30 October 2020
Have you set yourself some health and fitness goals for the summer but feel like they have been knocked about during COVID?
Setting goals and routines and feeling emotional when they haven’t worked out is completely normal during these uncertain times, especially when our usual routines might have changed.
Did you know that 40% of Aussies have said that they have gained weight during COVID, with 2 in 3 feeling negative impacts on exercise? (1)
It can be difficult to set goals and a plan during a pandemic, especially when we don’t know what our ‘routine’ will be like or what changes will take place. Have you found ways to adapt your plan and health regime? If yes, that is fantastic. If no, that is okay, and we can help you with that.
More than 3 quarters of Australians have experienced worsened mental health during the first wave, with 78% reporting a deterioration in mental health, along with 4 in 5 individuals experiencing feelings of uncertainty during the pandemic. (2) There has also been a 25% increase in calls to Lifeline. (2)
When looking at mental health and physical health, the two should not be separate domains. Physical health affects mental health and vice versa. (3) Let’s have a think about two chemical messengers in the brain; Dopamine and Serotonin. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that is associated with feelings of pleasure and reward and Serotonin is the chemical associated with rest, sleep and mood.(4,5) When Dopamine and Serotonin levels are low, we can feel sluggish, tired, anxious and depressed which can make us feel unmotivated to exercise and seeking comfort foods and tasks that make us feel better.(4,5) When we exercise and provide our body with nutritious foods such as foods containing omega-2 fatty acids however, Serotonin and Dopamine levels have shown to increase which can lead to stimulated pleasure and reward centres, and reduced levels of depression and anxiety.(4,5 )There is that bi-directional relationship between physical and mental health that I was talking about.
In times of uncertainty and hardship, are there ways to overcome barriers and adapt and either come back to or create new steppingstones? The short answer is yes, absolutely! The long answer is well, it’s unique to you. There is no one approach fits all principle here, it is about finding what works for you, what your goals are, what your schedule is or what you would like it to be.
I have created a short and simple toolkit for goal setting which will be linked to this post for you. It involves some educational points, reassurance and a few activities to help you adapt to changing times.
Stay well and safe, and remember, YOU CAN DO THIS!
Lucija Peric (she/her)
2. Newby J, O'Moore K, Tang S, Christensen H, Faasse K. Acute mental health responses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. medRxiv. 2020 Jan 1.
3. Gunnell KE, Flament MF, Buchholz A, Henderson KA, Obeid N, Schubert N, Goldfield GS. Examining the bidirectional relationship between physical activity, screen time, and symptoms of anxiety and depression over time during adolescence. Preventive Medicine. 2016 Jul 1;88:147-52.
4. McCance KL, Huether SE. Pathophysiology: The biologic basis for disease in adults and children. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2014 Jan 14.
5. Deslandes A, Moraes H, Ferreira C, Veiga H, Silveira H, Mouta R, Pompeu FA, Coutinho ES, Laks J. Exercise and mental health: many reasons to move. Neuropsychobiology. 2009;59(4):191-8.