Body Image and The Psychological Effects from social media

 

Article by Melina Tomasiello, MA, PHD student and intern at Openspaceclinic.

Social media has evolved to become an essential part of most people’s days. Among an array of uses, social media facilitates communication, circulates essential information, allows us to stay connected with our family or friends, and serves as a platform for a variety of businesses. However, as social media continues to gain traction and new platforms emerge, we may find ourselves spending more and more time on our various social media pages, mindlessly scrolling. Although we may be trying to keep up with our friends or the latest trends, we are also simultaneously being increasingly flooded with images of celebrities and influencers in bikini photos or workout selfies. And, sometimes, without consciously knowing it, the stream of perfectly airbrushed images, flawless skin and toned bodies may wreak havoc on our sense of self and body image. 

It’s no secret that social media has increased our exposure to unrealistic and idealized beauty standards. From a psychological standpoint, this has the potential to be harmful. As humans, we engage in social comparisons because it allows us to identify our own progress and standing in various areas of life. However, if we’re constantly comparing ourselves to the perfectionistic messages we receive from social media, it’s a recipe for internalizing our own unrealistic expectations. These expectations or beliefs may trigger negative automatic thoughts about our bodies. We may think that we need to change, modify, or alter our bodies to conform to what we see on social media or to be deemed socially acceptable. As such, these thoughts may prompt maladaptive behaviours including restrictive dieting or overexercising and may further cause us to feel inadequate, sad, or even depressed.

This isn’t a new discovery - and the potential for media to uphold unrealistic beauty ideals was born way before the emergence of social media. However, what sets Instagram or Facebook apart from traditional media outlets is the continuous interaction we have with influencers and peers. In addition, emerging research suggests that when we compare ourselves to people we know or relate to, these comparisons tend to be more harmful. 

While social media has propelled an era of unrealistic beauty standards, it’s unlikely to change or fade any time soon. Given that social media is a tool for communication, connectedness, and entrepreneurship, it’s important that we learn how to interact with our platforms in healthier and more adaptive ways. 

Tips

  1. Set limits. It may seem simple but, by limiting your time on social media, you’ll naturally decrease your exposure to content that can become psychologically harmful. That’s not to say that all content is toxic – however, capping your time spent on social media will help prevent increased exposure.
  2. Intentionality. Be intentional in your social media use. Ask yourself why are you on social media? What’s your intention? What do you want to see? Representing the standard of use in your mind before you hop on social media will help decrease mindless scrolling.
  3. Be mindful of who you follow. Try being selective in the people you follow. Acknowledging that some people’s content may inadvertently make you feel self-conscious may reduce the potential for the harmful psychological effects of social media consumption. There is no shame in putting your mental health before following someone else’s account. Alternatively, follow people who inspire you or make you feel good!
  4. The “best-self” paradigm. Remind yourself that people’s social media content is based on what and how they choose to show it to you. All too often photos are altered, enhanced, or modified and may not be an accurate representation of the original format.

Monitor your emotions. Try to monitor your emotions after scrolling through your social media pages. Do you feel sad or inadequate? This may be a sign that you’re consuming or interacting with pages that may be making you feel this way. If this is the case, try using one of the tips above to help. 


Parenting a child with ADHD

A wise friend once told me “What’s in a diagnosis?”…words that I held on to over the years and use in my practice when working with families. We do not need a diagnosis to learn new strategies to adjust undesirable behaviors or teach a child to improve self-regulation. A diagnosis helps us to understand the child and meet them where they are at; however, it does not define the child.

 

When should a child be assessed?

A psychoeducational assessment can provide helpful strategies to manage the behaviors at home and school. Diagnosing young children for ADHD is still considered controversial before the ages of 6 or 7. The reason for this and largely overlooked, it is developmentally appropriate for young children to be impulsive. Evaluating them when they are older provides greater insight to assess their ability to concentrate and multi-task once they are in elementary school or even later.

