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“I Finally Got My Life Back!” — How One Women Found Relief for Long COVID Fatigue

Many of us have now experienced a COVID diagnosis at some point over the last few years — and if you’re lucky, it was a speedy recovery. But up to 84% of people still suffer from symptoms afterward — a condition known as long COVID. One of the most common reported signs is severe fatigue. And now research from Creighton University in Nebraska links body-wide inflammation produced by COVID to overactivity in the limbic system, a brain region that’s involved with emotional processing. Why that’s a problem: “Limbic system overactivity is associated with a greater likelihood for low moods, trouble sleeping and major depressive disorder,” explains neuroscientist Daniel Amen, MD, author of Change Your Brain Every Day. Keep reading to learn more about long COVID fatigue — and how one woman found the fix for her symptoms.

How to ease long COVID fatigue

Doctors often treat long COVID symptoms such as anxiety, sleeplessness and depressed mood with prescription medication. And Dr. Amen suggests eating inflammation-fighting leafy greens, apples and berries.but the following strategies can also calm the limbic system naturally to restore energy.

Derailing negative thoughts is key

An overactive limbic system triggers an onslaught of what Dr. Amen calls ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that amp up anxiety. His advice: When you have a thought that makes you feel anxious, jot it down and ask, Is this realistic? “If you think, I’ll never get better, is that true?” Dr. Amen asks. “Of course not! You will get better if you do the right things, and thinking positively is one of them.” Making time for pursuits like meditation, prayer or connecting with loved ones can also calm the limbic system.

Consider a saffron supplement

“Saffron increases mood-boosting neurotransmitters such as serotonin,” says Dr. Amen. Plus, research in Frontiers in Nutrition suggests saffron enhances activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter that has calming effects on the limbic system. He advises supplementing with the study-backed dose of 30 mg. of saffron daily and choosing a product that contains turmeric and zinc, which work with saffron to deliver mood-enhancing perks. One he developed: BrainMD Happy Saffron Plus.

Long COVID fatigue success story: Cindy McDaniel, 58

Cindy McDaniel holding puppy
Cindy McDanielRey Villavicencio

“After having COVID during Christmas of 2020, I developed long COVID that left me with such unbearable fatigue that taking a shower and brushing my teeth forced me back to bed for hours from exhaustion,” recalls Cindy McDaniel, 58.

Too tired to function

“On top of the excessive tiredness, I had such a heavy layer of brain fog that I couldn’t concentrate on anything! I felt like there was a thick coating in my head, making it hard for thoughts to form or make any sense.

“The fatigue grew so severe, I became bed-bound for months, and my husband had to take care of me and the household. We had to rehome our puppy to a wonderful friend in California, which was so hard, but my husband could not take care of him and me and his job. Depression seeped in as I grew more and more sad that the fatigue and fog were slowly stealing every part of my life.

“For more than four months after recovering, the inability to do anything offered few options beyond lying in bed and looking out the window. I developed severe anxiety because of my health, which, teamed with the fatigue, landed me in a constant state of hypervigilance and exhaustion. I only slept a few hours a night, waking up frequently with nightmares.

“My primary care physician offered no treatment. She simply said, ‘There’s nothing we can do to help you.’ Unwilling to accept that this was how I’d feel for the rest of my life, I consulted a functional medicine doctor, who prescribed off-label treatments like hyperbaric oxygen therapy, low-dose naltrexone, antidepressants and more to combat my long COVID and restore my energy levels. While her efforts validated that how I felt wasn’t all in my head, nothing she prescribed sparked a recovery, so I stopped the treatments.

How she found help for long COVID fatigue

“Several months later, my husband heard about the Gupta Program at a medical symposium for long COVID. He was intrigued that doctors were recommending the program, which included guided meditations and breathing and brain retraining exercises. He phoned from his hotel and was hopeful this might restore some of my energy. He had learned that these exercises were linked to a reduction in long COVID fatigue in a published clinical trial. Fueled by cautious optimism, I wondered if I might possibly once again read a book or go grocery shopping — or maybe even take a walk.

“I asked my doctors about it, but neither had ever heard of it. But I was desperate for relief and bought a one-year membership for $399. I dove in, doing two 20-minute meditations a day. Using the different steps, which are either calming or uplifting, was a game changer. Reading how each aspect of the program promotes healing by forming new neural pathways for the brain to exit its hypervigilant state bolstered my mood.

“I finally got my life back!”

“After a day or two, I felt my anxiety lessening. I felt like a slow-rolling mist was inching away from me as I was restoring myself to my former health. And a few weeks later, I was out of bed and making dinner for my family, free of the fuzziness that had stolen my ability to focus.

“I followed the program’s plan to incorporate moments of joy, like walking in nature, talking to a friend or reading. Meditating deepened my awareness of patterns of behaving and thinking that contributed to my illness, plus fostered some much-needed self-compassion. Slowly but surely, my symptoms eased … after five months, I was back to my normal activities.

“Today, I’m thrilled to feel like my old self, thanks to brain retraining exercises that gave me peace and clarity of mind. Still meditating twice daily, I have energy to walk the new puppy we got last year and the clarity to relax with a book!”

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

For more on how to relieve tiredness and fatigue, click through:

MDs: You’re Likely Not Getting Enough Magnesium If You Feel Anxious, Achy or Tired

Chronic Stress? Experts Say These Delicious Cortisol-Lowering Foods Can Help

This Easy Exercise May Lower Your Risk of Long COVID Symptoms, Diabetes, and Depression

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