Pulse Check: Coping with Stress During the Pandemic
08/20/2021 | Season 2, Episode 27
In this week’s episode of Be HEALTHistic, Drs. Steve and Drew Sinatra bring you another installment of their timely Pulse Check series to discuss an aspect of the coronavirus pandemic that is affecting all of us — stress. Is the news today making you anxious? Are you eager for advice on how to better cope with the stress of life during this challenging time in our history? The doctors share specific ways you can minimize your stress, including adopting a “media diet” and focusing on positive news, natural solutions for managing anxiety, and using technology in a more meaningful way to stay connected to loved ones.
First, the doctors discuss how the simple act of watching the news and trying to comprehend all the conflicting advice out there can induce major stress. They talk about the importance of focusing on good news and stories of kindness — and why cutting down on the amount of media you consume and getting out into nature is truly the best medicine. They also explore the emotion of fear, and how that can negatively impact our minds and bodies.
Next, our hosts talk about nutraceutical solutions, like adaptogens, that can work to calm an overactive nervous system — as well as some dietary guidelines that will help, like avoiding sugar. Then, they discuss how all of the online technology available today is helping us stay connected to family and friends via virtual dinners, workouts and even story time with grandparents. Finally, the doctors share what they are doing personally to cope with stress during this unprecedented time.
You won’t want to miss this brand new episode of Be HEALTHistic, where the Doctors Sinatra share their best advice for keeping stress and anxiety in check as the pandemic continues.
LINKS & RESOURCES
- Visit the Healthy Directions website for more health and wellness content and information!
- Check out the Healthy Directions Articles Archive, where you can search for specific, health-related content from all of our Healthy Directions doctors and experts.
- Are you looking for more sources of positive news and stories of kindness? Check out these sites: The Good News Network, Some Good News with John Krasinski on YouTube, The Optimist Daily, Positive News, and Bored Panda.
- The doctors shared some suggestions of nutraceuticals called adaptogens, which can help calm an anxious mind and body. For more information, read this article from Dr. Drew about adaptogenic herbs: your best natural remedies for stress.
- During the episode, Dr. Drew discussed how meditation has made a huge impact on his level of anxiety during this time. Check out these simple meditation practices from Dr. Drew Sinatra, and his Healthy Directions colleague, Michele Balcerek.
- Have you missed past Pulse Check episodes that you want to catch up on? Listen to Episode 14: Pulse Check: Innovations in Integrative Medicine.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Is the news today making you anxious? Are you eager for advice on how to better cope with the stress of life during this unique time in our history?
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Today we'll be talking about specific ways you can minimize your stress during this difficult time.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: We'll be discussing adopting the best “media diet,” and the ways you can manage your stress naturally.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Finally, we'll be sharing some ways that you can use technology in a more meaningful way to stay in touch with your loved ones.
Narrator: Welcome to Be HEALTHistic, the podcast that's more than just health and wellness information — it's here to help you explore your options across traditional and natural medicine, so that you can make informed decisions for you and your family. This podcast illuminates the whole story about holistic health by providing access to the expertise of Drs. Steve and Drew Sinatra, who together have decades of integrative health experience. Be HEALTHistic is powered by our friends at Healthy Directions. Now, let's join our hosts.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Hi, folks. If you like what you hear today, and you want to listen to future conversations on all things integrative and holistic health, subscribe to our podcast at BeHealthisticPodcast.com. Also, check out and subscribe to the Healthy Directions YouTube channel, which features video versions of our episodes, plus extra videos you won't want to miss. Finally, we have more with me, Dr. Drew Sinatra, my dad, Dr. Steve Sinatra, and other health experts at HealthyDirections.com.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Well, welcome everyone to another episode of Be HEALTHistic. Today, this is a Pulse Check, and we're going to be talking about coping with stress during the pandemic. And Dad, I'm sure you can agree with me, these are very unsettling times that we're in, precarious times. I don't think we've ever seen anything like this before.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: No, I've never seen anything like it in my lifetime as a physician, I can tell you that. And I think coping with stress is really important.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Dad, where would you say the stress is coming from?
