COVID-19, The news about coronavirus and its impact on our day-to-day lives has been unrelenting. There’s reason for concern and it makes good sense to take the pandemic seriously. But it’s not good for your mind or your body to be on high alert all the time. Doing so will wear you down emotionally and physically.
Whether you are going into work or working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has probably changed the way you work. Fear and anxiety about this new disease and other strong emotions can be overwhelming, and workplace stress can lead to burnout. How you cope with these emotions and stress can affect your well-being, the well-being of the people you care about, your workplace, and your community.
Recognize the symptoms of stress you may be experiencing.
- Feeling irritation, anger, or in denial
- Feeling uncertain, nervous, or anxious
- Lacking motivation
- Feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Having trouble sleeping
- Having trouble concentrating
- Communicate with your coworkers, supervisors, and employees about job stress while maintaining social distancing (at least 6 feet).
Identify things that cause stress and work together to identify solutions.
Ask about how to access mental health resources in your workplace.
- If you work from home, set a regular time to end your work for the day, if possible.
- Do things you enjoy during non-work hours.
- Identify those things which you do not have control over and do the best you can with the resources available to you.
- Increase your sense of control by developing a consistent daily routine when possible — ideally one that is similar to your schedule before the pandemic.
- Make time to eat healthy meals – research has shown that what you eat—and don’t eat—affects the way you think and feel.
- Get enough sleep. Make sure to put self-care as a priority and do your best to get enough sleep. Sleep has many benefits and during stressful times it can help aid in keeping your mind and body healthy.
- Take breaks from work to stretch, exercise, or check in with your supportive coworkers, family, and friends. Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Reach out to your friends and family and talk and connect via phone or FaceTime. With all of the technology we have at our fingertips, make use of your social network to not be isolated.
- Reach out to a neighbor who may need help. Be mindful if you have a neighbor who may be in the at-risk population and if you are heading out to the store, ask them if they need anything that you can pick up. This will not only help them, it will also help you. Simple acts like these can go a long way and can also make us feel better.
- Spend time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing. During stressful times going outside and taking a brisk walk can help you relax, boost your mood and help you in managing your stress levels.
- Practice mindfulness techniques.
Consume the news in moderation. While it is important to stay informed and up to date on the latest information about the Coronavirus, too much information adds to our stress levels. The repetitive nature of the news reports is not good for our mental health. Once you are informed, turn off the news and read a book, watch a good television show or feel-good movie.
10 Best Foods for Your Mental Health and Wellness
Although you won’t feel an immediate change in your mood after enjoying a banana for breakfast or an afternoon snack, this “mood food” plays a role in “topping up” the amount of serotonin (“feel-good” chemicals) the brain produces.
While blackberries and strawberries certainly contain a slew of beneficial properties that can improve various brain functions, blueberries are the bee’s knees when it comes to boosting overall well-being. A 2016 study found that regularly consuming blueberries can help mitigate depression while increasing cognitive abilities. A true “mood food”, they can even reportedly leave you feeling more positive and energized within two hours of consumption.
If you’re feeling down, reach for a handful of crunchy walnuts for a quick pick-me-up. Research suggests that eating more walnuts is the secret to a happier state of mind. The top nut for brain health, they boast a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids and are rich in antioxidants.
Who doesn’t love a “good carb”? Rife with an amino acid called tryptophan (which allows the body to produce high levels of the “feel-good hormone” serotonin), whole grains can help reduce depression and anxiety by relaxing the brain and improving your mood. And, thanks to its equally high production of melatonin, whole grains can also help you maintain a steady sleep cycle – resulting in a more fitful slumber and better emotional state.
Did you know that lactobacillus, a probiotic bacteria found in yogurt, directly impacts mental health by lowering levels of stress, anxiety and depression? Thanks to the gut-brain axis – a term for the network that connects the two parts – neurotransmitters are able to pass from one another freely while directly affecting your feelings and emotions. We have the term “gut-wrenching” for a reason. Depression, stress, anxiety and anger can all trigger a reaction in your gut. So, if you’re busy ingesting your favorite yogurt topped with berries and granola, your brain is notified that something good has entered your tummy.
Salmon, or Other Fatty Fish
In general, fish is always a healthy meal option – but salmon easily tops the list as the best of the best. This versatile “fatty” fish contains high amounts of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which have been directly linked to decreased levels of depression.
Such as it is in nature, the color green purportedly has a calming effect on the human mind. Which makes green tea, with its high levels of L-theanine – a naturally-occurring amino acid found in tea leaves – all the more important to drink when you’re feeling blue. This amino acid plays a significant mood-boosting role, specifically by increasing your brain’s dopamine levels (which affects your emotional responses).
Leafy greens, especially spinach and kale, provide the human brain with high levels of folic acid, which studies have shown plays a role in mitigating depression. And, considering how important proper sleep is to one’s mental health, it also helps stave off insomnia.
Those with a serious sweet tooth will rejoice at the news that indulging in dark chocolate is A-OK when it comes to boosting mental health and wellness. This treat makes the list due to its high cocoa content – something you won’t find in white or milk chocolate. Think really dark, too, with 85 percent or higher being the most beneficial. Thanks to its high levels of the antioxidant flavanol, dark chocolate can enhance your mood and boost attention levels.
Perhaps one of the more lesser-known foods on the list, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that reduces brain cell damage – something that could have a direct effect on mental health and wellness.
5 Worst Foods for Your Mental Health and Wellness
News flash: sugar is not at all beneficial to your overall mental health. In fact, it’s a detriment to it. Not only can it inflict long-lasting damage to your body if you overindulge on a regular basis, but a so-called “sugar rush” can send your brain on an emotional journey and seriously affect your well-being. In a nutshell: sugar will only serve to inflame your depression and anxiety, so avoid at all costs.
Refined white starches (think: white rice, crackers and white bread) can wreak havoc on your emotional state. We totally get it: when you’re sad, all you want to eat are carbs. But it can spike blood sugar levels and affect your mood in a big way, even if you previously didn’t have a history of mental health issues. Studies have shown that it’s best to avoid them for the betterment of your emotional state.
Although a low dose of caffeine can result in an improvement of overall mood (see: green tea), high intakes throughout the day can result in frayed nerves, anxiety and a serious case of the jitters. The good news: no one is telling you to quit coffee – but limiting yourself to one cup a day will work wonders on your emotional state.
Fast Food or Fried Food
There’s definitely something to be said about the level of comfort we receive from indulging in a fast-food meal or fried dish, but in the end, it’s just not worth it – especially if we’re in a state of emotional turmoil. None of us needs artery-clogging trans fat – not only is it bad for the heart, but it’s detrimental to the mind.
It’s not just bad for your body, it’s potentially toxic for the mind as well. Salami, bacon, hot dogs, pastrami, you name it: they all contain high levels of the chemical nitrate – which is used to preserve them in those tightly sealed packages you buy them in.
What you can do to stay safe:
- Wash your hands
- Wear a mask
- Keep your distance
This is something we’re all going through, not because we want to but because we have to. Doing your part in keeping one another healthy will help tremendously. Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient.