Social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ have become part of the daily lexicon by now. And so have terms like ‘banana bread’, ‘Dalgona coffee’, ‘All dressed up but nowhere to go’, and more. Agree? Since we went into lockdown last year, all kinds of weird (‘new normal’) behaviours have taken over Instagram—from the incessant baking to the countless challenges.
And we want to know why! So we asked Saliha Afridi, a Dubai-based clinical psychologist, to shed light on the reasons the pandemic is affecting our cooking, sleeping, exercising, and other habits in unexpected ways.
Why is everyone baking, especially banana bread?
Well, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t on our third batch, ourselves. “Firstly, the smell of baking is soothing, and relaxing. And nostalgic—it reminds people of their childhood or of earlier, happier times,” says Dr Saliha. Our olfactory memory is the longest memory, and so with the smell of banana bread, we can be transported to times of childhood, when life was carefree,” she adds.
“Secondly, when the body is stressed, eating sugary foods can actually temporarily reduce the stress. When we get worried, our body gets flooded with a hormone called cortisol. And when we eat sugar or carbs, it releases hormones called serotonin and dopamine, which relax and comfort us. So it is, literally, comfort food,” says Dr Saliha. Also, when we are under stress, the brain requires more energy, and sugar or carbs in banana bread are the fastest way to obtain this.
Why won’t people stop posting pictures of their workouts on Their IG Stories?
Amidst all the social media-posting going on at the moment, there’s one post that appears with almost-clockwork frequency: the daily WOD (Workout of the Day, for the ~surprisingly~ uninitiated).
And have you noticed that many of these people posting their workouts are those you had previously never seen even doing a sit-up?! “People post their workouts because they seek validation, a pat on the back, for what they accomplished that day,” explains Dr Saliha. “They are not used to working out at home, so it is an accomplishment for them in one way or another—whether in the act of working out at home, or for how creative they are being about their workout.”
Another reason, Dr Saliha says, could be that they would, usually, share other parts of their day on Instagram, but since they don’t have too many activities to do these days, they are sharing their gym workouts, and/or their home-cooked meals, just to keep their followers engaged.”
Why do I feel more tired at the end of a day of doing nothing in lockdown?
“Being physically tired is different from feeling mentally exhausted,” points out Dr Saliha. “Right now, many people are online, which puts a physical strain on our bodies, eyes, and minds. This also makes us more susceptible to ‘doing a lot with our mind’ when we read, or consume content online or on social media,” she explains.
“Our mind and body are connected, and although our brain is just 2% of our body weight, it actually consumes half of our daily carbohydrate requirements. And this energy requirement increases by upto 12% in times of stress, transition, or when the mind has to adapt to a new way of being. So you could actually be lying in bed, worried, stressed, reading, or being productive online, and be completely exhausted by the end of the day, because your brain used up all your energy!”
“People are posting their at-home workouts on social media because they seek validation, a pat on the back, for what they accomplished that day.”