How to look after your mental health during a pandemic?

The Covid-19 pandemic may feel like we are in stuck in a nightmare of a never ending crisis. No matter how positive and upbeat you are, the pain and loss we feel for friends, loved ones and for strangers at all corners of the world is inevitable. Pandemic fatigue is real! Although things may feel hard to get through, this is a reminder that this crisis is impermanent, and with the launching of various vaccines all over the world, it most certainly won’t last forever. In the mean time, hang on tight, here are some ways to help yourself cope.

man sitting while holding red smoke signal

1. Keep in touch with loved ones digitally

macbook pro displaying group of people

Nothing can replace meeting people face to face, however, calling, texting, sending emails, and video calling are a close second. The beauty of technology is that it eradicates the problem of distance, and you are able to check up and reach out to loved on all across the globe. With a touch of creativity, possibilities are endless. Organize activities such as Netflix parties, zoom games such as family quizzes, charades or attend a live music / theatre show online! If you prefer not to use a phone or computer, go retro with letter writing and sending postcards!

2. Keep active

group of women doing yoga

Try to incorporate physical activity into your life as it can provide you with a routine and give you something to look forward to each day. Furthermore, the cocktail of “feel good” chemicals can help reduce stress and anxiety, thus keeping a positive mindset. Be creative with your choice of physical activity, a tip from us? Find joy in the simplest chores:

  • Dancing to music : Turn the music up and bust some moves!
  • Cleaning your home : Having a neat space can make you feel more motivated to complete more tasks.
  • Walking up and down stairs: Free, effective workout! Able to work around your schedule so, no excuses!
  • Follow online exercise classes: Get a workout in, support the fitness industry and be a part in a community!

3. Eat regularly and stay hydrated

person holding burger bun with vegetables and meat

Drowned with work and our thoughts, our meal times may be turned upside down. However, it is important to establish a routine in our daily lives. Structure is important for us as it can motivate us to be more productive in order to stick to a schedule. Furthermore, food is an important factor that affects our mood. It is important to eat a balanced diet, but remember to treat yourself once in a while! If you have a difficult relationship with food and eating, Mind Organization has information and tips that may be able to help you out.

Drinking water is one of the most underrated things in life. Feeling groggy? Skip the cup of coffee for a cup of water. Slight dehydration can significantly drain energy levels, causing you to feel lethargic and demotivated. According to Eat This magazine, the brain is made of 80% water, hence slight dehydration impairs brain’s abilities and functions. The article also cited a study done in the journal Nutrients, which reported that water can prevent memory and attention decline.

4. Experience personal growth

white printer paper beside black and white click pen

No, you don’t have to bake something new every day or learn a new language. Instead of seeing this as a lockdown, view it as a breather for you to reevaluate the trajectory of your life. Reevaluate your goals, your personal relationships, and make a list of your priorities. Take a step to deeply reflect how you have changed as a person and make a list of aspects of yourself you want to improve. Take this time to reconnect with yourself without the pressure and influence of peers, and create new goals from there.

5. Retain your autonomy

This is the sign you've been looking for neon signage

The lack of control we feel during the pandemic may make us more susceptible to anxiety and negative thoughts. To cope with this point, find ways to take charge over your life. Creating a routine can be necessary to increase productivity, but it is also necessary for us to feel in control of our lives. Work out what time you choose to wake up, eat your meals, when to stop work, when to sleep. Take time out of your mornings to write our daily schedules and weekly plans. Baby steps, creating a new schedule is wholly up to you!


