Humans are wired for social connection. Spending weeks on end isolated in our home is causing depression and anxiety to skyrocket right at the time many of us can no longer even afford a psychologist.
Thankfully, there are some lifestyle solutions that don’t cost a fortune, and can be done from home that can help anyone struggling with depression and anxiety.
For years wellness gurus have talked about meditation as if it is the holy grail for mental health. Meditation has many health benefits, but its ability to lower stress and ease anxiety is why it needs to be in your COVID-19 mental toolbox.
Through intense focus meditation helps train the mind so you can gain control of your “monkey brain” that has you thinking a thousand thoughts a minute, ruminating over certain thoughts and playing out worst case scenarios during this crisis.
One of the most popular and easiest styles of mediation is mindfulness meditation. The idea is to get still and quiet while keeping the mind on the present moment. Using a mantra or focusing on your breath gives your mind something to fixate on rather than thoughts of the past or the future. Mindfulness meditation can be done anywhere quiet. You can do it sitting, lying down or even while taking a walk around the neighborhood.
For beginners it can be helpful to listen to a guided meditation, which can help keep your mind from getting swept away from the endless thoughts in your head.
Exercise releases endorphins, one of the happy hormones, and during this time we all need more happy! Exercise is the perfect antidote to being cooped up at home. If you’ve got a body and some space you’ve got what you need to do a wide variety of routines to tone your whole body at home. In addition to body specific workouts, you can easily do Yoga, Pilates and even HIIT programs at home.
If you’re new to working out, there are tons of videos on YouTube and apps like 8fit that bring the personal trainer into your living room.
Science has established a link between food and mood. Research shows that the right foods can help fight depression and anxiety. With so many of us now cooking at home, it makes sense to stock your next Instacart grocery order with ingredients that can bolster mental health.
While you might think vegging out on the coach with a bag of Cheetos while binging Tiger King helps your mental health, you’d be better served julienning some vegetables and making some Tiger shrimp to boost your mood.
A 2014 study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity that used data from the Nurses’ Health study found an association between depression and a diet rich in sugar-sweetened soft drinks, refined grains, and red meat. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate more vitamin D–rich foods had a lower risk of depression than women who got less vitamin D in their diets.
With grocery delivery and pick-up slots as hard to get these days as Superbowl seats, using an app that helps you plan meals for several weeks in advance and create shopping lists is invaluable. Besides simply eating real, whole foods instead of junk food, there are some specific foods that have been shown to help improve mood. Incorporate the following into your weekly meal plans to help ward off depression and anxiety during this difficult period.
- Fatty Fish-The high levels of Omega 3 in fatty fish are believed to help lower depression.
- Fermented foods- Choose foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir because 90 percent of the feel good hormone serotonin is created in the gut.
- Berries-Berries are full of antioxidants, which help regulate inflammation common in people who suffer from depression. Some berries contain anthocyanin’s, a substance that gives the berry its blue or purple color and can reduce depression 39 percent according to one study.
- Oats-Oats help stabilize blood sugar, which in turn stabilizes mood. The last thing you need in quarantine is a bout of hanger!
These times are unprecedented. Besides fear of getting sick, we’re dealing with anxiety about our jobs, the loss of physical human connection, cabin fever and complete uncertainty about the future. While feeling anxious and sad is normal, they don’t feel good. Use these simple solutions to raise your mood today.