365 days into a global pandemic and we’re not out of the woods yet. As a wellness professional I see firsthand the impact of the pandemic on our health. Clients need more support than ever as the effects of loneliness, emotional eating, unhelpful drinking, excessive screen time and lack of movement are catching up…
We are at a crossroad and it’s imperative we choose the path that leads to better emotional and physical health. This article offers holistic advice to manage stress and arrest unhealthful habits before the pandemic has a long lasting impact on your well-being.
The “Quarantine 15”
If you’ve gained weight these co-vid-culprits may have created an unwanted shift in your metabolism.
- Increased stress raises cortisol levels and leads to weight gain and belly fat
- Lack of sleep increases cortisol and has a negative impact on appetite control
- Extra alcohol consumption burdens the liver (our fat burning organ) and promotes obesogenic gut bacteria.
- Frequent snacking causes blood sugar imbalances, insulin resistance and weight gain.
Any one of these factors can lead to hormonal weight gain. Add in a little extra comfort food, stress eating, more booze and you most certainly have a recipe for the quarantine 15. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms – it’s time for a hormonal tune up:
- Fatigue, low energy, low mood
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Weight gain around your mid-section
- Frequent cravings
- Hunger within two hours of eating
Reach out to a qualified nutritionist who can assess the factors relevant for you and customize an appropriate plan. Focusing on your well-being will do more than help you lose weight, it will increase your energy and emotional resilience during these very stressful times.
Managing Stress with Good Nutrition
Stress depletes vital nutrients that are essential for a healthy immune system and balanced mood. In times of stress your body requires additional nutrients to handle the demands placed on it. Follow these suggestions to reduce stress and support your mental health.
- Eliminate deep fried foods. Reduce takeout and pre-made convenience foods that are high in inflammatory fat and added sugar.
- Refined sugar depletes nutrients, feeds harmful gut microbes and causes blood sugar fluctuations. These factors negatively impact mood.
- Excess caffeine increases the stress hormone cortisol. Limit coffee to 1 cup daily and enjoy calming herbal teas such as green or chamomile.
- Consume alcohol in moderation.One drink per day for women, two drinks per day for men.
A diet high in inflammatory fat, excess calories and refined sugar increases oxidative stress and prematurely ages the brain. This can lead to anxiety, depression, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s Disease. A nutrient dense diet with an abundance of fruit and vegetables, healthy fat, whole grains and good quality protein will ensure a healthy body and mind. If cravings or fatigue are making a healthy diet feel impossible, it’s time to reach out for help.
Watch this short video to learn about the key nutrients for mental health and the foods you can eat to get them!
- Protein – provide the building blocks of neurotransmitters that keep us happy, motivated and sleeping well.
- Vitamins, Minerals & Antioxidants (Zinc, B vitamins, selenium, magnesium, vitamin A, C, E) Act as co-factors in the synthesis of neurotransmitters & combat free radical damage.
- Healthy Fat – Promotes healthy cell membranes and better communication between neurons.
- Proper Hydration – Delivers nutrients to cells and is critical for optimal functioning of all organs, including the brain.
Pardon the interruption. We’re dealing with a global pandemic.
The pandemic has affected everyone differently. Frontline and essential workers may be busier than ever. For others, pandemic life may be slower and offer time that never existed before. In either case, co-vid is a disruption to our social lives, our workflow and to our healthy routines.
Establishing new routines will help you to focus on the things you can control – an essential tool in your mental health tool kit.
Are you falling into some unhealthy habits? Check yourself below:
- Don’t fall out of bed into your work station. Establish a morning routine that builds in some “you time”. Walk the dog, eat breakfast, stretch.
- Don’t stay inside all day. Incorporate movement, run and errand, take a short walk on your lunch break. Do something that marks the end of your work day like putting your phone away, shut down your computer and walk away from your home office. You may even plan to have a virtual coffee (or beer!) with a friend after work.
- Don’t Graze. Eat on a schedule to avoid frequent visits to the fridge and snack cupboard. Eat away from your work space.
- Don’t rely on meal delivery services or drive through. Cooking at home allows you to control the quality of what you eat. Meal Plan to avoid unnecessary trips to the supermarket and use extra time to restock your freezer with healthy meals. They will come in handy on your busiest days when trying to juggle zoom meetings, kids, barking dogs and spotty wi-fi!
What’s your next move?
Exercise– At the very least you need to replace the steps earned buzzing around the office or work site. But adding frequency and intensity will help burn stress, avoid boredom and is ideal for overall health. Go for a walk every day and try home yoga or an online fitness class.
Get outside. Shed electronics and get some fresh air. The natural light and vitamin D are essential for regulating sleep and mood. Exercising is ideal but not the only way to enjoy the outdoors. Build a snowman with the kids, garden or enjoy the serenity of sitting by the ocean or a nearby river.
This too, shall pass. Yes, thankfully that’s true, but waiting for co-vid to be over while being flippant about your wellness could mean long-lasting impacts to your health. Take action now so you will come out the other side of the pandemic refreshed rather than worn out.