As Mental Health Awareness month nears its conclusion I could not help but notice that my content in this category is perhaps overly skewed towards the interaction between nutrients and mental health outcomes, and perhaps not sufficiently focused on some of the other more humane aspects of the interaction between food, thoughts and mental well being.
While I have written previously on the role of cognitive distortions in dictating one’s relationship with food, I knew I wanted more content in this stream.
That’s precisely why I reached out to a colleague and fellow Canadian Jessie Trupp, who spends more time thinking about these specific topics than I do.
Jessie has graciously put together a really robust article focused on four things you can do to boost your mental health and maintain a sound relationship with food and your overall well-being during the challenging days ahead.
Let’s see what she has come up with!!
Four Ways To Boost Your Mood During COVID-19
Jessie Trupp RD, M.AN
Step 1 – Get Creative in the Kitchen:
As a Registered Dietitian, I know the importance of good nutrition for a healthy and balanced lifestyle. As a Registered Dietitian living through a global pandemic, I also know that nutrition will be one of many keys to getting us through this difficult time. Besides providing necessary macro and micronutrients, food has this awesome ability to bring people together and if you’re anything like my family, it teaches us time management, teamwork, and patience!
However, for those living alone during quarantine food can also provide a great source of comfort. As someone who spent the majority of the pandemic in a dark, lonely basement apartment, I can vouch for the power of a nutritious and delicious meal for creating a sense of calm and security.
Whether individually or as a household, with restaurants and food service establishments limiting their operations or closing altogether we are forced to get our hands dirty in the kitchen. To some, this sounds like a great opportunity to save money and make all the pumpkin spice recipes they’ve been dying to try! For others, this can be extremely intimidating and overwhelming given busy schedules, family obligations or other barriers.
That said, you don’t have to spend hours slaving over a hot stove to make nutritious and delicious meals. You can re-create your favourite go-to takeout dish right in the comfort of your home, and even adapt it to yours and your family’s preferences! There are endless recipes available online, tailored to specific cultures and diseases. It’s all about letting those creative juices flow (and if you’re over the age of 19 maybe some chef juice as well), putting on your favourite playlist, and cooking and baking how YOU find it enjoyable!
Step 2 – Get Moving:
Pandemic restrictions now combined with the colder weather have made it that much more difficult to be physically active. That said, exercise isn’t limited to running outside or lifting weights at the gym. It can be morning yoga on the deck, Zoomba in the living room or just running around with the kids and family pet. And thanks to the world wide web, you can find an infinite number of videos online and some even for free! It may take some time to find exactly what you’re looking for, but when you do it will be well worth the improved sleep, immunity, and mental health. And if you’re financially able, why not splurge for that at-home workout you’ve had your eye on? As long as the form of movement you choose is adding, rather than removing, joy and fulfillment to your life you can’t really go wrong!
Step 3 – Connect
With social distancing protocols, applications like Skype, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams have become essential for keeping in contact with family, friends, and colleagues. Unlike those who lived through the Spanish Flu, we have the luxury of technology to keep us connected.
While this is a major advantage and something I am personally thankful for each day of the pandemic, nothing quite beats the warm embrace of a loved one. Until the day we can freely hug those within our social circle, we can’t underestimate the affect quarantine and isolation has on our mental health and well-being.
Studies show that…..[insert stats associated with physical interactions i.e. hugs, socialization, etc.]
So for now, take advantage of this time with those in your household or bubble; text, call and facetime your far away friend; and most importantly, stay hopeful!
Step 4 – Be Kind to Yourself:
While many are using this time to “thrive” and really focus on their health and well-being, for others this is not the case. COVID-19 has impacted our lives in so many ways, including financially, mentally, and emotionally. Whether feelings of isolation, anxiety around a new routine, or discomfort in one’s own skin, these are very real and normal feelings that much of the world is experiencing.
There’s this popular misconception that with quarantine and isolation comes little movement and lots of food. While this may be the narrative for many, it is also completely reasonable given the circumstances. That said, this present lifestyle doesn’t need to receive such a negative connotation. We are living through a very unfamiliar and traumatic event that no one in our lifetime has experienced. We are allowed to feel lost, confused, and scared. And with these feelings, comes likely instability in our daily routine. The harder we are on ourselves about this change, the more difficult it will be to find sustainable, realistic, and healthy alternatives. It’s crucial that we be patient and compassionate with ourselves and others.
With these emotions comes the potential for self-destructive thoughts and behaviours, especially when we’re spending most of our time within four walls and subject to judgmental reflections. Thanks to diet culture, it’s incredibly easy to get caught in the restrict-binge cycle, leading to poor self-esteem, body image and even disordered eating. Rather than allowing society dictate how we “should” or “should not” appear, know that neither you nor your health is dictated by a number on a scale or a social media page. You are beautiful not when you attain a certain shape, but when you show the world your true personality, beliefs, and self. How boring would life be if we all looked, sounded, and acted the same way? Originality is key folks, never try to squeeze into an edited, photoshopped, and unattainable mold.
We shouldn’t be expected to adapt to this “new norm” overnight, but we certainly could use a little help getting there. It’s important to find ways to cope with these feelings, whether through meditation, talking with a trusted friend or family member, or seeking help from a counsellor or therapist.
Remember today and every day; it is okay not to be okay.
Jessie Trupp RD, M.AN
About The Author
My name is Jessie Trupp, and I am a Registered Dietitian passionate about providing evidence-based nutrition information, especially in the context of mental health. I’m originally from Ajax, Ontario, but very much consider Guelph my home away from home where I recently completed the Master of Applied Nutrition. I am also a graduate of the Applied Human Nutrition undergraduate degree, where I was able to foster my interests in food and nutrition for the purposes of treating eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. My fascination with these conditions began in early high school as I learned about anorexia and bulimia nervosa, and continued as I volunteered at Homewood Health Centre in Guelph.