Parents may feel overwhelmed and therefore seek the diagnosis early on for support. Regardless of a diagnosis or not, there are many strategies for parents to implement at home to make things easier on the child as well as for the whole family; strategies that help manage the behaviors especially for the child who may feel like they just cannot help themselves and often feel bad for their actions.

Here are some tools that are proven to help a child succeed:

𝑪𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒕𝒆 𝒂 “𝒔𝒂𝒇𝒆 𝒔𝒑𝒂𝒄𝒆” 𝒂𝒕 𝒉𝒐𝒎𝒆 🤗:

Children experiencing behavioral difficulties may experience exclusion or misunderstandings outside their home so it is vital to provide a safe space at home where they can simply ‘be’ who they are. If possible, create a special place in your home where your child can take a break from siblings or relatives. Decorate it with soft pillows and soothing colors, especially if the child becomes overwhelmed easily.

𝑴𝒂𝒌𝒆 𝒄𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒆𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝒄𝒍𝒂𝒔𝒔𝒓𝒐𝒐𝒎 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒐𝒄𝒊𝒂𝒍 𝒔𝒆𝒕𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 🙌 :

If the child goes to daycare or you are looking for one, try to find a setting with smaller class sizes. This will allow for less distractions and movement in the classroom. A Montessori school or approach can also help foster the child’s creative development rather than make them adhere to formal classroom norms. When choosing social activities, try to find ones that involve fewer children such as swimming, karate or art classes. This will set the child up for more success with fewer distractions.

𝑷𝒓𝒐𝒗𝒊𝒅𝒆 𝒇𝒓𝒆𝒒𝒖𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝒃𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒌𝒔 😴 :

Throughout the day, children should be allowed and encouraged to take breaks from their activities and to have quieter spaces with fewer distractions. Breaks are essential to help target symptoms of distractibility and hyperactivity. At home or in school, a quiet corner can be set up with calming activities (picture books, headphones to listen to calming music, sensory or tactile toys, a mat to stretch out on), in a space with less traffic and distractions.

𝑮𝒊𝒗𝒆 𝒔𝒊𝒎𝒑𝒍𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒄𝒍𝒆𝒂𝒓 𝒊𝒏𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒖𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒔 🧠:

To help children as they grow and know their routines, we ask questions to stimulate language development and teach children how to become independent thinkers. In young children, we often give verbal instructions, older children can have them written out for them. In both cases, for a child with ADHD or symptoms of, be sure to break down the instructions into small steps by using clear and simple language. The instructions must be clear and concrete. Rather than a vague command such as: “Get ready for bed” we can say: “It is time to get ready for bed, first brush your teeth, then put on your pyjamas”.

𝑷𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒔𝒖𝒑𝒑𝒐𝒓𝒕 ❤️ :

Encouragement and support are essential to all parents. Let’s face it, parenting can be a tough job, but the rewards are truly great. Parenting a child with behavior difficulties often feels overwhelming for parents and they seek professional help as a last resort. We all can learn new strategies as our children grow. Parents of children with difficulties need to form a strong support network of professionals, educators, as well as other parents experiencing similar challenges. This will help parents feel less overwhelmed and more grounded to face the struggles with support and confidence so as not to feel alone. This is so important, always have hope. 🌈💙


Carbohydrates are only as complicated as you let them be

Carbohydrates are only as complicated as you let them be

The carbohydrate. An unsuspecting, cyclic molecule consisting of six carbons. Each of these carbohydrates have a water molecule attached to them, thus the name, carbohydrates.

Unfortunately, carbs are heavily demonized by many. But why so?

It’s true that carbohydrates are found in sweet, sugary desserts but they are also found in whole grain pasta, sweet potatoes, legumes and your favourite fruits.  To understand the confusion around carbohydrates, let’s break them down into simple and complex.

Complex carbohydrates are actually kinda simple

A food being high in carbohydrates is not always equatable to being high in sugar. Carbohydrates is the umbrella terms for all the different hydrated carbons .

Complex carbohydrates include whole grains like oats, wheat and rye and fruits & vegetables like bananas, broccoli, apples and carrots.

