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What COVID Can Teach Us About Stress Management

Different coping styles tell us a lot about healthy eating

Now that COVID is somewhat behind us, we have some space to stop and reflect. We can remember the days when masks were mandatory, lockdowns were frequent, and many businesses were shutting down (except, of course, hospitals).
Some of us used the time to down-regulate our lives, taking advantage of a less hectic lifestyle. Others’ lives became even more hectic as schools closed, and daycare was a non-starter. Job insecurity became a huge issue. Supply chains were questionable. Not to mention the loss of loved ones and acquaintances.
And we had no idea when things were going to improve, at least until a vaccine became widely available. That first year was quite a challenge, and there was nowhere to go. It was a worldwide health threat.
COVID Anxiety and the Consumption of Junk Foods
A couple of studies presented in a 2022 research paper (Juad and Lunardo) looked at anxiety during 2020 in adults aged 18-35 in the United Kingdom and France. Their background research showed that this age group tended to struggle more with anxiety than older adults, showing a greater tendency to feel isolated, overwhelmed, and helpless.
This particular study decided to look at the uptick in eating junk foods (high-calorie, processed foods) and sugary drinks as a coping strategy for pandemic anxiety. Juad and Lunardo also found that there were specific coping strategies used by some individuals that did not lead to continued states of anxiety and turning to compensatory eating practices.
They discovered that feelings of helplessness caused many individuals to have a lower acceptance of the situation. Helplessness indicates a general feeling of not having the ability to find a way to cope with the situation. This is known as low self-efficacy.
Individuals who felt helpless tended to eat more junk food (often accompanied by weight gain) during the first year of the pandemic. On the other hand, those who were able to accept the situation were then able to develop positive coping strategies. As a result, they did not turn to junk food as a coping strategy.
Anxiety and Self-Efficacy
Other research has explored the connection between helplessness and feelings of low-self efficacy. Low self-efficacy can lead to ignoring or rejecting positive coping strategies that a person does not feel capable of performing. The opposite would be self-efficacy, or a person’s belief in their ability to find and use coping strategies to achieve a goal or complete a task.
These same concepts are evident when designing behavior change interventions that promote a healthy eating style compatible with maintaining a healthy weight.
What do they have in common? Both have to do with conquering the negativity that comes with stress that can leave a person stuck in an unproductive belief system. Without self-efficacy on board, it is easy to stay focused on the negative, use negative self-talk, and stay in black-and-white thinking. These patterns can lead a person to think that changing the situation is impossible.
The question is, can some interventions increase self-efficacy, and if so, how?
The Role of Stress Management
A study in 2022 (Carfora, Morandi, and Catellani) identified several techniques that had a positive effect on developing dietary self-efficacy. Self-monitoring, feedback on performance, review of behavioral goals, setting up a reward system, and social support all increased dietary self-efficacy.
The kicker was that stress management was consistently associated with self-efficacy across all analyses and came out as the strongest indicator.
This finding takes us right back to what was happening during COVID with regard to turning to unhealthy foods. Anxiety is a big part of stress. Jaud and Lunardo found a huge association between being able to handle the anxiety of an uncontrollable situation like the pandemic and the ability to make healthy food choices. That association points to the role of self-efficacy when handling the stress of the situation.
Rewriting Stress
Getting back to the question of whether self-efficacy can be increased, it would appear that stress management plays a key role. Taking it a step further, what actions can be taken to respond to stress that will lower its effect on us?
As Jaud and Lunardo indicated, the ability to accept the situation could then serve as the basis for developing coping strategies leading to the ability to maintain healthy eating during the pandemic.
Other research has supported several techniques used to reduce stress and develop coping strategies when designing healthy eating interventions. These techniques have been proven effective time and again. These strategies can be applied to the successful management of stress during challenging times, such as the pandemic, as well as using behavior change interventions in healthy eating or weight-loss programs.

psychology today

12 replies
  1. Sahel nafary
    Sahel nafary says:

    Humans should try not to lose themselves when faced with difficult situations and change the situation for themselves in a positive and efficient way by dealing positively with the situation and managing their stress and negative moods. Being helpless because of not being able to cope with the situation causes physical and mental damage even after getting out of that difficult situation.

  2. zahra moradi
    zahra moradi says:

    Stop reading, watching and listening to the news and stay away from social networks. Constantly reading about the state of the global covid-19 pandemic is not only unhelpful, it will make you even more upset.
    Take care of your body. Take deep breaths and stretch or meditate. Eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. Get enough sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
    Use your time to do your favorite hobbies like reading books, watching movies or playing games.
    Communicate with others. Talk to people you trust about your feelings. These were the recommendations that we had to pay attention to during the outbreak of Corona

  3. Zahra bahram
    Zahra bahram says:

    Hello, dear professor, have a good day
    The Corona period was really a difficult period, many people got sick during this period and many lost their loved ones. Generally, it was a stressful period, which caused a decrease in the body’s immune system and weakened the body against Corona. The type of nutrition has a great impact on stress and we can control our stress by controlling nutrition and accepting the reality.

