Good nutrition is important for a healthy body, but what happens when life throws you a curveball and healthy eating is the last thing on your mind?
Whether it’s a loved one who’s fallen ill, a crisis at work, a natural disaster or a global pandemic, when disaster hits, fight or flight kicks in and survival by any means possible is our default mode.
The thing is that eating healthy will actually help you to cope because good food does not only equate to a healthy body but also a healthy mind. Increasingly, research is showing the strong connection between gut health and mental health.
The gut-brain connection
You may not have realised it but you’ve likely already experienced the gut-brain connection. When you’re nervous about something, suddenly (and often inconveniently) you need to run to the loo. When you feel butterflies in your stomach or get a sinking feeling, that’s the gut-brain connection too. These are all due to the communication between your gastrointestinal (GI) tract and your brain, and it works both ways.
Just as suffering from depression or other psychological conditions can affect the peristalsis of your GI tract and have an adverse effect on your gut health, bad gut health can have a negative effect on your mental state.
The GI tract has millions of bacteria that can be good or bad, and these affect the production of neurotransmitters, which carry messages to the brain. In a nutshell, good whole food promotes good bacteria that boosts the release of feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Junk food (highly processed, high in salt, high in sugar) can cause inflammation that may contribute to or exacerbate depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
It’s not just about the science
Eating healthily during a crisis means using all available resources. This means that when friends or family are offering a helping hand, you take it. The idea of getting through this on your own and toughing it out is archaic and inefficient. This is exactly why you have a tribe around you – so that in times of crisis, yours or theirs, you can help each other out.
And if you want a science-based reason to accept support, it’s called the helper’s high (also called the giver’s high). Research has shown that when someone does something nice or selfless for someone else, they get a rush of endorphins, which gives them a natural high. So, really, you’re doing them a favour! 🙂
Six tips for feeding yourself during a crisis
This is all well and good but when you’re in a crisis, you’re not thinking about your gut-brain connection or the nutritional value of the takeaways you’re about to inhale. You’re swept up in your crisis.
For this reason, we’ve put together these tips that require minimal intellectual energy or focus and might help you get through to the other end without upending your physical and mental health in the process.
1. If people offer help with meals – TAKE IT!
People often turn to meals as a means of supporting someone in a crisis. Even if it’s not food you’d normally eat, your brain isn’t really thinking about food and you can forget to eat. So, if you have something made with love by someone who cares, it will do wonders for you.
2. If people want to help but don’t know how – TELL THEM.
Sometimes, people don’t know what to say or do in a crisis, but they genuinely want to support you. Help them out by telling them what you need. They will be more than happy to know that they can do their bit with something as simple as supplying ingredients or meals.
3. If you drive past a shop and think, ‘Maybe I should quickly pop in there…’ - DO IT.
Don’t listen to the second voice that tells you you’ll find another shop later. You’ll lose your initial energy and motivation for it, and will rather just go without than be bothered to stop later. That first voice was your brain trying to help you. Don’t ignore it.
4. If you feel like a choccie/cake/biscuit - EAT IT.
But don’t eat it for every meal. A good trick is when you buy that naughty treat, buy some dried mango or peanuts and raisins at the same time. That means you’ll have one indulgent snack, but the next time you need a quick fix, you’ll have something healthy to snack on. If you buy chips, try to go for the lightly salted, unflavoured ones and buy yourself a pesto or hummus dip, which has fewer additives, sugars and preservatives than usual dips.
5. If money is not a concern – INDULGE.
Some delis and finer supermarkets have really healthy options for ready-made meals. You’re in a crisis. Spoiling yourself might give you a boost and release some much-needed happy hormones. Plus, the nutrient-dense food you’ve splashed out on will give you the physical and mental fuel to keep going.
6. If you want a mental escape and have a moment – COOK.
Many people enjoy cooking but feel that in a crisis, there are more important things to focus on. If you have a moment to yourself and need to switch off for a while, get stuck into cooking something yummy. Use a recipe you know by heart or one you’ve been wanting to try for ages. You can even ask someone to get the ingredients – one of those people who keeps asking what they can do. 🙂
When we’re in crisis, it’s tough to focus our minds on anything but the issue at hand. If you do these little tricks, it could go a long way to making sure you give yourself the best fuel to cope with whatever life throws at you.
If you are in the Port Elizabeth/Gqeberha area, and you want healthy, easy and delicious vegan frozen meals or vegan prepared meals, pop into our store at 25 Westbourne Road, order online or check your local Spar in the Eastern Cape.