References:

 “What is an eating problem? | Mind, the mental health charity ….” https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/eating-problems/about-eating-problems/. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

 “What Happens When You Don’t Drink Enough Water | Eat This ….” https://www.eatthis.com/drink-water/. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

 “Dehydration Influences Mood and Cognition: A Plausible ….” 10 May. 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257694/. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

Why It’s So Important to Eat Healthy

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is more important than ever. The great news is that it isn’t impossible and has grown easier in recent years. In today’s blog, we’ll explore the foundational reasons for great eating strategies and what you can do to ensure your good health is supported by what you consume.

fruit lot on ceramic plate

The Foundations of Why

flat lay photography of variety of fruits

International organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) encourage individuals to shape their diets with plenty of fruits and vegetables, legumes, grains, and, when applicable, a moderate amount of animal products like fish, meat, eggs, and cheese. They also encourage vigilance when it comes to salt and sugar intake. While there has been plenty of coverage about how diets high in fat, sugar, salt, and additives that are typically associated with industrialized food culture, the underpinnings extend far into our collective past.

The modern food landscape in most western countries is littered with processed foods. These have three ingredients in common—fat, sugar, and salt. Given that even agriculture is a recent development in terms of human evolutionary history, the sheer weight of these three would be enough to cause a complete metabolic breakdown. Quite frequently, they do. Diseases such as type two diabetes, cardiac conditions, and instability of kidney and liver function are far more common in modern, western societies than in less industrialized contexts precisely because of our food culture.

fruit salad on gray bowls

In our formative environment, the three aforementioned substances were rare and yet vital for energy production and survival. Our brains relied on the dopamine reward system to ensure that when we found them in the landscape, we consumed as much as we possibly could. That reward system is still in place, but the artificial superabundance of these naturally scarce commodities overloads our biological systems and leads to disease, obesity, and a much lower quality of life.

A Balanced Approach to Food Is Essential

woman wearing white and black Nike sports bra

It’s important to remain vigilant about fillers, sweeteners, and preservatives. We live in industrialized food culture, in which the more available, less expensive food is often far more processed than what is offered to affluent consumers. But why does every human need to craft a balanced approach to the foods they consume? More importantly, beyond the resultant breakdowns of metabolic processes and vital functions, why is it important to do more than sustain out body?

Food can have a powerful impact on psychological, as well as physical, health. That’s not just due to the fact that it stimulates our dopamine reward system. Fillers like soy, cellulose, and other cheap, low-grade substances that simulate fullness or provide an extension for a product’s shelf life, often yield a general feeling of unwellness. Why is this? The answer is in your gut.

woman standing on footbridge

Serotonin, among other important neurotransmitters, is responsible for what we associate with a positive mood. Half is produced by the brain itself. However, the other half is produced in your gut by microorganisms that belong to a highly varied community. When we do not eat properly, it disrupts this microbiome, fostering the proliferation of negative species of bacteria and suppressing the production of serotonin. Highly processed foods have been linked to diseases and a decline of neurological health via the gut-brain axis—a conduit that permits bacteria and neurotransmitters produced in the gut to transit the blood-brain barrier.

What You Can Do

avocado, tomatoes, eggs, mushrooms, spring onions, and leaves

This relatively new understanding about the interconnected nature of our bodily systems casts our dietary choices in a new light. Feed your body, yes. But also, feed your gut if you seek to maintain good health. This extends beyond the main meals you eat to satiate hunger and should embrace the lighter or less bulky snack foods you enjoy. Let’s be honest, the primary reason many people fail at altering their diets is a punitive and rather minimalist approach to new ways of consuming foods.

Eating for pleasure is, it seems, a constant in most complex cultures. Given that, a sudden cessation of the habit won’t meet with success. In addition to crafting a diet that includes WHO’s recommendations and those made by qualified nutritionists, seek out foods that feed and support your intestinal health. Garlic and ginger are fantastic for their ability to suppress negative bacterial proliferation. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, tart yogurt, and related products that haven’t been overly sweetened to make them appealing, kimchi, and true sourdough bread combine to boost your gut’s good bacteria.

strawberry ice cream in clear glass jars

Snack foods such as stone-ground corn—or alternative, less adulterated grain—chips; raw vegetables and fruits cut to facilitate consumption; dips like guacamole produced without fillers, unsweetened peanut and nut butter that have an ingredient list two items long; dried, unsweetened fruits; and 100% grass fed beef jerky or dried meat products from other sources that emphasize a quality diet and less industrialized lifestyle of food animals are all great options. These will curb hunger, provide a pleasurable flavor, and gustatory experience. They’ll also help you train your brain to look for foods that are good for all of you, not just your palate.

three bowls of salad dish with lemon on table

Eating well is more than simply a fad. It’s essential to our survival. Given what we see with the proliferation of allergies, obesity, disease, and general malaise, it’s also our best choice. Luckily, many small businesses and farmers are supporting this new direction. Shopping for good, balanced foods is becoming increasingly accessible to a larger number of people, which helps us to support better eating habits without hardship.

