Unseen disasters like COVID-19 have come with an immense amount of stress, job loss, socioeconomic turmoil and lots of uncertainty.
Recently, we touched on how quarantining and the lockdowns are already creating a mental health crisis we are going to have to face in the very near future (if not now,) but another problem could be the damage we are doing to our health while we practice social distancing.
Instead of making people feel more relaxed and laid back, the lockdowns have done the opposite. People, by and large, are panicked, living in a state of fear, and under constant stress, and that leads to unhealthy eating habits.
Stress Eating During a Crisis
Many people find themselves stress eating during crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have been gravitating towards eating lots of filling carbs like bread, pasta, beans, and junk food. But just like issues with mental health, if this is you, you are not alone! Stress eating is very common in our culture even before we had an inkling about COVID-19.
But it isn’t just eating unhealthy foods that can damage our bodies. Alternatively, on the other side of stress-eating, it has been shown that about 30 percent of adults reported skipping a meal due to stress caused by a lack of appetite.
How we deal with anxiety plays a part in emotional eating. Recognizing your own tendencies when it comes to stress can help you realized what a trigger for unhealthy habits can be for you personally. If you eat when you’re stressed out, it’s important to first realize that you do this so you can correct it.
Often, recognizing the problem is not the hardest part. It’s harder to stop such habits and find a healthy way to handle your carbohydrate cravings. Over time, giving in to your unhealthy habits and letting stress keep a hold of your mind can destroy your immune system. That means you won’t be able to fight off any virus, like the common cold, let alone something more contagious like the novel coronavirus.
Biologically, stress is associated with changes in cortisol, which plays a critical role in energy regulation. We also tend to crave food higher in fat and sugar when stressed, in part because our body requires more energy to function when stressed, and simple carbohydrates are the fastest way to get a quick hit (Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2018).
How To Stop Unhealthy Stress Habits
A few suggestions are meditating (or praying), exercising, being mindful, and practice being in control of your eating habits – meaning, pay attention to what you eat. Take a walk and be truly grateful for the fresh air, the time to take care of your body and the conscious awareness of what you should be eating.
Another suggestion is to use aromatherapy. This can be done in a variety of ways and can be considered “self-care.” I, personally, like to light a candle and grab a cup of my favorite tea when I’m stressed out. Both scents help me sit back and be grateful for what I have instead of stressed out about things I cannot control. If you can wear perfume and like it, spray on a few spritzes of your favorite scent. It’ll help calm and relax you. You could also try diffusing essential oils or taking a bath with some herbs or scented oils or bubbles.
If you just can’t stop a craving, such as one for a sugar-heavy soda drink try to substitute something less sugary, like sparkling water. If you are craving starchy carbohydrates, try roasting vegetables in some healthy oils that you like and putting your favorite seasoning on them.
If you tend to eat less when stressed, drinking some calories to get more nutrition might be a good idea. But don’t grab a soda! Instead, try having a protein shake.
If none of those suggestions work and you just can’t fight cravings for unhealthy foods during times of anxiety, to at least make sure you stay as active as possible a way to release endorphins and lift your mood. Most people should have plenty of time for exercise right now, and vigours workout can help take your mind off of what’s going on all around us right now. Turn on YouTube and do an entire workout routine. If exercising is difficult, try stretching instead. Stretching is low impact and can also release stress.
Yoga is another excellent option for those looking for a lower impact way to get in some exercise. The good news is that the internet is full of ideas on how to workout at home and at least give your brain a break from stress and food cravings.
The bottom line is that we all need to be in control of stress and the emotions it creates. Having those emotions is not bad, but allowing them to ruin our health is. Take care of yourself! We hope this article finds you all healthy and safe during this crazy time in history.