Top Tips for Optimal Wellbeing during Lockdown
By Pamela Carvell, April 2020.
I was originally writing this article about how to optimise your well-being while working at home during lockdown. But then I realised that as so many people have been furloughed, there would be greater value in me suggesting tips for optimal wellness during lockdown, regardless of whether you are working full time from home, or not. Lockdown is a challenge to our mental and physical wellbeing, as most people’s lives currently bear little resemblance to their life before lockdown. Also, many of the things that we do to keep ourselves mentally and physically fit are no longer possible, be that going to a yoga class or the gym, having a massage, playing sport, or simply walking to the pub to meet friends.
Much of the advice in this article stems from me working with NLP * for over 10 years and also being qualified as a Nutrition Advisor. Furthermore, I have worked from home for many years, so have a wealth of personal experience to call upon.
This article follows on from my one on Top Tips for Working from Home https://happyhypno.wordpress.com/2020/04/03/top-tips-for-working-from-home/which were:
- Wake up, and get up, at your usual time.
- Have a clearly defined, and properly equipped, workspace.
- Set yourself objectives each day and stick to a schedule, very much as you would at work.
- Take a break at least once per hour and ensure it includes moving about.
- Take a proper lunch break.
- Incorporate exercise into your daily schedule.
- Dress smartly and keep yourself well-groomed!
- Communicate with others by some form of video call at least once per day.
- Accept the fact that you are allowed to enjoy working from home.
- Be grateful that the nature of your work enables you to work from home.
I have made it my mission to emerge from this lockdown physically fitter and mentally stronger than I was at the start.
The Current Situation
Human beings do not like threats and don’t like change. Currently we are under threat from Covid 19 and we have been forced to radically change the way we live. This will automatically cause stress and anxiety, because we are genetically programmed to respond to threats. This means that our bodies are producing chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol, and typically creating a sense of fear in our minds coupled with unhelpful dialogues in our heads.
So, before I go into a list of tips, there are 2 major pieces of advice I have:
Firstly, maintain a positive dialogue in your own mind, and reflect that in conversations. Using words such as panic, isolation and fear are not helpful to you or others around you. They only serve a negative purpose. So it is about reframing your situation and the corresponding dialogue. For example, you are not isolated, but rather you have that very precious commodity known as time, to phone friends, write that novel, listen to music, go for a run etc. Similarly, instead of being frustrated at being unable to visit your favourite restaurant, relish having the time & opportunity to cook all your meals from scratch. Focus on using words such as calm, reflective, quiet, grateful, safe etc. And try to avoid getting sucked into negative conversations with friends and family. Instead, use your powers of persuasion to get them to reframe their thinking.
Secondly, take time to participate in at least one mind-calming activity daily. This may be as simple as a walk, or those with very active minds may need to try something like meditation, mindfulness, yoga or even sound baths! On Instagram alone there is a huge array of daily ‘live’ sessions with some of the world’s best in these areas.
Top Tips for Optimal Wellbeing
- Maintain a positive dialogue (see above).
- Indulge in a mind-calming activity (see above).
- Stay hydrated.
- Eat healthily. Limit consumption of alcohol, sugar, processed foods and calories overall.
- Get adequate exposure to daylight.
- Exercise daily (aim for 10,000 steps or at least 30 mins daily).
- Create a working environment that is good for your eyesight and posture.
- Establish a sense of purpose for each day, that will then result in a sense of achievement.
- Interact with other people daily, whether shouting out to neighbours or skyping friends.
- Have fun! Watch crazy videos on YouTube, watch re-runs of comedy classics or phone your craziest friend!
There is science behind all of these recommendations, and they will benefit your physical and mental health. It may be tempting to laze around eating and drinking too much (me in week 1!) and worrying about the future, but wouldn’t it be better to focus on emerging from lockdown physically fitter and mentally stronger than you went into it?
Water is not just up to 75% of your bodyweight, it is essential for most body functions. In simple terms you need 1 litre for each 1,000 kcal you burn daily. So an average woman burning 2,000 kcal per day needs 2 litres. However, when you are stressed and anxious your body loses more water, so although you may be mooching around at home you are potentially needing more water than when you go to work. Recent research and studies have shown that being dehydrated by just 2% impairs your mental and physical performance and 5% actually reduces your aerobic capacity by a massive 30%. If you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Water is obviously the best thing to drink by far, but staying hydrated with any drink will help you stay mentally and physically alert.
The concept of eating healthily covers so many things, but in this unusual situation there are some guidelines that will help the way you feel mentally as well as physically. A brilliant reference is the NHS Eatwell Guide found at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/ Limiting your consumption of alcohol, sugar (in any of its many various forms) and processed foods is a great starting point for anyone who wants to feel healthier. Alcohol is a depressant and in a situation like this can very quickly become a daily habit (hey I kept telling myself ‘I’m not driving anywhere, so why not?’). Alcohol puts a strain on your liver, has no nutritional value and yet has a high calorific value, as well as having a dehydrating effect.
Sugar is the biggest single reason for obesity and the growing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes. Most populations consume far too much of it, and often don’t realise how high the sugar content is of everyday items. Your body turns excess sugar to fat = fact. Get your sugar fix (yes it is addictive!) from fresh fruits, and not even from things such as agave, honey, maple syrup, fruit juices etc as they are just as bad. An excellent book about this is ‘Pure, White and Deadly’ by John Yudkin.
