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Little Things Therapists Recommend Doing For Your Mental Health Every Day

As we move into the winter months, it’s important to be active in taking care of yourself.

It’s paramount that we all tend to our mental health constantly, and that we do what we can to get ourselves — and each other — through this thing in one piece.

We have now reached, if you can believe it, the eight month mark into the flailing mess of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is probably (read: certainly) far longer than any of us imagined it might take for this to end.

And the past eight months has certainly been bruised by a pattern of indeterminate peaks and valleys — moments when one feels hopeful, optimistic, all right, and others when one feels frustrated, anxious, and defeated.

Personally, I’ve felt pretty awful lately. In disposition, I’m experiencing a valley not unlike the one I felt near the beginning of the pandemic, one characterized by lethargy, tenseness, and dread. I’m sure many others have felt this way of late, too: John Trainor, chair of Mental Health Research Canada’s board, recently said a new survey produced “deep concerns about the trends we are seeing” for mental health among Canadians. (Reader: things will get better, eventually.)

It’s difficult to say for sure why people are feeling this way right now, so far into this thing as we are. Maybe it’s the promise of an encroaching winter, during which the freedoms and coping mechanisms we previously enjoyed won’t work the same way under the conditions of the inclement weather. Maybe it’s that we seem to be regressing, as cases rise across Canada and restrictions are reintroduced.

Who knows. What we do know, and what we’ve always known, is that it’s paramount that we all tend to our mental health constantly, and that we do what we can to get ourselves — and each other — through this thing in one piece.

“Self-care isn’t just doing things to make us feel better in the moment,” Dr. Melanie Badali, a psychologist who works in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, told HuffPost Canada. “It’s the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s well being. It means taking care of ourselves like we would take care of someone we love and taking care of ourselves when it is hard. It also includes getting professional health-care help when we need it.”

So to figure out how to do all that, to learn better ways we can protect our mental health every day, we spoke to a somatic practitioner, two psychotherapists and a psychologist. Below is a shortlist of their suggestions.

Meditating

By this point, however many years after the word “mindfulness” began to dominate a certain segment of the cultural conversation, it’s difficult to refute that meditation is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to reduce anxiety and produce a sense of peace and balance.

“It’s good to think of meditation as a gym for your brain,” Dr. Krystina Patton, a psychotherapist who specializes in integrative mental health treatment, told HuffPost Canada. “If you think of your brain as a muscle that you use in literally everything you do, it’s good to spend a little time working on it every day.”

In 2014, 47 studies analyzed in JAMA Internal Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association, found that mindfulness meditation, even for 15 minutes a day, does help to manage anxiety, depression and pain among practitioners.

Meditation is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to reduce anxiety and produce a sense of peace and balance.

Meditation is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to reduce anxiety and produce a sense of peace and balance.

“It gives us the ability to see our thoughts more clearly and to have more agency over our emotional states, rather than being hijacked by them,” said Patton.

Sitting comfortably and focusing on your breathing, in an attempt to turn your mind’s attention to the present rather than allowing it to wade out into the distant past or unclear future — an easy way for anxiety to flourish — can help to ease the psychological stresses endemic to this moment.

Box breathing

You know how when, in times of crisis, your friends sometimes need to remind you to breathe? It isn’t a fluke that actually doing so, consciously, makes you feel a little bit better.

A number of studies have found that deep, diaphragmatic breathing can trigger the body’s relaxation responses, relieving stress and helping you to concentrate better.

Enter box breathing, also called “square breathing,” a relatively new technique that you can use anywhere, at any time. It only takes a minute or two, and it’s easy to practice: relax your body, exhale to a count of four, hold your lungs empty for a count of four, inhale for a count of four, then keep your lungs full for a count of four. Then repeat.

In stressful situations — a global pandemic, for example — we often unwittingly resort to chest breathing, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, can lead to muscle tightness and headaches, symptoms which are further magnified by chronic stress. Breathing in this way can help to ease the body.

“The thing with stress is that it’s meant to be short-term,” Karishma Kripalani, a somatic practitioner who works with emotional and mental health concerns, told HuffPost Canada. “But if that stress cycle can’t complete itself, then it becomes chronic stress, which is, I think, what we’re seeing right now. And that can take a toll.”

hope

Acknowledging your feelings and talking about them

Feelings are always with us, yet we aren’t always too good at naming or talking about them.

“We tend not to do a great job of dealing with difficult emotions,” said Patton. “Even with our kids, we socialize them from such a young age to get away from, or push away, difficult feelings — when they cry, for example, we immediately try to get them to stop. But you can’t always immediately fix or move past how you’re feeling.”

That’s not to say that we should just “cry it out,” Patton says — or allow our children to — but that in immediately trying to fix things, we reify the implicit message that challenging feelings are something to be escaped or avoided, which might set us up for struggles when we encounter those things that cannot be avoided.

Talking with loved ones about your feelings and moods is a good way to ease anxiety, while giving you the social connection you might be lacking from isolation.

Talking with loved ones about your feelings and moods is a good way to ease anxiety, while giving you the social connection you might be lacking from isolation.

Patton, Kripalani and Gabrielle Stannus, a registered psychotherapist whose practice is grounded in gestalt, all agree that taking a moment to acknowledge how you’re feeling and talking about it with others can help to make sense of these emotions and offer a sense of peace and clarity.

“When you have conversations about how you’re feeling, rather than harbouring your emotions secretly, you’re actually letting the anxiety out of you, and confronting those difficult emotions,” said Stannus.

Establishing clear work-life boundaries

A large portion of the Canadian populace is still working from home. Many of us have needed to convert our bedrooms, or other spots around our homes, into offices. Here’s the thing: when there isn’t a clear separation between a workspace and a non-workspace, it’s a lot easier for your work to bleed into your personal life.

In this way, working from home can become a double-edged sword, and it’s critical to ensure our work doesn’t negatively impact and disrupt our social lives. Research has found that these intrusions can produce a source of significant weekly strain, from increased stress levels to negative affect, rumination and insomnia.

One symptom of working from home is the blurring of boundaries between work and home.

“I’m a really big fan of creating a container for ourselves and our experience — with so much that’s beyond our control right now, it’s good to have some sense of internal control,” said Kripalani. “The body likes routine and ritual. Predictability can help with a sense of safety.”

Setting boundaries and resisting the impulse or demand to be available at all times is an important part of managing the work-life relationship. That includes making time, even while you’re working, to take breaks and go outside, eat healthy foods, and drink lots of water.

Freewriting

You don’t have to identify as a “writer” in order for writing, no matter what form, to make you feel better.

In fact, studies have found that expressive writing — the practice of writing about thoughts and feelings that are born from traumatic or stressful life experiences — can help some people to manage and navigate the emotional fallout of those experiences.

“Freewriting, or stream of consciousness writing, can help us to organize and structure our thoughts, to present them in a way that seems to really help us let go of them, rather than to ruminate and create a cycle of feeling bad,” said Patton.

Stream of consciousness writing can help you to articulate what’s on your mind and how you’re feeling, and then manage those emotions.

Stream of consciousness writing can help you to articulate what’s on your mind and how you’re feeling, and then manage those emotions.

Dr. James W. Pennebaker, chair of the psychology department at the University of Texas, Austin, has conducted a large portion of the research on health benefits of expressive writing. And what he’s found is that it can help people to overcome emotional inhibition, easing stress and trauma.

With freewriting, the rules are simple. You’re meant to clear your mind as best you can, and to forget all the rules you know concerning grammar. Then, you set a time limit — between 10 and 20 minutes for beginners — and begin to write out whatever is on your mind.

Finding moments of joy, or gratitude practices

“One thing I’ve done myself, and which a lot of my clients like, is trying to find moments of joy,” said Stannus. “So being able to be present in the moment and looking for things, even small things, that make you smile, then finding ways to integrate that into yourself.”

The trick, Stannus says, is doing this in small ways that will eventually add up: noticing the colour of the leaves in the fall, sharing a laugh with a close friend, hearing a piece of music that makes you smile.

It’s a mindfulness technique that asks you to engage all five of your senses in order to bring yourself firmly into the moment and appreciate what’s in front of you, rather than indulge your anxieties about the indeterminate future.

“Our brains have been designed to keep us alive, not to keep us happy,” said Patton. “And what that means is that our brains can be kind of like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones, because it’s safer to mistake a stick for a snake than a snake for a stick. So if joy is what we want, it’s something we have to cultivate.”

By Connor Garel              11/18/2020 

source: www.huffingtonpost.ca


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7 Little Ways To Feel A Sense Of Normalcy Right Now

Who isn’t stressed over all this uncertainty? Here’s how to find some stability during the COVID-19 pandemic and the election cycle.
 
Let’s just say what we all know is true: things are not “normal” right now and things won’t look remotely “normal” for months to come. The coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of slowing down as we inch toward a cold winter, and post-election stress is adding an additional layer of unrest to an already unrestful year.
 
Normal days are something that many took for granted before all of this. Lindsey McKernan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the constants in our world create a rhythm for our day and ultimately build normalcy around us. And right now, the constants that we once knew are gone.
 
“When things are normal … you don’t have to put as much cognitive energy into anticipating what’s next because it’s the rhythm of the day,” McKernan said. “We’re having to put so much additional cognitive effort into what’s going on throughout the day.”
 
This additional cognitive effort contributes to increased stress levels across society, McKernan said. Establishing a sense of normalcy can help reduce the cognitive burden of the day and allow us to feel more in control of our own days.
 
But how exactly can we do that right now? Below, experts offer some of their best advice for creating a sense of normalcy as we continue through this far from normal time.
 
1. Establish a routine for yourself.
“When we’re in a period of heightened stress, we are grounded by routine,” McKernan said.
 
That’s why, in “regular times,” you might feel off if you go to bed later than usual or if you skip your weekend run. This year has been one huge version of that. There are many changes altering our normal routines.
 
McKernan said fighting those limitations that are now part of our day-to-day lives only adds to the struggle. Instead, we should embrace our current reality so we can appropriately respond and plan.
 
“The first thing when thinking about establishing a routine right now is redefining what that means and accepting that our sense of normal isn’t necessarily where we want it to be ― and that’s OK. We have to work to intentionally re-establish a sense of routine,” she said.
 
McKernan recommended looking at four major things in order to adjust your routine: how you’re sleeping, how you’re eating, if you’re moving and to what extent you are able to socialize. Which of those areas could use some extra attention? (Maybe it’s all of them, which is understandable.) Start building your routine around those pillars.
 
