Tips from a Mental Health Naturopathic Doctor on staying sane during isolation
Updated: Mar 17, 2020
I'm offering reduced-cost video and phone naturopathic counselling until April 15. Follow this link to book an online reduced rate 40min counselling appointment.
I'm sharing some of the best things to do while staying in and keeping everyone safe.
My work as an integrative mental health clinician is about getting and keeping people mentally well using lifestyle, diet, and other behaviours. With many people isolated inside, and with more questions than answers, collective and personal anxieties are rising. This is a time when mental health professionals can really help.
*If you are in Toronto and need help getting supplies or food, see this link for more info*
Keep moving even if you can't go to the gym, or get moving on your commute. Try:
Makeyourbodywork.com for free customizable at-home workouts
Try this gentle qi gong exercise (10min), or other tai qi and qi gong routines on youtube
Take well-distanced walks in the sunshine (keeping 2 meters away from others)
Go for a solo bike ride
If working from home, take regular breaks and walk around every 30mins
Cook and Eat Well
Maintain a healthy diet despite maybe having a rise in stress levels and always being 2 steps away from the snack cupboard.
Reduce added sugars, for two reasons: firstly, blood sugar highs and lows (dysglycemia) from a sugary diet is associated with increased subjective anxiety, depression, impulsive behaviours, and even altered emotional states (source1 source 2). In other words, reducing or eliminating sugar can help reduce anxiety, mood issues, and other mental health issues. Secondly, high blood sugar levels from added sugar lower the capacity of the innate immune system to fight infection (source 1 source 2)
Focus on getting healthy amounts of protein. Your meals might rely on grains or other non-perishables, but try to include protein and greens every day if possible. General recommendations are 0.8g protein/kg body weight = ~55g protein for an average 150lb person on a regular day, and this may fall to 40-45g with decreased activity. One chicken breast is ~30g, one cup black or kidney beans is ~16g, and a scoop of protein powder is usually 20-30g. Low dietary protein levels may contribute to anxiety and mood issues from tryptophan and other amino acid deficiency.
Aim for low glycemic carbs as much as you can. "Low glycemic" means a carbohydrate turns into glucose and enters your blood stream slower than other carbs (low vs high glycemic index; learn more here). Low glycemic carbs include stone-ground whole wheat, other whole grains, brown rice, rolled or steel-cut oatmeal, oat bran, peas, legumes, lentils and more (here is a full list). Eating lower glycemic carbs helps regulate blood sugar and reduce chances of blood sugar-related anxiety spikes.
Curb overeating by engaging your mind and being aware of boredom and stress. Before you eat, check in: "Am I really hungry, or am I bored, thirsty, stressed, or otherwise?".
Be aware of the salt content in most canned and processed foods and drink enough water to stay hydrated.
Total calorie intake may naturally fall slightly (up to 15%) with a decrease in activity and this is ok. If you're eating much more or much less, make efforts to maintain intake.
Accept help. If you're running low on food or other supplies or need some help, reach out to neighbours or emergency services in your area. Here is an amazing grassroots community group helping those in need in Toronto right now. Search your local community for similar helping groups. No shame, just people helping others.
Engage Your Mind, Fight Boredom
Online library books are available! For Toronto, see a huge list of audiobooks and ebooks ready for you on OverDrive. Check out your city's public library website for more info.
Try a new form of meditation. Even if you "can't meditate" or you have a regular practice, you can find a new way to meditate on the Insight Timer app (free). Walking meditation, guided visualizations, yoga nidra for sleep, etc. There is plenty to try even if you don't think it will work for you
Have kids at home to entertain and educate? Try something from this long list of home activities to do with kids
Update your resume or learn a new skill online
Download the Duolingo app and start learning a new language
Make a quarantine playlist and share it with others online
Engage Your Heart, Fight Apathy
Write a list of things you're grateful for in this difficult time
Facetime your grandparents/parents/family/friends
Cuddle your pets or adopt a new pet
Try the "36 Questions to fall in love" with anyone, and learn something new about them. It's not just in service of romantic intimacy, but the exercise can strengthen friendships and other relationships as well
Watch videos of quarantined Italians singing concerts from their balconies
Talk with someone, anyone, once a day. Don't emotionally isolate.
Other Things To Do
Taxes! Get 'em done!
Organize your tupperware drawer
Clean your closet
Take a bath
Netflix streaming, of course, is always there
Catch up on sleep and let yourself get as much rest as you can, so when the isolation is lifted and the weather is better, you're ready to get out there!
Ok, Embrace Boredom
Be bored and see what happens. Approach it with curiosity. What is it like to be bored when we are normally so active and stimulated? What does it bring up?
Most of all, be kind.
This global event will be remembered by the numbers, but also by how we all react. Pay attention to your needs and be mindful of the needs of others. I encourage you to ask for and accept help if you need it.
This is a general list to help the average person during a time of acute public health concern. In my clinical practice, I tailor nutrition, stress management, lifestyle, and other treatments specifically to the individual that's struggling with mood, anxiety, panic, and other issues. There are options available to you if you're struggling, either in relation to the public health crisis, or otherwise.
I'm offering reduced-cost video and phone naturopathic counselling during the global public health crisis of Covid-19. Follow this link to book an online reduced rate 40min counselling appointment. For regular naturopathic medical appointments (including blood work assessment and physical exams), book an initial appointment or regular follow-ups. In-person appointments will resume as soon as is safe.