Self-care during the COVID Pandemic
I am here at home along with everyone else in this unprecedented surreal situation which is somewhere between a scary movie and a perpetual snow day. Our offices are closed and we are thankful to be able to support our clients with virtual appointments. I am feeling lucky that I can continue to do a job I love in the midst of this craziness to have some routine and normalcy. As I have been discussing with my clients the last few days- the effect COVID- 19 has on our mental health and disordered eating is palpable. The isolation that is mandated by law at the moment, and for good reason of course, contributes to more challenges on top of the fear of this pandemic. In this blog I wanted to highlight some ideas to help you take care of yourself during the isolation as it affects us both nutritionally and mentally.
Ideas to help you take care of yourself during the isolation
First, many of my conversations have been around emotional eating. Please be gentle with yourself. It is a natural human experience to eat in response to emotions. Think of happy celebrating a wedding to the sad- breaking up a relationship… food! This is NORMAL.
The challenge becomes when this is the only tool in the toolbox to manage emotions.
It’s a task food simply cannot do.
The anxiety of the unknown we are experiencing is not an everyday occurrence and it is not uncommon for food to try “help”. If you find the last few days have been met with emotional eating- take a breath, leave the judgement behind and focus on ways to give yourself other tools to care for yourself in this environment and with the stress and fear you are feeling.
Next make a plan for how to combat this physical isolation- that is in my opinion the greatest support of your mental health and wellbeing.
Continue on for more tips on how to emotionally survive COVID!
I am sure this makes the top of the list on everyone’s survival COVID-19 guide but make a schedule for yourself. Flexibility is important. This is not a rule to be followed but a guideline to help you make sense of these days that are out of routine.
Items to consider for your personal schedule:
- Set Alarm
Wake up time- without a place to be it can be tempting to sleep the day away. Used to waking up at 5 am? Give yourself a few days of enjoying the extra Z’s, then figure out a range of time you would like to start your day.
Shower, get dressed, make your bed- keep these parts of your usual routine even if you do not have to be out of the house. (No judgement on the bed making. Do I make my bed? NOPE, I included it since many people do!)
- Make sure you have a meal plan
Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner/Snacks- it can be easy to graze along the day since you have easy access to food all day long. But being in a perpetual state of not hungry, not full can lead to not really having balanced meals or a sense of mindfulness while eating.
- Schedule, Schedule, Schedule Set time ranges to have meals, share with family members you are quarantined with or Facetime a friend. Sit at the kitchen table, counter barstool or other dining space and resist the urge to eat while getting work done or while watching TV.
- Time outside- feeling cooped up may contribute to relying on food for entertainment, more energy or to manage stress. Time outside can mean walking the dog or just sitting on your patio/front step.
- Projects and hobbies- do you play an instrument or have you been meaning to learn? Do you have a craft closet that you could utilize to do some creating? Do you have a list of relatives or old friends you could write a letter to? Or maybe it is catching up on laundry or cleaning out a closet or junk drawer.
- Social time- being physically isolated is so tough! But with so much technology out there using facetime/skype/zoom to catch up with family and friends is an option. Maybe set up a “date” to eat a meal together.
- Limit news time. I understand that things are changing hour to hour but consider how the stream of news impacts your stress and anxiety levels and how that might be impacting food as well. Maybe it is setting up limits for yourself to check in for 15 minutes 2-3 times a day. Maybe it is less. Hide friends on social media that are spreading hysteria or unreliable information.
- Grocery store tips-
Allow yourself to use pantry items (pasta, rice, bread), canned goods, frozen foods without guilt that it is not fresh. Do this always but especially if that is what you have access to right now. For meal ideas on using pantry staples, take a look this blog.
Reassure yourself that you will have access to food. From my understanding grocery stores will remain open despite how intense the restrictions are on social gathering. Grocery stores are restocking and we will have food. Feelings of scarcity can send anxiety and disordered eating into overdrive.
Freeze foods- most things freeze well with exception of items such as whole eggs (although you can scramble and freeze or cook and freeze) or lettuce.
Do you have a hodgepodge of foods that you were able to get from the grocery store? Check out this website where you can enter what you have in your fridge and pantry and it will generate all the recipes you can make from them! https://www.supercook.com/#/recipes
Want more support? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment with one of registered dietitians. We are still working and “seeing” patients virtually. We don’t have any more answers on what COVID-19 has in store for us but we can support you as we make our way through this!