When we digest a complex carbohydrate, it will take longer to release the individual molecules of sugars. Fibres are a type of carbohydrate that is non-digestible, and is found in high amounts in complex carbohydrates.

These fibres (or carbohydrates) can serve as food for our gut micro-biome, increasing the amount of residing good bacteria. They can also decrease blood sugar and blood cholesterol, which is associated with reduced risk of heart disease.

Simple carbohydrates are actually kinda complex

In contrast, simple carbohydrates like candies, pop, chips, white bread, crackers and cookies don’t contain any fiber. While these foods are good for the soul, they don’t come with the health benefits of complex carbohydrates. The carbohydrates are almost immediately broken down into molecules of sugar by the enzymes in our saliva, and enter our blood stream.

But - “simple” carbohydrates are not always equatable with “bad”. Why? Because nutrition isn’t black and white.

Simple carbohydrates are not a waste of calories, as they provide 4 calories per gram meaning they provide your body with energy. Energy, believe it or not, can actually be useful.

For example, simple carbohydrates in the form of white bread, rice and pasta are crucial for athletes to fuel their muscles prior to exercise. Complex carbs won’t do the job as they take too long to digest and can sometimes cause gas and bloating before exercise.

For those living with type I or II diabetes, simple carbohydrates are life saving. If blood sugar goes too low, a serving of simple carbohydrates absorbs fast (within 15 minutes) into the blood stream to normalize blood sugar levels.

So - what does this mean for you?

Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and vegetables have more health benefits than not. Try to aim to have at least 30-40 grams of fiber per day from these foods.

Simple carbohydrates, like sweets and white rice, breads and pastas also have their place. They can spark joy, increase energy or save a life. Don’t demonize them, but don’t over-consume them if you don’t have to.

 


What we know about gut health

What we know and don't know about "gut health"

Our gut microbiome and the science is complicated, but here are some steps you can take based on what we know

Digestive health, or “gut” health is a major nutrition buzzword as of late. Beyond just those living with irritable bowel diseases, such as crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, everyone is getting into gut health to reap the perceived rewards of a healthy and balanced gut.

While it is undeniable that a healthy functioning organ as important as the digestive system is crucial to human health, is “gut health” and it’s available supplements worth the hype?

Let’s dive into what we know and what we don’t know, so you can know what you are getting into before hearing about the next gut health craze.

Short-version: This is what we know about gut health 💥

  • Our gut can be influenced by the food we eat by increase bacterial diversity. More good bacteria can reduce inflammation and less bad bacteria might keep weight stable.
  • Prebiotic fibers are special types of fibers that are used as food by the good bacteria in our gut. While they might reduce inflammation, there is not much evidence for improving any digestive symptoms. 

 

  • Simple lifestyle strategies like regular exercise and stress management are equally important for digestive health. Exercise like walking or jogging literally moves our intestines to help us go regularly, and stress management can improve digestive symptoms.

Long-version: This is what we know about gut health 💥

  1. Our gut microbiome can be influenced by food

Our gut microbiome responds rapidly to changes in diet. For example, consuming a plant-based diet can increase the amount of bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, beneficial bacteria that may reduce inflammation and increase diversity of microbes in our gut. 

Increased bacterial diversity is important, as good bacteria may out-compete bad bacteria in the gut. For example, scientists suspect that bacteria belonging to the firmicutes phylum could extract up to 150 calories of energy from the digestion process, which could lead to weight-gain. 

  1. Some types of fibers can help encourage the growth of good gut bacteria 

Fibers are types of carbohydrates that give structure to plants. Fibers cannot be digested by humans, and instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream will travel down into your large intestines.

In the large intestine, certain types of prebiotic fibers like inulin, lactulose and beta-glucan will serve as food for the healthy bacteria in your gut. Through fermentation, the healthy bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids which may reduce inflammation but research finds that it does not improve digestive symptoms

  1. Regular exercise and stress management is important for overall health, and gut health 

Exercise like walking and jogging moves your intestines, and can help reduce constipation and help you go regularly.

