The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything most of us have ever experienced in our lifetime. Information and mandates related to the pandemic saturate our news and fear and stress seep deeper into peoples’ psyches. When will this all be over? Will I get sick? What if my aging parents become ill? Will my children have to continue school through the summer? When will life return to normal?
Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month? Stress Awareness Month began in April 1992 as a way for health professionals to educate the public about stress and ways to cope with stress. During the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever before, is it important for us to keep stress at bay.
Here are some suggestions on reducing stress during this crazy time we are experiencing due to COVID-19.
Rely on routines
Maintaining regular schedules and routines is a way for us to feel normal. Sure, it may be impossible to stick to the same routine you had pre-COVID-19, but any sort of schedule will help.
For example, exercise is a great way to reduce stress. Maybe you can make it a point to do a half-hour to an hour workout every morning when you first wake up.
It’s important to keep mealtimes routinized as well. Researchers have found that when peoples’ mealtimes are all over the map, appetite, digestion and metabolism processes change in such a way that can raise your unhealthy cholesterol levels and lead to gaining a lot of weight even if you are eating the same amount of calories as you do when you eat at regular times. Those consequences would only add to your stress.
Also keep a regular bedtime. Getting ample sleep is critical for keeping stress at bay.
Keep connected with loved ones not the news
It’s only natural for us to want to keep turning on the news for the latest update, but that will only stress you out even more. Instead, use technology to keep in touch with friends and loved ones. Zoom or FaceTime them. Start a snail mail exchange. Social support is important for all of us during this stressful time.
Foods to befriend
As a Registered Dietitian, I am telling everyone to increase their consumption of stress-reducing food and avoid those “comfort foods” that may be increasing the production of stress hormones, making you feel worse! Consume healthy fats such as fats found in raw nuts and seeds and fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Make sure you are getting lean protein at every meal whether it be from animal sources (chicken breast, turkey breast, fish, eggs, skim milk, low-fat cheese, or Greek yogurt) or plant sources (beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, or some whole grains like quinoa).
There are also simple things you can do to support your health like drinking lemon water each day—this creates an alkaline environment in your body, making it hard for stress to thrive.
Be sure to keep your gut healthy. A healthy gut will promote a healthy brain. I recommend increasing your consumption of fermented foods like kefir, miso, tempeh, and sauerkraut.
Don’t sabotage your diet and exponentially worsen your stress with fried foods, refined flour and sugars. Junk food makes you feel junky!
Get outside and get some sun, every day, even if for 20 minutes. The sun is the best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D and vitamin D is stress’s enemy. The fresh air will do you good too!
Don’t let the COVID-19 pandemic cripple you with stress. We will get through this #alonetogether!