The year 2020 brought along a pandemic but imparted some much-needed lessons about health and hygiene. From drinking immunity-boosting kadhas to exercising to build resilience, all of us joined a social-distanced journey of taking care of our health. And in 2021, the need for this collective effort needs to continue seems to be the order of the year.

TC46 caught up with Clinical Nutritionist & Dietician Dr Shweta Mahadik of Fortis Hospital, Mumbai who had some interesting insights about the health goals people should work towards in 2021 given the lessons we’ve learnt from the pandemic.

1. What were some major health concerns for women in 2020 & why?

Some of the most common health issues which women generally face are: 

  • Breast cancer
  • Heart diseases
  • Osteoporosis
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Thyroid
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Gynaecological health issues

This can be due to genetic disposition, family history and lifestyle factors. During lockdown due to the extra pressure of managing the office, family, and household chores, females were more vulnerable to gaining weight, developing mental health issues such as anxiety and stress, and physiological issues like back pain due to increased number of hours spent using digital devices.

2. With the pandemic still a reality, what changes implemented in 2020 should become a part of your daily lives?

The pandemic is here to stay for a while, therefore it is advisable to maintain social distancing, mandatorily to continue wearing masks and hand sanitization. One should also practice personal and household hygiene. Any food item or articles which you bring from outside need to be washed or sanitized. Patients are advised to take treatment and medications prescribed by a doctor, and visit medical professionals for follow-ups rather than avoiding them due to Covid-19.

3. What is the importance of emotional wellness in today’s life?

The importance and need for emotional wellness are multifold:

  • Helps in being emotionally balanced and stable in challenging conditions; emotionally healthy people can bounce back more quickly than others
  • Able to identify desires or aims in life, take positive actions that can help to fulfil desires and can make changes to life
  • Heal from stress, anxiety, depression, affliction, and other health issues like decrease in blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, affect hormonal balance
  • Alter the negative feelings and thinking and behaviour patterns like sadness, hate, anger, frustration and which in turn lowers blood pressure, blood sugar and hormonal levels like endorphins
  • Boost self-confidence and belief in oneself. An emotionally positive person has better health, mental stability, and productivity in doing all activities.
  • Be optimistic and it will bring growth in life. For example, Take every obstacle as a challenge in life and try to eliminate that by having an attitude that nothing is impossible in this world
  • Live life with a new vision and purpose, which will help to think positively to accomplish that purpose
  • It will improve social skills to connect with the community and how to interact with different kinds of people

4. What are some emotional wellness resolutions that can help you lead a balanced life?

Some emotional wellness resolutions to lead a balanced life are:

  • Join the psychological service centres for stress management which provide individual counselling, that can help to minimize the risk of certain diseases such as depression, heart disease, diabetes and more
  • According to experts, 30 minutes of massage alters the mood and alleviates the discomfort that relaxes the mind and body
  • Attend workshops and events related to mental wellbeing and become aware of how to think optimistic and stay healthy at any stage of life
  • Understand your emotions if they are negative and affecting your health physically, then try to improve these feelings
  • Try to avoid conflict, practice self-respect
  • Do things that make a positive impact on others and exercise self-discipline. Take time to sit down and think calmly about the things going on in life and what you want to do in life. Endorphin hormone released in the body helps to relieve stress and increases the feeling of happiness. Plenty of this hormone is released when we smile, exercise, eat dark chocolates and other activities that offer fulfilment
  • As stress, depression and anxiety are major contributors to digestive disorders, sleep disruption, and lack of energy, get enough rest, such as at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep
  • Eat a healthy balanced meal. Have a mixture of all food groups like cereals, pulses, milk and milk products, fruits and veggies, nuts and oilseeds, oil and fats in your daily diet. Include at-least 3-4 servings of green vegetables and fruits in your diet to keep your body and mind active and stress-free. Good and healthy eating habits enable the person to be mentally stable
  • Do exercises to alleviate tension. Daily 30 minutes of physical activity like walking, jogging, some breathing exercises help in reducing blood pressure, slow heart rate, lower triglycerides, and cholesterol level and enhance the immune system of the body
  • Communicate with people around you and engage in social activities
  • Stop consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, and other substances that explicitly reduce the emotional activity of the mind

5. What were some major mental health concerns in 2020?

The major mental health issues that have been globally associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Insomnia
  • Denial
  • Anger 
  • Fear

Some evidence and media reports indicate a growing pattern of suicide in the community, amongst people with COVID 19, and individuals in quarantine and isolation.

