The way we live has drastically changed all of a sudden, and in order for us to stay well and be our best selves during this difficult time we must make some changes too. If history has thought us anything, it is that we as people are highly adaptable, we have the ability to adjust to our surroundings and to thrive through the toughest injustices’ life throws at us.
The biggest thing we can do to keep ourselves healthy and happy right now is to be mindful of our mindset and to take the best care of ourselves that we can. Some basic selfcare practices are starting to get more difficult as gyms close and support services become limited, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still practice self-care while social distancing and self-isolating. As our daily activities change and we stay at home more it is important to form a new routine to build the important things into our days.
Some Routine Essentials Are:
- Exercise- the benefits of exercise on mental health as are vast as those for physical health. It helps to regulate emotions, shift a bad mood, work through frustrations, boost our productivity, reduces anxiety and stress, improves concentration and self esteem, reduces chronic pain and insomnia. Youtube is a great resource for free workouts to do at home, many personal trainers are also releasing free work out videos on their social media platforms.
- Is there an activity that you always wanted to try but never had the time? Yoga is a great one that doesn’t need any equipment. It helps to reduce stress while connecting with your body and promoting mindfulness.
- Connect with nature – spending time in nature is scientifically proven to boost our mood and lower our stress levels. If for whatever reason you cannot leave your house, watching nature programmes gives similar benefits.
- Express yourself – if you are feeling low, reach out and tell someone. If you are struggling to verbalise your feelings try journaling, painting, dancing, playing some music or singing.
- Connect with loved ones – staying connected is more important than ever before. We are social beings and are meant to spend time socialising… yes even the introverts. This is of the most importance to those who live alone, or do not live with other adults. Instead of sending a text message you can send audio clips and have phone calls or why not replace phone calls with video chats. Hearing and seeing our loved ones helps us to feel more connected and supported. Start a group chat with loved ones where you share what you get up to each day is a great way to keep everyone talking and sharing ideas on keeping busy. Be mindful of wanting to reconnect with toxic relationships if you are feeling lonely. If you do find yourself reaching out to those who you have worked on cutting ties with try to remind yourself of the reasons why you ended the relationship and the benefits you see in your life now without that person.
- Personal care – with many of us working from home at the moment it is very tempting to skip our showers and stay in our pyjamas. Remember to bathe daily, (and of course wash your hands!) a quick shower in the morning or a long relaxing bath… whatever your schedule allows. Getting dressed also boosts our mental health. sure, you’re not going out today… get dressed for yourself not for others. We feel better about ourselves when we brush our hair and put on clothes. Staying in our pyjamas everyday has a negative impact on mental health and self-esteem.
- Create something – get the pains out, do some home improvements, bake a cake or write a poem. When we create something, we nourish our sense of self and express feelings we may not feel able to talk about right now. Creating something new is also a great way to keep our minds busy and to tackle anxiety.
- Practice gratitude – it has been proven to build mental strength and self esteem while improving both physical and mental health. Pick three things you are grateful for each day. You could even start a gratitude group with friends and family as another way to stay connected. When we actively look for things to be grateful for our brain learns to acknowledge the blessings we have in our lives rather than automatically focusing on the negatives.
- Sleep is an absolute necessity to staying healthy, everything is more difficult without adequate sleep. Make sleep a priority, aiming to get between 7-9 hours’ sleep each night. Mind your sleep schedule when out of work or working from home as it is more tempting to stay up late and sleep on in the mornings which may mean skipping some basic self-care habits for a few extra minutes sleep. If you are having difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep, a bedtime routine may help with this. Limit caffeine for 6 hours before bed, reduce screen time and use a blue light filter, eat a light snack, journaling and drinking herbal teas are all simple ways to improve your sleep quality. Take naps if you feel you need to, limit the length of your nap to an hour or less to help prevent insomnia at night, set an alarm if you need to. If you do nap, don’t feel guilty about it, sleep is a basic human need, we need it to survive!
- Eat nutritious food – stress is known to affect our appetites and cravings. Some of us may find we have an insatiable appetite at the moment while others struggle to eat the bare minimum. Be mindful of what you are eating keeping your focus on portion sizes and regularity of meals. Research shows that a diet rich in nutrient dense fruit and vegetables, whole grains, pulses and legumes supports mental and physical health.
- Stay hydrated! When we are dehydrated, we can become tired, irritable and short tempered, we may even get headaches or feel dizzy. We should be aiming for two litres of water a day, dilutable or flavoured water, herbal tea and other caffeine free drinks also help to keep dehydration at bay.
- Take your supplements! Especially if you struggle to eat your meals.
- Be kind to yourself – we are all leaning on our emotional crutches at the moment, once our behaviours are not harming others and are helping us get though the day then that is okay. Our self-soothing behaviours have helped us survive through the most difficult times in our lives now is not the time to beat ourselves up for having a glass of wine or a few biscuits, just be mindful that these behaviours do not become self-destructive.