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Well, certainly when you listen to the media...I mean, there's so many conflicting reports, and there's so much confusion out there. I don't think people really know where to turn to. I mean, it's a hodgepodge, it really is.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: It is, and the amount of contradicting information out there...in the beginning it was, “Don't wear a mask, don't buy a mask,” right? We need to preserve and reserve those amounts of masks for healthcare workers and such, which I understand. But then, a little bit later down the line, they say, “Well, you have to wear masks all the time now.” So that, in and of itself, is stressful because at times, we're told, well, one thing is yes, and the other thing is no. I think in a time right now where there's so much information coming at us, and it's hard to sort through the information to know what is real, what is true. And then there's so many different, just conflicting, contradicting opinions out there…it's hard to know where to stand with all this.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Well, you're right. Sometimes we have to take a step back, and pause, and just do something different. So let's pause for a second and step back. Now, I saw a movie the other night, Drew. It was one of the top 10 movies I've ever seen in my lifetime, it was so cute. It was called “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” This was an incredible movie about how a dog wanted to come back as a human being. And the reason why I mention it is, people need to diffuse. In other words, you got to get away from the media and just do something for yourself. Whatever it takes, just diffuse a little bit, step back, have a little fun, relax, and enjoy the story. Enjoy the show, so to speak.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: I couldn't agree more, Dad. The fact that we're all doing social distancing...I've come up with this term, it's called “media distancing.” It's really all about getting away from the media. Sure, get your fix when you need it, when you need to just update yourself on what's happening, that's okay. But I don't recommend people plugging in 24/7, and that's what's happening these days. We have people on Facebook, we have people on YouTube, on Instagram, on Twitter. There's so much information coming at us that we don't have time to do these things like you were talking about — sit down, watch an amazing movie, where your heart is touched.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Exactly.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Dad, one thing I wanted to mention here that's concerning to me is there's a new syndrome out there. It's called “phantom vibration syndrome.” And what this is, is that people are actually sensing that their phone is ringing or vibrating in their pocket when it's actually not, because they've been conditioned to look at their phone so often throughout the day that they believe that it's actually ringing or vibrating. So this, to me, is telling us we need to take a little bit of a break from our cell phones and other forms of media, and just go back into nature.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Oh my gosh, I couldn't agree more. I mean, that's an awesome situation — you can take that one to the bank, as well.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: We need to get outside. That is a fundamental health-promoting thing that we all need to be doing right now, is getting outside, going for walks, getting sunshine, listening to nature, seeing nature, feeling nature around us — because that, ultimately, is going to help us get through this.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: So I would tell our viewers, “Hey, walk outside…go for a walk.” That's one of the things Jan and I do all the time. We live in Florida — we go outside for a walk. Look, what's the dividend? The skies are bluer, right? There's less toxins in the air, there's less airplanes, there's less auto emissions. I mean, that's one of the reframes of the coronavirus — in other words, the atmosphere is better, we're breathing better air, there's less sulfur dioxide, there's less emissions. I mean, it's really cool. So I just say, get outside, walk — and ground if you can. I think grounding is absolutely awesome in this.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Yeah, I agree, Dad. I got to say, through all this, the silver lining for me has been to really connect deeper with nature when I'm outside. And I've noticed that when I've been going for hikes on trails, or going for a mountain bike ride, or going for a run…things feel different to me. The sunshine hitting my face feels different, the air hitting my face feels different, I smell things differently. The flowers smell so much better these days. It's almost like my senses are so hyper-aware right now. It's like, I'm craving all these natural elements to come at me, and I think everyone should get out and experience these sensations, as well, because it's so good for us.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: That's a pearl, Drew. And I will tell our listeners who are listening to this, basically, that's awesome. Get outside and feel nature, it's really important.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Yeah, there's so many things here, Dad, that we can talk about. I think, regarding the news again, let's just hop back into that because I want to tell people, there's a lot of negative news out there. It's just a lot of negative energy that's being kind of thrown at you. I encourage people to, if they are going to look into the news — look at some positive news, some cases, some situations where people are doing good for humanity. For example, there was a woman in Dallas where…a librarian, in fact, that started up a virtual book club. So she asked people to join in, and she was going to read stories to them, and then people could ask questions about the book. And I think that's just such a great way to connect, and to get away from all the negative information coming at us through the media.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Absolutely. I mean, whenever you can connect with people on a level that is different than what the media is saying. I mean...and look, a book club is a great idea, especially when you can share your thoughts, and share your heart, speak from your own heart. In other words, share your inner feelings. That's the greatest gift one human being can give to another, is when they tell the truth, tell the truth about how they're feeling. That's a reframe of the coronavirus, because the coronavirus is going to bring this out in people. This is really important — whenever you communicate your real feelings, you're healing your body. I mean, as a psychotherapist, I really know that. You can take that one to the bank.