Anxiety and Stress Around COVID-19 and How to Manage

September 15, 2021

This is a recording of “Anxiety & Stress Around Covid-19 and How to Manage,” a Zoom meeting held on June 10, 2020, sponsored by Dinno Health. Below is an excerpt of the presentation by Dr. James M. Greenblatt, MD on coping with anxiety and stress around the pandemic and nutritional interventions and supplementation to help with sleep disturbances.

As a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, Dr Greenblatt has treated patients since 1988. After receiving his medical degree and completing his psychiatry residency at George Washington University, Dr. Greenblatt completed a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Dr. Greenblatt currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer at Walden Behavioral Care in Waltham, MA and serves as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and Dartmouth College Geisel School of Medicine.

Through three decades of practice and research, Dr. Greenblatt has been a leading contributor to the revolution of patients and families seeking care and offers evidence – based approaches toward nuanced and integrative recovery.

His book series, Psychiatry Redefined, draws on his many years of experience and expertise in integrative medicine for psychiatry. Dr. Greenblatt’s knowledge in the areas of biology, genetics, psychology, and nutrition as they interact in the treatment of mental illness has made him a highly sought after speaker at national and international conferences and workshops. He currently offers online courses for professionals as well as specialized fellowship programs in the functional medicine approaches to integrative psychiatry.

Dr. Greenblatt:

We know suicide rates and calls to hotlines increased. We certainly know anxiety and depression, we know prescriptions for anti-anxiety antidepressants have dramatically increased. So in this kind of overwhelming, uncertain time, I thought the easiest thing to do is to focus just on one topic that I believe has profound implications for our health, and also implications for ways that we can take control of our health and the uncertainty of what is going on, and that’s really focusing on sleep. It is basic. It is simple. I bet you, most of you have had some COVID pandemic dreams, but certainly sleep disturbances are common. 

I want to talk about just two ways, a nutritional supplement, magnesium, as well as understanding melatonin in the brain, to begin to help us address this. So when was the last time you fell asleep within 15 minutes and woke up feeling rested? 

One of the areas that we have all heard about, if you hadn’t before, is this concept of inflammation, right? We all know about it: if we have a swollen knee, we have a sore throat, our body’s reaction to any kind of insult is to send all these immune cells and create all these chemicals that cause inflammation. That’s how we fight infections and how we heal tissue. These inflammatory chemicals can create some of the health consequences and even some of the concerning health consequences of COVID-19. So one of the things we’re always looking to do as we look at our lifestyle and how we can prevent illness is what are other sources of inflammation that we can address? If we look at nutritional deficiencies of magnesium, our standard American diet, sleep allergies and stress, all related to magnesium deficiencies. So that’s why I wanted to begin our discussion on ways that we can help our sleep cycle by understanding this one trace mineral that’s called magnesium

I think it’s probably the most important nutritional supplement for clinicians. When I teach doctors, I tell them this is the one they need to understand and learn because your patients will benefit and it’s one of the few nutrients that I recommend that patients can take because it’s simple, it’s safe, and has profound implications.

In the early 1900s, a normal diet we were getting around 500 milligrams per day because we were eating whole foods, nutrient dense. Now we’re close to 200, less than half of the magnesium that we were getting a hundred years ago, and if we think about a dietary intake, we can think about requiring around 400 milligrams.

Besides not getting enough magnesium in our diet because we’re not living off the farm and eating nutrient dense foods, there are lots of ways that magnesium is depleted. Many medications that we’re taking prescribed by our physicians affect magnesium absorption or utilization. Alcohol, caffeine, and actually, I think the most dramatic, particularly for our young kids, would be our soft drinks. All our soft drinks have phosphorus, phosphoric acid, and that displaces magnesium. 

The other part that makes life difficult for you and your physicians is most of the magnesium in our body is in our bones or in our cells so it’s not like many of the other nutrients that we talked about like vitamin B12. We can take a blood test, we can look at your levels of vitamin B12 or vitamin D and we can say you’re deficient or you’re sufficient. With magnesium, we don’t have any great tests since most of the magnesium is in our bones and our cells and there’s only one percent that might be found in the blood. So we do check magnesium levels but they’re often normal unless you’re very seriously ill, likely in need of a hospitalization. So it’s very hard to detect and as an integrative psychiatrist practicing functional medicine, so much of the work that I do is based on testing – helping people understand their unique kind of metabolic profile, what they need and what they don’t need – well, magnesium is the one supplement that I can recommend very strongly, that you don’t need a blood test. We’ll talk about some of the symptoms to know if you need it but certainly the one we’re discussing here today is insomnia

Watch the video to get the full discussion on:

  • Utilizing nutritional interventions/ supplementation to help patients with sleep disturbances
  • Coping with stress and anxiety around the pandemic
  • Dr. Greenblatt is the author of the book series Psychiatry Redefined, including “Integrative Therapies for Depression.”