Column: Loss, Health and the Holidays

Sad but true, everyone at some point in life will experience the loss of a loved one. Holidays seem to intensify the sadness, and an empty chair at the table can bring us to tears, as can a song, a smell, a simple word or thought. We can be so overwhelmed with grief that we forget to take care of ourselves. Our health, physical and mental, suffers the most. We stay busy doing things to suppress our feelings, which in turn just makes it worse and tends to exhaust us.

Exercise and healthy eating is the last thing on your mind. In fact, it’s probably not on your mind at all. I know firsthand how much both exercise and eating healthy can help with grief. Mentally the loss of a loved one can affect the way we think, our emotions, our concentration and even our memory. Physically, it’s exhausting to grieve a loved one.

There are chemicals generated in the brain that help to make us happy-

ENDORPHINS are released during any kind of physical activity. Anything from a short walk to aerobic exercise can help increase endorphins.

SEROTONIN can be increased by sunshine, a walk outside on a sunny day, even if just around the block. Happy thoughts also increase serotonin, so try and think of happy memories with your loved one. Serotonin is also found in certain foods, such as avocado, chicken, Greek yogurt, green tea, salmon, tomatoes and more. These are healthy foods that benefit you, not only by eating, but also by helping to make you happy.

OXYTOCIN not the drug, or even the hormone released during pregnancy, but rather a touch, a hug, or a handshake, something that gives you the “warm fuzzies”

DOPAMINE is the “reward chemical” when you reach a goal or do something nice for someone, your brain tells you “good job”, that’s dopamine doing its job. You can achieve the smallest exercise goal and feel good about it!

Along with the list of foods that release serotonin, there are also foods that can slow you down mentally and physically. These foods are high in fat, sugar, caffeine and carbs. So try not to consume too many of those.

Friends and family will also be a big support at this time. Start new traditions, maybe do some volunteer work. Grab a friend, go for a walk, talk about your feelings. Join a gym with a friend! Grief is hard work and we need to do our best to try and stay healthy while we grieve, especially through the holidays.

We here at Freeport Health Club and Freeport Health Club + Plus are here to help you. No goal is too big or small. Let us help you through the holidays. Stop down and check us out at the F.A. Read Center, or call us at (815)233-0066 ext 2

Valerie Bardell is a trainer at Freeport Health Club. She can be reached at (815) 233-0066.

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