That could look like going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. You may also want to try meal prepping as if you still needed to bring food into the office for lunch during the week. Maybe it’s calling your friend every Friday afternoon while you’re on a walk, or planning a cocktail night every weekend with your roommate. Whatever the case may be, build in small habits you can come to expect and make them something you can execute regularly.
 
2. Take part in rewarding activities.
 
In the early days of the pandemic, many of us were all about “bettering ourselves” ― whether that meant learning a new language or learning how to make sourdough. And while those activities were fun in the beginning, the practice of bread-baking and language-learning fizzled out for most. Now, we’re just trying to get through each day without losing it.
 
But there is something to taking on new activities as a way to create some normalcy ― as long as you’re genuinely connected to them, McKernan said.
 
“When you choose activities that connect to things that you value in your life, that actually gives you a sense of reward and meaning,” she said, adding that these activities could be attending a virtual spiritual service, online volunteering, cooking, reading or knitting. Choose something that gets you excited or pulls you away from your stress.
“We might not be able to capture all activities in the way that we’re used to ― for example, if you value fitness and you’re used to going to a hot yoga studio, that might not be safe to do right now,” McKernan said. “So, how can you recapture a little bit of that exercise in your life and in your day?”
 
These activities also lift your mood, which can be crucial as we move into winter, a time when many are faced with lower mood.
 
“One of the things that can happen when our mood starts to get low is that we lose the motivation to do things. And, a lot of the time, we feel like we need to magically have the motivation back in order to re-engage in things,” McKernan said. “But it can work in the opposite way, too, where if you choose … activities that are meaningful, you start to build back your sense of motivation and reward.”
 
3. Find creative ways to connect with loved ones.
 
A lot of the social aspects of our lives have been drastically altered in order to protect one another from the virus. McLean Pollock, assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University in North Carolina, noted that it’s hard to navigate how to socialize and feel close to loved ones without doing the things we’re used to, like handshaking, hugging and seeing people in person.
 
Pollock said that finding ways to connect with others is crucial in the search for normalcy. It will be hard to feel normal if one of our most basic needs ― social connection ― goes unmet throughout the remainder of this pandemic.
 
“This pandemic has led to some isolation. We can bridge that by making connections with other people because that is how we’re getting through this, together, even though it’s in a different way of being together,” she added.
 
But by now we’re used to scheduling Zoom calls and they can feel a little stale. Janine Dutcher, a research scientist at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, suggested finding more unique ways to connect with people. This encourages us to be creative, which can be rewarding in itself.
 
“I think that creativity can often be very difficult to engage in but it can be really rewarding too, because you found a way to beat the system, so to speak, and do something really fun and interesting,” she said.
 
Dutcher added that since the pandemic began, she has been writing loved ones letters and physically sending them in the mail. She has also conducted food exchanges with friends where she’ll order delivery dinner for a friend in another city from one of their favorite restaurants. The other friend will also return the favor for her.
 
4. Decorate your home for seasonal celebrations.
 
While we can’t control the whole world, we can control our own microcosm, specifically our own home, Pollack said.
 
Decorating your home for seasonal celebrations with either store-bought items or handmade décor can help create a mile-marker for time within your own life. And, conveniently, a number of ideal-for-decorating holidays are approaching.
 
“Our days are bleeding into one another because we don’t have variation, so having something that can distinguish this time as different from other times can be helpful in creating that sense of normalcy and creating memories,” Pollock said.
 
5. Plan things for the future.
 
Having something to look forward to adds excitement to our days. And while our plans may have to look different for a while, we still can make them — whether that means a virtual happy hour or a fun night at home with your family.
 
“When you have something to look forward to, each day passes a little bit faster, particularly as you get closer to it ― it’s one of those funny things about time perception. Looking forward to anything, even if it’s really simple, is very, very powerful,” Dutcher said.
 
Of course, this doesn’t give anyone permission to plan something that puts people at risk for contracting the virus.
 
“If you’re at home with family, you can plan for a fun movie night where you watch a movie, pop some popcorn and have some candy,” Dutcher suggested. She also added that, while spontaneous conversations with friends and family are nice, planned phone dates also hold their own type of power when it comes to generating some normalcy.
 
6. Accept that this is not a normal time.
 
Nothing about this period in our lives is regular. Our lives have been upended in many different ways and we are faced with uncertainty nearly every day.
 
“There is no magical solution, part of feeling a sense of normalcy is accepting that this is not normal and that these are really difficult and stressful times,” Pollock said. “Recognize that that’s the context of trying to create some normalcy, first of all.” (In other words, cut yourself some slack.)
 
She added that we are all facing different difficulties as the pandemic, the election and the rest of the year unfolds and we need to adjust our normalcy to fit our own situation.
 
7. If you’re still struggling, consider talking to a therapist.
 
Everyone’s mental health has been put through the wringer this year, and things like routine setting, socializing and planning activities may not be enough to feel “normal” ― and that is OK.
 
“If people are really struggling, it’s always worth reaching out to a professional to make sure that they are getting the care and support that they need,” Dutcher said.
 
Therapy can help you navigate our current reality and give you the coping skills to find a sense of normalcy among the chaos. Seeing a therapist can be incredibly expensive, but there are affordable resources available that may help.
 
If the uncertainty is stressing you out to the point where it has been severely affecting your daily life, you don’t have to manage it alone. You’re also not the only one who feels this way.
 
“I think a lot of people are probably experiencing a low-level or even clinical-level of depression right now. I think it is, unfortunately, very common and people should be mindful and make sure they’re taking care of their wellness.”
 
By  Jillian Wilson   11/06/2020 
 
 
 
 
normal setting
 
 

The Psychology Behind To-Do Lists and How They Can Make You Feel Less Anxious

1. Wake up.

2. Make coffee.

3. Write this story.
 
 
In a time when it seems like we may have less to do, a to-do list actually could be quite helpful.

As the days blend together for many people living in lockdown, crossing things off a to-do list can feel even more satisfying. To-do lists can be great tools for decreasing anxiety, providing structure and giving us a record of everything we’ve accomplished in a day.

The trick is to reframe your to-do list as a set of miniature goals for the day and to think of your checklist items as steps in a plan.

Research on the psychology of goal-making has revealed that an unfinished goal causes interference with other tasks you’re trying to achieve. But simply making a plan to facilitate that goal, such as detailing steps on a to-do list, can help your mind set it aside to focus on other things.
 
“Goals are interesting as they are almost these autonomous agents that kind of live inside you and occupy space in your mind,” said E.J. Masicampo, an associate professor of psychology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
 
“When a goal is unfinished it might be a weight on your mind in terms of anxiety or worry and it colors how you see the world, because it’s sort of tugging at the sleeve of your conscious attention,” Masicampo said. “It can be omnipresent whether you’re aware of it or not.”

People with unfinished short-term goals performed poorly on unrelated reading and comprehension tasks, reported a 2011 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Masicampo and research co-author Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at The University of Queensland.
But when the 2011 study participants were allowed to formulate specific plans for their goals before moving onto the next task, those negative effects were eliminated.
 
“We were able to find that you don’t have to finish the goal to offload it – you really could just make a specific plan for how to attain it to get it to stop occupying that mental space,” Masicampo said.
 
But Masicampo cautioned that it won’t help to offload your mental burden by jotting it down on a list “without actually making a plan.”
 
“To-do lists often tend to be mental graveyards, but that said I think there’s some relief there,” Masicampo said, adding that sub-goals are important. “Something that’s been sitting there for too long is probably just stated in too big terms.”
 
With the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis and the difficulty of making concrete plans, he said it could make sense to have your initial plan be simply to make a plan at a later date.

Stuck in the middle

In order to work effectively, your to-do list’s mini-goals also need to be well defined and have short time frames. That’s because people also tend to give up in the middle of goals, according to psychologists.

The solution is to make the “middles” of your goals and to-do list tasks short.
One place people get stuck is exercise, but a goal to exercise half the days each week will be easier to stick to than exercising half the days each month. Even then, exercise will make it onto your to-do list more often at the beginning and end of the week — but it’s difficult to motivate yourself on Wednesday.
 
“We celebrate graduations at work and cheer when we finish big projects. But there is no celebration for middles. That’s when we both cut corners and we lose our motivation,” said Ayelet Fishbach, a professor of behavioral science and marketing at the University of Chicago who is an expert on motivation and decision-making.
 
“We will still slack in that middle, and having long projects invites a long middle.”
 
To-do lists also need to be flexible. If your plans change or get interrupted by an endless flurry of Zoom calls, it’s important to recognize that’s not the end of the world.
 
“If we measure ourselves by how much we stick to the plan, that’s not good for motivation,” Fishbach said. “There’s a fine line between keeping structure and keeping your to-do list and also being very flexible. Because things change and they change on a daily basis.”

It’s not a wish list

For all the structure and stress reduction that to-do lists can provide, they can sometimes add to anxiety. That’s because tasks on your to-do list that linger for weeks or months are bad for mental health and motivation.

“To-do lists are interesting because they sometimes become commitments. Once you write an activity or goal down on a piece of paper, it’s work undone,” said Jordan Etkin, an associate professor of marketing at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and an expert on goals.
 
Do you want to complete extra work-related tasks aiming for a promotion and cook dinner for your family that night? Cue goal conflict.
 
“The more things people put on their lists, the more open they are to creating goal conflict and its sort of negative downstream effects,” Etkin said.
 
Conflicting goals can create stress and even that overwhelming feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day, according to Etkin’s 2015 study in the Journal of Marketing Research.

To-doing it right

To use a to-do list the right way, Etkin said people need to clearly define their goals and differentiate the tasks they definitely want to get done today versus tasks they want to do “maybe someday.”

Tasks need to be clearly ranked in terms of importance.

“To-do lists can be very helpful for informing how you should be directing your time and cognitive resources,” Etkin said. “I think where challenges emerge is when people treat to-do lists like wish lists, rather than the things they definitely want to do today.”

Having a productive to-do list shouldn’t make you feel like you can’t take a break, Etkin also stressed, even if you haven’t crossed all those items off your list yet.
 
“It’s also important for people to have protective time in their lives where they’re not striving towards any goal,” she said.
 
To-do lists can be great tools to keep us going during this time of coronavirus boredom, uncertainty, and pandemic anxiety, but it’s important to not fill up your leisure time with productivity. One of the most important tasks we can add to our daily list, Etkin said, is “rest.”
 
