The Impact of “The Crown”
When I left the United States back on 18 January 2020, corona was just the Spanish word for crown. Shortly thereafter reports of “a virus called corona” in China began to emerge. No one imagined the impact this crowned shaped virus, now termed “COVID - 19”, would have in such a short time.
What Does History Tell Us?
If we look back in history at pandemics such as the Spanish Influenza which killed between 20-40 million people in a year and a half and the Black/Bubonic Plague which killed 20 million people in 5 years, it becomes apparent that it is very likely we are only at the beginning of all of this. If you read that and pangs of dread reverberate in your stomach, you’re not alone and your response is normal. After these past several months of “lockdowns”, "safer at home", and drastic changes in daily operations, many people are itching to have life return to ‘normal’ - or some semblance of normalcy. The isolation, the fear about whether you will get COVID -19, the questioning of how you will pay your bills, the tensions that are rising after being in your house 24/7 with two teenagers for several months.... the stress is real.
To add to the stress, there is so much uncertainty at this time. Uncertainty has one certainty - it increases people's anxiety and fear levels.
Fear and anxiety are natural emotions, but if not addressed appropriately they can have damaging impacts on our mental, physical, and spiritual health. These emotions cause our bodies to go into a ‘flight or fight’ mode. While in fight or flight, our body releases an abundance of adrenaline and cortisol into the body so that it can respond quickly to the situation. This is fine when you are about to be attacked by a mountain lion or hit by a bus, BUT when the stress and anxiety we encounter are not brief and these emotions stay around for days, weeks, months, and even years, it wreaks havoc on our system.
When in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’, our adrenal glands become fatigued and don’t function properly. This often results in general fatigue, depression, body aches, sleep disturbances, and hair loss. Additionally, the excess of cortisol in our bodies creates elevated blood sugar levels, weight gain, suppressed immune functioning, heart disease, and digestive problems. For this reason, many who were not struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders before COVID - 19, now find themselves struggling. For those who were in the battle before things turned upside down, it is very likely the battle has become harder.
If you are struggling, do not struggle alone.
Open up to someone and share your struggles. Whether it is a friend, a therapist, a pastor/clergy/rabbi/imam, or a support group, find someone to talk to. Organizations such as the American Psychological Association, NAMI, and SAMHSA have a wealth of resources on how to cope with mental health conditions, therapists, treatment centers, and support groups. Many towns have local social service departments that are also great resources.
Mental health, meet Nutrition. Nutrition, meet Mental Health...
In addition to the support that the above-mentioned resources can offer, take some time to consider the role of food on your mood. The impact food has on our mental health is significant and thankfully the mental health community is finally starting to understand. Nutritional psychiatry/psychology is an emerging field and has begun to produce studies that back up what many functional and naturopathic doctors have been talking about for years.
Is Your Food Making You Sad?
Did you know that certain foods can trigger depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions? Recent studies are finding links between poor eating habits and people struggling with mental health disorders. Research is showing that consuming fast food, sugar, and soft drinks is associated with a higher prevalence of diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression. For people struggling with PTSD, the role of eating a high fiber, nutrient-dense diet is showing promising results. Other studies are showing that diet has the potential to influence biological mechanisms, such as inflammation, oxidative stress, brain chemical irregularities, and gut microbiome dysbiosis, that underly many mental health disorders.
Brain Healthy Foods
Building evidence suggests that diets that follow the food guide laid out in my last health tip can have a positive influence on mental health. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, lethargy, or brain fog, consider looking at what you’re eating as part of the solution. In case you missed the last health tip, here are a few ‘essentials’ to consider when examining your diet.
Choose foods that are anti-inflammatory
Increase consumption of fermented foods
Increase fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds
Limit (ideally eliminate) intake of processed foods especially those that contain:
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Whites (flours, sugars, pasta)
Make a Change
In future posts, I’ll share more on the topic of foods and their impact on your mental health. In the meantime, consider eliminating processed foods, sodas, and fried foods for two weeks and see how you feel. I’d love to hear the impact it has on your overall wellbeing.
I know life has not been easy over the past few months, and for some, it’s even more challenging. Hopefully, though, you’re able to find some silver linings in all of this and these health tips have provided some encouragement. Please continue to share how these tips have impacted you...and feel free to pass them along!
In love and health...