When a crisis hits us we enter the fight, flight or freeze mode, which is the body’s natural survival reaction to a threat or danger. The brain processes the sudden unexpected change and activates the body’s nervous system through stress, stimulating our fight or flight action modes - which either signal our bodies to defend against the threat or to run and get away from it. At that point, our bodies' ability to digest food, heal, and eliminate waste come to a stop and now focus on giving us enough energy to take on this unexpected challenge. Unfortunately, when we freeze, unable to act upon this sudden change, our nervous system stays in stress mode for a longer time, impacting our body’s ability to function normally.
As we learn how to cope within a stressed environment and regain our normal rest mode, it's helpful to take action in areas we can control to lead - like diet, exercise and relaxing. Some of the simple things that can enable us to live a nourished life include:
Eat Right. Healthy eating patterns must meet an individual's nutritional needs which is why we encourage you to #PersonalizeYourPlate by enjoying culturally preferred foods. Still, keep in mind that portion control is key to a healthy and balanced diet. Use your hands to measure your serving portions and create your #MyPlate as shown below:
Photo from MedChefs
Hydrate. Our bodies are mainly water. Our bodies may signal the need to hydrate through physical ailments like atypical headaches, dry and chapped lips, inability to normally digest food and get rid of waste, as well as extremely dry skin. It’s best to hydrate with water, avoid sugary drinks, and limit caffeine and alcoholic drinks. Such practices promote the rest and digest mode (the opposite of the fight-flight-freeze mode), allowing your body to digest food while using nutrients for normal body healing processes. Not a fan of water? Make it more enticing by infusing cut fruit in it - and then enjoy the fruit as a healthy snack/treat.
Stress less. To cope with the stressors at hand, try to engage in a relaxing activity you are willing to do regularly - common choices include meditating, outdoor reading, yoga, biking, walking, or practicing gratitude, but feel free to choose a less conventional option with more movement. An alternative idea you may want to explore is to become a member of a community garden close to you; not only will you meet your neighbors but you will also exercise while sourcing local produce.
The stressors of this past year have forced us to become more self-efficient and resilient. Adapting to new ways of life is becoming more of a constant in this never-ending, changing world. As we continue to navigate different challenges, I invite you to nourish your body and soul by allowing yourself to adapt to- and adopt- new ways of living. By focusing on what you can change, like nourishing your body and calming your mind, you will undoubtedly keep standing tall and moving forward.
By Wilmarie Colon Alvarado, Nutrition Education Manager