The forced slow down we’re experiencing has likely made you look for ways to be productive regarding your job, household projects and hobbies, but you may not have thought about treating your health in the same way. Below are some tips to inspire you to use this downtime to improve your diet and sleeping habits while lowering your stress.
Practice mindful eating. If you’ve been binge eating and gaining “quarantine pounds,” try engaging in mindful eating practices. These include beginning each meal with deep breaths and contemplation, unplugging from distractions and perhaps eating in silence, chewing thoroughly and putting your utensils down between mouthfuls to slow down your rate of consumption. These actions will allow you to enter the parasympathetic state, where your nervous system is relaxed and digestion is fostered.
Eat two complete meals daily. Eat two full meals a day instead of snacking frequently throughout the day. When you eat a complete meal, you’ll be filled up and your body will obtain the nutrients it needs to stave off cravings. Include at least two servings of vegetables in each meal to provide minerals, which are especially useful in cutting down cravings and resultant overeating.
Resist temptation foods and beverages by not buying them. If there’s a food or beverage in your diet you find hard to resist at a restaurant, make a commitment to eliminate this food in your home. Bread, desserts and alcohol contain refined carbohydrates that supply excess calories and suppress your immune system. The effect lasts for several hours after consumption, so if you’re snacking on these foods several times a day, your immune system is functioning at a disadvantage and you’re more likely to get sick. If it seems daunting to go without comfort food altogether, try it for a few days as a way to ease into a new pattern.
Reduce or wean off caffeine altogether. You also can use this time to wean off caffeine if you drink more than one cup of coffee per day. People use coffee to perk themselves up, often during the afternoon slump in energy. While coffee may help you feel more alert and perform better in the short run, long-term consequences include gas, bloating and acid reflux, along with an increased risk of osteoporosis. You may be leery of going without coffee due to withdrawal headaches or fatigue, but with less on your plate, you can rest when tired instead of using a stimulant to power through one more activity.
Develop good sleep hygiene. Speaking of rest, be sure to stick to a regular bedtime. It can be tempting to stay up late watching movies or TV, but your body functions better when you adhere to a routine. If you deprive yourself of nighttime sleep, your body will not produce adequate melatonin, and studies show that melatonin may lessen symptoms of COVID-19.1 Looking at a computer screen late in the evening also suppresses melatonin. Turn off your electronics and try engaging in meditation before bed instead. Meditation improves sleep, lowers anxiety, depression and increases compassion and gratitude. We all can benefit from these effects to move more easily through the ever-changing conditions of this time.
Dr. Needle is a licensed naturopathic doctor with Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert. She can be reached at (760) 568.2598 or www.OptimalHealthPD.com.
1) Rui Zhang et al. COVID-19: Melatonin as a potential adjuvant treatment. Life Sciences. Volume 250, June 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lfs.2020.117583