This week’s headlines confirmed that the world’s mental health is suffering and that risk factors for Covid-19 include obesity, heart diseases and diabetes. While governments are being called to strengthen public health resources, the pandemic has brought a significant shift in primary responsibility for health to the individual’s own efforts toward prevention and management.
The worldwide coronavirus counts stand at 4.5 million cases and 307,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization dashboard.
WHO urged “substantial investment [is] needed to avert mental health crisis” after research in several countries showed feelings of anxiety and depression have increased, along with more alcohol consumption. The report calls out extreme challenges from frontline health workers, women “who are juggling home-schooling, working from home and household tasks,” older persons, people with pre-existing mental health conditions, plus youth.
In Canada, 20% of 15- to 49-year-olds say they’ve increased their drinking during the pandemic. And, Scott Keeter of Pew Research Center says, “One-third of Americans have experienced high levels of psychological distress at some point during the extended period of social distancing.”
Those with a body mass index over 25 are at risk of greater severity of Covid-19 symptoms, authorities including The World Obesity Federation report. Research has found that being obese doubles the risk of needing hospital treatment for the virus. The Lancet says obesity increases the virus risk to younger people, who had been thought to have higher resistance to symptoms.
Expect to see public health service campaigns through the rest of the year that focus on healthy living to reduce obesity — with Boris Johnson leading the charge — and tips and resources to improve mental health and wellbeing.
“Lockdown eating” is a behaviour that may contribute to weight gain as peoples’ lifestyle habits have changed, Mother Nature Network reports. “There is a lot of out-of-home consumption that has now shifted to in-home,” said Dirk Van de Put, chairman of Mondelez International. “And in-home, there is more grazing, more continuous eating, and snacking takes up a much bigger role … Sharing a snack with your kids, as everybody sort of cooped up in the house, brings back a feeling of normalcy, of togetherness, calming everybody down.”
There are three phases: Emotional, Fanatic and Anything-Goes. Perhaps understanding the phases can help control the amount and frequency of eating or switch the choices from worse to better.
DIY mental health
Emma Hepburn, Ph.D — better known as ThePsychologyMum on Instagram — offers five tips for looking after your mental health right now. She works at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary supporting frontline staff and her book, A Toolkit for Modern Life, is due out in September. She says:
– Keep the foundations of your physical health strong by eating, hydrating, sleeping, resting and moving well because our mental and physical health is linked.
– Recognise how you are feeling and think about how you can respond in a helpful way. “Trying to avoid or ignore our emotions actually makes us feel more stressed,” Hepburn says.
– Beware the inner critic. Being mean to yourself increases stress. “Try instead to speak to yourself like you would speak to a friend or child. Usually this is kinder, more compassionate and fairer.”
– Her final two tips are to “Be aware of your emotional capacity and take steps to manage this,” and maintain positive social connections.” Details here.
Major stress inhibits our ability to weigh risk
If yours was one of the 25 million views of the 26-minute “Plandemic” video on YouTube you might like to know “five lies” it spread, according to Prevention, and learn why YouTube deleted it. The Verge explains how the hoax went viral.
That video is dangerous, as new research shows how information (true or not) that causes stress affects how we deal with risk, such as catching the virus.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how risk information, such as about dangers to our health, can spread through social networks and influence people’s perception of the threat, with severe repercussions on public health efforts, according to researchers,” Janice Wood reports on PsychCentral. She quotes Dr. Wolfgang Gaissmaier at the University of Konstanz in Germany: “Our results uncovered a complex web in which various strands of endocrine stress, subjective stress, risk perception, and the sharing of information are interwoven.”
In research conducted by Pew, “people who experienced a high level of distress in either March or April, for any number of reasons, are more likely than others to say that the pandemic has negatively affected their financial situation, and that keeping up with the news about the coronavirus makes them feel worse emotionally.”
Mind-body-spirit practices ease stress
So, it appears there’s a balance between staying informed about news and trends, yet limiting your exposure if it causes stress that could warp perception of a threat.To cope, Dr. Helen Langevin, who is director of NIH Complementary & Integrative Health guidelines, recommends “meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction, mind and body approaches like yoga, tai chi, and qi gong,” and complementary approaches for sleep.
Gardening has been shown to improve wellbeing of city dwellers to the same level of eating out, biking or walking.
In other holistic wellness news:
- The Pope is prioritising health and wellness. “The Vatican’s new COVID-19 Commission brings together public and private institutions, universities, the pontifical academies, social movements, and leading economists and entrepreneurs to create new research and thinking about a post-Coronavirus future,” according to the Global Wellness Institute, which is producing a series of white papers, Resetting the World with Wellness. The reports are free to download.
- Female leadership style is winning. “The actions of female leaders in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Germany, Taiwan and New Zealand are cited as supporting evidence that women are managing the crisis better than their male counterparts. Resilience, pragmatism, benevolence, trust in collective common sense, mutual aid and humility are mentioned as common features of the success of these women leaders,” Clint Witchalls writes in The Conversation.
- Cleopatra’s milk baths are one of the beauty secrets covered in “Rejuvenation,” a book written by French self-styled anti-ageing specialist Jean Frumusan in 1923. As Will de Freitas recounts in this story, Frumusan’s scholarship identified a series of domestic habits designed for staying healthier for longer. His recommendation: Jump out of bed immediately upon waking and drink a large glass of water; “eat slowly and moderately” and dine “carnivorous at one meal, vegetarian at the next;” and periodically fast 24 or 48 hours at a time to restore vitality.
- Demand for mind-body-spirit books has been growing over the last several years, and the pandemic is fueling that growth further.
- If sitting is the new smoking, then a 4-second sprint is the new Jazzercise. New research shows that four seconds of exertion can undo some damage caused by being sedentary.
- Research published in American Academy of Neurology suggests yoga helps migraine sufferers, who are on prescribed medicine for them, experience fewer headaches that don’t last as long and are less painful.
- Danone is launching a plant-based Acceleration Unit to create further growth opportunities across the company and increase its global plant-based food sales from €2 billion to €5 billion by 2025.
Free online mind-body-spirit experiences and consultations are listed on Mindstream. Many are daily and weekly, with a variety of start times to accommodate all time zones.
Live Well London was forced to cancel its in-person wellness expo this month, but it’s running an online wellness pop-up shop next weekend. Register through Eventbrite to visit the shopping site, which has been reviewed as offering exclusive discounts on products like mood-boosting candles, online classes, supplements, health food delivery, and more.
Welltodo is hosting a live Q&A on 19 May at 1 p.m. BST with fitness experts from the UK and UAE to discuss the future of the global fitness industry beyond the pandemic.