Anxious and Depressed and Reaching For ALL the Snacks?

By Shereen Mohsen, Psy.D.

We’re all cooped up in our house these days, and some of you may be wondering how we’re going to stay sane during this weird time in our lives. I’m definitely wondering this for myself! Maybe you’ve caught up on all of your shows on Netflix and watched the latest on Disney+, maybe even read a book or two, listened to your favorite podcasts, played Animal Crossing for enough hours and recruited your friends… now what do you do?! Well, one way to manage our stress and anxiety while we’re having to stay indoors could actually take place in the kitchen. And I’m not talking about eating that pint of ice cream, or baking brownies and inhaling them all in under an hour (we’ve all done it!). I’m talking about using food to nourish our bodies in such a way where it can actually help with this dysregulated anxious state we’re all probably in in some form or another.

Can food really make a difference in how we’re feeling mentally and emotionally? Well, this has been a question on a lot of researchers’ minds, and it’s an emerging area in the field of mental health. It even has some fancy names, like Nutrition Psychiatry, or psychonutrition. Without getting too technical here, there is research that shows that vitamins help the function of certain enzymes that enable the synthesis of serotonin, and serotonin plays a vital role in our ability to feel happiness. There are so many microorganisms in our gut that communicate with the brain that could play a role in depression and anxiety, and the makeup of our gut is heavily influenced by what we put in it! So, when we eat certain types of foods, it can support the boost of serotonin levels, which helps with our mood!

So what kinds of foods can we eat right now that can help us manage our feelings of uneasiness and grief? My first tip – and you heard it first from your parents– fill up on plenty of fruits and veggies. Instead of eating red meat, get super important nutrients when it comes to our gut health like Omega-3s from fish like wild salmon. Eat up some delicious healthy fats, like avocado and oils (olive, avocado, coconut). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy sweets as much as the next person, but try to enjoy them in moderation! And maybe if you eat up a ton of veggies and fruits in season, you may not be reaching for that 2nd (or third) cookie after all!

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is just one way out of many that we can nourish our bodies and minds. Some other ways that are proven to be helpful? Get outside and go for a walk, do some light stretching or yoga through a video you can find online, and be sure you’re getting enough sleep! Talk therapy can also do wonders if you’re struggling to cope. You’re not alone, so why go through these tough times alone? You can contact us anytime at (408) 680-4114 for a quick chat to find out what it’s all about.

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