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Well, Dad, speak more to that. I want to hear more about that, that's beautiful.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Well, I mean, denial is one of the biggest risk factors in the field of cardiology, I can tell you that. Basically, I've seen so many people who denied symptoms, and basically, when you're living in denial, you're living in a false self. Whenever you can communicate your real symptoms...for example, let me give an example. I worked in Hartford, in Connecticut, the insurance capital of the world. And I saw high-end executives in the coronary care unit, over and over again, Drew — in their 30s and 40s. And I remember talking to these men, and I would ask them questions because I was in a psychotherapy training program at the time. And a lot of these men said the same thing, “Doc, I climbed the wrong ladder. My life is a lie. I'm not true to myself. I'm not true to my own feelings. I'm in the wrong job. I'm in the wrong marriage.” And what comes out of it? A heart attack. So it's the denial of, basically, of living in a false reality.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: One of the things that coronavirus has done, it's brought us into reality. So we have to look at that. The coronavirus has shaped us into a pattern where we need to respect the social distancing, we need to go outside, we need to get more sunlight, we need to eat a healthier diet. We talked about losing a few pounds because remember, these inflammatory cytokines, they live in fat cells. So the best thing I can say about the coronavirus, it's given us a reality check on how to live our lives. That's the reframe here, and I think that's really good for us to connect with. We can't live in dread and fear all the time. So the reframe is, the coronavirus is going to give us an opportunity to live in our true self.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: I love that, Dad. I want you to speak more to the emotion of fear, because I feel that a lot of people are under this stress, lots of worry, and anxiety — and then fear being really kind of at the foundation of that. Can you speak to that?
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Basically, when you live in fear, fear triggers all these hormonal interactions and neuroendocrine interactions in the body, where it puts the body in a fight-flight response. Living in fear is one of the most dangerous things we can do. Now, look, you need to live in reality — but you don't need to up the ante on the reality where you're living in fear all the time.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: I mean, reality is a good situation, but if we keep exponentially raising the stake about, “Oh, what if, what if, what if? And I shouldn't do this, and I shouldn't do that. Blah, blah, blah”…all this self-talk can destroy us. So we need to face reality, but living in fear is not the way to go. I used to have a saying years ago, “Be productive, but don't be self-destructive at the same time.”
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Right, right.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: I mean, that's how I would frame it.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Well, Dad, the corollary, it seems, is that if you look from an evolutionary perspective, we'd come across a tiger, or a bear, or something in the environment, and we'd have this acute stress response, a release of cortisol, norepinephrine, epinephrine, etc. And the bear would go away, or the tiger would go away, and we'd get back to our normal life, and the stress response would go down, and our body would adapt. I think today, it's almost like we're running away from a tiger continuously. It's like, we can't even stop, we can't even hide from this tiger. That's really what all the information coming at us is doing, the media playing a role with that, because you can't let down. Every moment of the day, you've got to figure out, “What's going on? What do we need to do now? What do I need to wear? What do I need to do to protect myself? How do I do this, do this, right?”
Dr. Drew Sinatra: That is so unhealthy, to be under that chronic stress, like being chased from a tiger continuously. So, this comes back to the whole media thing, again, of taking a little bit of a media diet, and taking a break, and doing these things that we just talked about. Going out into nature, watching something on...a movie or television that is enjoyable, fun, where you can laugh, where you can tap into your heart. All that.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Oh, laughing is the best medicine, Drew. I mean, Norman Cousins showed that, when he laughed away his illness from ankolysing spondylitis. I mean, laughing...you get all these nice biochemicals from laughter and endorphins in the body. And crying is good, too. I mean, crying...you get the endorphins. So if you can laugh and cry about it, that's great. Any way to manage stress, and laughing and crying are two great ways of managing stress, as well — as well as going outside and grounding. There's meditation, there's yoga. You're an outdoors guy, too, so there's lots of things we can talk about where people can really get away from this media and get back to nature. I think that's a pearl, getting back to nature.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Also, too, getting back to nature...it means getting outside, of course, but also within yourself. So if that means meditation for you, or deep breathing, or if it's doing Qigong or Tai Chi. That, in essence, is really getting into nature inside yourself. I'll just share with the listeners that, for me, I wake up every morning and I meditate for 20 minutes. And that has been a complete game-changer through getting through this difficult, challenging time because for me, it grounds me into my being, so that I can go out into my day and I can handle more stress coming at me, and not freak out, not get anxious, and not worry about it. So I really encourage everyone, whatever technique they want to use for meditation, to do that on a daily basis because that will be a very important thing for you to be doing.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Oh I agree, Drew. Good stuff.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Dad, what else do you recommend for managing stress in terms of…let's talk about nutraceuticals, for a second. What do you like for kind of calming down an overactive nervous system?
