Eating and Exercise: Finding Balance During A Pandemic
In times of stress, many people turn to food as a source of comfort. This is a completely normal response and can be a helpful and healthy coping mechanism if done correctly in addition to other coping strategies. Reasons people turn to food or snacking more often include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Changes in routine
- Easier access to the kitchen
- Lack of sleep
A lack of sleep often has a direct impact on our hunger levels and our cravings. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) identifies two factors that can potentially lead to overeating: Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite and its levels increase with less sleep. Less sleep also increases blood levels of endocannabinoid, a lipid that not only makes the act of eating more enjoyable, but increases cravings for fatty, sugary foods like cookies and candies. The recommended amount of sleep for the average adult is 6-9 hours. If you find yourself snacking more often or craving the candy you have in your cabinets, evaluate your sleep schedule and consider getting more, high-quality sleep to help fight those cravings.
For more information on the importance of sleep during COVID-19, see this NSF page.
Mindful Snacking Tips
In addition to getting a good amount of sleep each night, there are other things we can do to be more mindful of what and when we are eating. Here are some tips to ensure eating during the pandemic is a constructive and nourishing coping mechanism.
- Create a Schedule – Factor in time for meals and snacks between your other tasks, or center your schedule around them.
- Don’t Restrict – Focus on getting a good combination of all macro- and micronutrient food groups (protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals).
- Stay ‘Drated! – Keeping our bodies hydrated has a variety of benefits (immune and digestive included). Sometimes if we are thirsty, our bodies can confuse it with hunger.
- Resist the Urge to Compensate – Though exercise and daily physical activity are important, you don’t need to exercise to make up for eating more or being more sedentary now.
- S.N.A.C.K. Mindfully – Slow down, Notice your hunger level, Ask yourself, Choose thoughtfully, Kindness.
Physical Activity and Exercise
Daily physical activity is a great way to keep our bodies strong, our stress low and our immune system active. For some people, working from home and less opportunity to go out and do other things gives them more time to fit exercise into their schedule. Others may feel that they need to exercise to compensate for eating more or being more sedentary during the pandemic. This is a natural reaction, but it is one that can lead to increased stress and other negative emotions and potentially even overtraining or injury. Here are some suggestions to avoid overtraining and turn exercise into a constructive coping strategy:
- Make a Routine – set aside time each day for physical activity (walking, cleaning, exercise, yoga) for 30-60 minutes
- Mix it Up – try new workouts and incorporate both low-intensity and high-intensity exercises into your routine
- Check In – How do I feel today? Does my body need a break or am I rested and ready?
- Sleep – give your body and your muscles enough time each night to repair and recover
- Drink Enough Water
- Eat Enough Food – this will differ from person to person depending on factors such as activity level. Meals should include protein, complex carbs, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats
- Sign up for #FitHats! – An individual Summer fitness competition hosted by Wellness and Recreation. The first session will start June 8!
What to do if you or someone else is sick or fears exposure:
Any member of the Stetson community who has been to campus in the last 14 days and feels they may have come into direct contact with the virus causing COVID-19 or is experiencing flu-like symptoms (fever over 100.3, cough, shortness of breath, possible nausea/diarrhea, possible loss of taste/smell) should alert Stetson immediately. Fill out this online form: Stetson University: COVID-19 Report a Concern Form. During business hours, call Health Service (386-822-8150). After business hours, call Public Safety (386-822-7300). If you are concerned about someone else’s exposure, also let us know — don’t just tell them to do so. This applies to our College of Law students, faculty and staff.