By Lauren Kent, CNN      Tue July 14, 2020.
 
source: cnn.com


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The Pandemic Diet: How to Lose the ‘Quarantine 15’

The company that makes snacks like Oreos and Ritz Crackers is having a very good year. Sales in North America have leapt more than 16% over 2019. And there’s one big reason: When we started to go into lockdown, Americans stocked up on comfort food.
Why not? We thought it would be a matter of weeks. Seven months on, that includes some extra pounds for many of us. A survey done for Nutrisystem found that 76% of Americans have gained weight, as much as 16 pounds between March and July. Another survey, done in August by RunRepeat, found that 41% of the 10,000+ respondents in the U.S. had gained more than 5 pounds since quarantine began — and those are people visiting a website devoted to running.
“Back then it was a shock to the system, the challenge of staying home,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic. “Now we’re seeing people struggling with stress, boredom, and the inability to focus on making a lifestyle change when there are so many other things going on.”
So, does that mean we should just keep going the way we have been? Not so fast, says Kirkpatrick: “Some people are changing the narrative, looking at this as an opportunity.” Not going to the workplace means there’s no long commute, which makes space for exercising and cooking healthy meals. “While about half of my patients are saying this is the worst thing ever, the other half say, ‘There’s so much I can’t control, I’ll control making a true lifestyle change.’ They’ve finally got the time to do it,” she says.
Such was the case for Dianne Simmons of Frederick, MD, who has lost 40 pounds on WW (formerly Weight Watchers) during the pandemic. “COVID made me look differently at how there are some things I can control, and some I have no control over whatsoever,” she says. “I think I needed something to focus on that allowed me little victories going along. It makes 2020 feel a bit less dire.”
How to Lose Weight in Quarantine
Kirkpatrick says there’s not a single “pandemic diet” that will help shed those pounds. But she does offer some suggestions – including specific ways of eating – that take into account the times we’re living in. Complicated diets that require extensive shopping and meal prep may be too difficult or stressful to tackle right now.
To start, all the usual weight loss advice still applies: Focus on healthy eating, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep. But given the realities of pandemic life, that may not be enough. Here’s what Kirkpatrick suggests:
  • Take baby steps. We’re all stressed right now, so trying to overhaul your lifestyle completely might be asking too much of yourself. Instead, start with one small step. “What’s something you can change right now?” says Kirkpatrick. “It’s too hard to make five different changes when you can just pick one to start.” For many of her patients, that means experimenting with intermittent fasting, in which you eat only during a set number of hours each day. (More on that below.)
  • Embrace semi-homemade. Yes, you have more time to cook. But if you just don’t have the mental energy to choose recipes and shop for specific ingredients, stock your kitchen with ready-to-use items that are easy to transform into a nutritious meal. “Now isn’t the time to become a grand chef,” says Kirkpatrick. “Learn to be a great short-order cook.” Frozen chicken breast + frozen broccoli + a pouch of pre-cooked quinoa or brown rice = dinner.
  • Eat on a schedule. Working from home means you’ve got food accessible 24/7, and your days probably have less structure than they used to. Plan when you’ll take a coffee break and eat lunch, and stick to it.
  • Consider intermittent fasting. “Even a Mediterranean or low-carb diet takes planning, and most of my patients can’t wrap their heads around that right now,” says Kirkpatrick. Intermittent fasting limits your eating to a set window of hours each day. The idea isn’t to gorge on cookies during those hours – you should still aim for healthy meals and snacks — but you don’t have to count calories or nutrients. Simply by not eating early in the morning and late at night, you’ll probably find you’re eating less. Pre-pandemic, Rachel Kahan of Brooklyn, NY, was doing a 12-hour intermittent fast, largely because her commute required eating breakfast early and dinner late. In lockdown, her family ate breakfast later in the morning and had dinner earlier in the evening, which left her with a 10-hour window for eating. She’s lost 5 pounds, and her husband has lost 10.
  • Or maybe go vegan. Many of Kirkpatrick’s patients have adopted a vegan lifestyle during the pandemic, which they hope will be better for their immune systems. Experts say a plant-based diet supports your immune system. “It’s transformed how they eat,” she says. “A lot have lost weight without that being the goal.”
  • Lock the liquor cabinet. Not only does alcohol provide excess calories, it also takes away your ability to regulate your food intake, Kirkpatrick says. “If you start drinking while you’re cooking, you stop caring about what you’re eating.” You don’t have to give up alcohol entirely, but drink more consciously.
  • Start the day ready to play. Get dressed every day, but skip the comfy sweats. Opt for clothing that encourages you to move. “Loungewear doesn’t foster physical activity,” says Kirkpatrick. “Whatever clothes make you more likely to go for a walk, choose that.”
  • Use your commute time for exercise. Now that you don’t have to leave home by 8, you can spend that time moving your body. “The intensity of your workout doesn’t have to change, but you might have 90 minutes now, instead of 45 minutes during your lunch break on the job,” says Kirkpatrick.
Get Help Losing Weight
If the DIY approach doesn’t feel right to you, virtual help is right at your fingertips. To decide what kind of plan will work best for you, ask yourself a few questions:
  • What’s realistic in your current environment? A young person quarantining with roommates probably can’t ask everyone else to adopt the same approach to eating, but you can be honest with them and ask for their support. A parent with small children, on the other hand, has more control over what food comes into the house — but less time to focus on your own needs, so a health-oriented meal-delivery program might do the trick. And a senior living alone might want the sociability and group support of a plan like WW.
  • What kind of communication do you prefer? If you’re just looking for structure and guidance, a tracking app or website might do the trick. For structure as well as support from others, a formal weight loss program could be a good fit. Or if you’d prefer a one-on-one approach, opt for Zoom sessions with a dietitian.
  • How much support do you need? Maybe you already understand what changes you need to make, but don’t have people in your life who’ll support you. Thanks to the pandemic, neighborhood groups have sprung up on sites like Facebook and Nextdoor. “People share ideas about what to make for dinner, or say, ‘Hey, I’m going for a socially distanced walk at noon. Who wants to join?’” says Kirkpatrick. “They’re supporting one another, and they don’t necessarily have to see each other.”
When it comes to measuring your progress, Kirkpatrick says you can aim for one-half to one pound a week – but in terms of your overall health, keeping track of your waist measurement might be the better bet. Studies have shown that central obesity (carrying more weight around your middle) has a higher risk of chronic illness and death.
“Waist size also matters because central obesity is more inflammatory, which may have a worse effect on COVID compared to someone who is holding weight in the butt or thigh area,” Kirkpatrick says. “This is the time to focus on accurate, measurable indicators for health, and studies show that waist is a better predictor.”
By Debbie Koenig      Oct. 29, 2020
WebMD Health News Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 29, 2020
 
Sources
Article: The Pandemic Diet: How to Lose the ‘Quarantine 15’
Mondelēz International: “Mondelēz International Reports Q2 2020 Results.”
SWNS Digital: “Americans have gained up to 16 pounds while quarantining.”
Nick Rizzo, fitness research director, RunRepeat.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, registered dietitian, Cleveland Clinic.
Dianne Simmons, Frederick, MD.
Rachel Kahan, Brooklyn, NY.
The BMJ: “Central fatness and risk of all cause mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of 72 prospective cohort studies.”
MD Anderson: “5 benefits of a plant-based diet.”
John Whyte, MD, MPH. Chief Medical Officer, WebMD,
Drew Ramsey, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University
source: WebMD
scale

The Quickest Weight Loss Technique

People in the study lost 8 pounds in four weeks.
Eating as much as you want one day and fasting the next is one of the quickest ways to lose weight, research finds.
Alternate-day fasting not only helps people lose weight, but also improves their health and reduces the risk of disease.
People in one study who fasted on alternate days lost 8 pounds in four weeks.
Fasting helped them to reduce biological markers of aging and disease, as well as decreasing their levels of bad cholesterol.
On the fasting day, people are only allowed to have zero-calorie drinks, such as unsweetened tea and coffee and water, or to chew sugar-free gum.
Studies on both mice and humans have shown that alternate-day fasting can be effective.
One study has tested the effects of alternate-day fasting on mice.
This also looked to see if fasting at 50 percent on one day followed by eating freely the next could be effective.
The results showed that total fasting one day was, unsurprisingly, the most effective.
However, 50 percent fasting on one day also reduced weight and improved the health of the mice.
The size of fat cells in the bodies of mice who fasted at 100 percent on alternate days was reduced by more than half.
Dr Thomas Pieber, co-author of the study on humans, said:
“Why exactly calorie restriction and fasting induce so many beneficial effects is not fully clear yet.
The elegant thing about strict ADF [alternate-day fasting] is that it doesn’t require participants to count their meals and calories: they just don’t eat anything for one day.”
Professor Harald Sourij, another co-author of the study on humans, said:
“We found that on average, during the 12 hours when they could eat normally, the participants in the ADF group compensated for some of the calories lost from the fasting, but not all.
Overall, they reached a mean calorie restriction of about 35% and lost an average of 3.5 kg [7.7 lb] during four weeks of ADF.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
 
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Lipid Research (Varady et al., 2007).
source: Psyblog


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COVID-19 Halloween Safety

Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses. There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween. If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Lower risk activities

These lower risk activities can be safe alternatives:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

Moderate risk activities

  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard)
    • If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 second before and after preparing the bags.
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
    • A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.
    • Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
    • Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
    • Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.

Higher risk activities

  • Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:
  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19

Source: www.cdc.gov

Pumpkin-mask

How to Have a Safe and Still Spooky Halloween

Scavenger hunts, outdoor movie screenings and other ideas to have a safe holiday on Oct. 31.

In some ways, 2020 would make for the perfect Halloween: the holiday falls on a Saturday, and it’s a full moon (specifically, a “blue moon,” an event that occurs only once every couple of years).

But it’s no surprise that Halloween will look very different in 2020. With coronavirus rates rising in some parts of the country and social distancing measures still in place, many people are thinking about their health and that of others while considering how to celebrate.

Here are some Halloween ideas from families across the country to keep the holiday spooky while staying safe, complete with wearing masks, sanitizing often and practicing social distancing.

Shift trick-or-treating to a grab-and-go affair.