6. What are some recommended resolutions for mental health?

Set realistic New Year’s resolutions for your mental health:

  • Make Time For Self-Care: Brainstorm a list of self-care tasks that make you happy and schedule them as part of your daily routine. This could be structured therapy sessions or regular physical activity or simply an outdoor walk or time with loved ones
  • Be Kind To Yourself: It can be difficult to adjust and sometimes takes time. Allow yourself to have emotions and forgive yourself for mistakes. You’re here and do the best you can, and that’s what counts
  • Make Sleep A Priority: Mental health and sleep are closely related. Deprivation of sleep impacts the mental health and psychological condition. Those with mental health problems are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders. In 2021, try to go to sleep a little bit earlier every night and give your body the rest it needs
  • Limit Your Screen Time: Spending too much time on your phone or computer can affect your sleep quality, your relationships and even contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. Be mindful of how much time you spend online and the effect it has on your mental health and, if possible, make improvements
  • Have A Balanced Meal: Many studies suggest that what we eat may affect not just our physical health, but also our mental health and wellbeing. Eating a diet rich in vegetables and nutrients may be associated with feelings of well-being. In 2014 one study found that high levels of wellbeing were reported by individuals who ate more fruit and vegetables. Some recent studies found that a Mediterranean-style diet-  a diet high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and low fat led to a reduction in depression among participants
  • Indulge In Daily Physical Activity: It is exercise alone that supports the spirits and keeps the mind in vigour. Regular exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on our mood. A study asked individuals to rate their mood immediately after physical activity periods (e.g. going for a walk or doing some housework) and inactivity periods (e.g. reading a book or watching television). The study found that the participants felt more content, more awake and calmer after being physically active compared to after periods of inactivity

7. What are some recommended stress-busting resolutions for people who are struggling emotionally?

  • Take a piece of paper and write down your worries and stress. On the other hand write the things you are grateful for, your list of positive things that will remind you how blessed you are
  • The best option to take a short walk during the workday can be an excellent break, as well as the exercise boost, that employees need
  • Encouraging staff to discuss issues and concerns with their managers and leadership teams helps to alleviate the confusion. It offers an efficient method for expressing complaints and answering questions
  • The simple act of helping others can help provide some perspective. One of the best stress relievers is perspective
  • One of the best ways to combat stress could be to create a friendly work atmosphere

8. What are some diet & workout resolutions women should try and cultivate in the New Year?

Healthy eating is a way that improves your health and helps to prevent various diseases. It means selecting different types of healthy food from all of the food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and proteins) in the correct portion. 

  • Try to avoid foods loaded with added sugar, salt, and saturated and trans fats.
  • Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as it is high in fibre. Vegetables and fruits that are deeply coloured are especially recommended as they have the highest micronutrient content
  • Choose whole-grain, high-fibre foods. These include fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans). Good whole grain choices include whole Wheat, Oats, oatmeal, Rye, Barley, brown rice, millets and so on
  • Consume a good amount of protein like skim milk and its products, cow’s milk, legumes, pulses, whole grains, egg whites, poultry, and fish
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, especially oily fish (Sardine, Mackerel, Tuna, Salmon, Herring, Trout), Almonds, Walnuts, Flaxseeds. This helps in lowering bad cholesterol
  • Limit the intake of saturated fat and trans fat foods such as bakery products, cakes, pastries, packaged foods, fried items, red meat, ghee, butter, dalda, and margarine. Also restrict intake of egg yolk, shellfish which is high in cholesterol
  • Limit the intake of oil to ½ kg per person per month. Prefer using blends of oil in weekly rotation as the content of PUFA, MUFA and SAFA vary in each oil
  • Prefer cooking methods like broiling, boiling, stewing, grilling, baking, roasting rather than frying
  • Reduce intake of salt in your food as it may increase blood pressure which is a risk factor for heart disease. Hence, restrict intake of foods like pickle, papad, canned and preserved vegetables and fruits, dry fish, namkeen, readymade chutneys, tomato ketchup, ready to eat and ready to cook products
  • Cut down on carbonated beverages and foods that contain added sugars like corn syrups, sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, concentrated fruit juice, honey
  • Consume alcohol in moderation
  • Check your portion size and have small and frequent meals. Avoid feasting and fasting
  • Exercise regularly for at least 30-40 minutes, 5 days a week. It is advisable to do yoga, brisk walking, aerobics, swimming, and bicycling
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