COVID-19 created a social dislocation flavoured with uncertainty, a stage of hypervigilance, and we became emotionally exhausted. The evil nature of the media helped to disseminate this collective fear since February this year. As humans, we have a wide range of reactions to challenging situations; I am sure you came across different responses from family members, friends and co-workers.
The most unhealthy reaction is ‘Deny’ as a psychological mechanism to avoid fear, conflict and anxiety. We know COVID-19 it is a highly infected virus that can kill the elder and people suffering from multiple conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cholesterol to cite some examples. Maybe denials are the group of people they believe in urban myths such as ‘vaccines are bad for humans’, ‘the Earth is flat’, ‘Man never landed in the moon’ and all that jazz.
Other people’s reaction was ‘Avoid’ and look after themselves disinfected their hands as much as possible, wearing a mask and isolated from others to prevent contact with the virus. A more balanced reaction is ‘Understanding’ and having better control of the situation by following what the health authorities recommended. Others response was ‘Empathise’ and try to help others in need due to the pandemic. Finally, ‘Approach’ to take care of their wellbeing and find opportunities to rethink life, work, family, hobbies and interests. The most beneficial strategy will be a combination of these reactions, excluding ‘Deny’ as it is a dead-end street.
Psychologists were talking the last few months that a fifteen-minute meditation could help us to identify sadness, worries and fear, which is the first step to work on it. These negative feelings are considered self-sabotage and needs to be erased from our thoughts. Other strategies suggested included singing aloud your favourite music, get physical, avoiding comfort food (alcohol and sweets), and get closer to mother Earth.
What stress does to your body is affecting your immunological system (your defences), and you become more vulnerable to viruses and diseases. This is mediated by the high production of Cortisol that compromises the ability of your system to battle infections. Exercise is one of the best strategies to keep your body running at best. When you exercise, your brain produces a chemical compound called endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body. The more exercise, the more production of endorphins and the better you will feel. Being fit is not about the look; it is about looking after your temple that is your body. From the sustainability perspective, the healthier people are in society, the less need for medication and less need for the government to subsidise them. However, pharmaceutical companies will not be happy with that.
Regrettably, when we are stressed and feel insecure about the future, we tend to use comfort food that includes alcohol, food rich in salt, fat or sugar. When eating that type of food, we feel good. But there are side-effects for your health eating comfort food such as increase blood pressure, slow down your digestion and gaining weight. Comfort food will affect the quality of your sleep, as well. As a result, it can affect your mood; you could feel tired, anxious, and unhappy. Avoiding fatty food and sugars two hours before going to sleep will improve your quality of sleep. But it takes a while to see results (2-3 weeks). To cut off your sugar cravings, you could take Chromium Picolinate sold at local chemist as a nutritional supplement.
Look after your diet by incorporating sources of protein, legumes and vegetables, grains, fruits and nuts. There are a lot of Apps that can help you design a well-balanced diet. Some fruits provide ‘negative calories’ which means that the calories contained in the food are less than the required to digest. As a result, you eat them, and you could lose weight. Remember if you are gaining weight, the reason is simple, the amount of the calories you are taking are more considerable than the ones you are burning.
If you manage to change your diet and exercise regularly, your concentration and levels of energy would increase, you will feel more confident, happy and less worried about the pandemic.
If your family members or friends are far away, you can use technology to keep in touch with them. That sense of connectedness is essential for your wellbeing and for them too.
I defined happiness as a combination of good and bad experiences that reshape your ability to respond to life events and makes you strong. We all have a challenging year, but we succeed, and the future is bring for everyone.
Stay safe and until the next article.
Dr Jorge Reyna