Social distancing, working from, shelter in place, school closures all make sense when it comes to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flattening the curve (If you want to read a really well-written article click here) One thing that many of us have noticed is that our diets, may have fallen apart. This easily happens for many reasons.
On a normal day, most of us don’t spend 24 hours a day within 20 steps of our fridge. We are all also doing many different things throughout the day. Working, running errands and being out and about around town takes up a good portion of our attention span. But for many us now, myself included, are now stuck in their homes. Working from home is difficult. Especially if you have a role where working from home is impractical.
To get through, find something to occupy yourself. Spend some time working. Take a break to play with your kids. Once the sun is out, go for a walk around the block. Do a puzzle, pick up a good book or listen to a good podcast. While Netflix is great, try avoid day long binges.
First and foremost, stress is ok. If you’re stressed out about this crisis, that is more than ok. With everything going on in our community, our state, country and abroad being stressed out is the normal response. But how does stress contribute to eating?
In the very short term, stress reduces appetite. Through a hormonal cascade, epinephrine (adrenaline) is released. It triggers a flight-or-fight response. Which makes sense when you think about it. When we are on a hike through the woods, and round the corner ending up face to face with a bear the last thing we want to worried about is that I should of ate that cliff bar this morning.
If stress persists, or is perceived to persist, it is very different. Through another complicated hormonal cascade, cortisol is released. Cortisol is a very interesting hormone. Of the many things it does, is ramp up appetite and ramp up motivation (especially to eat). In general, stress ebbs and flows throughout the day. One of the ways we measure cortisol levels in patients is to take multiple readings throughout the day to get a better overall picture of the patient. If stress never falls, cortisol will stay elevated.
Stress also affects food preference. When stressed, high fat and high sugar foods are really appeasing. That snickers bar, or easter pack of Reese’s eggs, starts looking better and better.
Once again, being stressed right now is the normal response. If you are feeling stressed, don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling. Sometimes, just verbalizing your concerns can be cathartic. Reach out to those close to you. Zoom, Google Hangouts and Facetime is an easy way to see your friends and family when you can’t be in the same place. You can even play a lot of games with them through these platforms (check this article by Elite Daily and this one by The Independent for games to play while video calling).
Learn the difference between good bad stress click here.
Most importantly, don’t be hesitate to reach out to the countless mental health professionals in our community. Many of the counseling services in our area including; Center for Psychiatric Wellness, Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center, Preferred Counseling and Journey Counseling. The great news is many of these clinics are now offering their counseling services through telemedicine. This means you don’t even have to leave your own house to talk to someone. In addition there are many digital services that you can use including Headspace, Talkspace and Better Help.
Putting it all together
You’ll notice that I didn’t touch on any meal plans or shopping list right? There’s a good reason for that. I truly believe that during this crisis, focusing on the above actions will be the most beneficial for you. If you do want to learn how to build the perfect meal, click here. But for now, focus on keeping yourself occupied and decreasing your stress levels.