Door-to-door trick-or-treating this year may instead be table-to-table. In Canonsburg, Pa., Dana Armstrong, 39, and her neighbors are recommending families put tables outdoors, at the end of their driveways or in front of their homes, with candy spread out on top for children to grab as they pass. A similar concept is popping up in Chicago neighborhoods. After discussing it with her husband, Sarah Barr, 40, said she’ll head out — masked up — with her 10-year-old daughter, along with a small group of friends and their parents. Any house where the tables look like subway platforms during rush hour, or where people aren’t wearing masks, “Keep on movin’!” Ms. Barr said.

In Washington, Veronica Jimenez, 45, is putting a twist on trick-or-treating by taking her children on a walk through their neighborhood — and being their candy dispenser.

“For every decorated house we see, I’ll give them some candy,” she said. “That was an easy idea of how I can make them happy, but also keep safe.”

Focus on family time.

Last Halloween, Ivonne Valdes and her husband went to Disney World with their children, now 5 and 3. This year, Ms. Valdes turned to Pinterest for inspiration on decorating their Miami backyard.

“I’m thinking of setting up a scavenger hunt of little bags with Halloween candy and treats,” Ms. Valdes said. They will try their hands at pumpkin carving, then spend the evening making cupcakes and watching their favorite holiday flicks like “Hotel Transylvania.”

Creativity is buzzing in other Miami homes, too. Elisa Douglass, 44, has turned costumes into a family challenge for her husband and two kids, 10 and 12. “I thought, ‘Let’s make our own costumes,’” said Ms. Douglass, a master sewer, who encouraged the family to collect odds and ends from around the house. Also on the agenda: pizza, baking and 80s movies.

“My kids love being home, so in a sense I got lucky,” she said.

Turn your pods into Halloweentown.

Barring any snow in Minneapolis, Tiffany Tomlin Kurtz, 43, and a small group of neighbors plan to organize an outdoor party, with a glow-in-the-dark candy hunt for the kids, a bonfire for adults and an outdoor projector showing a Halloween flick.

In Atlanta, after their kids wrote a letter making the case for more than a backyard Halloween party, Maggie and Garrett Mock and other friend-parents put their heads together to come up with a “progressive party,” Covid-19 style.

“Each house will give away candy, but also host a little extra activity to make up for the limited stops,” Ms. Mock said. From pizza and piñatas at one stop, and at other stops, backyard dance parties, ghost tales around the bonfire and, of course, an outside projector with scary movies.

“We think it’s a fun way for the kids to have a say in how this strange holiday plays out,” Ms. Mock said, “while also allowing the parents to get creative and have some festive fun of their own.”

By Alexandra E. Petri      Oct. 17, 2020

source: www.nytimes.com

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

More related resources

some-spooky-tips-on-how-to-stay-covid-safe-this-all-hallows-eve

Halloween-COVID-Safety-Tips


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The Vitamin That Reduces COVID-19 Risk By 50%

A sufficient level of this vitamin could halve the risk of catching coronavirus and protect COVID-19 patients from the worst of the disease.

Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of COVID-19 infection and the severity of the disease, if it is caught, research finds.

Professor Michael Holick, study co-author, said:

“Because vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is so widespread in children and adults in the United States and worldwide, especially in the winter months, it is prudent for everyone to take a vitamin D supplement to reduce risk of being infected and having complications from COVID-19.”

A blood level of 30 nanogram per millilitre of vitamin D has been shown to protect patients with COVID-19 against complications and death, as well as reducing the risk of getting ill by a large amount.

According to a new study, COVID-19 patients with adequate levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are less likely to have severe clinical problems from the illness.

These outcomes include hypoxia — poor oxygen supply to the body — being unconscious, and death.

25-hydroxyvitamin D is produced in the liver and it is a major form of vitamin D3 and vitamin D2.

Also, patients with a sufficient amount of vitamin D have higher levels of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell which fights infection, and their blood shows a lower level of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory indicator.

Professor Holick said:

“This study provides direct evidence that vitamin D sufficiency can reduce the complications, including the cytokine storm (release of too many proteins into the blood too quickly) and ultimately death from COVID-19.”

The study examined 235 hospitalized coronavirus patients to see if serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels can change the severe clinical outcomes from the disease.

Vitamin D status, numbers of lymphocytes, and C-reactive protein were analysed from patient’s blood samples.

The patients were also checked for severity of the infection, breathing difficulties, unconsciousness and hypoxia.

The analysis showed that patients with a blood level of at least 30 ng/mL of 25-hydroxyvitamin D had a 52 percent higher chance of surviving the infection than those with lower levels of vitamin D.

Professor Holick, in a recent study, revealed that an adequate amount of vitamin D can lower the odds of becoming infected with COVID-19 by 54 percent.

Vitamin D sufficiency helps to overcome the coronavirus disease and other types of upper respiratory infections such as influenza.

Professor Holick pointed out:

“There is great concern that the combination of an influenza infection and a coronal viral infection could substantially increase hospitalizations and death due to complications from these viral infections.”

Vitamin D is a cheap but effective way to boost people’s immune system against the virus and can decrease health-related issues such as needing ventilatory support and immune system overactivity resulting in cytokine storm.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE  (Maghbooli et al., 2020).

About the author
Mina Dean
is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.

October 7, 2020

Source: PsyBlog

 

“The sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D from October to May,
especially for those living north of Atlanta,”       Althea Zanecosky, RD

 

15 Foods That Are High in Vitamin D

Eating plenty of vitamin D foods strengthens your bones, regulates your immune system, and more—but chances are, you’re not getting enough.

Vitamin D may be known as the sunshine vitamin, but too few of us think to look for it in the fridge—and that’s a big mistake. “The sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D from October to May, especially for those living north of Atlanta,” says Althea Zanecosky, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That’s probably why nearly half of people tested at winter’s end had a vitamin D deficiency, according to a University of Maine study. Compounding the problem is our vigilant use of sunscreen; SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, the type our bodies use to make D. Skin also has a harder time producing vitamin D with age.

Back up: What is vitamin D, and why is it so important?

Your body creates vitamin D on its own after being exposed to sunlight. It helps the body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks of bones. If you’re low on D, then you’re at increased risk for bone diseases like osteoporosis.

Evidence continues to mount that vitamin D also helps to regulate the immune system, lower blood pressure, protect against depression, and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and several kinds of cancer. A 2014 study from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine also found that people with low vitamin D levels were twice as likely to die prematurely.

So, are you getting enough vitamin D?

Probably not. The Institute of Medicine has set the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D at 600 international units (IU) for everyone under the age of 70. (It’s 800 IU for adults 70+.) But many experts believe that’s too low. “There is talk that the RDA may be increased,” says Zanecosky. “Many physicians are now advising 2,000 milligrams daily for those with low blood levels.”

The Top Vitamin D Foods

In a recent nutrient survey, many respondents were rightfully concerned they weren’t getting enough D, with 22% actively looking for it in foods. But just 9% knew that salmon is a good natural source of the vitamin, and only 5% recognized fortified tofu as one, too. Here are some other ways to get more foods with vitamin D in your diet:

Wild-caught fish   (425 IU in 3 oz salmon, 547 IU
in 3 oz mackerel)

Beef or calf liver   (42 IU in 3 oz)

Egg yolks   (41 IU per egg)

Canned fish   (154 IU in 3 oz tuna, 270 IU in 3.5 oz sardines)

Shiitake mushrooms   (40 IU in 1 cup)

Milk: whole, nonfat or reduced fat   (100 IU in 8 oz)

Yogurt   (80–100 IUs in 6 oz)

Almond milk   (100 IU in 8 oz)

Pudding made with milk   (49-60 IUs in ½ cup)

Orange juice   (137 IU in 1 cup)

Breakfast cereals   (50–100 IUs in 0.75–1 cup)

Fortified tofu   (80 IU in 3 oz)

Oatmeal   (150 IU in 1 packet)

Cheese   (40 IU in 1 slice)

Eggnog   (123 IU in 8 oz)

 

By Aviva Patz    Jun 10, 2018

source: www.prevention.com


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Your Self-Care Toolkit For Dealing With The Tough COVID-19 Months Ahead

Let these tips help you through the difficult days during the coronavirus pandemic that are inevitably on the horizon.

Feeling blue? You’re not alone. The COVVID-19 pandemic has had clear repercussions for mental health, with some people impacted more than others.

A study published in the Lancet journal comparing our mental health in April 2019 to this year found the prevalence of “clinically significant” levels of mental distress have risen from 18.9% to 27.3%. Increases were greatest among 18- to 34-year-olds, women and people living with young children.

With local lockdowns coming back into effect across parts of the globe, more people are once again confined to their homes without social contact, and many of us are experiencing an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.

Niall Campbell, a psychiatrist and consultant in the UK, is also worried about the impact of what he calls “COVID burnout” on the generation of women who are “sandwiched” between jobs, a dependent child and an adult relative who requires care.

Many people are working long hours through fear of losing their job and because days and nights are blurring into one, he adds – and alcohol can become a crutch for some when there’s an absence of support. “Long hours generally mean less sleep, poorer diet, less exercise, more stress, feeling you are constantly ‘on’ and having to prove yourself,” he says.

On top of that, as autumn turns to winter, some of us are facing down the prospect of seasonal affective disorder, which sees roughly 1 in 15 in the UK hit with feelings of lethargy and depression on a life-altering scale.

So, how can you keep your head above water in the months ahead? Thankfully, there are ways. Here’s your ultimate self-care toolkit”

Take your annual leave, even if you stay home

Ever-changing restrictions make planning hard, but taking leave is crucial right now – even if the only place you go is your living room.

Gary Wood, author of “The Psychology of Wellbeing” (out in October), says a well-earned break is crucial for us to reflect and plan. “When we relax, we access the full range of higher-level functions such as problem-solving and planning,” he says. “But over the pandemic, we might have not had the time out to stock-take and plan.”

If you can’t go anywhere, Wood recommends creating a mini-break or spa day at home. Stuck for ideas of what to do? Holistic health and lifestyle coach Milla Lascelles previously shared her top tips with HuffPost UK.

Keep in touch with loved ones

“News of tightening of social measures to combat the rising number of COVID-19 infections will be making the winter months ahead look even darker for many people,” says Keith Grimes, a physician for online doctor service Babylon.

Feelings of sadness are understandable, he notes, but know that we have learned a huge amount about how to reduce the spread of this illness and treat it successfully. So it’s not all doom and gloom.

During this time it’s important to stay in touch with friends and family, he says. If you live alone, it’s worth bubbling up with another household so you can spend time with them. And if you can’t see others, it might help to schedule regular FaceTime conversations or phone calls with your nearest and dearest.