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Well, I mean, there's lots of things you can do. I mean, I've always loved omega-3s, as a cardiologist. Omega-3s do so many good things in the body that, to me, I think it's one of the must-haves. I certainly like the adaptogens. I mean, you're a big fan of rhodiola. Even in some of the formulas we put together, the ashwagandhas, and all the different...these herbs that we can use, they have a calming effect on a body, as well. Anything like that would be good.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Yes. There's so many adaptogens that people can use. You mentioned ashwagandha, rhodiola, there's eleutherococcus, there's schisandra. There's ginseng, which people are probably familiar with. There's cordyceps, holy basil. All of these have different characteristics to them that you can use if you're feeling more anxious, if you're feeling more tired. In general, these adaptogens are great because they certainly help you adapt to stressful situations — that's where the name comes from, adaptogen.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Correct.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: We all need help coping with stress today. So I'm definitely recommending a lot of adaptogens in my practice these days.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Good for you. I mean, I think it's important. As well as, and we talked about this before, a non-sugary diet, a diet that has more healthy fats, more healthy proteins. Get away from the sugars. Remember that...and I've been saying this on the radio, one thing about sugar is that it has a negative impact on white blood cells, where these white blood cells have diminished phagocytosis ability. So I think sugar is really something to avoid. Look, the coronavirus has brought that out. I mean, let's face it. Diabetics, Type 2 diabetics, insulin resistance...these are serious comorbidities. That's why taking in less sugar, losing weight, getting more exercise — easy, easy lifestyle habits that we can all put into our daily routine is really good.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: So the reframe, and we said this on a previous program, of the coronavirus is that if we do lose weight — take away the fat cells, the inflammatory cytokines where they live — I mean, that's a great reframe. Because remember, whenever you lose weight, not only are you protecting yourself from insulin resistance and diabetes, but you're also protecting yourself from heart disease, as well. I mean, blood pressure goes down and serum lipids can go down. There's so many things that can go down, total peripheral resistance goes down, you get more endothelial function capability. So there's lots of things that help other systems when you're working with reducing the impact of the coronavirus with weight reduction or carbohydrate restriction.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: And Dad, you mentioned sugar. The first thing to do for people is to not buy it in the grocery store. If you don't buy it in the grocery store, you're not going to have sugar in your house. The equation is that simple because if you've got sugar in your pantry, you're going to walk over there and eat some cookies, or eat some ice cream, or eat some cake, whatever it is. And that's certainly not going to be good for your body, so the key here is to not buy sugary goods from the get-go.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Good. It's a good reframe. I like it, I'm all in.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Now, Dad, there are some really neat technologies available today where people can connect. One of them is Zoom, or Skype. We've certainly been having conversations a lot over Skype, Briana's been talking to her family. We've been actually having Zoom dinners, where we schedule a time with Briana's family and everyone talks about what they're…
Dr. Steve Sinatra: That's cool! That's really interesting, that's like going out to dinner via Zoom. I mean, my gosh, that's really innovative. I like that.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: And everyone's sharing their recipes about making bread, or whatever dish they made for dinner. So it's been a great experience, we do it once a week — so I encourage everyone to try something like that with your family members. And also, we've been doing Zoom exercise classes with Briana's brother, Brett. They go from 7:00 to 8:00 every morning, you don't need fancy equipment, like a Peloton or anything like that, to do this. All you need is your body, and a very small amount of area, and a yoga mat. And he does circuit training, essentially, just very simple exercises, movements, stretching that you can do. And that's just another way to get exercise in the morning,
Dr. Steve Sinatra: You know, Drew…those are two powerful insights, I think, we just gave our listeners. Because another reframe of the coronavirus is that we're going to get connected more with our family. In other words…and extended family, as well. And you just said it, I mean, this is really cool, having a Zoom dinner with extended family. That's a great idea, I love it. I mean, you can take that one to the bank. I mean, that really works.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Yeah…and another thing, too, that people can do is they can have a grandparent, if they’ve got kids in the house, they can have a grandparent read a story to the young one. For example, we've had...Jan's read a story, my mom's read a story, Nana/Briana's mom, has read a story to our boys. And that's such a special time to connect with them and to have a figure like that be present in their life. Even though it is over a screen, it's not in person…it's still a beautiful experience to have.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Yeah…I remember when we did a Zoom with your little son, Luca. He showed me his cowboy boots, and he wanted to see my cowboy boots! So again, we're getting connected on a heart level, more and more. So another reframe of the coronavirus is increased connectivity to loved ones. I mean, this is...look, the virus is not all bad, and that's what we have to really get across to our listeners. I mean, so many people are living in fear. We can reframe this virus where we're getting closer, and we're making more contact, and this is really a good outcome that needs to be followed. And I love what you're doing with the families, this is great.