For long-term health, exercise is also important. For example, a recent prospective study of over 40,000 individuals found that aerobic exercise reduces the risk of cancer in the digestive system. While this is not a cause-and-effect relationship, it could be another reason to get moving each day.

Stress can also impact the digestive system. Whether through physical or mental stress, your body activates it’s sympathetic nervous system or “fight-or-flight” mode.

Digestion is slowed down as your body conserves energy to fight off the stressor. In our current lifestyle that breeds chronic stress, the state of “fight-or-flight” can always be turned on, resulting in digestive symptoms as less digestive juices are secreted and muscular contractions are reduced.

Written by : Kristen Sunstrum, RD


Wait...Snacking isn't bad ?

Wait .. isn’t snacking “bad”?

Nope. Snacks can get a bad rap from the ultra-processed “snack foods” found in convenience stores and grocery shelves - but consuming snacks can be part of a healthy, normal diet 💪

For example, snacks can:

  • Fulfill your protein needs, especially if you are following an exercise routine or living an active lifestyle
  • Decrease cravings and ravenous hunger, resulting in more balanced meal intakes later in the day 
  • Increase intake of fiber, vegetables & fruits, to help stabilize blood sugar & energy levels while meeting your micronutrient targets
  • Improve quality of life, by allowing yourself to eat the occasional indulgent snack with your family and friends

But … doesn’t snacking spike insulin levels, leading to weight gain?

Insulin is the hormone that helps our body utilize and store energy from food. The hormone rises in response to intake of carbohydrates (sugar) and amino acids (protein).

A big myth that surrounds insulin and weight-gain is that any rise in insulin is equitable to a gain in fat mass, otherwise known as the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity

The truth is that for healthy people¹, eating normal portions of protein and carbohydrates will not drive weight-gain. Why? Because it’s physiologically impossible, as only an excess of nutrients will become transformed into fat for storage.

When consumed in normal amounts, the insulin won’t drive weight-gain, but rather:

  • Stimulate muscle-protein synthesis for the protein you just consumed (a.k.a muscle gains 💪)
  • Stock muscle and liver glycogen, fuelling your muscles and preparing your body for stable blood sugar levels over the next several hours 💫
  • Produce satiety and fullness hormones, helping you feel full and satisfied 🙌

Now that the snack fears are over, let’s get into the building of a perfect snack.

Step #1: Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps build muscle & is the building block for nearly all body functions (enzymes, hormones, nails, skin, hair). 

A snack with protein helps meet your protein needs throughout the day and can also make you feel fuller & more satisfied 💥. 

Aim to have at least 5 grams of protein per snack, such as:

  • 1 egg (6 grams of protein)
  • 1.5 tablespoon peanut butter (5 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (5 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup of hummus (5 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup of skyr icelandic yogurt (5-7 grams of protein)
  • 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese (5-7 grams of protein)
  • 3/4 cup of soy milk (6 grams of protein)

Step #2: Fiber

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that humans can’t digest. Some types of prebiotic fibres are digested by the bacteria in your gut microbiome while other fibers reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels 📉. 

Aim to have at least 2-3 grams of fiber per snack, such as:

  • 1 whole fruit (banana, apple, pear) or 1/2 cup berries (3 grams fiber)
  • 1/2 cup cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cauliflower) (2-3 grams of fiber)
  • 1 slice of whole-wheat bread (3 grams fiber)
  • 1/4 cup of avocado (3 grams of fiber)
  • 1/4 cup of homemade granola (2-3 grams of fiber)

Step #3: Fat

Healthy fats such as omega-3s are essential, and help reduce inflammation and increase HDL or “good” cholesterol. Fat is also extremely satiating, helping you feel full and satisfied 💫

If your protein or fiber source already contained a source of fat (avocado, nuts, seeds, whole-fat yogurt) you can skip this step. If not, add a small serving of healthy fat to each snack, such as:

  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds 
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts 
  • 2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons of mashed avocado 

Putting it all together… 

Now that we have our three nutrients (protein + fiber + fat) we have the building block for a perfect snack with staying power. Try mixing and matching these together, such as:

  • 1 egg with avocado on whole-wheat toast
  • Banana peanut-butter smoothie with soy milk
  • Yogurt parfait with berries and granola
  • Sliced veggies & hummus or guacamole 
  • Ricotta cheese on whole-wheat toast with tomatoes & walnuts 

What’s your favourite protein + fiber + fat snack? Let us know in the comments 👇

 


Why is Gen-Z obssesed with chlorophyll?