Doing This 5 Things Every Morning Can Change Your Life

The raging pandemic has caused us to trade travel and dinner parties for more time in the comfort of our own homes throughout the latter of 2020. But as the days blur into weeks, and weeks blur into months, it is tough to find motivation and joy to show up and get things done. Below, we’ve compiled a short checklist to work on yourself as well as spur you to tackle bigger things.

brown and white concrete building

Make your bed

white and gray bed mattress

Many of us believe that our time should be better spent over turning our closet looking for a particular item of clothing or dusting the living room, however former Navy SEAL and author McCraven has a different opinion. In a commencement speech, he told students of the University of Texas that making your bed every day was one of the most powerful lessons he learned.

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,″ he said. “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

A study conducted by Best Mattress Brand supports McCraven’s hypothesis and showed that up to 80% of bed makers follow routines and schedules. Besides giving you the drive and challenge to get more and more tasks done, McCraven emphasizes on the importance of the finer details in life. If by chance you have an utterly miserable day, you will come home to one achievement of the day – the comfort of a bed YOU made.

Start the day with two glasses of water

person holding clear glass cup with half-filled water

After fasting the whole night, starting the day with two glasses of water can hydrate the body as well as aid digestion and metabolism, according to an article published by USA Today.

We wake up dehydrated from the previous night, and drinking water can help rehydrate the body and move the lower bowels in the morning according to Angela Lemond, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Furthermore, a comment from registered dietician Alissa Rumsey in the article stated that drinking sufficient water ensure that the metabolism is “functioning optimally”.

Meditate

woman taking selfie

There is no way of sugar coating it: our mind is a mess. The good new is, you don’t have to be a yogi or deeply spiritual to reap the rewards of this magical pill. Meditation can help rewire the brain by causing the pituitary gland in your brain to secrete a cocktail of feel good chemicals, setting the tone of the day to be focused, content and optimistic while warding of any stress and anxiety from the previous day.

Starting meditation is daunting. However, with the wealth of information at our fingertips, learning this new skill is a lot more attainable than you think! There are plenty of ways to inject meditation into your daily lives. Fitness lovers can opt to try out meditation / breath work incorporated yoga. For those who want to try out meditation from the comfort of their homes, there are several apps available for download that walk us through the whole process. Guided meditation is available on apps such as Headspace, Insight Timer, Stop Breathe Think, and allows you the freedom to choose the length of meditation, and schedule reminders for you to turn meditation into a habit.

Write down you to-do list

person holding ballpoint pen writing on notebook

So much to do, so little time! In order to plan for the day, write down all the tasks and reassign them according to the level of difficulty and priority. Working out a schedule for the day can help can help you visualize what your day looks like as well as complete as many tasks as possible. Instead of stretching yourself thin, focus on sticking to your schedule and slaying one dragon at a time!

Check in with a loved one

man and woman siting on sofa chair inside room

We are social creatures. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused us to minimize dining out, attend social gatherings, and canceled travel plans, causing us to feel isolated and alone at times. Thankfully, checking in with friends and loved ones in only one call away. To spice things up, schedule wine o’ clock with your girlfriends, play some virtual games with your loved ones, or host a virtual cooking competition!

Reaching out to others is particularly important in these trying times as we may spiral into a depression without emotional support. Hearing the voice of friends and family can help lower anxiety and stress as well as provide another angle to your problems. A video call may never replaced the exact feeling of human interaction in real life, but it is the closest thing to it!


