog on The 5 Best Science Backed Natural Supplements to Improve Your Mental Health 

Conclusion

If we can focus on making one or more of these self-care actions a priority we will be helping support both our physical and mental wellbeing during this time of life disruption. 

When we are in a better place mentally, emotionally and physically this allows us a greater ability to support others in our lives who may be struggling. When we take care of ‘one’ the ‘whole’ naturally becomes healthier. We are in this together!

About Author

 Kathy Ryan, Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Kathy Ryan is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with over 15 years experience in the health and wellness industry. Her primary focus has been on women's health including weight management, hormone and autoimmune issues. Over the years she has had opportunity to work with and learn from some of the leading natural health experts in these areas. 

5 Best Science Backed Natural Supplements to Improve Your Mental Health

Best vitamins and supplement for stress anxiety sleep memory mood and focus

We get it. Your to-do list looks like a complex math equation. Meanwhile, you can’t focus on the one thing you need to have done right now. It doesn’t help that your toddler is having the meltdown you wish you could have. You’re frustrated because you’ve been doing all the things: meditation, eating healthy, exercising, getting more sleep—or trying to. But the stress beast is chasing you down anyway, making your heart pound and your palms sweat. And the cycle is taking a toll on your health.

No magic wand (or pill) can poof life’s stressors away. But natural options can boost your body’s ability to cope with pressure and your brain’s ability to power through tough tasks or daily grinds. Adaptogens, are herbs that can beef up your stress muscle and help you hold the heavy load longer, while nootropics send juice to the brain so you have fresher cognition.

The terms “adaptogen” and “nootropic” might be new to you but they are herbs that have been around and in use for thousands of years, trusted by our ancestors. Now we have modern science to back up the power of adaptogens and nootropics to aid health, and to guide us in how best to use them. 

How do adaptogens work? 

Best supplements for stress, anxiety, focus, sleep, mood and memory.

Adaptogen is a fancy word meaning it helps you "adapt" to stress. To understand how adaptogens go to battle for us against stress, we have to dive into how the body reacts to a pressure-cooker situation. When stress shows up, we have a three-stage reaction to it called General Adaptation Syndrome, or GAS.

Alarm. Basically, your body has an intense WTF moment about whatever is happening. It goes into fight-or-flight mode and gives you a surge of cortisol, which is the stress hormone, and also adrenaline to fight fatigue. Your heart hosts a rave in your chest, your blood pressure rises, you get hot and sweaty, you can’t think clearly, and you might even feel sick to your stomach. Bleh!

Resistance. The body begins to repair itself from those initial stress responses while offering boosts to get you through the stressor or the task at hand—like leading a meeting even though your PowerPoint has #failed.

Exhaustion. Eventually, your body’s resources for coping with whatever S-storm you’ve faced will ghost you. That’s when your body crashes.

Adaptogens lower that fight-or-flight response during the alarm phase, allowing us to stay a bit more focused instead of so spazzed. Next, they bolster us in that resistance phase, like a supportive best friend, and help us stave off and minimize the crash. Essentially, when stress strikes, adaptogens keep us on a more even keel. 

According to a study published in the journal Pharmaceuticals, “Adaptogens increase the state of non-specific resistance in stress and decrease sensitivity to stressors, which results in stress protection, and prolong the phase of resistance.”  

How do nootropics work?  

Best supplement and vitamin for mind and brain and confidence

Nootropic is a fancy word meaning it helps your mind work better. Nootropics are also often called “smart drugs” for their ability to enhance memory, creativity, drive, and focus. Each of these brain boosters works a bit differently to increase mental function. Nootropics often act as vasodilators, meaning they dilate the vessels and arteries in our noggins, according to an article published in the journal Evidenced-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. That dilation increases blood flow and floods our brains with nutrients and oxygen. This flood of valuable ingredients goes to work on cognitive performance by impacting neurotransmitters. That’s just one of the many mechanisms at play.

Great! Now what?