Aragona Giuseppe, a physician and medical advisor for Prescription Doctor, says calling friends and family will not only lift you, but also be a lovely surprise for the other person. “We may not be able to meet all our friends at the pub, but a Zoom call or a phone call should help to boost your mood and remind you what’s waiting at the end of this lockdown.”

Social media can be useful for keeping in touch with others however it should complement phone calls and face-to-face chats, rather than replace them.

Plan time to enjoy yourself

We might be stuck at home but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan smaller activities to look forward to – whether that’s a long walk, a movie night or a visit to that restaurant you’ve been meaning to check out for some time.

“Make sure you plan time to enjoy yourself, exercise and get outside in nature and experience the change of the seasons in person,” advises Grimes.

Failing that, why not treat yourself to a pamper day? Hair salons, nail places and spas are still open and in need of your support. (Just wear a mask when you go, of course.)

Create a self-care box

One of experts’ top tips for people with SAD is to fill a box with things that comfort you or help you to relax – also known as a self-care box.

Try including your favorite book or film, and a notebook and pen to write down your thoughts or notes of encouragement to yourself.

Not feeling up to the task? Order one. For example, the depression charity Blurt has created a self-care subscription box called The BuddyBox, which is full of mood-lifting treats. Each box contains at least five surprise products hand-picked to nourish, inspire and encourage self-care.

Keep active

It might be hard to find the motivation to move your body, especially as the days get shorter and the temperature drops, but it’s really important to try and stick to an exercise regime if you can.

“Exercise is not only a great way to keep yourself fit and healthy but will also increase your overall mood from the endorphins being released during and after each session,” Giuseppe says.

You don’t have to do anything too strenuous ― even moving your body once a day can help improve your mood, he says. This could mean getting out each day for a brisk walk or doing a bit of yoga. And with it getting darker earlier, it might be best to schedule it in for first thing in the morning, or on your lunch break, rather than after work.

Start or learn something new

If there’s one thing we learned during the beginning of the pandemic, it’s how to amuse ourselves. Keeping occupied with hobbies or learning new skills can help us take our mind off the bigger picture, which, let’s face it, is pretty overwhelming.

People will undoubtedly feel increased stress and anxiety over work and the possibility of redundancy in the coming months, says Giuseppe. While there’s not much you can do about job security, there are ways to take control of other parts of your life, he says.

“Learning a new skill may help to keep you busy and your mind occupied, whether that is something you’re passionate about that you’ve never taken further or a new outdoor hobby such as cycling,” he says. “Taking up something which you can use to burn energy and keep yourself busy will really help with your long-term physical and mental health.”

It can be useful to set goals – and these can center around your hobbies, too. That could be wanting to learn a certain amount of phrases in Spanish by Christmas, for example, or being able to run a mile non-stop by January.

Claudia Pastides, also a physician with Babylon, urges people to put their efforts into something productive which can help them feel good about themselves, whether that’s organizing your cupboards, painting your front door, or upcycling and selling old furniture.

“All these things are positive tasks or hobbies that you can put your energy into and make you feel good at the end,” she says. “Motivation comes from inside us all. We are in charge of creating it and holding on to it.”

computer

Do what you can to stay safe

Adopting COVID-19 safety measures can actually help people’s mental health, according to Penn State University research. Researchers surveyed participants between the ages of 18 and 90, measuring how much they felt the pandemic was affecting them financially, physically, socially and mentally; whether they were adhering to recommendations such as mask wearing; and what kinds of coping strategies they were using.

“Things like keeping a consistent schedule, reminding yourself that things will get better, finding activities to distract yourself, and taking care of others who need help are all helpful,” says Erina MacGeorge, professor of communication arts and sciences.

“Additionally, adhering to the national recommendations for protecting oneself from COVID-19, like hand-washing, social distancing and masking, was also associated with better mental health.”

“Sometimes we need to take a break from thinking about how we feel and do something to help alleviate the threat and make us feel a lot better about our situation in life,” says Jessica Myrick, an associate professor of media studies.

“COVID-related messages that emphasize that even small actions are worthwhile might have the doubly positive effect of getting people to take small actions, like washing their hands more often, but also alleviate some mental strain, too.”

Structure your day

Humans are creatures of habit and we (understandably) like to feel in control, so sticking to a structure – where possible – can be incredibly stabalizing. Planning your day out can also be helpful if you struggle with SAD.

“Try to maintain the same structure as you had back in the pre-quarantine days,” says Giuseppe, noting that parents will likely find sticking to a daily routine much easier than just seeing how the days go. “When working from home, it can be tempting to fall into a bit of a lethargic lifestyle which could lead to negative thoughts and feelings of worthlessness.”

So, wake up early, change out of your pajamas, do a bit of exercise and get into some comfy work clothes – maybe take a walk around the block to act as a faux commute, or make yourself a nice coffee to set you up for the day. Eating balanced meals and sticking to a regular sleep routine is also crucial.

“Keeping your normal exercise routine is imperative and also making your work space separate from your living space should help you to separate your working day to your evening routine,” adds Giuseppe.

Rethink your social circles

Another finding from Penn State’s research is that “social strain” – such as someone making demands, giving criticism, or simply getting on your nerves – is a strong and consistent predictor of poor mental health.

Yanmengqian Zhou, a graduate assistant in communication arts and sciences, says “this suggests that in difficult times like this, it could be particularly important to proactively structure our social networks in ways that minimize negative social experiences.”

Choose your friends wisely and don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do – these are challenging times and you need to be kind to yourself.

Another reason to focus on your friendship list is that both good and bad moods can be “picked up” from friends, according to the University of Warwick.

Researchers found that having more friends who suffer worse moods is associated with a higher probability of an individual experiencing low moods and a decreased probability of them improving. The opposite applied to those who had a more positive social circle.

Turn off the news when you need to

One tip therapists and doctors swear by is not to overdo your exposure to news and keeping on top of all things COVID.

“Avoid excessive watching of coronavirus coverage,” says Giuseppe. “It’s good to keep up to date with what’s going on however watching the news reel 24/7 will likely have detrimental effects on your mental health and will cause your stress and anxiety levels to rise.”

“You can’t change or fix what is happening so obsessing over the news will not help you get through the next six months,“Giuseppe adds. “If you want to keep abreast of the news, limit it to one news update per day, or every few days.”

Keep your friends close and your pets closer

Pet owners know that animals can be a huge boost to mental health – and new research backs this up.

The study, conducted from March to June this year by the University of York and the University of Lincoln, found that having a pet was linked to better mental health and reduced loneliness. More than 90% of respondents said their pet helped them cope emotionally with the lockdown and 96% said their pet helped keep them fit and active.

Daniel Mills, the study’s co-author, says the research indicates how having a companion animal in your home can buffer against some of the psychological stress associated with lockdown.

Elena Ratschen, the study’s lead author, warned that people shouldn’t necessarily rush to acquire a pet during the pandemic. But for those who do own animals – especially those who adopted pets during lockdown – the finding will surely be of comfort.

Shift your thinking

It can be hard to stay positive when everything feels like it’s working against you, however there are some ways we can reframe our thinking to focus on the positives, rather than all the negatives.

“Maintain an attitude of curiosity about the world and practice gratitude, even for the small stuff,” says Wood. “At the end of each day, write down three things you’re grateful for, and at the start of each day write down three things you’re looking forward to.”

For example, rather than thinking “I’m stuck inside,” Giuseppe suggests trying “I am stuck inside, however I can use this time to work on myself and my passions.”

The first lockdown has left us more prepared, we now know what to expect, and we can use this knowledge to our advantage. “If there’s something you wanted to start but never had the time, then this could be the moment,” Giuseppe said.

Don’t be afraid to seek help

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can still feel down or anxious, says Pastides. If it gets to the point where every day is a struggle, this is the time to seek help.

“Reach out to your GP, or a friend, and speak about how you’re feeling,” she says. “You won’t be alone in having those feelings and there is help available.”

Your doctor should be able to offer more support and can also help with treatment options, which can include talking therapies or medication.

Dave Smithson, from Anxiety UK, urges people to surround themselves with a support network – and if you don’t have anyone in your life you feel comfortable talking to about how you feel, try a local peer-support groups.

“Talking to people and sharing your thoughts and feelings with others in similar situations can be really supportive,” he previously told HuffPost UK. “They understand what you’re going through and what you’re dealing with because they’re in the same boat.”

This post originally appeared in HuffPost UK.

by Natasha Hinde – Lifestyle Writer at The Huffington Post UK     09/30/2020

source: www.huffingtonpost.ca


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Healthy Habits for Working From Home

8 Healthy Habits for Working From Home

For some of us, working from home is normal, but for others, this pandemic may have you working remotely for the first time. Whichever category you fit into, it’s important to have healthy habits when working from your home “office”.

  1. Pretend like you are actually going into the office. Set your alarm, make coffee, take a shower and change out of your pjs to help you get into the “I’m going to work” mindset.
  2. Set boundaries such as defined hours and breaks throughout the day. Just as you would leave the office, you need to know when to stop working and take a breather for a good work-life balance.
  3. Don’t forget to give your eyes a break too! It’s not healthy for your eyes to be glued to a screen all day. Several times throughout the day, take a few minutes to look at something else to make sure you’re not straining your eyes.
  4. Working from home with your new “co-workers” could take some getting used too. Stock up on time consuming projects like, puzzles, crafts or activity books help to keep the kiddos busy. Take advantage of video chatting to continue learning opportunities such as piano lessons. Mix up your hours (if your job allows) – try to squeeze in work when your toddler is asleep such as early morning, nap times and at night – you’ll be more productive if you have quiet time to yourself.
  5. Create a dedicated work space – although it’s tempting to work from your bed, it’s important to set up a dedicated work space with a door that you can close if you need to drown out the noise of your pets, kids or TV to remain productive and professional. Also, if possible, invest in a good chair. Your home chair/desk/keyboard setup might not be the same as at the office and comfy sofas or bed pillows don’t offer the necessary support for your back, which can lead to poor posture and back, shoulder and neck pain.
  6. Set goals by writing out a daily and weekly to-do list involving your work and the tasks that need completing.
  7. Working from home can be isolating especially if you’re used to a busy office environment – check-in with people throughout the day. Just because everyone is practicing social distancing doesn’t mean you need to actually feel so distant.
  8. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy food. Since you’re now so close to your kitchen, it’s even easier to snack on everything and anything. To avoid unhealthy snacking, keep healthy snacks readily available. Drink a lot of water throughout the day, too, which can help curb mindless snacking.