 

“It makes my cells so stoked” says one creator on Tik Tok, enthusiastically showcasing her morning routine of putting 6 drops of a dark, green liquid into a tall glass of water.

Another creator reports that “this stuff is great for digestion, inflammation and overall immunity” as she swirls the dark green, opaque drink with a metal reusable straw.

This mesmerizing, dark green drink has liquid chlorophyll in it — and is the subject of the latest trend amongst Gen Z on TikTok.

What is chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll is the pigment that makes plants green and helps the plant perform photosynthesis, or the process of turning sunlight into sugar for plant energy.

As humans, we don’t rely on photosynthesis for energy, but rather food. That being said, chlorophyll is not an essential nutrient for human health.

It is impossible to be deficient in chlorophyll as our body does not have a need for it in the first place. In fact, our body doesn’t even have a receptor for chlorophyll.

Even if we needed it in small amounts, it is likely we already get enough chlorophyll from fruits and vegetables as it is the most abundant plant pigment on earth.

Chlorophyll is not an essential nutrient for human health

 

Does liquid chlorophyll get rid of acne?

Acne is caused by an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria on the skin. There is evidence to suggest that chlorophyll has anti-bacterial properties, so it could potentially improve acne.

However, the chlorophyll used in this study was in gel form and applied directly onto the skin. In the form of a liquid supplement, any potential anti-bacterial properties of chlorophyll will be destroyed by the stomach acid during digestion.

Is liquid chlorophyll good for weight-loss?

The only “evidence” that exists for chlorophyll and weight-loss exists on Tik Tok — and anecdotes aren’t evidence.

The only imaginable connection I can make here is the link between a diet high in vegetables and fruits (where green vegetables contain chlorophyll) and weight-loss.

 

Can liquid chlorophyll enhance energy levels?

The structure of chlorophyl is similar to hemoglobin, or the protein in our red blood cells that helps deliver oxygen to our cells. Problems with hemoglobin can lead to low energy levels in humans.

However, the atom in the centre of the chlorophyll compound is magnesium, while the atom in the centre of hemoglobin is iron.

While low levels of iron, such as those with iron-deficient anemia will see a boost in energy levels from iron, the same thing can’t be said for the magnesium found in chlorophyll.

Can liquid chlorophyll reduce body odour?

A small study published over 40 years ago suggests that chlorophyll given to nursing home residents improved overall body odour, but not much research has been published since.

Body odour happens when bacteria mixes with sweat, which is why soap is effective in removing the bacteria. One study published in 1957 showed that chlorophyll has anti-bacterial properties, but similar to acne any anti-bacterial properties will be lost once the chlorophyll is digested by the stomach acid.

The bottom line

The evidence is ✨ extremely limited ✨

The only “evidence” we really have exists on 20 second Tik Tok videos. If you are seeing health benefits, its more likely due to increased water consumption or the placebo effect rather than liquid chlorophyll itself.

Eating your greens is more important than a supplement

Green vegetables are rich in chlorophyll as it is what makes the colour possible in the first place. Beyond chlorophyll, vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, water and fiber that will likely reap more health benefits than a concentrated supplement with little evidence.

 

Enjoy liquid chlorophyll if it helps you drink more water

If liquid chlorophyll encourages you to drink more water, then by all mean swirl away (just don’t exceed the maximum dosing as indicated by the manufacturer) as there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to avoid the supplements — it might just drain your pocket.


Early childhood development

EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT - Tamara Malinoff Ps.Ed. 

Babies are born with immature brains; they do not have the neurological or cognitive ability to reason and think as an adult mature brain can. 