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Well, Dad, you've always been the king of the reframe…I learned that from you from a young boy. So I love the fact that you're reframing this whole pandemic, coronavirus thing because ultimately, we do need to change the way that we are living our lives. I mean, our reality is shifting, it's changing, and there are lots of things that we can learn from this experience so thanks for sharing that.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Yeah, I mean, even myself…I live in the Northeast part of the time, and also work at Healthy Directions, which is in Washington, D.C., and I live in Florida part of the time. So I'm just going to drive back and forth, and probably sleep in the van. Remember the old days, when we used to sleep in a van and go on camping trips? I mean, thank God I took you camping and fishing as a young child and stuff like that, because now that I'm in my early 70s, I don't have any problems sleeping in vans. I love it, I love camping. I mean, you and I went camping in the Redwoods just last summer.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Right, right.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Another reframe of the coronavirus is getting more outdoors, and maybe vanning, maybe traveling more, or less flying, and stuff like that. The worst thing about this virus is that I think the proclivity of catching it is probably 10, 20, maybe 50 times more than what we thought it was. But the mortality is significantly reduced, especially in younger people. It's the nursing home populations that are most at risk. So we have to keep that in mind, you can catch it quicker…in other words, it's easy to catch, so you have to be on guard, and you have to be really on your toes. That's why going outdoors and being outdoors is so important, because it cuts down on the amount of droplets in the air — as being at a birthday party, or in church, or at a synagogue where people are in closed-in areas. So I think that's what we're going to learn from this virus, that when we have these cycles of influenza occurring in the fall and winter, and into the spring, that people are going to have to live their lives a little bit differently, going forward.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: So Dad, we shared some stories, some positive stories around the news. I would love it if our listeners could share experiences they've had, or stories that they've heard about.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Oh, absolutely…in other words, it's all about connection. So if they have something that worked for them, and they want to share it with us, and share it with our social media group…I mean, I'm all in on that.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: So Dad, for our Wellness Wisdom, what are you doing…share with our listeners, what you're doing that is helping you cope with stress during these times?
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Well, certainly, I’m not eating sugars. I'm eating a healthier diet, and I go outside — I ground. I am a big believer in grounding, I've been in the movement for over 15 years. It does some remarkable benefits to the body. I try to walk on concrete, or my grass, or...living in Florida, we're allowed to go to the beaches, so I ground there. So my tip of the day is, take in Mother Earth energy, take in the Schumann resonance. The Schumann resonance heals the body, and we've seen anecdotal reports from websites where people feel so much better. Even people who contracted the flu-like illness, or COVID-19, feel so much better with earthing and grounding. So, that's my tip of the day.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: Oh, I love that, Dad. Well, I'll share my tip, and that is...last weekend, I took a complete media holiday. I went 48 hours not looking at my phone, not looking at my computer, not reading a thing. I spent the entire time with my family, we were out in nature both days. And it was probably one of the best experiences I've had in the last three months, because I finally felt connected, again. I finally felt that I was a part of nature. I was with my family, spending one-on-one time with every single one of them, we felt just so good together. And having that media break was probably the healthiest thing that I could have done for myself in a long time.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: Hey, that's awesome, Drew. I like that one. That's great, a great pearl of wisdom.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: That's our show for today, folks. If you have a question or an idea for a show topic, please send us an email or share a post with us on Facebook. And remember, if you like what you heard today and you want to be an active member of the Be HEALTHistic community, subscribe to our podcast at BeHealthisticPodcast.com, or on Apple podcasts, or wherever you download your favorites. You can also find more great content and information from us and the Healthy Directions team at HealthyDirections.com.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: I'm Dr. Drew Sinatra.
Dr. Steve Sinatra: And I'm Dr. Steve Sinatra.
Dr. Drew Sinatra: And this is Be HEALTHistic.
Narrator: Thanks for listening to Be HEALTHistic with Drs. Drew and Steve Sinatra, powered by our friends at Healthy Directions. See you next time.
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Meet Dr. Drew Sinatra
Dr. Drew Sinatra is a board-certified naturopathic doctor and self-described “health detective” with a passion for promoting natural healing, wellness, and improving quality of life by addressing the root cause of illness in patients of all ages. His vibrant practice focuses on treating the whole person (mind, body, and spirit) and finding missed connections between symptoms and health issues that are often overlooked by conventional medicine.
Meet Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy.