Grappling with lockdown anxiety? Olga Preston, nutritional therapist and ION graduate, shares her advice for navigating the lockdown blues 

1. Reduce sugar

“We all love a little something sweet in our lives, but sugar increases anxiety and if that is something you are particularly worried about it would be best to stick to natural sugars from fruit. Whenever possible, choose berries; fresh or frozen. Otherwise, citrus fruits like oranges and satsumas, or apples or pears. As much as possible, avoid bananas and dried fruit which are high in sugar and may increase anxiety.

 “Remember to eat fruit with natural yogurt or cottage cheese, or a handful of seeds, nuts or nut butter to avoid a sugar spike affecting your blood sugar levels. The same applies if you’re using fruits and vegetables in your smoothies.

 “If you have a craving for mangoes or pineapple, use them in salads, alongside fish or chicken, to minimise their impact on your blood sugar and therefore their impact on anxiety.”

2. Fresh air, laugh and sweat

“Fresh air is good for your brain and your soul. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, use it daily. Looking at plants will also help you to relax. If you do not have a garden but have access to a balcony then use it every few hours. If you do not have either, try at least to go out of your front door to get some fresh air. Keep the windows open in your house and sit close to the open window.

 “Whenever possible, watch news to keep you informed but avoid constantly watching negative news. Try to watch a comedy programme, or try to look at pictures of when you were at school and had a funny looking haircut! Laughing will raise your endorphins and raise your feel good factors.

 “Sweating will also make you feel good and help to relieve tension and anxiety, as well as increasing endorphins. Try to do an exercise class or home workout.

 “At nights, try to do a yoga, meditation or mindfulness class online to help you set up for a good night’s sleep. If you have access to an electronic aromatherapy diffuser, put some lavender oil in and relax.”

3. Music

“Some say that music feeds the soul, and music therapy is successfully used in many hospitals. Have music on in the background for companionship and choose some upbeat sounds for dancing around - you could even have a go at learning salsa. It all helps and will distract your mind. Perhaps mix music and exercise - a good Zumba class might just be what you need!”

4. Stay in touch with loved ones

 “Use technology to stay in touch with your loved ones, but rather than talking about coronavirus, try to focus on all the things you want to do when this is over. Finally, sign up to do that course you've wanted to do forever, or change careers.”

5. Reduce alcohol

“It’s tempting to reach for a wine or a gin and tonic when you are worried about things, but this will have the opposite effect on your long-term mood. If you want to have a drink, make sure you have it after food - and just have one drink, rather than the whole bottle! You can also choose sparkling water with lemon, berries or mint instead, and drink it in a wine glass.

 “Finally, if you know that you are reacting to a specific food then try your best to avoid it, as food intolerances are associated with anxiety.

 The most important thing is to try your best but do not stress - there is only so much we can do under the current circumstances.

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