COVID Got You Stressed?

Allison Roselli
April 03, 2020
Man holding his hands out.

Let’s just state the obvious... This pandemic is stressful!. Working from home in your kitchen, taking on a new job such as teacher to your children, learning new virtual skills to keep up with office work or finding yourself with a lot of time on your hands are all stressful experiences. This is an experience we are all sharing together, and it is different for everyone, but it is stressful for us all. Whichever way we find ourselves through this stressful time is okay and it is important that we take care of ourselves and our neighbors.

Why am I stress eating though? There are a lot of options to why, but I want to focus instead on how it makes us feel. Stress eating can make us feel guilty, overwhelmed, and add to stress in an already stressful time. Treat yourself with kindness during these stressful times. Are you feeling guilty for snacking throughout the day? It is okay to take care of yourself and eat food when you want to, listen to what your body is telling you. Take the time to say I will treat myself kindly, but I will also be aware of what I am eating.

I put together a list of ways to manage eating under stress and some techniques that may be helpful during these stressful times.

Embrace stress eating

Recognizing that you are picking throughout the day or eating to help manage your stress may be the most helpful. By recognizing you may be stress eating will allow you to take control of the snack. You can choose fruit or vegetables or cookies, you can choose the amount you pick up and you can take the snack with you out of the kitchen. My tips for tips for embracing stress eating are:

Take 1 serving size, or 1 portion that will feel satisfying to you. Personally, I can only hold 4 Oreo cookies in my hand, so that is my snack size even if the serving size is 3 cookies.

Leave the kitchen with your snack. Eating in our kitchens surrounded by more food, the open container and just our eating environment can help us to snack more. Removing ourselves from the area can help our snacks feel more satisfying.

Make healthy meals as often as available. Ultimately eating a healthier choice at mealtimes will help feelings of satisfaction and help to limit feelings of hunger and snacking. As often as possible at mealtimes opt for well rounded meals with plates that are 25% protein, 25% whole grains and 50% non-starchy vegetables.

Craving sweets? Make something you love like your favorite dessert, a snack you have always wanted to try, that DIY cookie kit you got for Christmas a year ago, spend some time with it. Are your kids home with you; here is a project you can do together, make cookies, ice a cake, or make something new with what you have on hand. Have one satisfying piece that same day, share some with a neighbor at a social distance, share it with your family.

Do you not want to embrace stress eating, or feel like it will not work for you? THAT IS OKAY! We are all different and managing our stress differently, here are some alternatives.

Practice stress management in other ways

Exercise that may mean going for a run outdoors, doing a 20-minute yoga video, walking around your couch in circles to get 10,000 steps in (been there, done that!) playing catch with your kids outside. There are a lot of possibilities there are many exercise opportunities that have pivoted to virtual lessons at this time. No weights or equipment at home? Body weight and balance exercise is just as beneficial for your health!

Use mindful breathing and meditation. Breathing techniques are well-known stress management tools, create a space in your home to use for 15 minutes to bring yourself center and remind yourself of things that are in your control and what is out of your hands.

Be creative: Let your stress go with creative methods! Create your first masterpiece, be it a painting, a novel, a children’s book, finger-paints with your kids, a beautifully prepared cake, a new song, or a new skill. Use online classes, YouTube videos and Pinterest tutorials and let us get started.

Not feeling like you have enough time on your hands, is working from home fueling your stress-eating? Look below for some ideas during the “workday.”

Stress eating during the workday?

Keep your work schedule as close to normal as possible. Do you work 9-5 or 8-4 maybe 6-2? Keep those hours the same and take your breaks at the same time while at home. Always take your lunch at noon no matter what continue that lunchtime and do not work during it. Do you take a coffee break after that afternoon meeting (that could have been an email) keep taking that coffee break. These are built in stress management strategies you have already used, keep using them!

Work outside of the kitchen, IF POSSIBLE. This next time might not be possible for everyone, but humans are creatures of habit and being in our kitchen or at our dining room does signal our brains that it is time to eat. If you have the possibility to set up a desk in another room in your home do it!

Keep water or a drink at your makeshift desk. At home we always have the opportunity to keep water at our desk which may not be possible in our offices. Staying hydrated is just important in general, it may help with snacking, but it is more important to keep up with your hydration habits.

Take-out? Also, okay!

Are you running low on food supplies, do not want to go grocery shopping or just like supporting your local businesses, which is all okay! Supporting local businesses is a great choice, be mindful of what you are choosing off the menu and satisfy your needs.

If there is one key takeaway, I hope you gain from reading this post it is to treat yourself, your neighbors, and your community with kindness right now. Everyone is experiencing stress in their own way and we all have our own stress management methods. What will work for you, for me and for everyone else may be different but they are all valid and important.

Ultimately, it's okay to acknowledge THIS IS STRESSFUL, but just remember... we got this!

About the Author

Allison Roselli
Allison is a Medical University of South Carolina Community Focused Dietetic Intern. Graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts sin Psychology and from Drexel University with a Masters of Science in Human Nutrition. She is passionate about oncology nutrition and public policy loves to share the joys of food and nutrition.
Dietetic Intern
Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery

Keywords: COVID-19, Healthy Eating, Diet, Bariatric, Wellness, Behavior