The Pandemic and Eating Disorders

The current situation around the world has caused an increase in anxiety among public because of the fear of food shortages and not being able to carry out with normal daily activities. People with eating disorders are more at risk because of this. Anxiety could trigger a return in negative behaviours that causes people to stockpile food and binge (McMenemy, 2020). Among all mental illnesses, eating disorders tend to have the highest mortality rate because it is difficult to identify and treat (Specter, 2020).
 
People diagnosed with eating disorders have followed strict daily routines, so they can recover. These routines include taking a walk, going to the gym and picking up lunch at a particular time so it prevents them from overeating the rest of the day (Baird, 2020). Not being able to step out of houses to follow their routine due to the minimization of social contact could lead to an increase in guilt because (Landsverk, 2020) it increases the chance of them indulging in behaviours that they have been successfully avoiding so far (Specter, 2020). People who tend to binge avoid keeping a lot of food in their houses (Baird, 2020). But, with the increase in anxiety and being surrounded with messages on social media about people panic buying food and coming across memes about staying at home and putting on more weight (Hensley, 2020) causes people to stockpile on food (Baird, 2020).
 
Increase in anxiety leads to feelings of lack of control (Hensley, 2020) that may result in people buying more food than what is needed (Landsverk, 2020). This perceived lack of control causes people to turn to food because from their perception, they are choosing what to eat, thus, they are in control (Hensley, 2020). There are ways for us to be in control. One of the ways is to practice mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness causes an individual to be more aware of their actions and to not view themselves in a judgmental manner. Being aware and not viewing themselves in a negative light result in acceptance of thoughts and emotions about themselves and the situation. This gives them control over their emotions, they are able to cope through adversity and avoid unnecessary eating (Tumolo). Other ways include homecooked meals where people are in control of what they eat. Homecooked meals are associated with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Thus, making the meal healthier. Drinking enough fluids through the day also prevents overeating and has other benefits such as increasing mood and attention. Hence, being more aware of your actions. Even though you may no longer prefer to visit the gym given the current pandemic, you could develop a new workout routine at home with the help of YouTube videos (Kubala, 2020).
 
While working from home does increase the chance of developing negative eating habits, practicing mindfulness creates more awareness of your actions and you are able to prevent yourself from adopting negative habits. This is a challenging period and although social media is a way for us to connect with the world, if it is increasing your anxiety, try to limit your social media usage. Netflix instead! Watch funny movies or read a book and take this period to develop new and healthy routines. Contact friends who are also staying at home and form a network of supportive people to help you get through this period!
 
  
  
References
Hensley, L. (2020). Why the coronavirus pandemic is triggering those with eating disorders. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/6735525/eating-disorder-coronavirus/
 
McMenemy, R. (2020). Coronavirus and eating disorders: ‘I feel selfish buying food’. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-51962964
 
Specter, E. (2020). For Eating Disorder Sufferers, Self-Isolation Comes With Added Struggles. Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/article/eating-disorders-coronavirus-2020
 
Baird, A. (2020). The Coronavirus Outbreak Is “Like A Nightmare” For People With Eating Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/addybaird/coronavirus-quarantines-eating-disorders-recovery
 
Landsverk, G. (2020). Coronavirus anxiety and quarantining could increase eating disorder risk. Here’s what to look out for. Retrieved from https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/wellness/coronavirus-anxiety-and-quarantining-could-increase-eating-disorder-risk-heres-what-to-look-out-for/ar-BB11B7Fc
 
Kubala, J. (2020). 13 Ways to Prevent Stress Eating When You’re Stuck at Home. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-prevent-stress-eating-when-youre-stuck-at-home

The Science of Panic Buying

From trying your best to hold back your coughs and sneezes in public transports and hunting for sanitizers and surgical masks from shop to shop, the last few weeks have been exhausting for some and panic inducing for others. In Singapore, people have resorted to purchasing large quantities of Maggi noodles and other provisions including toilet paper (Goh, 2020) while in the United States, masks have been sold out in pharmacies (McNeil, 2020).  The hoarding of items is known as panic buying (Whitehead, 2020).

 

Why Do People “Panic Buy”?

People have an innate desire to be in control. With a virus outbreak, there are many details that are unknown, and this affects daily lives causing people to work from home and for students to stay at home (Whitehead, 2020). This increases the chance for groupthink to occur where one person’s actions and thoughts cause a domino effect. When we notice a person hoarding provisions, we assume we may not be able to purchase them in the next few weeks. Hence, we resort to hoarding to look out for ourselves.

 

The Science Behind Panic Buying

When people are faced with something that is unknown and they have no control over it, they feel threatened. When people feel threatened, a specific part of your brain called the amygdala is activated. The amygdala is responsible for emotions, specifically fear. When the amygdala is overstimulated, it causes the frontal lobe of the brain, that is responsible for rational thinking, to shut off (Whitehead, 2020). As a result, the body goes into a fight or flight mode that ensures we look out for ourselves (Goh, 2020).