  4. Omid Takook
    Omid Takook says:

    Omid Takook

    As the student of the Feeling and Perception Course on Fridays at 12:30, my opinion, research, and comment about this essay is:

    Stress can lead to unhealthy eating habits, including consuming junk food. It often high in sugar, salt, and fat, which can provide temporary comfort during times of stress. However, consuming junk food can also increase stress levels in the long run due to its negative impact on physical health.
    Stress management techniques such as exercise and meditation can help reduce the desire for junk food. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can improve overall mental health and reduce stress levels.
    Chronic stress can lead to weight gain and obesity, which are risk factors for numerous health problems. Consuming too much junk food can also lead to inflammation in the body, which has been linked to depression and anxiety.
    It is important to remember that occasional indulgences in junk food are okay but should not be relied upon as a primary coping mechanism for stress.

  5. zahra kakavand
    zahra kakavand says:

    According to the German sociologist Austria Beck (1944-2015), globalization is a non-linear dialectical process in which the global and the local exist not as cultural poles but as combined and complex principles. He claims that there are all-round difficulties to produce knowledge in risky societies. Against this danger, the self-examination and expertise of some experts speak in defense and some in rejecting and opposing the world’s endangered phenomena.
    The phenomenon of Covid-19 was one of the health, scientific, and global phenomena, which according to many scientists such as Habermas, Chomsky, Stiglitz, etc., was one of the phenomena of political indifference to the health of society by global scientific health companies. Noam Chomsky’s famous sentence (When the Covid-19 pandemic was recognized, pharmaceutical companies were making cosmetics) resonated in the scientific world.
    Many global psychological, social, economic, health and human complications of Covid-19
    So far, after 4 years of the pandemic, the world is still suffering from a lack of scientific attention and trust in this danger and global risk.
    Stress management is one of the ways to deal with risks.
    According to Lauren Ragland and Jennifer Casarella, stress is part of being human and can motivate us to do things. But severe stress is a disease, stress caused by loss of job, accidents, death of dependents, etc. is a part of life and is normal for a short time. When stress continues for a long time, we need stress management.

  6. Kobra bazdar
    Kobra bazdar says:

    My take from this article is that Corona was the biggest source of stress and anxiety in these two years. Most of the people who were obsessed got worse and the people who were not obsessed were also affected by it. The effects of this pandemic were huge even in the way people eat Overeating and laziness also intensified in children, and depression caused acute problems after that. Thanks for the helpful scientific article.

  7. Fateme Alijanpoor
    Fateme Alijanpoor says:

    Hello, Professor Malehi, have a good time. I think that we get stressed in any stressful or new and unknown situation, which seems to be normal. It is important to be able to choose the right way to deal with it in any situation.

  8. sara.samani
    sara.samani says:

    It was a really great article. Reading this article reminded me of the beginning of the epidemic of this dangerous virus. In those days, because the disease was unknown, everyone endured extreme stress and tension. It is definitely necessary to learn how to control and manage stress in life.

  9. Khadijeh sedaghat
    Khadijeh sedaghat says:

    Corona, which was an unknown disease, caused a lot of stress for us and almost disrupted our lives and created a bad psychological atmosphere, but besides this, it is stress management that requires training and learning.
    Thank you for your informative content, dear doctor

  10. Niloofar Khoshdel
    Niloofar Khoshdel says:

    Good evening, dear professor, I am niloofar khoshdel from Iranian University. Reading this article, I remembered the hard days that were widespread and exhausting and maybe a little disappointing! And in my opinion, the subject of autonomic stress is very effective not only in epidemics, but also in most situations in life. And in my opinion, autonomic stress is highly influenced by stress and hinders the breadth of vision, positivity, the ability to deal with situations and even thinking. And the reasoning is correct. And I think it can be a little related to perfectionism, of course! Thank you very much for your wonderful site

  11. Arshiya Farhangi
    Arshiya Farhangi says:

    Hello, I just finished this article, the points that I understood are that we get stressed in any situation that is stressful or new and unknown, which is normal in my opinion. The important thing is that we can deal with the situation. to reduce our stress and increase our self-efficacy. So the first step is acceptance, after accepting, we must look for efficient and useful solutions to be able to cope with the situation. In the stress we all experienced due to Covid, we We had to control our diet because we couldn’t have much physical activity outside the house, we also had to replace useful activities such as reading and meditation with non-useful activities so that we could enjoy life at home more.

  12. Arshiya Farhangi
    Arshiya Farhangi says:

    Hello, I just finished reading this article. What I understood is that we all get stressed in situations and this is completely normal. But the important thing is not to get confused and lost. We have to accept the situation. This is the first step in reducing stress and increasing self-efficacy. After admission, we should look for healthy solutions to cope with the situation. In the stress caused by Covid, we all must have had to follow our diet because we could not do physical activity outside the house. Also, we should have made staying at home more enjoyable with useful alternative activities such as reading books and meditation.


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