Coronavirus – How to deal with it

Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

March 31, 2020

In this article, I’d like to share my thoughts about and experiences with the situation that Covid-19 has created. I’m also sharing my suggestions on how you can best deal with this situation.

  1.  Share your story: It is a known fact that talking about your struggles and worries is already half the battle. It’s always recommended to open up when you are feeling low and depressed. This time is no different. We need a community around us. We as humans thrive in community! And it is a big loss not to have all your friends around the moment. So, do reach out to them, they too might need a chat at the moment and be happy that you called. And if you can’t reach out to your friends, reach out to some of the many people that are out there and want to help. I chose this job as a Nutritional Therapist because I want to help.  I am interested in your story! And if you are struggling with any issues whether it’s nutrition or lifestyle, why not avail of the 30-minutes call that I offer where I share some personalised tips on how you can get started.
  2. Routine: Creating a routine is now more important than ever. As humans, we actually do like a routine. How often have you heard people saying after the Christmas or Summer Holidays “I can’t wait to get back into my routine!”. We’ve all been in a state of shock. This situation is nothing like any of us could have ever imagined. It is like a bereavement! We are bereaved of our freedom to do what we normally would do. I feel a bit like I did after my Dad died suddenly. There’s this complete “I don’t believe this has happened!”. But life has to go on. And just living into the day without any structure or purpose is not good for us. It is not normal either. Create your routine for the day, for example: 6 am get up and go for a walk / 7 am taking part in the Pilates class / have a shower / have breakfast / get work done (see to-do-list) / cook lunch / eat lunch / get more work done (to-do-list) / household chores / cook dinner / have dinner / watch TV/ movie / read book / go to bed. Something like that. Having a routine gives you structure and security.
  3. Write a to-do-list: As humans, we need a purpose. A reason to get up every day. My suggestion is to write down your daily routine. There is no right or wrong. But just write down something that you are planning to do each day. Having a to-do-list is creating a sense of accountability and will give you a sense of achievement once you tick off the boxes. Some of you might be working from home, then you will most likely know what to do. If you are not working from home, create a list of all the things you’ve been meaning to do forever in the house, such as clearing out the wardrobe, sorting out the books, paint the walls, plant some vegetables, etc etc. Make sure to write a list for every day and make sure to tick off what you’ve done.
  4. Comfort eating and food cravings: I have found in my clients that there seems to be one or the other extreme. Some are really using this time to start cooking from scratch and taking more time to eat a good, nutritious diet, simply because they finally have the time to do so. They feel they have more time, either because they don’t need to commute to work or have no work at the moment. They are embracing this current situation to get on top of creating new habits, that they’ve been meaning to create and have simply been struggling with due to lack of time. However, many others are finding it hard to stick to a good diet these days. There is emotional eating because eating makes you feel better. There’s eating out of boredom. How can you stop this? Number 1 step is to become aware of your habit. Realise when you eat. Realise what triggers your cravings. Realise whether you are hungry or you are just craving. What are you really hungry for? And is eating that chocolate going to solve your problem? In order to become aware of what and when you tend to eat, I suggest you are keeping a food diary or food journal. Write in your thoughts and emotions. What is going through your head? What kind of battle is going on between your emotional part of your brain and your logical part of your brain? Also, it is important to realise that the cravings are driving by your “emotional” brain that is simply trying to help you SURVIVE. It has nothing to do with your willpower. It is completely normal that your brain is driving you to do what you need to do to survive – EAT and STORE RESERVES! So, please please don’t beat yourself up over it!
  5. Nutritious food: it is now more important than ever to eat a diet rich in nutrients and to avoid anything that is empty calories. Your body’s immune system needs to stay strong and in its best possible form and in order to be that, it requires the right nutrients! Eating a well-balanced diet is the first step, and in some cases, supplementation might be required. However, I do not want to give general recommendations as I believe supplements should be given specifically to a person’s requirement and health history. The other thing is you do not want to put your immune system under unnecessary stress by putting toxins into your body. And I am not talking about just pesticides here or there, but the overall load of additives, preservatives, pesticides, inflammatory foods, etc. These are all little things, your immune system has to deal with all the time. And the individual amount does not cause an issue, but the accumulation does! Imagine, your immune system as an army that is on high alert to fight and kill any intruder (the virus). Would you not do everything to make sure that army is equipped with the best ammunition and weapons (i.e. nutrients) and is not being distracted by minor issues here and there in the body (i.e. food allergens, pesticides, preservatives, alcohol, etc.)