 

What Do We Do Then?

Since being in a panic mode causes you to make irrational decisions, there are a few things you could do to make yourself feel calmer. Start with breathing exercises. When you breathe slowly, you are not giving thoughts that induce fear in you to be taken as facts. Once you are calm, the rational part of your brain is activated, and you will be able to view the situation in an objective manner.

If you already took 10 packets of toilet paper in your trolley, you will then be able to think about the number of toilet papers you have back at home and decide on how many you need for the coming month. This thought process will prevent you from hoarding (Whitehead, 2020). 

We should also view ourselves as a society instead of individuals. Hoarding increases hostility in a society because it causes inconvenience to others (Goh, 2020). Being able to respect other people’s needs is important in times like this.

 

Singapore has faced similar situations before and we have overcome it. This is a challenging time, but, as a society we will be able to get through it together. We need to think as a society instead of being individualistic in our actions. While it is easy to experience panic because of the news we read or the messages that come to our phones about the virus, we are also able to take action to calm ourselves, so we can make rational decisions that protect our families and also other people. Before taking an action, ask yourself if you feel fear or are you calm about the decision you made. Let’s think as one nation and help each other during this period.

 

References

  • Goh, T. (2020). Coronavirus: Psychological society lists 7 ways to manage panic following food, grocery buying sprees. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/coronavirus-psychological-society-lists-7-ways-to-manage-panic-following-food
  • Mcneil, D. (2020). Mask Hoarders May Raise Risk of a Coronavirus Outbreak in the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/29/health/coronavirus-masks-hoarding.html
  • Whitehead, K. (2020). Secretive South Korean sect held meetings in China’s epidemic epicentre. Retrieved from https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3052322/coronavirus-secretive-south-korean-church-linked-outbreak-held

 

The Ability to Bounce Back After Setbacks

How often have we found it difficult to bounce back after failing an exam or a business venture? Most of us tend to focus on our failures and start to develop fear over trying again. This leads to high levels of stress because of stagnation in life and worry about what we could be missing out on if we are not adventurous enough to take risks. The only way to overcome the fear of failure and to persevere through setbacks is if we develop resilience.

 

Resilience

While some people are able to bounce back after facing disappointments, others are not. People who are able to find ways to move forward are aware that such disappointments do not last (Kendrick, 2019). They also understand that while failures hurt, it is important for progress. However, the path of picking yourself up again is not a smooth sailing journey. People need to acknowledge their feelings of failure before realising how to improve (Horton, 2019). Usually, students who are resilient during their school life enter the workforce with the same attitude. This allows them to manage their deadlines, accomplish daily tasks and build confidence along the way (Kendrick, 2019).

 

Reframing your mind

There are a few ways to begin reframing your mind so that you train yourself to develop resilience.

 

  • When faced with a difficult task, view it as something challenging that you could learn from instead of only pressurising yourself to do the task well (Gleeson, 2020).
  • Being committed to a task is important. Understanding that future outcomes don’t depend on current results will ensure you find ways to constantly improve and be a better version of yourself (Kendrick, 2019).
  • Resilience does not mean your failures do not affect you. It means you have found effective coping mechanisms that help you cope through the difficult times and eventually turn your weaknesses into your strengths. To do this, you need to acknowledge your emotions. Write down the thoughts that you have when you are going through something challenging. This will help you to identify situations that act as a trigger and how you could move forward from there (Horton, 2019).

 

Complexity

When people are not sure how to move forward or what steps to take, they become anxious. Anxious people overthink situations that causes them to distort reality and make bad decisions. Having tolerance for complicated situations when you are unsure of the outcome is another way of building resilience. Resilience is a positive characteristic, however, it is built from negative circumstances. People should prepare themselves for both, the best and worst kind of scenarios, to be resilient in any situation that they find complicated (Shragai, 2020)

People are not born with resilience. Resilience is developed through the situations you are put in and what you learn from them. Being a resilient person means you are able to find comfort with any unpleasant emotions you feel, acknowledge it and discover coping mechanisms that are unique to your personality and experiences. It also means you do not feel ashamed of your failures and mistakes, instead, you view them as something to learn from. Developing a resilient mindset takes time and effort. Surrounding yourself with positivity and supportive friends and family could encourage you to build resilience and get through difficult times.

