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Combining Physical Exercise and Nutrition With Bereavement Care

As we pass National Grief Awareness Day on August 30, it’s a good time to discuss how the bereavement process can be eased with proper nutrition and physical exercise. If you have recently lost a loved one in Santa Clara and elsewhere, bereavement services such as support groups and counseling can help, but it’s just as important to make sure you eat right and stay physically active. Here are some nutrition and exercise tips to help you through the grieving process after loss.

Take it Slow

If you were a rigorous exerciser before the loss, you may feel pressured to get back to that pre-loss regimen that used to energize you. But many people feel like they’re just not up to it. They feel fatigued, have difficulty sleeping, and even have musculoskeletal pain. You may try to keep pushing through it, toughing it out so you can maintain your pre-loss levels of exercise. But many experts agree this may not be the smartest choice, at least for now. If your body isn’t cooperating and you find it hard to reach your fitness and nutrition goals, take a step back and re-evaluate those goals. This is a time to practice self-care, stop judging yourself, and listen to what your body is telling you, says Very Well Fit.

During grief, many people become more fatigued than usual, and can actually become more accident-prone. For these reasons, it’s best to back off a bit and stick to slower or more moderate workouts until you feel physically and mentally stronger. As you ramp up your workout, keep an eye out for feelings of increased fatigue, clumsiness, prevalence of more colds and viruses, and periods of feeling overwhelmed. Take a gentle approach to these symptoms, and don’t force yourself to push through the pain and fatigue. You will get back there eventually. For now, don’t be so hard on yourself.

Exercise Tips For Easing Grief

Redefine what exercise means to you after loss. For many type-A fitness lovers, exercise means lots of sweat and hundreds of calories burned. But during the grieving process, you may want to scale way back and define exercise simply as movement of any kind. Scale back the workout in terms of time or energy. Take walks instead of runs. Whatever it is, find your balance.

For those who enjoy getting moderate exercise each day, such as walking around the block and engaging in cardio classes a couple of days a week, it may be enough, for now, to consider exercise as a walk to the mailbox and back.

But even though you may be scaling back on exercise, this doesn’t mean you should be completely sedentary, which can have the opposite effect. Grief symptoms can be alleviated through regular activity. Staying inactive and lying in bed all day can lead to anxiety and depression. In fact, exercise is an all-natural remedy when fighting depression, and can be as effective as antidepressants in some cases, points out Harvard Health Publishing.

Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which in turn helps in relieving stress and improving mood. Your outlook on life may change, too. That’s because your brain’s default network associated with introspection and concentration starts to slow down when meditating and exercising, giving your focused mind a more positive attitude.

During this period of bereavement, stick with simple forms of exercise, such as tai chi, yoga, and walking, or perhaps some group fitness classes for added social support. Schedule regular activity with friends, such as morning walks with a neighbor, to hold you accountable to daily activity, no matter how mild it may be.

Nutrition Tips For Easing Grief

In the same vein, take a gentle approach to getting back on track when it comes to your diet. Pre-loss, your diet may have been very regimented. But after loss, that can all go out the window. You may start taking comfort in food to ease your pain, or maybe you will start to shun food because your appetite is shot. Whatever the case, don’t pressure yourself into adhering to a strict diet. Make reasonable, healthy choices when you can, and give yourself a break when you can’t.

Many people, in their grief, turn to alcohol or drugs, caffeine, or high-carb foods to numb the pain, but only temporarily. Heed these tips:

  • Have no more than one cup of coffee per day, preferably in the morning.
  • Limit alcohol
  • Increase protein intake
  • Drink plenty of water (crying dehydrates the body)

Familiarize yourself with basic foods and how they can help. For instance, foods high in vitamin B are known to reduce stress. Foods high in iron, such as broccoli and spinach, boost stamina, strength, and immunity. Eating berries can boost memory. Use this period of bereavement to focus on the basics, eating and exercising in a moderate, balanced way.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Pathways realizes the toll that loss can take on surviving family members. That’s why we offer many bereavement support services for the grieving, such as counseling, workshops and support groups. Learn more about how you can get involved when you contact us at 888-978-1306.