Grief is something that we generally hide, because people feel uncomfortable talking about it. But this emotional response to the most traumatic events we suffer needs to be acknowledged. Grief is an emotion that’s closely tied with humiliation and shame, other emotions that we also tend to keep well hidden. This means the result of hidden grief plays havoc on not only our mental health, but on our physical health as well.
When choosing to live a healthier lifestyle, it’s not just about eating more nutritious foods and getting enough exercise to keep the body moving the way it was meant to. Living a healthier life also means looking after your mental health. By keeping any grief hidden because you feel ashamed about it, you don’t allow for the healing process to show you the life lessons gifted to you from the emotion itself.
This past month’s grieving period of our former Queen has brought this emotion to the forefront in the consciousness of the collective. There’s nothing that can prepare anyone for the loss that they feel when grieving — whether it’s for a loved one, a pet, the loss of a relationship, a home that you loved or even a job.
Grieving doesn’t only happen when someone dies, because it’s also possible to grieve the old you if you are going through a weight loss process or another big change in your personal life. However, you should be aware of how this profound emotion can take a toll on your body and weight, especially because of the stress it creates on your immune system.
Most people think of stress as something they have to deal with on an every day basis and this is true to a point if you’re thinking about traffic on the way to work or having a huge pile of laundry to tackle that you’ve been ignoring. But in these past couple of years, our lives have changed so much that our stress levels are beyond anything many of us have ever had to cope with before.
Of course, it’s absolutely normal to feel very sad when we’re grieving, along with shock, pain and/or numbness. And sometimes these feelings can be so intense that your normal way of doing things, such as eating a healthy diet, can completely fly out the window.
So, if the sadness you’re feeling is so intense that you’re finding it difficult to even get out of bed in the morning, this means it’s of upmost importance that you give your body the proper nutrition that it needs, so that it can cope with the emotional distress you’re feeling now as best as it can.
Maintaining a healthy routine — especially on the days when you don’t feel like it — will result in a healthier mind and body in the long term. A foundation of good health means that you will feel both emotionally and physically stronger with each passing day, which will result in faster healing from the pain you’re feeling.
Stress from grief in the longer term will put your overall health in jeopardy, because of the toll it will take on your immune system, which will respond in kind by producing more inflammation that can also affect your brain. Too much inflammation can also cause heart issues if the grief becomes very intense. In addition, any other illnesses that you might already be dealing with, such as high blood pressure, heartburn, type 2 diabetes or insomnia, will not only be exacerbated further, but also fuel the fire of developing new conditions, because of changes in appetite and lack of sleep.
Therefore, it is imperative that you do your best to feel all of your grief, but not allow it to overwhelm you after the initial shock has passed. By taking these simple steps, you can action your way to a healthier body and mind, because although we are told that time heals all wounds, in the case of grief, it is action that facilitates the process of moving through the paralysis that grief brings.
Walk — Even if you only start with a 5-minute walk to the shops, walking every day is a self-nurturing process that will fill your body with higher energy and relieve any stress building up in your cells. Gradually increase the amount of time each day and add in some other exercise when you’re ready. If you are lucky enough to have a park or some countryside nearby, then walking in nature will boost your endorphins (our feel good hormones) even more.
Eat — Grief and eating are very connected, because some people will completely lose their appetites while others want to binge eat with comfort foods. In either case, this will make you feel like you’re out of control, which will negatively impact your mental and physical health. Create a routine and schedule in three healthy meals every day, and put a reminder in your diary so that you sit down and eat. Ask for support from a loved one to help you prepare the meals beforehand, if needed. And try to avoid eating in front of the TV, because you need to be mindful of your intention to feed your body. You should also make sure that you’re keeping well hydrated with water, and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can make you feel more anxious and depressed.
Connection — A very common defence mechanism when we feel grief is to isolate ourselves from other people. And self isolation is something many of us have experience during the lockdown periods, which took a toll on our mental and physical health. Connecting with others is a very powerful tool in grief recovery. Make sure that you keep in touch with friends and family, even if it’s just to talk about how you’re coping with your grief. By sharing your feelings, you could also be helping others to process their own.
I hope that you’ve found these steps helpful. If you would like some more help with your healing process and are ready to take action, call me on 07748 298728 so that we can discuss how I can help you further.
Love, Gaynor x