Processed foods are typically high in sugar, fat and chemical additives. And vegan foods are some of the worst culprits, in that they are also packed with highly refined oils! Now is the perfect time to start cooking from scratch, using fresh foods where possible, and knowing exactly what you are eating!
Get Adequate Daylight
Vitamin D is essential for our nervous system, and the best source of it is the sun! It isn’t a fluke that everyone feels better when the sun is shining. It is the physiological effect. However, daylight is good for us, even if the sun isn’t actually shining, as the rays are still there. With so few vehicles on the roads, the air is so unpolluted, now is the best time to get your daily exercise outdoors.
Most of us now have more time to exercise than ever before, even though our time outside of the home is limited. Exercise isn’t just great for your physical wellbeing, it is also has huge proven benefits for your mental health. When you exercise your body produces feel-good chemicals like endorphins, and the effect of these chemicals doesn’t stop the minute you stop exercising. These chemicals also help you de-stress and get a good night’s sleep, so it really is a win-win. There are so many options from the daily exercise sessions online with Joe Wicks to weekly yoga and dance classes, to very sophisticated apps, or simply do jumping jacks once each hour for 5 minutes in your kitchen while you make a cuppa! Government guidelines** (based on WHO recommendations) don’t sound excessive but only 40% of men and a shocking 28% of women in England actually achieve them. So what better time to get yourself active and establish a new routine for yourself? You will feel the benefits very quickly. Personally I aim for 10,000 steps each day and achieve half of that in a walk with my dog first thing in the morning. The rest is a mix of running up and down stairs, jumping jacks, dancing around to the radio and chores!
Create a Healthy Working Environment
In my previous blog ‘Top Tips for Working from Home’ I mention the importance of having a clearly defined and properly equipped workspace. From a wellbeing perspective ensure that you have a chair that is good for your posture, that your PC is at the right height and the right distance from you, and that you have good lighting.
Establish a Sense of Purpose
One of the biggest mental challenges for many people, in this current environment, is losing their sense of purpose and their sense of identity. You probably won’t get that back in full until you are back at work, which means that you have to work at establishing your own sense of purpose on a daily basis. That sense of purpose may be radically different to what it usually is. So, as opposed to completing a 5-year Marketing Plan your sense of purpose may be ‘decorating the spare bedroom’ or ‘reading Jo Malone’s autobiography’ or ‘researching and writing a blog article’ or ‘contacting at least 2 friends each day, who live alone’ or ‘walking 6km’. By establishing a sense of purpose, you also get a sense of achievement, which has proven benefits for mental wellbeing. In addition, it means that when this is all over and we are no doubt discussing (probably for years to come!) what we all did in lockdown, you will have positive achievements to talk about, rather than just ‘I drank and ate too much!’
Interact with Other People
We are social beings, and even if we are not alone in lockdown, are likely to be missing our interactions with friends, family, colleagues and customers. We are very fortunate to have a variety of digital platforms on which we can communicate with others and I know people who have planned things like quiz nights with friends. I am calling this socio-digital creativity, because it is coming up with ways of socialising with friends through the available channels, in ways that would have been inconceivable 3 months ago .I also think that one of the benefits of the ‘clap for the NHS’ every Thursday evening in the UK, is that neighbours have a chance to wave and shout out to each other, and you can even share it with your loved ones many miles away through a video call.
A word of caution: there are many judgmental people on social media. While this situation has brought out the best in most people, there are a percentage of people who are very angry and probably feel very threatened, as a result of which they are being cruel to others on social media. My advice would be to stick to the channels where you are mainly interacting with your real friends or people with whom you have a strong common interest, and avoid exposing yourself to the nastiness of complete strangers. Also, avoid posting anything controversial, as you may not have the mental strength to deal with the resultant vitriol. It’s OK to say to a close friend ‘I think Boris is doing a great / terrible job’, but post that on Twitter and you will end up seeing the worst of people.
There are a plethora of studies that prove laughter is the best medicine. Its impact on brain function, pain relief, a good night’s sleep and emotional resilience are well documented. It is also believed to improve the immune system. The physical action of laughing produces physiological changes e.g. increased intake of oxygen and it also triggers to release of a variety of chemicals, with wide-ranging benefits. So it will be beneficial to use some of this extra time we all have rediscovering old comedy classics or watching crazy clips on YouTube.
EMERGE FROM LOCKDOWN A BETTER PERSON!
Written by Pamela Carvell, HMA President and Lifestyle Consultant, April 2020.
Pamela is a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming and a qualified Nutrition Adviser.
This article may be reproduced in part or in full, so long as full credit is given to Pamela and her blog happyhypno.wordpress.com
*NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming
** Government Exercise Guidelines for a healthy adult: 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week plus muscle-strengthening activities 2 days per week that include all muscle groups. OR 1 hr 15 mins of vigorous aerobic activity plus muscle-strengthening 2 days per week. OR 2 x 30 minute runs and 1 x 30 minute fast walk each week, plus muscle-strengthening 2 days per week.