March 23, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story
Michael Carson, M.D. contributes to topics such as Internal Medicine.

source: www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org

 

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5 Healthy Habits for When You’re Working From Home

We all know working from home can be both a blessing and a curse. Gone are the days of commuting to the office, and in are the days where you roll out of bed and hop onto the computer, right?!

For the majority of us, working from home requires a lot of willpower and developing loads of healthy habits to stay on top of work and home life together.

When you’re working from home, it’s easy to get distracted by household chores, friends and family and find the motivation to get on with the hard work tasks that simply need to get done.

So to help, I’ve put together 5 work from home tips and healthy habits that you can start implementing in your working life.

Working from home and starting your own service-based business? Sign up for my free workshop and start making some money on the side.

Develop a morning routine

I’ve heard it a million times, to get the most of your work from home life, a little discipline goes a long way.

However, where I differ is I’m not encouraging you to get up at 4 am, do some yoga, make a smoothie, journal and meditate. Instead, I believe in a simple and tailored approach that’s tailored to you.

A routine is simply something you do over and over again to flip the switch in your brain to tell you it’s time to get into ‘work mode’.

For you that might mean waking at 7 am, making a cup of coffee and reading. For someone else, it might mean waking at 6 am, getting your kids ready for school, dropping them off and then unwinding before work with a hot drink and a book.

Experiment and find a routine that works for your unique situation, is easy and enjoyable and the rest will fall into place.

Open windows even in the winter

We’re spending more and more time indoors and because of this, our indoor air quality is suffering.

“Indoor air pollution is dust, dirt or gases in the air inside a building such as your home or workplace that harms us if we breathe it in.”

What’s more, if you have any kind of lung disease such as asthma, then you’re indoor air quality should be something to take seriously.

“Indoor air is often 10 times more polluted than outdoor air and as people spend 90% of their time indoors the importance of indoor air quality is critical to health and wellbeing.”

One of the simplest things you can do to improve the air quality in your home is to open your windows. Even in the cold months, for just a few hours a day, you could vastly improve the air quality in your home.

Once you do it, you’ll realize how heavy your air was and as a bonus, the new fresh air will give you a boost, trust me.

Move your body

I like to keep things simple, so the next healthy habit is determined by you. If you’re working from home, chances are you’re not moving from your desk very often.

The fact is, the human body was not built to withstand this much sitting. Depending on your ability and desire, anything from a few desk stretches, to a lunchtime walk would give your body and your brain the boost it needs to keep those creative juices flowing.

Because let’s be real, the last thing we’re all thinking about when working is doing 50 lunges or rolling out a dusty yoga mat.

Plan breaks

When you’re working on a project, writing, or generally doing any kind of absorbing task, it’s easy to lose track of time. The last thing you want is to be working so hard that you miss a valuable snack or coffee break.

Set a rough schedule for yourself and stick notifications on your phone to remind you. Or if you’re a bit more analogue, write it in your to-do list to take breaks at certain times of the day.

Here’s mine as an example:

11 am – coffee break (snack if required)

12 noon – lunch

3 pm – snack break or simply walk around a bit

“Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative.”

Even if you’re not hungry or would rather keep working, these breaks act as a switch in your mind to take a break. Your brain simply can’t keep working for hours straight, give it a rest and give your body some fuel.

Remove your distractions 

It’s no surprise that when we’re working from home it’s almost impossible not to get distracted. In fact, it’s the reason why we’re developing these healthy habits in the first place.

Raise your hand if any of these distractions apply to you:

Social media

Email

Friends messaging you

Family ringing you

Family in the room with you (I’m talking about you, kids)

Unwashed dishes

Other people’s clutter

Your own clutter

Anything and everything that isn’t your work

Yeah, I raised my hand multiple times too!

The fact is, we can never remove 100% of our work from home distractions. After all, we are working from home, not a remote cabin in the woods. But we can reduce that list significantly.

If social media is your problem, remove the apps from your phone. Is it email? Schedule to read at only certain times of the day. If it’s friends and family, start setting boundaries with them. If it’s household mess and chores, ask your family to help, or schedule in time to clear your space. After all, your home is your office, it needs to be treated as one.

Roundup

Creating healthy habits for your work from home life can be difficult, especially if you’re just starting out, or things have gotten out of hand.

If this is the case, I recommend starting with just one of these and implementing the changes over the course of a few weeks. Then add another. Be patient, your ideal work from home life will take time to happen.

by Gina Lucia      10 October 2019

source: limitbreaker.co

How to Work From Home and Stay Healthy

Healthy habits when working from home


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This Popular Vitamin Is Linked To Weight Loss

High levels of this vitamin are associated with 20 pounds more weight loss.

Higher levels of vitamin D are linked to more weight loss, research finds.

People who are dieting have been shown to lose 20 pounds more when they have high vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D at higher levels in the body is also associated with burning belly fat.

The conclusions come from a study of 4,421 people whose total body fat and belly fat was measured.

Across men and women, higher vitamin D levels were linked to less belly fat, the results showed.

However, women with higher vitamin D levels also had less total body fat.

One reason for the beneficial effect of vitamin D may be its connection with the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Serotonin can affect everything from sleep to mood.

High levels of vitamin D may suppress the storage of fat.

Over half the people in the world may be deficient in vitamin D.

Foods that are rich in vitamin D include oily fish and eggs, but most people get their vitamin D from the action of sunlight on the skin.

That is why levels are typically lower in the body through the winter months in more Northern climes.

Dr Rachida Rafiq, the study’s first author, said:

“Although we did not measure vitamin D deficiency in our study, the strong relationship between increasing amounts of abdominal fat and lower levels of vitamin D suggests that individuals with larger waistlines are at a greater risk of developing deficiency, and should consider having their vitamin D levels checked.”

The study does not prove causation, though, Dr Rafiq explained:

“Due to the observational nature of this study, we cannot draw a conclusion on the direction or cause of the association between obesity and vitamin D levels. However, this strong association may point to a possible role for vitamin D in abdominal fat storage and function.”

About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

The study was published in the journal Clinical Nutrition (Rafiq et al., 2018).

 

source: PsyBlog

 

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Netflix and Eat? Here’s How To Stop Overindulging During Pandemic Isolation

Spending way too many hours in front of the TV?

Indulging in way too many salty snacks?

You’re not alone.

A recent Bloomberg report cited data showing sales were up — way up — for all types of comfort foods, including popcorn (48 per cent), pretzels (47 per cent) and potato chips (30 per cent) compared to a year ago.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to Kira Lynne, a life coach and counsellor in Vancouver. During stressful or anxious times, such as what we’re experiencing right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, people will reach out for things that bring them comfort, whether it be certain junk foods, TV shows or video games.

“It’s a scary time.”

Lynne said its important you don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself giving in to these temptations.

“Be gentle with yourself on that.”

That said, there are some practical things you can do if you’re worried about overindulging. She suggests, for instance, delaying the snacking and the Netflix-watching to the end of the day as sort of a “reward” to yourself.

Another piece of advice: eating “mindfully.” Get rid of distractions, such as the TV. You’ll enjoy the food more and won’t need to eat as much to feel satisfied.

Amy Bondar, a nutritional therapist and certified eating psychology coach in Calgary, agrees.

To slow down the binge eating, she recommends that her clients “see, taste, smell and hear each bite of food,” they take in. In other words, “experience the experience of eating.”

“Unwanted eating behaviours only happen in the stress response and the more heightened your stress and anxiety, the more likely you are to eat unconsciously and stand in front of the pantry or fridge gnawing on your worries,” she wrote in a recent blog post.

With so much uncertainty in the world right now and things that are beyond our control, experts recommend focusing on finding things that you can control. That includes building a daily routine for yourself so you have some predictability and structure to your day.

Lynne says in the first part of her day, she takes her dog for a walk, comes home and meditates, makes breakfast, devotes a couple hours to work and then takes a lunch break.

Adrienne Clarkson, Canada’s former governor general, even weighed in this week on the importance of establishing a routine, tweeting: “It is so good for the morale to dress every day as though going to the office, or a meeting. For heaven’s sake wash your hair and don’t wear pyjamas or a sweat suit all day! And, guys, SHAVE!”

On the question of whether it’s OK to keep the PJs on throughout the day, Lynne prefers not to make a blanket rule. Instead, she might ask her clients, “how do you feel different if you are in PJs?” or “are you glad you got out of PJs?” and then letting their answers guide their clothing choices.

With many people no longer having to deal with commutes and appointments, both experts suggest taking advantage of this free time to try new hobbies or to set new goals.

Go online and find a home workout routine that you like. Start an online business. Catch up with old friends over the phone or video chat. Do some spring cleaning around the house.

“Use this time as an opportunity to redefine your health, not decline your health,” Bondar said.

Lynne also suggests limiting your intake of coronavirus news each day.

“I check it once a day. Just as much as I need to stay healthy — nothing additional,” she said, adding that she’s “asked people in my life not to send me gloom and doom.”

“I need to keep my mental health in a good place.”

Experts say another way to lessen anxiety is to find ways to help others. Make an online donation to a charity, Lynne said. Or help deliver food to people who can’t get out of the house.

“It gives a sense of purpose.”

By Douglas Quan       Vancouver Bureau       Thu., March 26, 2020

 

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How To Combat Weight Gain During The Pandemic
(beyond Diet And Exercise)

Quarantine life is challenging, to say the least, and all of us are struggling mentally, emotionally and physically. And no one would blame you for being tempted to abandon your diet and exercise plan and reach for the tub of ice cream while binge-watching that tiger show that everyone is talking about.But health experts strongly recommend you do your best to prevent excess weight gain during this historic and scary time.

Dr. David Buchin, director of bariatric surgery at Huntington Hospital, is seeing that a large percentage of the patients battling Covid-19 in the medical center’s intensive care unit are obese. Patients who are obese are especially challenging to care for, he said, as treatment involves rolling them from their back to their front regularly to optimize lung function. In addition, a recent study found that in patients under the age of 60, obesity doubled the risk of Covid-19 hospitalization.

I’m not suggesting starting a strict diet or intense exercise program while sheltering in place, but there are some simple things you can do to prevent weight gain and protect yourself not only from Covid-19-related complications, but also from diseases such as diabetes and heart disease that will remain two of the top causes of death after we get through this pandemic.