Did you know that 90% of brain maturation happens by around 6 years old? This is why managing their emotions in early childhood is so hard! 

Young children are dependent on their parents, family members, teachers and caregivers to develop the necessary skills to become independent and live a healthy, successful life 

While they are learning, for no apparent reason, they will tantrum which is a form of communication. They may roll around kicking and screaming so loud – without any care of concern for the neighbors or shoppers and you know what? It is ok! 

During early childhood, they are learning so much. When we understand that it is part of expressing their needs and desires, we can then:

  • Teach them how to manage their emotions
  • Be there, offer comfort when they cry 
  • Allow them the opportunity to experience making better choices using positive discipline strategies that teach, punishments do not 
  • When young children are overwhelmed by big emotions, it is our responsibility to model calm and not join in the chaos.
  • Remember they are growing and learning. Behind every behavior is a need that is expressed 

Our relationship with food

Food is such an essential part of our lives – it fuels us, it can bring us joy, it can bring us sadness, it can bring us excitement, and it can bring us frustration. What seems like such a simple aspect of human life, is actually something that many have a complicated relationship with, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 4 ways to start making peace and forming a better relationship with food.  

 

LISTEN TO YOUR HUNGER CUES 

Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. It’s something that seems intuitive, for example looking at babies and toddlers, who will cry when they’re hungry and just stop eating when they’re full. However this “intuitive sense” gets overridden as we live life and are influenced by other factors, eventually losing this ability. Food can often be consumed because it’s a meal time, as a coping mechanism, or simply boredom. By taking a moment and really listening to your body, you’ll be able to have a better understanding of it’s needs, and learn how and when to better fuel it. 

 

LOOK AT FOOD WITH A NEUTRAL PAIR OF LENS

Society has made us believe that foods should be put into categories – “good” foods and “bad” foods. But who’s to say what these definitions of good and bad are? If something is sugary but brings us joy, is that automatically deemed a bad food? My answer to this question is always NO. Different foods serve us different purposes. A strawberry-jam filled donut may not have the same nutritional content as a quinoa tofu power bowl, though both equally delicious, can have very different purposes. That power bowl can be fulfilling our nutritional needs, and a donut can be filling that heart hunger, that craving – and that is okay. One is not better than the other, one is not worst than the other, they are neutral, and the moment we accept that is the moment we release the control food has over us. 

 

EAT YOUR CRAVINGS 

Clients are often in awe when I tell them this – “but won’t I eat too much?” “are you sure?” “I don’t understand”. But yes, you heard me right; if you’re craving a triple chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, allow yourself to eat it! Diet culture and society has engrained that in order to succeed and achieve our goals, you must restrict yourself and deny the urge to give into cravings. However, this does the exact opposite of what you want – rather putting yourself in a vicious circle of restricting, then overeating or binging on that craving and feeling guilty, and then restricting again. Rather, if you just allowed yourself to eat that brownie and ice cream and allowed yourself to enjoy it, you would feel better and continue on with your day. You’d be surprised that when you listen to your body and eat what you crave, that it finds a way to balance out all your needs. 

CONNECT WITH YOUR FOOD 

Given our current fast-paced lifestyles, eating is often a secondary thought as we’re in the middle of a Zoom meeting, catching up on our Instagram feed, or in the middle of a Netflix episode. Eating with these other distractions prevents us from really connecting with our food and truly enjoying all that it has to offer. When was the last time that you ate without any distractions – no phone, no TV, no laptop, no book? I challenge you to try one meal with just you and your food, crazy, I know, but it’s worthwhile I promise. I want you to notice the textures, the taste, the appearance, the aromas, and really taste every bite. If we really love food that much, why not give ourselves the time and space to enjoy it? 

WHAT TO TAKEAWAY 

Many of us have complex relationships with food, and we each have a different, unique and personalized experience with it. Ultimately, we want to make peace with food and have it as a relationship that can contribute positively to your health and well-being. Getting it to this state can be journey, but you don’t have to do it alone – there are many qualified registered dietitians out there that can help guide you through these hurdles. It may be daunting, but even this self-reflection is one step closer to a better relationship with food.  

