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Brain Food Blog: Coping Strategies

It’s been nearly five weeks since the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Depending on where you are in the world, social distancing recommendations and stay-at-home orders may have started even before that time, as leaders in different geographies made decisions to help minimize the spread and devastation caused by this unprecedented health emergency.

As a critical infrastructure industry, our science of food community has been impacted differently than some others. While many have transitioned to 100 percent virtual work arrangements, many others continue reporting to work every day. Regardless of which situation you find yourself in, it is easy for day to melt into night and anxiety and stress to sneak in now that our social lives as we know them are on hold. 

In light of that, we asked IFT members what they are doing to cope and stay sane while braving this unique chapter in their lives. We thought we would share these with you in hopes that you find some solace in learning how your peers are managing this unprecedented time. 

Here’s what they had to say.

Stay active: Exercising is critical. Go for walks, runs, or bike rides. Give yoga or pilates a try. Use everyday household items (think water bottles or soup cans) to do weight training. See if your local gym is offering online workouts. This is also a good time to tackle projects around the house and spring cleaning.

Nurture your mind: A healthy mindset is so important. Schedule at least one thing each day to look forward to (i.e., special dinner, book to read, movie to watch). Limit time on social media and consumption of news—you only need enough to get updated on what's going on. Set daily and weekly goals so you know what you need to accomplish. Purposefully think of the positives in each day, no matter how small they are, and allow them to brighten your day. Participate in online meditation sessions or download a free meditation app to your smartphone. Watch funny TV series or movies to lighten the mood. Read books for fun.

Connect with others: There is so much technology available today to bridge the distance—use it! Reach out to your professional network often. Text or call family and friends to stay in touch. Use video conferencing solutions such as Zoom or FaceTime to connect one-on-one or host a virtual gathering of family or friends. Enjoy time with those you’re quarantined with too! 

Start or continue a hobby: It’s a great time to pick up new hobbies, focus on the ones you love, or start doing old ones again. One member has started knitting and is hoping to knit pairs of socks for the whole family by the time this ends, while another started knitting an afghan with stitches they are learning on YouTube. Another is excited to spend time on her gardening hobby and ever the scientist, has started some "experiments" on how seeds germinate best. Yet another is work on her baking skills and using her creative skills to make masks for donation to essential workers.

Continue learning: Tapping into the wealth of online learning options available is a great way to fill your time, learn new skills, and expand your knowledge. Find a new podcast (might we recommend the Food Disruptors podcast), take an hour to listen to a webcast (our entire virtual webcast library is FREE for a limited time for members and non-members), or commit to an online course.

Make healthy choices: Protect yourself as much as possible. If you have to leave the house, practice social distancing, try your hardest not to touch your face, and sanitize as often as possible. Make sure you are eating a healthy diet full of vitamins and minerals coming from natural sources. Stay away as much as possible from things that may hurt your vital organs and your immune system. Drink plenty of water. Rest and rejuvenate with an adequate amount of sleep each night.

Recognizing when you need to keep yourself busy and giving yourself permission to relax are essential to not only surviving but thriving during your extended time at home. Take care of yourself as best as you can as you navigate the challenges of the days to come, whatever that looks like for you.

Thank you to the following IFT members for sharing their self-care strategies with us.

Luan N. Blancher, Givaudan
Deonna Bolden, Vanee Foods Company
Hannah E. Dressen, Tate and Lyle Solutions Direct
Matthew W. Hemby, Pero Family Farms
Maria Khalil, Chapman University
Ben Marandi, PhD, BSD Group
Chinwendu Ozoh, Iowa State University
Michele Perchonek, PhD, CFS, IFT Immediate Past President, retiree
Abigail Sommer, The Ohio State University

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