Shop smart

When it comes to quarantine shopping, it’s important to be organized, especially when it comes to eating enough fruits and vegetables (aim for five servings per day if you can). Buy a combination of fresh, frozen and canned to last you at least a week or more.

Consume fresh products first and then move on to frozen and canned. Rinse canned vegetables to reduce sodium, and be sure to consume fresh or frozen fruit daily as the vitamin C content of canned fruits and vegetables, which is important for immunity health, is lower than fresh or frozen.

Chef Devin Alexander, who has maintained a 70-pound weight loss for decades, has some terrific tips for shopping on a budget and managing quarantine cravings. When buying produce, for example, unlike most other items, she suggested looking for the items on sale.

Watermelon and berries go on sale in the summer because they’re in season and thus very plentiful. That’s also when they taste the best, so you can make amazing desserts without the need for a ton of added sugar.

Alexander also recommended having coleslaw on hand for when the salty cravings hit. Her recipe for Orange Cilantro Cole Slaw, available on her website, satisfies that salty, crunchy hankering in a way that’s actually good for you. It helps get in a serving or two of vegetables, and just might keep you from “needing” to eat a bag of chips. In addition, cabbage and carrots are budget-friendly, last for weeks and are loaded with immune-supporting nutrients.

When you come home from the store, make sure to put the healthier foods in more easily seen locations in your kitchen. Food cravings and hunger can be triggered by just seeing food, so keep more indulgent foods out of sight – and hopefully out of mind – on upper shelves in your cupboard, in the back of the fridge or the bottom of the freezer.

Manage stress

During this global crisis it’s even more important than ever to find ways to conquer stress and manage anxiety.

I know, it isn’t easy. Balancing homeschooling, financial challenges, cabin fever, social isolation and illness is stressful, but stress can contribute to poor eating choices and increase fat deep in your belly (underneath the muscle) that can contribute to heart disease and diabetes even more than the pinchable fat that lies directly underneath your skin.

Practice mindfulness, meaning doing your best trying to live in the present versus worrying too much about the future. That’s the advice from Joanne Koegl, a licensed marriage and family therapist who tells clients to take time out of their day to focus on simple things such as the warmth of the sun, the beauty of a flower, the taste of a bite of chocolate or the laugh of a child.

Koegl recommended apps and websites such as Headspace, Calm, The Tapping Solution (a self-administered therapy based on Chinese acupressure that can help calm the nervous system) and Breathe by anxiety expert Dr. Jud Brewer. These resources and others are offering free services focused on managing Covid-19-related anxiety and stress.

You can also practice basic self-care to manage anxiety and relieve stress. Take a hot bath, find a quiet place in your house and sip a cup of tea, exercise, call an old friend or consider volunteering if it’s safe. Helping others also gives you a sense of purpose and joy.

If you are really struggling with anxiety, there are mental health telemedicine options such as Doctor on Demand and crisis hotlines available in major cities across the country. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to reach out for professional help.

Sleep right

Both excess sleep and inadequate sleep have been linked to weight gain, increased appetite and worsening blood sugar control, so try your best not to completely abandon your sleep schedule by staying up late, sleeping until noon or staying up all night watching television.

Try to stay on a relatively normal sleep schedule, experts recommend. This is much easier to do if you follow basic sleep principles including avoiding excess alcohol before bed, keeping your room as dark as possible and at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit and exercising regularly. And turn off the news (and put down your phones) in the hours before bed.

Move more

Spending so much time at home has another unforeseen consequence. You are burning far fewer calories going about your daily life than you were pre-quarantine, regardless of whether you exercise daily.

Sitting at the computer for hours, whether doing Zoom work calls or socializing, and staying inside on evenings and weekends binge-watching television, along with shopping and socializing online, easily all add up to several hundred fewer calories burned per day through non-exercise activity, which is often higher than intentional exercise for most people. It’s essential to incorporate more movement and less sitting every day.

Buchin tells his patients to commit to a certain amount of exercise to “earn” their television viewing. For example, for each movie they watch they should incorporate 20 minutes of some form of activity which could be cleaning, playing with your family, gardening or even simply standing while talking on the phone or participating in a Zoom call.

I have been using my Apple Watch more than ever lately. I appreciate the reminder to stand up every hour for at least one minute and the ability to track my general daily activity in addition to exercise.
If you don’t have a fitness device, set a timer on your phone or even your microwave to remind you to get up every hour and walk around the house, up and down the stairs a few times or just do some stretching in place before sitting down again.

As we hear repeatedly on the news, we are all in this together, and my hope is that with these tips, you and your loved ones can maintain your weight and stay fit, healthy and maybe even a little less stressed during this global pandemic.

Dr. Melina Jampolis is an internist and board-certified physician nutrition specialist and author of several books, including “Spice Up, Slim Down.”

By Dr. Melina Jampolis, CNN                Thu April 30, 2020
 
source: www.cnn.com


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The Most Natural Way To Boost Mental Health During COVID-19

It can help improve mental health and wellbeing and reduce anxiety.

Even modest reminders of nature can help boost mental health during lockdown, research finds.

Nature can be experienced on a walk close to home, in the back yard or even indoors.

All have been shown to improve mental health and wellbeing and reduce anxiety.

Experiencing nature mindfully can help increase its effect, as can sharing memories of nature, thinking back to natural places that induce calm and sharing these stories with others.

Nature can help stop rumination — thinking about the causes and consequences of depressing events — a process common in depression.

Dr Kathleen Wolf, an expert on the health benefits of nature, said:

“Studies have proven that even the smallest bit of nature—a single tree, a small patch of flowers, a house plant—can generate health benefits.
Look closely in your neighborhood, and the bit of nature you may have taken for granted up until now may become the focus of your attention and help you feel better.”

Over the years, thousands of studies have shown the positive effect of nature on mental health.

As little as 20-minutes of nature can help to reduce stress, one study has found.

Gardens and backyards provide some with access to grass, bird song, leaves and flowers.

For those stuck indoors, though, potted plants or even photos or videos of nature can provide the necessary reminder.

Being mindful is key to getting the most out of nature, said Dr Wolf:

“It’s important to be mindful, commit to the activity and think about your observations while looking at these materials or elements of nature.
That means not merely scrolling through on your computer, but looking at photos or video streams with more intention.
It’s essentially nature-oriented meditation.”

Sharing experiences of nature with others is also powerful, said Dr Wolf:

“Even though we are physically distancing, it’s really important to our health to maintain our social connections.
There is evidence that people who are lonely or who are socially isolated can be prone to poorer health.
Nature might be a means, either by being outside a safe distance from others or by sharing stories with each other, of staying socially connected.”

Exposure to nature helps to stop people ruminating, a process of continuously worrying about the past and the future linked to mental health problems.

Professor Peter Kahn, an expert on environmental sciences, explained:

“In these times, I think our minds can be a little out of control.
Part of the effect of nature is that it can soften negative conditioned mental patterns.
If you can find nature, engage with it and get your heart rate down, then your mind begins to settle.
When your mind isn’t ruminating, it can then open to a wider world, where there’s great beauty and healing.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Hunter et al., 2019).

About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog.
He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

source: Psyblog
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Why You’re Having Anxiety Over Lockdown Ending,
And How To Cope

As coronavirus restrictions lift and states began to reopen, therapists say there are things you can do to manage your anxiety and stress about the transition.
As states and cities start to ease lockdown restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, many are thrilled to get back to business and return to normal — well, normalish — life.
Yet there are just as many people who feel conflicted about these seemingly overnight developments. You can be glad to see things reopening ― and heartened to see people protesting systemic racism across the country ― but simultaneously, a little anxious about how the next phase of cities reopening will play out.
After all, the stats are still overwhelming: As of this week, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world has exceeded 6.6 million. In the United States, more than 1.8 million cases have been recorded and more than 108,000 people have died so far from COVID-19.
If you’re experiencing anxiety over lockdown ending or just the coronavirus in general, know that you’re not alone. Recent Census Bureau data found that 30% of Americans now show symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.

“Many of my clients, most of whom have never previously experienced anxiety about going out, are nervous as states begin to reopen and loosen restrictions,” said Jennifer Chappell Marsh, a marriage and family therapist in San Diego, which is in the process of moving from stage 2 of reopening to stage 3.

As that happens, Chappell Marsh said many of her clients are reporting generalized social anxiety about resuming their regular lives in public.

“They’ve spent months without much exposure to people and places while consuming a lot of coronavirus-related media,” she said. “But there are so many unknowns: We don’t know how bad this will get and we don’t know how long this will last. They don’t know what to expect and the unknown can be terrifying, especially because the risk of infection is real, can lead to death and there is no vaccine.”

Over the last few months, Chappell Marsh has learned on the fly how to address concerns like these. Below, she and other experts share their best advice for managing panic and anxiety as states begin to reopen.

Recognize that it’s entirely natural to feel anxiety about this.

Amelia Aldao is a psychologist and anxiety specialist in New York City. People in big metropolitan areas like NYC may feel heightened concern about the end of isolation since most city dwellers are used to seeing and interacting with hundreds of people in the course of a day (during subway commutes, at the office, walking around the city).

“We were used to [it], but during the last few months, most of us have only had real, face-to-face interactions with a small subset of people,” she said. “It’s going to take some adjustment to go back to ‘real life.’ At the very least, we might experience sensory overload, since our brains are no longer used to processing so many social interactions.”

As the city begins to reopen, even Aldao has said she’s dealt with some unexpected anxiety while walking around town.

“I was walking in the park here in NYC and all of a sudden I was feeling very foggy and confused,” she said. “I then realized it was because my brain had a hard time adjusting to seeing that many people outside!”

People at the park were spaced out far enough from each other and wearing masks, but it still felt jarring, Aldao said.

“My brain was just having a hard time adjusting,” she said. “Much like when we are outside on a very bright day and our eyes have a hard time adjusting to the change in light when we go inside.”

Ask yourself: What can I control now?

You’re living with a lot of unknowns right now: Will the surge of COVID-19 infections slowly decline in your part of the country, or will it pick up as it has in other parts of the country? Will your workplace do enough to ensure employees are social distancing? How safe are indoor public places right now (retail stores, for instance, and restaurants)? Will people remain vigilant about wearing masks?
When you get stuck in this loop, try to refocus on positive thoughts about things in your life you can control, Chappell Marsh said. You can wear a mask to lower your chance of catching the virus and others’ chances, too, for instance. You can talk to your manager at work and slowly reacquaint yourself with going out in public places again. (No need to rush to make those restaurant reservations!)

