With the world opening back up after a year of masks and lock-downs, we would expect people to be getting back to feeling more like their old selves. But in my practice, I have seen way too many of my clients—especially moms—having a hard time pulling themselves out of the pandemic “funk.” The extra stress and anxiety that we felt during the height of the pandemic just won’t seem to go away, even as we regain some sense of normalcy.
As a registered dietitian, I have a deep understanding of how our mental health can be impacted by certain lifestyle choices. Fortunately, there are some effective tried and true tips that I share to help people feel a bit better during this unchartered stage.
If you are experiencing the post-pandemic “funk” too, here are three things to try that may naturally help boost your mood and help you feel like your best self. Of course, if you are experiencing extreme feelings of despair or anxiety, you should seek professional personalized help and guidance.
1. Focus on a Healthy Diet
The foods you eat can profoundly impact your mental health. Yes, it can be comforting to house a bag of salt and vinegar chips or a carton of ice cream, but in the long run, you won’t be doing your body or your mind any favors.
Eating to support mental health is about balance, but there are certain nutrients that play an especially important role. Specifically, eating seafood rich in Omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to some amazing outcomes, thanks to the healthy fats that they provide. In fact, people who regularly eat fatty fish are 20% less likely than their peers to have depression. And the American Psychiatric Association has gone as far as endorsing the fats in fish as an effective part of depression treatment.
Plus, taking in enough of these fatty acids found in fish may reduce symptoms of clinical anxiety. Yes, the simple act of enjoying a piece of broiled salmon could quite possibly help you keep your chill.
Some fish choices that are excellent sources of mood-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, and cod. Farmed salmon is particularly rich in Omega-3 fats. If you’re looking for a sustainable choice that is safe for the entire family, look for farmed salmon from Chile. Other sources of Omega-3 fats include chia and flaxseed, fortified eggs, and walnuts.
2. Socialize (within Your Comfort Zone)
If you are fully vaccinated and comfortable getting together with a friend—then do it! Friendships are important for mental health, especially after a prolonged period of isolation.
And since studies have shown that people with depressive symptoms are more likely to be isolated in their social networks, which can further increase their symptoms, taking steps to get connected (even virtually) can possibly help you get out of your funk.
Getting your body moving isn’t only good for your physical health, regular exercise can also be a great thing to do when supporting your mental health too.
Exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and a negative mood while helping improve self-esteem. Perhaps because exercise can increase your serotonin levels, or your “feel good” hormone, getting your blood flowing and your body moving can give your body the boost that it may need to start feeling a little bit like its old self.
If you are rolling your eyes at the thought of getting into a cute workout getup and hitting the gym, know that what is considered to be “exercise” doesn’t have to be anything fussy. A brisk 20-minute walk around the block or a dance party in your living room can be just what the doctor ordered.
Getting Back To Your “Old” Self
There is no rule book when it comes to how we should all act now that life is slowly getting back to normal. And if you are finding that you are still feeling a bit down or anxious, these three tips may help you get on the right track and feel a bit better.
And if you are simply not ready to enter the world again, there is no reason to rush yourself. Many of us have experienced loss and hardship over the past months and the feelings you are feeling are very real. And if you are feeling overly anxious or depressed, seeking professional help may be in the cards for you.
But if you are mentally “ready” but just can’t seem to get it together, taking a closer look at your diet, exercise habits, and socialization practices may be a wise first step.