 


Dealing with a lack of control

Lack of control over certain social aspects and how to deal with that / how to manage what we can control

 

Article by Maria Nikolakakou, MSc.A.

March 2020 – the beginning of the pandemic. We recently completed one year from the beginning of the pandemic. It’s been a tough ride, to say the least. 

I have been living in Canada since 2015. The reason was to pursue my master’s degree studies in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. I am originally from Greece, where most of my family resides. When I heard the news of this “new deadly virus” and started witnessing the reactions of the government and people in my area and around the world, I started panicking and feeling unsafe. In the beginning it wasn’t easy. Everyone was in survival mode, trying to make sure to stock up with the necessities -and toilet paper apparently! 

I was also worried for my family back home. I had heard that the measures in Greece were really strict and were creating a sense of restriction for the people there. In Canada, the covid measures were more reasonable, yet there was still a disturbance in our normalcy. It was also the same time when my brother had first arrived in Canada. What a time to move to a new country! He seemed to be less affected by the whole situation than I was. There is something stoic about some people’s personalities that I always admired – they are able to not get too caught up in their emotions and remain calm no matter what is going on around them.

Because of the prolonged nature of the pandemic, both my mental and physical health started declining during the winter of 2021. It was definitely a combination of the harsh Canadian winter, the measures, social distancing and the overall feeling of fear and uncertainty that was in the air. What was making it worse was the fact that I was a new entrepreneur and trying to make ends meet. As I was trying to bring myself “back to my center”, I thought “Wait, what if I am not meant to fight this situation? What if I am supposed to let go of control and surrender to this uncertainty and chaos?”

This was a simple thought, yet, it brought so much clarity!

We have been living through a period that its main characteristic has been the utter loss of control of our everyday life. It is definitely a hard concept to grasp, since we are so used to -try to- control most things in our lives. The pandemic was a blow to the structure that many of us had created for ourselves and our everyday life. The result? Feelings of uncertainty, stress and panic.
It made me think; what makes a person so uneasy about loss of control during the pandemic?

  • Firstly, we have lost our routine. Routine is powerful, as our brain is accustomed to habits. If a disruption occurs in a habit, the brain can become frazzled.
  • Secondly, the social aspect was restricted. We no longer have the freedom to meet our family or friends at any given moment or visit them at home. We can no longer go to bars or clubs and we cannot attend concerts.
  • Thirdly, there was a fear of the unknown. I believe this fear is ingrained in all of us. It is instinctual. In the face of uncertainty, we can feel powerless. Like we are not in control of our present and future.

This feeling of stress, panic and uncertainty has manifested in addictions, such as alcohol and drug abuse, overeating and others.

How can we overcome this?

I believe that we haven’t realized the illusion of control. We can only control the way we think, feel and react. We have no control over anything that exists outside of us. Only when we understand that we think we are in control, we will truly become free.

What can we control? The short answer is “our inner dialogue”. We have a choice between thinking positive or negative thoughts. We have a choice between catastrophizing and seeing the lessons in a hard situation. What we attract in our lives – people, situations, feelings- is related to the quality of our thoughts. 

Living in fear of what might happen decreases our well-being. Fear is the opposite of love. Fear places us in an energetic frequency that will only attract fear in our lives. Fear focuses around lack. Love, however, is an elevated emotion and will attract love in our lives. Raising our energy and vibration to feelings like love, gratitude, joy and peace will eventually start shifting our energy and mindset. The above are all related to the way that the universal law of attraction works. What you give out, you receive. You would have to make an action based on love, like volunteering to help the elderly, in order to start attracting into your life more love.

Something that has helped me has been keeping a gratitude journal, using affirmations on a frequent basis, meditating, moving my body in ways that make me feel good, talking with people that I know have the capacity to listen to me, eating nutritious foods and working on my thoughts and limiting beliefs. Belief work is the most crucial one, in my opinion. 

If you feel like you cannot do it alone, I highly recommend that you look for professional help. There is a lot of support out there, I encourage you to seek it!