 

References

  • Kendrick, A. (2019). This is the skill students need to bounce back from failure. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/to-help-students-overcome-setbacks-they-need-to-develop-academic-buoyancy
  • Horton, A. (2019). How to train your brain to be resilient to failure. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/90338547/how-to-train-your-brain-to-be-resilient-to-failure
  • Gleeson, B. (2020). One Key Trait Influential Leaders Can’t Do Without. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2020/01/20/one-key-trait-influencial-leaders-cant-do-without/#2f05188c7c56
  • Shragai, N. (2020). Resilience is essential to thrive in an unpredictable future. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/83eb4746-1c0f-11ea-81f0-0c253907d3e0

 

A Healthier Approach to 2020 Resolutions

Hello everyone! Happy New Year to all of you and I hope the new decade brings great opportunities and positive changes in your life. New years are often associated with new beginnings and resolutions. These resolutions may include changes in diet, losing weight and saving more money (Becker, 2019). However, a study reported that at least eighty percent of people abandon their resolutions before February (Abgarian, 2019).

 

Start Slow

Some of the reasons for abandoning resolutions is because it could be unrealistic, bring feelings of dread, and thus cause a lot of stress and pressure. Instead of telling yourself to “eat healthy”, if you set a realistic and attainable goal of eating a balanced diet at least 3 times a week, then it will be a goal that is easier for you to achieve, gain satisfaction and you will know how to move forward from there to be healthier (Latham, 2019). For example, after getting used to eating a balanced diet 3 times a week, you could set another goal to exercise at least 30 minutes a week and slowly increase that to 30 minutes daily.

Another reason for failing to keep up with resolutions is because people tend to make extreme changes in January. But, such changes should be introduced step by step and you should like the process of it. Making extreme changes could be stressful and you may not keep up with the changes after a while.

Avoid comparing yourself with others when setting goals. You have a different body shape, strength, and bone structure. You should aspire to be a healthy version of yourself instead of idolizing someone else. Instead of focusing on being thin, focus on being healthy. Ensure you set goals weekly instead of anything longer, such as yearly. This allows you to work with your own comfort level by adjusting your goals accordingly every week (Jaffe-Hoffman, 2019). 

 

Reframing

Before you begin listing your resolutions for 2020, you need to reframe your mindset. How often have we felt frustrated when we were told to do household chores as children. We were annoyed because we were told we “have to” do it. But, a child who is “allowed” to do household chores, show a more positive attitude. This is due to the switch from “I have to” to “I get to” that impacts a person’s belief and approach (Becker, 2019). So, instead of telling yourself that you have to eat healthy or you have to avoid chips and oily food, change it with “I get to choose healthier snack options such as eating fruits”.

Remember to start small. Most of the time, we start with a very big goal and that can be overwhelming. If your resolution is to save money, instead of deciding to save $300 a month, give yourself a flexible range such as to save anywhere between $100 and $300. This way, when you save the minimum of $100, you will feel an encouragement and you may be able to save more the next month (Morin, 2019). This also allows you to feel good on some months when expenses could be a bit more than usual because of social events and sales. Remember to find a balance between saving and spending. While it is good to save, remember to not neglect yourself. There is no harm in treating yourself to a good meal or a spa day every once in a while.

 

Important things to do

In general, most people have the desire to make more money and to be fit in 2020. But, in the process of chasing things that we desire, we tend to overlook other important things we need to do for ourselves. Below are some things we should take note of:

 

  1. Sleep

Not getting the amount of sleep you need affects your memory and attention. As you sleep, your body repairs itself to be better prepared for the next day. Remember to get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep every day. Some people may need more hours of sleep depending on your body and the work you do. Be mindful to what your body needs and act accordingly.

 

  1. Being mindful of your mental health

How often do we stop when we are in the middle of a task, and ask ourselves “how do I really feel right now?”. Our minds are always thinking about what to do next and we rarely pay attention to what our mind and body needs. In 2020, let’s be more mindful and question ourselves on how we feel and what we can do to make ourselves feel better. Do we want to stay at home over the weekend and just Netflix and chill with a hot cup of tea? Do we want to go hiking and connect with nature instead of our office desks and laptops? Do we want to meet an old friend for a cup of coffee? Do we just want some alone time in a cinema watching a movie by ourselves or do we need someone to talk to?

 

  1. Increase your social life

People tend to get caught up with work and things to do that we do not realise how much time has passed and that we are losing out on making memories. Being socially active benefits your brain. If a weekly commitment is overwhelming, start out with a monthly commitment in something you are passionate about. Join a program at your community club either to volunteer and help animals, spend some time with the elderly or to simply learn a new skill like painting and cooking. This will give you something to look forward to, provide a platform for you to interact with new people and allow yourself to learn something new.

 

While it is good that we have new year resolutions to earn more money, lose weight and eat healthy, these goals can get overwhelming if they are not specific enough and if they are a sudden and an extreme change in our lifestyle. Instead, let’s start slow with the goals and increase it over the months according to our comfort level. It takes time to change old habits. While we focus on these common goals, it is important to pay attention to our daily needs such as having adequate amount of sleep, nutrition and giving ourselves space to recharge. Let’s be kind to ourselves in 2020 because we all are doing the best that we can. I wish everyone a very Happy New Year and hope you get all the love you deserve!

