The third full month of quarantine has many people feeling restless, down and antsy. Some of the activities we might be indulging in are having a negative impact on health and well-being, but it can be hard to know what’s a good substitute for freshly baked cookies or an alcoholic beverage.
So how can we unwind while supporting overall vitality?
We often turn to sweet treats during times of stress. This is no problem occasionally, but eating refined sugar regularly causes our bodies to react poorly. Sugar can depress the immune system, increase inflammation, dysregulate blood sugar and negatively affect mood.
However, not all sugars are created equal. Sugars that are minimally processed and in their natural state like raw honey, coconut sugar and beet sugar are high in vitamin and mineral content and have a lower glycemic index. Stevia comes from a plant and may actually help balance blood sugar. Applesauce can be used to sweeten baked goods and brings some fiber into play.
Baking at home rather than buying premade goodies provides ample opportunity to pick which ingredients you are including and the quantities of each – recipes often turn out wonderfully with less than suggested amounts of sugar. Choosing flours like almond, coconut or whole wheat adds fiber and good fats into your treats. Avocado, coconut oil, safflower oil and cultured butter have much more nutritional content and healthy fats than vegetable oil, spreads or margarine. Check out paleo or raw food recipes to make your sweets more nutrient-dense.
Alcohol consumption has been on the rise for many folks. This can interrupt restful sleep, deplete essential fatty acids and B vitamins, congest the liver and depress mood. Boredom and the habit of having a drink can be routines that require a replacement. Discovering “mocktail” recipes can be a fun way to have something to drink that is different and fun to make. A simple favorite is 1/3 cherry juice and 2/3 mineral water – high in anti-oxidants and trace minerals, this is a drink you can feel great about. If you are choosing to have alcohol, try having a glass of water in between each drink to help keep hydrated. Stop drinking alcohol at least an hour before bed so it’s less likely to disturb sleep. Schedule a night off alcohol all together to break the old routine.
We are coming into summer where fresh, seasonal produce is readily available – and more affordable. Go to the local farmers market and chat with the farmers – they are sure to have new foods to try and fantastic ideas for new recipes. Plus, when food is picked when ripened (not before), it has a higher nutrient content and much better flavor profile. Greens and other bitter foods can balance the palate and help us get off the salt-sugar seesaw.
Where do you feel stuck in a rut? Looking at habits and digging underneath to discover what the real pleasure is for you – demarcating end of work day? Connection with loved one? Boredom? Low mood? Once you discover the real “why” behind choosing what you choose, you are more empowered to make choices that are more aligned with you and your health goals. Some ideas include making mocktails instead of cocktails and sitting on porch, taking a walk to change your mood or energy, or having a dance party to mark the transition from work to relaxed time.
Sometimes, all it takes is a little fresh perspective to spark creativity and inspiration again.
Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.