By Beau Peters
Everyone handles grief differently. It’s a process, and there’s no perfect timeline for getting through it. While most people understand the stages of grief, that doesn’t mean everyone’s pace or symptoms are the same.
When you’re mourning the loss of someone or something, it’s hard to focus on anything else – including your well-being. Unfortunately, grief causes a lot of stress on the body. If self-care takes a back seat, it can make the grieving process even worse and harder to get through.
It’s important for anyone going through a period of loss to practice proper nutrition. But, if that seems easier said than done, we understand. The last thing you might want to do is sit down and eat when your heart is feeling empty. However, by taking care of yourself, you can keep moving forward and have an easier time coping.
Let’s focus on why proper nutrition while grieving is so important, and how you can make sure your mind and body are getting what they need, even when you might not feel like eating.
How Grief Impacts Your Body
If you’re having trouble taking care of yourself or even eating properly while grieving, it’s important to know what your body might be dealing with. We tend to think of grief as an emotional and/or mental health issue. While it is, it can also wreak havoc on your body, especially when you’re not caring for yourself properly. The extreme stress caused by grief can trigger physical issues like:
- Gastrointestinal and digestive problems, including GERD and acid reflux
- Physical pain
Unfortunately, the physical problems caused by grief can make it harder to work through your emotions. When you’re tired, feeling sick, or in pain, you’re not going to focus on coping with your loss or moving forward. You might even start to feel stuck in a negative cycle where your physical symptoms make your grief worse.
Why Nutrition is Important
What does nutrition have to do with getting through the grieving process?
A lot more than you might think.
Now that you know the effects of grief on your body, it’s important to understand how eating properly can combat those symptoms and get you out of that negative cycle. For example, one of the physical side effects of grief is fatigue. Feeling tired and dealing with low energy throughout the day makes it hard to cope with everyday life, let alone the loss you’re going through. Choosing to eat for energy can help you to fight fatigue and work through your stress in healthy, effective ways. Some of the best foods for boosting energy are:
- High-quality protein
- Healthy fats
When you feel more energized and awake, you’re more likely to take the right steps toward self-care. Start by eating some of the foods listed above, and you’ll be less likely to crawl back into bed and shut out the world.
What Can You Do When Grief’s Eating You?
Even knowing how grief is impacting you and recognizing the importance of nutrition, it’s not always easy to put that knowledge into practice.
Maybe you don’t feel like eating at all. That’s especially true if your stress levels are causing you to have stomach issues. Or, maybe you’ve been turning to comfort foods to help you feel better. Reaching for a pint of ice cream might provide some kind of “relief” for a few minutes. But, it can leave you feeling worse than before.
The best route to take is to focus on developing healthy eating habits. It might not be the best time to completely change your habits from before. But, if you can focus on making small shifts in your nutrition, it can go a long way in improving your physical and mental well-being. Some of the best strategies you can use to eat better while grieving are:
- Keeping your meals simple
- Scheduling times to eat with friends or family
- Eating at set times each day, rather than only when you’re feeling hungry
- Snacking on fruit, vegetables, nuts, and lean proteins
Start small when it comes to introducing better nutrition. Your goal should be to get back to where you were before your loss – or, even better, if you didn’t have great eating habits before. Focusing on your nutrition can provide you with a temporary distraction and something to focus on. That can be the jumpstart you need to move through the stages of grief. As you start to feed your body what it needs, your mental health state will benefit, too, so you can be stronger when it comes to coping and accepting your loss.
It’s never easy to focus on yourself and your needs while grieving. But, keep these tips in mind to get the nutrition you need, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your support system or a counselor if you can’t do it on your own.
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