This is a guest article written by Kelly Youren, a nutritionist at Alyve Wellness.
Cold weather, dark evenings, isolation, loss of income, home schooling, no clear indication as to when we will be able to socialise or resume life as we once knew it; as for a holiday abroad, don’t even go there.
Is it any wonder that reported cases of depression in Great Britain have more than doubled?
Of course, we want to do our bit to help in the fight against Covid-19 but what can we do to help ourselves fight off low mood, or even depression, whilst we remain locked down and separated from our friends and extended family?
When faced with challenging situations such as this, it’s important that we take part in activities which help us remain positive. Consuming food which has the ability to nourish our mind and body is of the upmost importance and can help to reduce anxiety and stress.
Here are 8 simple strategies to help support you through these coming months:
1. Eat a diet to support the balance of your blood glucose levels. Glucose is the body and brain’s primary source of fuel needed to produce energy. Imbalances in glucose levels, sometimes referred to as a blood sugar roller-coaster, can not only affect your energy levels but can also affect your ability to cope with stressful situations and may result in low mood and/or anxiety.
Avoid highly processed grains such as white bread and pasta and opt instead for moderate amounts of whole grains (complex carbohydrates) such as brown rice, quinoa and starchy vegetables. Including protein (lean meat, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs) in each meal helps to regulate blood glucose levels. Aim to eat small, regular meals 3-4 hours apart and for each meal to comprise approximately of ¼ lean protein, ¼ complex carbohydrate and ½ non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale and Bok choy.
2. Whole, unprocessed natural foods are sources of vital nutrients needed by your body and brain to support the production of hormones and neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) which help to regulate energy and mood. Of particular importance are:
- Essential Fatty Acids such as Omega 3 found in oily fish including salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and herring. If you are vegetarian, you can opt for crushed flaxseeds or flaxseed oil instead.
- Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ due to its ability to help regulate mood and alleviate anxiety. It’s found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
- B vitamins are needed to support the nervous system and along with vitamin C are required for energy production. Both B vitamins and vitamin C are used up quickly during times of stress which is why it’s important to consume them regularly in foods such as whole-grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Tryptophan is converted in the body to serotonin. A lack of serotonin is associated with sugar and carbohydrate cravings, depression and frequent headaches. You can find tryptophan in foods such as bananas, turkey, oats, tofu, eggs, spirulina and sesame seeds.
3. Try to avoid consuming too many stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol. Both have the ability to destabilise your blood glucose levels and can result in feelings of low mood and anxiety. Why not try chamomile tea which is naturally calming?
4. Did you know there is a two-way connection between the gut and brain? Research is continuing to identify ways our gut bacteria impact our brain function and the regulation of our mood.
Known as the second brain, the gut is where approximately 90% of our serotonin is made. This neurotransmitter is sometimes referred to as the ‘feel good’ hormone because of its influence on our mood. We can help to support the health of our gut and the friendly microbes that reside there by consuming a wide variety of fibre rich foods such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Fermented foods and drinks such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yoghurt, kefir and kombucha are also beneficial.
5. Dedicate some of your time to exercise. Whether it is a walk outside in green spaces, online workouts, yoga, weight training, jogging or cycling, exercise releases hormones which help to lift our mood and in cases of mild to moderate depression has been shown to be even more effective than anti-depressant medication.
6. If you haven’t done so already, why not try meditation? Research suggests that regular practice may help alleviate anxiety and depression. Don’t try to do too much straight away, instead begin with 5 minutes and work from there. If you need guidance perhaps you could check out some of the downloadable apps such as ‘Headspace’ or ‘Calm’.
7. Take time each day to do something just for you. This could be reading a book, having a long bath, taking a walk, baking a cake, decluttering your wardrobe or even learning a new skill. Keeping your mind occupied is extremely important and can help to divert your attention away from negative thinking and ruminating.
8. Try to limit your exposure to mainstream media which can invoke feelings of stress, fear, anxiety and depression. Instead, why not watch an enjoyable comedy film with your loved ones or play a game together?
Good luck on your mood-boosting journey! However, if you have tried everything and you still don’t feel any relief, we recommend that you speak to your GP who will be able to investigate further medical care on your behalf.
At Alyve Wellness we provide our customers with personalised nutrient formulas according to their unique requirements and health goals – please visit our website for more information here.