References:

 “Here’s what making your bed (or not) reveals … – CNBC.com.” 13 Sep. 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/09/12/heres-what-making-your-bed-or-not-reveals-about-your-personality.html. Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

 “Can Making the Bed in the Morning Make You Happier? – Best ….” 17 Apr. 2020, https://bestmattress-brand.org/making-the-bed/. Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

4 Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Food is medicine, and the consumption of the right foods can lead us to boost our immune system and protect us against unwanted diseases and colds. Having a good immune system is essential these days as more virulent strains of Covid-19 are appearing all across the globe. As well as taking preventative measures and precautions, take care to add the following foods to your cart during your next trip to the supermarket.

aerial view of people walking on raod

Ginger

white and brown dog paw on red textile

This spicy, yellow, stem is a popular medicinal plant in various cultures and is traditionally used to treat a myriad of conditions such as colds, digestive maladies, fevers, and nausea. Adding slices of fresh or dried ginger in your food to give dishes a lovely aroma. You can also obtain ginger powder and add hot water/ tea to turn it into a comforting drink.

Easing a cold or flu: A study done in 2013 shows fresh ginger is effective against a respiratory virus in human cells. In a separate study, researchers aimed to investigate the popularity of herbal medicine as a treatment for cold or a flu. 69% of the public used herbal medicine out of a total of 300 pharmacies and most found it as effective.

Reducing inflammation: A 2017 review of 16 clinical trials determined that phytochemical properties in ginger leads it to have anti inflammatory properties.

Lowering cancer risk: Ginger is packed with antioxidants and multiple studies have shown that ginger can reduce oxidative stress which occurs when too many free radicals build up in the body. Free radicals are toxic substances produced by metabolism and other factors, according to Medical News Today, and antioxidants are needed to eliminate free radicals to prevent them from causing cellular damage as it can lead to a range of diseases such as cancer.

Relieving nausea: Research shows ginger is able to alleviate morning sickness and relieve nausea from cancer treatments. A study in 2010 observed that ginger was able to reduce nausea in most of 60 children and young adults who underwent chemotherapy. Furthermore, a 2011 review of studies reported that a daily dosage of 1,500mg of ginger extract was able to alleviate symptoms of nausea.

Raspberries

black berry fruit

One cup of these ruby jewels contain over 50% of the minimum daily target for vitamin C which supports immunity, according to Health Magazine. Furthermore, raspberries are packed with other minerals and vitamins such as manganese, vitamin K, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, iron, and potassium. Besides that, they are associated with cancer protection as research shows that phytonutrients in raspberries may signal apoptosis, programming cell death in cancer cells. Another major attraction to raspberries is that they are easy to add to our diet as it can be served as sweet desserts or incorporated into savory dishes.

Cocoa

open cacao fruit lot

Nope, this is not a justification for you to stock up on chocolate bars! Rich in polyphenols, cocoa is a potent antioxidant and is reported to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, brain functions and cancer prevention. More importantly, cocoa influences the immune system, in particularly the inflammatory innate response and the systemic and intestinal adaptive immune response. Look out for cocoa powder (without added sugar) and go wild on different desserts!

Poultry

roasted chicken

When we’re sick, getting a bowl of chicken soup is almost a reflex action. However, there is more to this scenario then we let on. Properties of chicken in the soup may help lower inflammation, thus improve symptoms of a cold. Furthermore, poultry are high in vitamin B-6, which is crucial to the formation of red blood cells. The stock made by boiling chicken bones contains gelatin and other nutrients that are beneficial to improving immunity.


References:

 “Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review of ….” 5 Nov. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6341159/. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

“Anti-emetic effect of ginger powder versus placebo as an add ….” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20842754/. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “Ginger: Health benefits and dietary tips – Medical News Today.” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265990. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

“Getting to the Root of Chronic Inflammation: Ginger’s ….” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128051863000059. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “7 Health Benefits of Raspberries | Health.com – Health Magazine.” 20 Mar. 2019, https://www.health.com/food/raspberries-nutrition. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “The effects of cocoa on the immune system – NCBI – NIH.” 4 Jun. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671179/. Accessed 7 Jan. 2021.