Adaptogens and nootropics sound good on paper, right? But you don’t have time to sift through a list of herbs, buy them, and then brew a magic potion, click your heels three times, and hope for the best.

No worries. We did the work for you, making it easy-peasy. The body of research surrounding adaptogens and nootropics is ever-growing. Here we cover the nuts and bolts and explain the science behind what we believe to be the five best natural supplements. We believe these five powerhouses from nature have the potential to improve your confidence and help you be the very best version of yourself.

1.     American Ginseng

The adaptogen American ginseng is known for its force to fight fatigue. Ginseng has a storied history in herbal healing and is coveted for the root’s anti-inflammatory ginsenosides and gintonin.

A large double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted by the Mayo Clinic and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that American ginseng is useful for boosting cancer patients’ energy. Another study found evidence that American ginseng improves working memory, choice reaction time accuracy, and mental calmness.

If you’ve been lacking motivation or the get-up-and-go to start a new exercise program, finish a creative project, or even just do more activities with the kids, SHINE Energy is for you. And if you’re already super active, the Energy formula just might give you that extra kick to take a workout to the next level. When you feel your best, you can be your best.

2.     Ashwagandha

Best supplement for stress and anxiety

Ashwagandha is an herb native to India, Africa, and the Mediterranean and lauded for its stress-protective qualities.

Ashwagandha significantly reduced serum cortisol levels in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. (Remember, cortisol is the stress hormone.) In the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, the researchers wrote, “The findings of this study suggest that…Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.”

We all react differently to stress, and our reaction can vary depending on the situation. SHINE Unstress is just as much for the mellower mushrooms out there as it is for the Type-A overachievers. When you boot stress from your path, you can see a clear route to reaching your next goal, whether that’s to secure a new job or just to regain control of your inbox.

3.     Bacopa

Bacopa monnieri, also called water hyssop, is a butterfly-attracting, semi-aquatic herb and a powerful nootropic known for its memory-enhancing qualities.

In a randomized, double-blind study, 60 medical students were either given Bacopa or placebo twice daily for six weeks. Students in the Bacopa group exhibited cognitive enhancement in areas of working and logical memory, comprehension, and even the ability to ward off distractions.

Brain fog can crop up for any number of reasons, including chronic illness, fatigue, or side effects from medications. And sometimes we just go through periods where we don’t feel as astute. SHINE Memory is intended to help you perform at your sharpest. Ace your exam, nail your presentation, learn a new language, or just find it easier to remember what you need once you get to the grocery store.

4.     Rhodiola

Rhodiola rosea is an herb native to Europe and Asia and known for promoting sustained focus, busting stress, and staving off burnout.

One study evaluated 101 people facing life and job stressors. Researchers found symptom improvement among participants within as little as three days (and continued improvement over four weeks) of treatment with 200 mg of Rhodiola extract. Plus, a clinical trial looked at stress-related burnout in 118 participants treated with 400 mg of Rhodiola extract daily. Researchers found a clear improvement among participants over the 12-week study. The herb is currently undergoing research as a potential treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults.

In the digital age, the world is full of disruptions. And the more fatigue or stress you feel when facing a task, the easier it is to fall prey to distractions—like social media feeds or even that pile of laundry eyeing you from the corner. If you crave better concentration for work, school, or just to read a good book, SHINE Focus is intended to help.

5.     Omega 3 Fish Oil

Best supplement for mood, depression and anxiety

Omega 3 Fish Oil (Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are an essential nutrient, meaning the body must get them through diet. They are also an adaptogen.

Research indicates that a deficiency in omega 3, or low-intake, may predispose certain individuals to depression and anxiety, and supplementation may offer neuroprotection.

When depression and anxiety reign supreme, finding room for anything else can be difficult. SHINE Mood is intended to give you a boost to do and enjoy more of the things you love, like hanging out with friends, trying a new activity, or even asking someone on a date.