 

References

Abgarian, A. (2019). Why you should stop setting New Year’s resolutions to exercise. Retrieved from https://metro.co.uk/2019/11/29/stop-setting-new-years-resolutions-exercise-start-working-now-11240019/.

Becker, J. (2019). Mind Matters: Rethink your New Year’s resolutions. Retrieved from https://www.wacotrib.com/waco_today_magazine/mind-matters-rethink-your-new-year-s-resolutions/article_8f808d86-c644-5f00-83fc-c071ecbdc7ea.html.

Jaffe-Hoffman, M. (2019). How to stick to your fitness New Year’s resolution. Retrieved from https://www.jpost.com/HEALTH-SCIENCE/How-to-stick-to-your-fitness-New-Years-resolution-612228.

Latham, D. (2019). New Year’s resolutions: Fitness, smoking (giving up) or saving money | Poll. Retrieved from https://www.centralwesterndaily.com.au/story/6558228/tell-us-your-new-years-resolution-and-well-tell-you-how-to-stick-to-it-poll/.

Morin, A. (2019). I’m a psychotherapist, and these are the 3 biggest resolution mistakes I see most people make. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.sg/biggest-new-years-resolution-mistakes-most-people-make/.

Festive Season and Look Out for Others

Christmas is one of the holidays that people from all around the world look forward to. It is a time for us to spend with our loved ones, exchange presents, indulge in good food, decorate our homes and watch good movies. However, it is not always a fun time for everyone. Our loved ones could be feeling overwhelmed or isolated during these festive seasons. What can we do for them?
 
Managing Expectations
We tend to have a lot of expectations on ourselves, whether it is for academics, career or even Christmas. We want to get the best presents for everyone, get a brand-new dress/suit so we look amazing and have the perfect looking pictures for Instagram. But putting in so much of effort to be perfect is actually time-consuming and uses up so much of energy (Clarke-Billings, 2019). How many times have we scrolled through social media and envied other people’s pictures because it all seems so perfect? It could be their matching outfits with each other (Thomas, 2019) or their perfectly laid out buffet table that makes us want to take a similar picture too. But, instead of pressurizing ourselves to have a neat table with perfectly laid out food and stopping the children from reaching out for the chocolates before taking the picture, let’s embrace the fun moments that may not be picture-perfect but has a lot of memories and laughter in it.
 
Taking Breaks
While festive seasons are fun, they can also be exhausting because of shopping, buying presents, wrapping them and cleaning the house. Not having enough sleep will affect our mood and mental health (Clarke-Billings, 2019). To avoid this, we need to plan our daily activities beforehand, so we stick to a routine. We should also focus on ourselves during this period by doing things such as having a nice cup of tea or going out for a walk to help decrease the pressure (Clarke-Billings, 2019). Although Christmas comes only once in a year, frequent outings in one month can be mentally daunting and affect our physical health as well. Learning to say no to friends when we are exhausted and choosing to have a nap instead is important (Beth, 2019).
 
Christmas Movies
Christmas movies, generally, have similar genres. It is about family and friends bonding with each other after a long period that includes a lot of laughter and happy endings. Christmas movies have positive effects on our brain because they help to release the hormones dopamine and oxytocin which help people to feel good. While dopamine causes a person to feel happy, oxytocin causes people to reach out to loved ones. As a result, social interaction increases positive emotions in an individual. However, an important part to note is that people generally watch these movies with their loved ones (Gutierrez, 2019). Hence, it is not only about the movie but about who you watch it with.
 
Christmas is a time to have fun with family and friends, but we need to remember that not everyone may be in the same mood. Some of us may be overwhelmed with the things we need to do or with work. Let’s be empathetic to others this festive season and provide a listening ear to anyone who have things to share. Let’s encourage people around us to watch movies together instead of being isolated with work and to-do lists and have a good time. Good times do not need to be perfect or expensive, they just need to have laughter.
 

References
Beth, S. (2019). This Holiday Season, I’m Being Honest With Myself About ‘Burn Out’. Retrieved from https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/holiday-season-im-being-honest-113251564.html.
 
Clarke-Billings, L. (2019). Top tips to look after your mental health and eliminate stress this Christmas. Retrieved from https://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/top-tips-look-after-your-20944202.
 
Gutierrez, L. (2019). Comfort and joy? Psychologists say Christmas movies can be good for mental health. Retrieved from https://www.kansascity.com/living/health-fitness/article237328479.html.
 
Thomas, F. (2019). What it’s really like having depression at Christmas. Retrieved from https://www.hellomagazine.com/healthandbeauty/health-and-fitness/2019112681124/depression-at-christmas-time/.

 

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