Two ways to cope with stress during the Covid-19 pandemic
The Covid-19 crisis has had two notable effects around the world, including Singapore: some people have taken up sports and others have gained weight. Although paradoxical, these two tendencies are ultimately two facets of the same problem: stress management. As a kinesiologist, I would like to share with you some observations from my clinical experience.
An emotional shock, stress or a significant loss associated with a feeling of abandonment can engender a visceral need to be good to ourselves, to comfort ourselves, to anchor ourselves. Sport and food are two different ways of responding to it.
The positive effects of sport include activation of the lymphatic system and consequent elimination of toxins, regulation of stress, and the secretion of the hormones of well-being and joy – dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins – which can sometimes even make it addictive. Sport allows us to feel good physically and also psychologically. It sets us in motion and acts positively on the image we have of ourselves. Running, cycling, kayaking and so on… sport is also a good way to reconnect with our environment and nature, easily accessible in Singapore.
Food also has positive effects, and meals can be occasions of conviviality and sharing. The problem is that in some cases we have increased the amount of food we eat, causing excessive weight gain. It also happens, very unfairly, that without changing anything in our habits we gain weight. Sometimes the fear of insufficiency creates an imbalance in our endocrine system, causing our hormones to panic and affect the absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste by the body. We can either lose weight or gain weight unexpectedly. And certain types of food are particularly addictive. Sugar, for example, is associated with sweetness. In difficult times we may tend to consume more.
It is important to understand the causes behind our behaviour. When we eat or play sports, is it for fun? Or is it to fill a gap?
Feelings of isolation, vulnerability, fragility and uselessness may give rise to emotional and material insecurity, fear of the future, fear of not “weighing in” both literally and figuratively, and loss of control. Hence, a pressing need to regain our power, to be comforted, to fill an inner void and to protect ourselves. Gaining weight is one way to build armour around ourselves.
Another way to regain our power and calm our fears is to anchor ourselves in reality, through breathing, through being present to ourselves, and through contact with our human and natural environment.
This crisis and the stress that it brings can be amplified by emotions from our past, ones that we have buried and that we may not even be aware of. Most of our fears and anxieties have their origins in our childhood. They are often a construction of the mind and a projection of our past emotions into the future. Kinesiology is an interesting tool to free ourselves from emotional overload. Thanks to the muscle test, the kinesiologist questions the body, which carries all of our personal and inherited history. By working on subtle energies, this technique allows us to find a balance between body and mind. Nutritionists, sports coaches, masseurs, psychologists, professional coaches and energy therapists can also provide useful support for losing weight or practicing a motivating and safe sport activity.