When our world is rocked by something traumatic or intense, the first thing to suffer is our mental health. However, mental health issues can cause ripples to cascade throughout our lives that effect the health of our bodies as well. Having this in mind when facing a difficult situation, such as loss, can help the grieving person to remember that their health should not take a back seat whenever they are feeling willing and able to take care of themselves.
Many experts advise moderate exercise and healthy eating for those experiencing loss. Physical activity and nutritious eating habits can reduce stress levels and help you to sleep better at night, which will prepare you for the days ahead, which can feel long and arduous while making arrangements, or even after a funeral or celebration of life has ended.
That being said, what if you had a regular exercise program in place prior to your loss? And what if you followed a strict diet? Should you resume your pre-loss routine? Some grief experts say that bereavement is a good time to back off a bit and focus on practicing self-care; making sure to avoid judgment or feelings of failure when you can't perform the same way you used to. Grief takes such an emotional toll on us, it would be a mistake to think that it does not effect us physically as well.
It may be smart to rethink your idea of "exercise" after you experience the loss of a loved one. For some people, a workout doesn't count unless they sweat excessively and burn hundreds of calories, but your body is already suffering enough during the grieving process, so it may be more helpful to define exercise simply as movement, especially if this movement takes you outside or to a place where you feel safe and at-ease.
Exercise stimulates endorphins, which help to relieve stress and improve attitude. In fact, the default network in your brain, which is connected to both introspection and concentration, slows down its activity when meditating and exercising, thus your focused mind has a more positive attitude. When the mind wanders, it settles on more negative thinking. Focussing on your physical body, how it is feeling, and what steps you can take to improve its state, can help to distract yourself away from the weight of grief on your mind.
Some nutrition suggestions include:
1. No more than one cup of coffee before 10 a.m, keeping in mind that a single cup of coffee is about 8-10 ounces, some coffee shops serve drinks that are much larger.
2. Limit alcohol consumption to one glass per week, and remember that a single serving of alcohol should be 5 ounces.
3. Increased intake of protein. Health guidelines suggest that about 10-30 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from protein.
4. Drinking plenty of water because crying is common in grief and the body can dehydrate quicker with frequent bouts of tears. Caffeine and alcohol also dehydrate, so be cautious when consuming them, even when following the guidelines above.
In our fast-paced society, we can often forget how important it is to take a moment for ourselves. Another struggle is remembering also that this is not vanity, and that self-care is very necessary, and even more so when our minds are heavy with negative feelings. Keeping in touch with ourselves physically as well as emotionally can help to lighten the grieving process, and having a goal to work towards can help us to focus on the future rather than the past.