Is the Pandemic Also a Poundemic?

We Need More Nurturing, Not More Discipline

Credit: Courtesy

If you have been putting on some extra pounds during this past year, you are not alone. Just like the “Freshman 15” is synonymous with the first year of college, the “Quarantine 19” has become a real issue, which many of us can relate to.

We have been faced with unprecedented challenges. Lockdowns and COVID-19 safety precautions forced us to isolate more, sit more, and to play and move less. Having that extra glass of wine at night to take the edge off or eating extra carbs to calm the nerves is human and completely understandable. Eating comfort food represents a powerful ritual for self-soothing and down-regulating.

In addition, the kitchen is now awfully close to the workstation, and the omnipresent lounge wear (i.e. stretchy outfit for Zoom meetings) is oh so comfortable!

The accumulative psychological and physiological effects of pandemic life need to be acknowledged. Let’s take a look at some self-care strategies for coping and remaining resilient, and how not to use food as a mood regulator. It is my belief that we need more nurturing, not more discipline. 

It’s important to continuously look for new ways to stay balanced, grounded, resilient, and sometimes even joyful. The definition of resilience is: “The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.”

So, how does one remain flexible and “spring back into shape” when times are tough? What’s in your emotional self-care toolbox? What are your strategies for coping and adjusting?

Look for and appreciate small moments of happiness and joy. I highly recommend not watching the news at night or violent TV series. We take those images into our dream world. I believe that we need a sense of peace and safety especially before we go to sleep.

Here are some ideas for nighttime rituals:

  • Take a shower and wash off the day with your favorite shower gel while playing soothing music in the background.
  • Journal about moments or events you are grateful for.
  • Write down three things you are proud of.
  • Call or text a friend to wish them a peaceful night.

It is critical for our mental health that we don’t fight our current reality and “lean into it” as Buddhist philosophy suggests. Not always easy, is it? I know, however, relaxing into what is may give you more breathing room and provide a little comfort.

Feeling safe (physically and emotionally) is an important building block for our well-being. How can you make yourself feel safe and grounded every day? Have you tried mindfulness meditation or other calming rituals? Nature can help us heal. Make sure you get some fresh air every day.

You may be grieving the way “it was.” That’s understandable. Have compassion for yourself and honor your feelings. You may want to write about your thoughts and emotions in your journal.  Make sure you connect with friends and family regularly. Instead of eating your feelings, express yourself and name your emotions. Share what’s going on with you and tell someone how hard it can be at times. You are not alone. We are in this together!

Petra Beumer is a counselor with a master’s degree in psychology and the founder of the Mindful Eating Institute in Santa Barbara. She is a mindful eating and self-care expert with over two decades in counseling and health promotion experience. Her passion is to help her clients be at peace with food and their body, to practice good emotional self-care and not use food as a mood regulator.

To learn more about her work, check out her website.

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