Feel Good Fuel

Reduce Anxiety and Stress Naturally During Uncertain Times

By Sandra Bolan

In the past few weeks, we’ve gone from being more diligent about washing our hands, to scrubbing every surface we brush up against; from social distancing to self-isolation, and having the places where we regularly congregate – churches, gyms, restaurants, playgrounds and movie theaters – locking their doors until further notice. 

COVID-19 has brought out the best in people (helping neighbors, local businesses and the elderly in need) and the worst (hoarding toilet tissue, selling hand sanitizer and masks for 10 times the normal retail value and more).

Businesses, big and small, are closed, leaving many people to wonder how they are going to pay the rent and put food on the table as their services are no longer required. These people don’t even know if they will have a job when this crisis ends.

Perhaps the biggest unknown with COVID-19 is how long the pandemic will last and how many more drastic measures will be taken in order to flatten the curve.

All these unknowns, along with social distancing and self-isolating, are taking a toll on us mentally, physically and emotionally. 

The very things that calm us, such as surrounding ourselves with family and friends, are extremely limited, or no longer possible.

One thing you can do to help boost your mood and feel a bit more in control, is to increase your endorphins – the feel good or happy hormones. Endorphins are naturally occurring chemicals produced by the body that fight pain, enhance pleasure and relieve stress. 

Right about now, you’re likely knee-deep in stress eating. Nothing makes us feel better than a plate of French fries, that bag of chips, a bowl of mac and cheese or how about some cake or ice cream? 

Yes, they all boost our mood and make us feel great, for a short time. What inevitably happens is the energy crash, which is followed by another round of feel-good food, then, another crash.

To help keep yourself mentally and physically healthy, try swapping out the comfort foods with these healthy endorphin-boosting eats.

Feel Good Foods

Dark chocolate. Perhaps the most popular mood booster is chocolate. But to get those endorphins rushing through you, it must be dark chocolate, with 70 percent or more cocoa. A little goes a long way, so don’t eat that king-sized bar all in one sitting. One small square two or three times a week is enough.

Red wine. This pairs wonderfully with chocolate. The American Heart Association recommends less than or equal to one four-ounce drink per day for women. 

Spicy foods. If you like your food with a little heat, then you’re in luck. The fieriness of spicy foods, such as chilies, release endorphins to act as natural painkillers.

Oranges. Oranges are packed with vitamin C, which can help boost the release of endorphins. Other citrus and brightly colored fruits, along with dark, leafy green vegetables will also help improve your mood.

Bananas and brown rice. Let’s hear it for the Bs! Bananas contain vitamin C as well as B vitamins, in particular B6. Vitamin B6 helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which in turn, regulates your mood. Brown rice contains vitamins B6, B1 and B3, all of which help keep our nervous system from going into overdrive.

Healthy fats. Yes, some fat is good for you. Eicosanoids, which are similar to hormones, can be found in nuts, hummus, seeds, avocados and oily fish. These help with the production of dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. People who have a high intake of healthy fats may experience less anxiety, depression and stress. 

Ginseng. A spot of tea in the afternoon, while sitting on your back porch and soaking up some natural vitamin D, is another great mood booster. Ginseng also helps improve mental performance.

Bottom line, we have no control over life’s external circumstances. But we do have control over how we respond to difficult and frightening situations. Besides taking care of yourself, share some kindness with others as well. 

COVID-19 has brought out the best in people (helping neighbors, local businesses and the elderly in need) and the worst (hoarding toilet tissue, selling hand sanitizer and masks for 10 times the normal retail value and more).

You can help other people by respecting those who have different ways of coping with their fears, attempting to understand others and their unique circumstances, and by not imposing a strict model of behavior based on how you believe someone should react to stressful situations. Showing kindness, compassion and helping others are all great ways to boost your mood and may help take your mind off your own fears and concerns. WGW

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