 “15 Foods That Boost the Immune System: Citrus, Bell Peppers ….” https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system. Accessed 9 Jan. 2021.

Are Red Meats Killing You?

A short walk down the meat aisle show shelves full of packaged slabs of meat, minced meat, and processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs, and sausages and Italian cuts. One thing in common is that all these meats are derived from red meats, notorious for increasing the risk of major chronic diseases. Here, we have compiled a list on why we should try to lower our red meat intake.

sliced vegetable on black textile

Why You Should Lower Your Red Meat Intake

Reduce the risk of developing coronary heart diseases

Over the years, there have been plenty of studies done by researchers warning us against the dangers of red meat. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal went one step further and showed that replacing red meat with plant- based diet can help keep the heart healthy, and even reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

The study aimed to find out the relationship of red meat and the risk of men developing coronary heart disease in the United States, and to find out if a plant based diet could positively affect the risk of CHD in men. The findings echoed other studies, where processed, unprocessed and total red meat were associated with a modestly higher risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD).

The study offered an alternative diet solution, and went one step further to report that an intake of one serving per day of combined plant proteins including nuts, legumes, and soy could lower the risk of CHD. Furthermore, the study also found that consuming whole grains and dairy products was associated with a lower risk of CHD.

variety of assorted-color beans

Processed meat contain carcinogens

According to reports by independent academic research organization, Global Burden of Disease Project, about 34,000 cancer deaths per year was linked to diets high in processed meat. The World Health Organization has classified processed meat as increasing the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer based on epidemiological studies conducted by researchers. Some studies have included links of consuming meat with pancreatic and prostate cancer, and stomach cancer.

person slicing meat

Reducing the consumption of red meat and processed meat as recommended by the WHO can help reduce risk of colorectal cancers. Furthermore, reducing our consumption of meat also reduces our intake of fat and sodium, which are risk factors for other cardiovascular diseases and obesity.

Increases risk of type 2 diabetes by 12%

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consumption of processed and unprocessed red meat in adults increased the risk of them developing type 2 diabetes by 12%. Besides that, the study found that substituting a serving of nuts, low- fat diary and whole grains for one serving of red meat was associated with 16-35% lower risk of type 2 diabetes among adults.

flat lay photography of sliced apples, sausages, chips and brown sauce

So how much protein should we eat?

  • The World Cancer Research Fund recommended a maximum of three servings a week in their 2018 report.
  • The National Academy of Medicine recommends “eating a little over 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight”.
round white ceramic plate with lime on top

Can you get enough protein without eating meat?

top view salad with guacamole

Yes, we can. Evidence points that we should cut down the amount of red meat we consume. In an interview with CNN Health, director of health promotion and communication at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s department of nutrition, Lillian Cheung recommends swapping meats for fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, and poultry. However, Cheung notes that it is important to ensure that we still get enough proteins and minerals. Cheung highlighted the importance of taking multivitamins containing iron or B12 vitamins or iron rich foods such as leafy greens, lentils and soybeans to ensure we’re getting sufficient iron while cutting back on red meat.

References:

“Red meat intake and risk of coronary heart disease … – The BMJ.” 2 Dec. 2020, https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4141. Accessed 30 Dec. 2020.

 “Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and ….” 26 Oct. 2015, https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/cancer-carcinogenicity-of-the-consumption-of-red-meat-and-processed-meat. Accessed 31 Dec. 2020.

 “Healthy swaps key to reducing red meat intake during the ….” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/reducing-red-meat-covid/. Accessed 31 Dec. 2020.

“Worried about beef shortages and price spikes? Here’s how to ….” https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/18/health/eat-less-meat-shortage-wellness/index.html. Accessed 31 Dec. 2020.

 “Red meat consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: 3 cohorts ….” https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/94/4/1088/4598110. Accessed 31 Dec. 2020.