“In times of uncertainty and overwhelm, it’s best to bring our focus to the here and now, asking ourselves, ‘What can I do?’ said Chappell Marsh. “Shifting our mindset in that way takes us mentally from overwhelm and anxious to empowered and hopeful.”

You don’t have to rush back out there, but try to take baby steps to get comfortable with being in public again.

With the exception of work demands, there is no need to rush into anything as restrictions are loosened, said Julia Yacoob, a psychologist in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City. You can still avoid big crowds and say “no” to invitations to a bar or restaurant if you’d rather keep your social circle somewhat small.

“Stay in touch with your feelings, continuously check in with yourself, and respect where you are, given what you’ve just experienced,” Yacoob said. “That doesn’t mean you need to let your feelings completely dictate your actions if you know rationally that they are not serving you well. As in, just because you feel something is true does not mean that it is.” (In other words, sometimes our feelings can convince us of that we’re more at risk than we are when, say, we go to the market with a mask.)

The goal here is to build emotional tolerance slowly, Chappell Marsh said. Obviously, the risk is real and we can’t ignore that. But avoiding everything that triggers anxiety will only make it worse, she said.

Take baby steps. Start by asking yourself, “What is a small risk I can tolerate today?” the therapist said.

“Then identify one thing that you can do that feels uncomfortable,” she explained. “Keep washing your hands, wearing your mask and maintain good distance when in public while also pushing yourself to take one small step outside your comfort zone. Once there, allow yourself to stay in the discomfort and breathe through it until the discomfort dissipates.”

When you start to worry, try this simple thought exercise.

Aldao has been telling her clients dealing with COVID-related anxiety to try this simple cognitive behavioral therapy exercise. It might help you, too.
First, identify what’s at the core of your anxiety.

“What’s triggering it?” she said. “What are the specific worries you’re having?”

Once you’ve identified these worries, ask yourself the following five questions:
  1. What is the evidence for and against the worrisome thought?
  2. What’s the usefulness of having this thought? (Is it adding more tension than helping you solve problems?)
  3. What would you tell a friend or loved one in a similar situation?
  4. Can you set aside time to worry later?
  5. Can you breathe through the worry and practice mindfulness?
Lastly, she said, try to identify how the worries and anxiety hold you back.

“Are there specific things that they make you avoid? If so, write these down and every day, try to push yourself to do those things you’re scared of,” she explained. “This is a technique called exposure and we use it in cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders.”

Consider counseling at least temporarily if you’re feeling a heightened sense of anxiety.
If your stress is worsening or you’re noticing a major uptick in anxiety, low mood or problematic behavior (substance abuse, for instance), it might be worth talking to a professional. Many people are currently turning to teletherapy ― videoconferencing with a mental health expert ― to get help.

“Counseling to help improve mental health in response to this experience can be helpful,” Chicago therapist Anna Poss told HuffPost. “As a society, we haven’t done a great job of normalizing counseling, but it is a great way to get support and does not mean anything is ‘wrong’ with you. It just means that something is hard and you don’t have to go through it alone. That’s certainly the case with a pandemic.”

Keep the focus on you and your self-care, not on others and how they’re approaching things reopening.

Continue to prioritize self-care, including exercise, a healthy diet and sleep, but also self-compassion and compassion toward others, Yacoob said. That means holding back on the judgment when you see your sister-in-law bouncing around from bar to bar on her Instagram story over the weekend or questioning the number of people your neighbor has over.

“We have no insight into what those around us may be experiencing, so as best you can, lighten up on judgment and harsh words towards others,” she said. “It’s healthier to focus on you right now.”

By Brittany Wong             06/09/2020


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How People Are Practicing Healthier Behaviors in the Face of COVID-19

  • In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are getting motivated to make healthier choices and adopt healthier habits.
  • Some people living with chronic conditions have found they’re also vigilant about self-care.
  • Experts say even small changes can lead to big improvements in overall health.
  • With many things still shut down, experts say this is an excellent time to focus on your health.

Like most New Yorkers, Rob Taub, 64, has been sheltering in place as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the city and the nation at large.

For Taub, a writer and broadcaster who lives in the city’s Upper East Side neighborhood, there has been one surprising result of the radical day-to-day life changes brought about by the outbreak — his overall health has improved.

Taub has been living with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure for nearly 15 years. An athlete growing up, he said when he was in his 40s he “looked like an NFL player,” but then something changed as he got older.

“I started gaining 15 pounds a year. Soon I was 40 pounds, then 50 pounds overweight,” said Taub, who serves as an ambassador for the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

Now, as he’s been adhering to physical distancing and stay-at-home guidelines, he’s found that his overall health has improved.

The man who ate out at restaurants for about 80 percent of his meals now cooks for himself at home. A big change has been salt intake.

“One of the things I switched to recently prior to COVID-19 was oatmeal because there’s no salt in it and I realized my blood pressure was going down while eating it,” he said. “When cooking for myself, there is no salt. I realize restaurant food is laden with salt and it’s not good for you.”

Taub takes his blood pressure every day — at the time of his interview with Healthline it was at 112/80 mm Hg — and has been able to cut back on his medications.

These readings are better than he ever thought he’d see, especially when they were at their worst about a decade and a half ago.

Being vigilant is also important because he has a family history of these health concerns. His mother died at 73 from complications tied to diabetes.

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A time to embrace healthy habits

While now is a difficult time for many — stress and anxiety are up, people’s insecurities and fears over their personal health have increased — for some people like Taub, this new way of life has ironically led to better, healthier behaviors.

Dr. Robert Eckel, the American Diabetes Association president of medicine and science, and an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said Taub’s story isn’t unusual.

With life on pause, he said that “now is a good time to focus” on health.

He added that depending on a person’s individual lifestyle and desires — and assuming they’re not facing too severe of an economic impact from the current health crisis — sheltering at home gives an opportunity to adopt some healthier behaviors, from more routine fitness to better sleep habits.

A big piece of it is reflected in Taub’s experience — eating better food.

“In general, a heart healthy diet is a diabetes healthy diet and cancer healthy and blood pressure healthy diet,” Eckel, a past-president of the American Heart Association, told Healthline.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an independent science-based consumer advocacy organization, writes that rampant unhealthy diets have something of a domino effect on overall health in the United States.

The organization says that diets that rely on heavily processed meals low on nutritious value contribute to about 678,000 deaths each year as a result of diseases tied to poor nutrition and obesity, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

It should be no surprise then that each of these conditions are highly prevalent in the North America.

Annually, heart disease is the leading cause of death nationwide, resulting in 1 in every 4 deaths, while more than 100 million adults live with diabetes or prediabetes.

Obesity statistics are similarly high, with the condition’s prevalence shooting from 30.5 percent in the year from 1999 to 2000, to 42.4 percent in the 2017–2018 time frame. The prevalence of obesity-related diseases moved from 4.7 percent to 9.2 percent during that time frame.

Eckel said that as the coronavirus puts a pause on day-to-day life, it gives Americans an opportunity to hit the reset button on some of these worrying trends.

He cited both the DASH and Mediterranean diets as fairly accessible healthy eating plans that promote weight reduction, decreased salt intake, increased daily nutritional intake, and lowered blood pressure.

He also cited moderate exercise as a way to maintain healthy behaviors while stuck at home.

This means trying to fit in about 40 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day — this doesn’t mean having fancy or expensive equipment. It could be a brisk walk or using light weights to include some sort of resistance-training workout at home.

Really anything to avoid being in a “predominantly sedentary position,” he explained.

The challenges of making these changes

Of course, all of this can be easier said than done for some people.

The emotional, psychological, and financial toll taken by COVID-19 can make it hard for people to dedicate time to make some of these lifestyle shifts.

Dr. Luke Laffin, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, told Healthline that the people he treats generally have fallen in two camps during this crisis. One group was already exercising, visiting gyms, and adhering to healthy diets. Anecdotally, he noticed this group actually seemed to “fall off a bit” from their schedules once sheltering at home.

“They haven’t been doing as well in this setting,” Laffin said.

The other group consists of people who weren’t regularly exercising, not making the best dietary choices, but are now changing their routines slightly, finding they have more time to go for a walk or start preparing meals.

“It’s a double-edged sword. I’ve seen people benefit from this time but also some people not benefit as much,” he added.

For those in the second group, does Laffin envision these new healthy habits being maintained over the years once the COVID-19 threat passes?

“I think the most important part is getting into these habits and routines, and sticking with them. People are creatures of habit, so if for a couple of months with more time to exercise and eat healthily, I hope they find they can’t go without the daily routine of eating healthier, of making these choices,” he said.

If they feel better and see that their weight is lower and that their overall health has improved, Laffin added that he hopes these people will see these are necessary behaviors to hold on to.

Maintaining new routines

For those in the first group who are finding it difficult to self-motivate during an uncertain time, Laffin suggested pursuing routines that aren’t intimidating.

Just walking around the block is a good way to add some activity, and taking quick breaks in between working from home to do some light exercise could be helpful.

As for food, one doesn’t have to embrace complicated recipes if they’re used to dining out or grabbing a quick meal at the office cafeteria. He said to make sure you try to make dishes that have 50 to 60 percent fruits and vegetables.

Try to stock up on some healthier items when you do go to the local grocery store, just so you have them on hand and can incorporate them with your meal, even if it’s a side dish to complement what you might naturally gravitate to.

“I think it’s important for everyone to be realistic with themselves, however,” Laffin added. “A lot of people out there will slide back a bit, they will put on some extra pounds, they won’t be as physically active. Understand that this is not a 6-week reality, this is going to be going on for 6, 12, 18 months — now is the time to make these adjustments but also be realistic.”

For Taub’s part, he’s a social person who lives alone and said he will heartily embrace eating out with friends once it’s safe and responsible to do so.

What will he make sure to do moving forward to keep up with his new shelter-in-place healthy behaviors?

“I’m going to be aggressive in restaurants about what I order, I might even call ahead to see what I can get that is salt-free. If they won’t accommodate me, then I won’t go there,” Taub stressed.

“If I’m able to control my blood pressure more, then I have to be more cognizant of my behaviors,” he added. “It’s too easy to depend on medication, as great as it is. I need to be really diligent about it.”

Written by Brian Mastroianni              May 26, 2020              Fact checked by Dana K. Cassell