BONUS: L-Theanine

L-Theanine is a well-known nootropic among supplement nerds to help boost mental muscle and provide a sense of calm. L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green and black tea. Research using electroencephalograph (EEG) shows that L-Theanine increases alpha activity, heightening attention and focus while also having a relaxing effect on the mind. Another study indicated L-Theanine’s ability to reduce one’s stress response when faced with a challenging brain task. 

About SHINE

SHINE’s mission is to provide you with natural research-backed, personalized supplements tailored just for you based on your health habits, lifestyle, and goals. You take our confidential Health Quiz, then we do the rest. We send you a monthly amount of supplements in compostable packaging—because, hey, we don’t want Mother Earth to be stressed, either.

The SHINE crew understands that you can be doing all the things and still not be feeling your best—because of stress, anxiety, brain fog, poor focus, mood issues, or just plain old low energy. You deserve to SHINE your brightest, and we want to help.

SHINE Health is the brainchild of longtime pals Phil Desrochers and Greg Leger. Phil, now a self-described supplement nerd, struggled for 15 years with cognitive and mood problems before finally solving his health issues with a targeted, personalized approach.

Greg recognized the beauty in what Phil had accomplished—because that’s what friends do. And together, they gathered the SHINE team of experts and found a way to bring a unique form of supplement personalization to other busy Canadians looking to take control of their health and life confidently.

About Author

 Medical journalist
Jennifer Chesak is a medical and adventure travel journalist for several national publications including the Washington Post, HuffPo, Prevention, Runner’s World, Trail Runner, Women’s Running, Healthline, Doorsteps, SheKnows, and more. 

 

Secret Supplement Formula for Perfect Energy

Secret Supplement Formula for Perfect Energy

Do you greet the day with energy and vitality...or do you require several “snoozes” and a strong cup of coffee before you even feel ready to tackle your day?

Unfortunately most of us require further “help” in the form of additional caffeine, energy drinks, carbs and catnaps just to keep us on our feet… 

Busting through that 3pm wall is a daily struggle we can all relate to…amiright?

Thankfully…there is a better option to fixing our energy issues than spending $10 a day on Starbucks or losing our waistline to those quick and high-caloric energy fixes…

Start with American Ginseng

American Ginseng and energy

American Ginseng is an adaptogenic herb that supports the body and mind during times of mental and physical exertion. Taking 500mg per day in the morning promotes a sustained boost of mental and physical energy without the health havoc that sugar and caffeine can create.

Adaptogenic herbs contain properties that have been shown to support the body and mind during times of stress by creating a “buffer” to the effects of prolonged stress. They “adapt” to what the individual requires in terms of the mechanism of support.

American Ginseng has been traditionally used in Herbal Medicine as an Adaptogen to help increase energy and resistance to stress in cases of mental and physical fatigue related to stress.

Add L-Theanine

L-Theanine is an amino acid that is naturally found in higher quantities in green tea and has thus been associated with a calm and focused “Zen” state. Only 200 mg offers noticeable therapeutic benefits. Research shows that it helps to temporarily promote relaxation (Nobre et al. 2008; Kimura et al. 2007; Lu et al. 2004)

Your Secret Formula

When you COMBINE American Ginseng with L-Theanine you get the best of both worlds…energy and the ability to calmly focus on whatever your day brings to you.

These potent nutrients have exactly what you need to find your get-up-and-go...and I don’t know about you but I think we could all use a little less fatigue and a lot more energy and Zen in our lives…

SHINE on...

P.S. For more information on how SHINE Health can help you improve your health with our easy, personalized and science backed supplements, take the Free Health Quiz

 
Kathy Ryan is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with over 15 years experience in the health and wellness industry. Her primary focus has been on women's health including weight management, hormone and autoimmune issues. Over the years she has had opportunity to work with and learn from some of the leading natural health experts in these areas. She is currently a writer, speaker and group coach who believes the combination of nutrition, lifestyle, mindset and personalized supplementation regimes leads to the healthiest and happiest outcomes.

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