  6. Empty calories: A lot of food is completely empty of any nutrients, for example, white bread or pasta. You are simply eating empty calories. That on top of not moving as much as usual is the ideal scenario to gain weight! And what for? Food such be fuel and keep you going. Make every calorie you put into your body count and make sure the food contains plenty of good nutrients! I am consciously avoiding all high carb foods as well at the moment. A) Because I’m not exercising as much and B) Because I can’t stop eating once I start. So I won’t even start! I make sure that I have plenty of vegetables and fibre in each meal which keeps me fuller for longer. That way, I don’t think about food or eating as much, to begin with. I know if I allowed myself to have some toast with butter, I would not be able to stop with just one slice. But if I have my seed bread which is really dense and filling, I’m quite happy to only have that one slice and feel full and satisfied with that. iIf you feel you are eating more than usual at the moment, have a close look at what you are eating. I do not believe anybody can overeat on broccoli or vegetables. You do get to a point where you are FULL! But it’s very easy to overeat on pasta or white toast! The problem is that we are – especially in stressful times – craving exactly the foods that are so bad for us and that are empty calories. Don’t forget, STORING FAT CAN BE ESSENTIAL FOR SURVIVAL!
  7. Stress: The current situation is stressful – no doubt. And especially, as this is not just a perceived stressor – it is a REAL DANGER! However, it’s never the actual stressors that cause the problem, it is how we deal with it. I make sure that I do take time every day for my meditations. I follow Deepak Chopra who has a 21-day meditation challenge on at the moment free of charge. And I am still a big fan of Headspace, an app to download, which also brings out new meditation practises on a regular basis. Meditation is NOT about getting rid of all your thoughts. It’s about learning to observe your thoughts and see them as such rather than chasing them and identifying with your thoughts. or
  8. Sleep: Good sleep is so important as well on how we are able to deal with stressful situations and is also so important for our immune system to get the rest. Our army needs to rest! Having a good routine in your daily life helps with good sleep. And going to bed early (between 10-11pm) and getting up early (between 6-7am) is in perfect alignment with our natural circadian rhythm. Getting early morning sunlight helps with your sleep at night. I know it is hard these days to avoid computer screens especially since this is the only way we currently connect with our fellow humans, but if you can at all, try to avoid screens 2-3 hours before going to bed.
  9. Movement: Our bodies are designed to be moving. We are designed to be active to hunt for our food. We need to move to keep the blood and the white blood cells (our immune system) flowing. We need to keep our muscles strong. However, as we usually would have been moving around quite a lot, we are also designed to preserve energy at times, and we need rest. And it seems our DEFAULT is to rest and stay on the sofa even though we haven’t actually expended any energy all day! I know our movements and gyms are limited at the moment, but if you do some research, you will find something online that suits you. I have found a gym who post a High Intensity Workout that lasts 45 minutes everyday. It’s a different workout every day and it’s as if you are in the gym and the coach is giving you exact instructions. Linda Monahan offers Pilates class, where the instructor actually uses a big screen to be able to see and watch all participants and can tell you over zoom “Ilona, lower your bum!”. LInda Hickey offers lovely relaxing yoga classes at half the usual price. And I’ve decided for April to take part in a fundraising challenge for Dog’s Trust.
  10. Gratitude Journal: Writing down all the things I am grateful for every evening helps me realise just how good I have it. It makes me appreciate the small things such as hearing the birds sign in the morning and seeing a sunrise! Your focus goes from seeing only the negative and struggle to see the positives in your life.
  11. Work: I am using this time to tidy up my notes that I’ve been taken in the last couple of years at training and CPD events. I am creating new content that I will be able to share with my clients. I am creating an 8-week-programme with worksheets using elements of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and therapeutic art, as well as coaching to help clients who deal with food and sugar cravings which so often sabotage all best intentions to follow a healthy lifestyle. I am still studying a lot about brain health and the immune system so that I can share this knowledge with you.I am open for business via ZOOM, and I would love to hear from you! Tell me how I can help you at this moment. Book your call with me now:

These are some of the things I do every day and how I keep myself busy. I’m sure many things will be different for you, but I hope you still found some valuable tips in this article. Looking forward to hearing from you. Stay in touch! Stay safe!

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