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Nutrition and Mental Health Tips

We are all living with a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Will kids return to school in September? When and how will we re-open? How do we protect our loved ones and ourselves? How will our jobs change? Opinions flourish, ranging from ‘open everything up now’, to ‘keep everything closed for an indeterminate amount of time’. We don’t have clear-cut answers and that can be very uncomfortable. We are social humans and need to feel safe. Unpredictability does not help us to feel safe and increases our restlessness. We want answers so we can plan for the future, but the answers don’t exist yet. These feelings can be overwhelming. Remember that you are not alone. We are all facing a tremendous amount of uncertainty and insecurity.

There are things that you can do to get through these uncertain times. Experts from Eastern Connecticut Health Network, Katie Gustavesen, a Registered Dietitian from ECHN’s Diabetes Wellness Center and Ann Turkington, Director of ECHN’s Outpatient Behavioral Health, have provided us with helpful tips below.

Healthy Eating Tips

Katie Gustavesen provided us with ways to manage healthy eating during COVID-19. In these trying times, it is still important to focus on getting the correct amount of nutrients from food, for your body. Use Katie’s tips below to make sure that happens!

Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables!
There are so many benefits to eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Though, quarantine has made it difficult to acquire these regularly and often. When possible to get fresh produce, do so. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are also good options.

Plan and Prep Meals for the Week
Make a weekly meal schedule or a daily meal schedule. When you have a plan, you and your family are more likely to follow it. Write down a quick list of meals that you aim to make during the week. It doesn’t have to be perfect- an outline will do. For example:
Monday: Breakfast for dinner
Tuesday: Tacos and veggies
Wednesday: Marinated chicken and frozen veggies

Food planning gives you a general idea of what you should prepare that day. Look in your freezer, fridge or pantry to make your meal. Taco Tuesday may consist of turkey, beef, beans or shrimp tacos. No taco shells or wraps? Oh well! What vegetables should go with your tacos? Check out the fresh stuff first, then move on to the frozen or canned items.

Family Meals
Make things less monotonous. Light fancy candles, get dressed up, play music, have a party because it’s Monday. Who cares! Make the week a little bit more fun with a charcuterie plate (which means in my eyes; throw anything you have on a large platter and call it dinner). Backwards dinner where you have dessert first and then your main course, or a dinner and movie. You need something to look forward to, so have fun!

Mental Health Tips

Ann Turkington wants us to focus on our mental health. A tried and true strategy to help you get through this isolation is to break it down. Think self-help; “Just for today” and “One day at a time”. What can you do today to improve your outlook on life? Here are some tips:

Develop a Gratitude List
It is impossible to stay in a negative frame of mind when you are connected to the things in your life that you are grateful for including: family, work, spiritual beliefs, pets, that pivotal moment that changed your life, a special relationship, a place, etc. Your list should be based on you and your experience. Review your list when you feel anxious, overwhelmed, or just plain negative.

Perform an Act of Kindness
Feeling uncertain and overwhelmed causes us to “go inward”. We focus on what is wrong, not what is right or good. There are opportunities to help others exist in all aspects of our lives. Check on a neighbor, give money or a gift card(s) to someone in need, call a relative, video chat with friends or family, write a note to someone to let them know how important they are to you and send via snail mail (this provides relief from virtual and electronic communicating), do a porch or deck visit with a loved one, while maintaining social distance, or volunteer to help.
For the full benefit of performing an act of kindness, don’t tell anyone what you’ve done. This removes any inflated ego-boosting benefit and promotes an improved sense of self. You’ve done good!

Nurture your Primary Relationships
Healthy relationships can become strained with over-exposure in the home. We can get tired of each other. What worked before might not work now. Find ways to separate in the home for needed time alone. When you are at the end of your rope with loved ones, read your gratitude list, perform an act of kindness, and if that doesn’t work, take some time alone. Practice slow and deep breathing to calm yourself. Remember, you are not alone. This is a shared experience and we are all finding our way through this time.

Ask for Help
The ability to ask for help is fraught with ideas that we are weak or lack resiliency. This is so ingrained in us that we can actually feel ashamed to reach out and seek help. Remember, successful leaders are not successful unless they develop the ability to ask their teams for help (otherwise known as problem solving and delegating). Leaders must trust others and ask for their help routinely or they run the risk of failure. Think about the fact that it is okay to ask for help in a designated role, yet it is far more difficult to ask for help for yourself. Avoid “shoulds” such as “I should be able to handle this” or “I have everything I need, I should be happy”. The act of asking for help is humbling and very freeing. Know that we are all finding our way through this uncertain time with a muddled blueprint. Know that you have a multitude of options for yourself and your family. Support groups, confidential and private behavioral health services, friends, family, religious connections, mentors, etc. Get out of your own way and don’t try to go it alone if you need help. The ability to ask for help is a strength, not a weakness. From Franklin D. Roosevelt: “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on”. Everything always works out. Think about that. It might not be exactly what we want or hope for, but everything does actually and really, eventually work out. We will get through this together.