The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. From daily lockdown routines to uncertain future plans, the way we live and work now is not how we imagined it would be. We can’t control what’s going on out there – and it’s scary.
Now, more than ever before, we need to turn inwards to take care of our emotional health and mental wellbeing. In these crazy times of unprecedented anxiety and stress, practising self-care is the way to feel grounded, nourished and loved. It’s the only thing that makes sense right now.
Sleep, the great restorer
Feeling good and sleeping well go hand in hand. Getting a good night’s sleep recharges your batteries so that you have more energy during the day. While you sleep, the body carries out essential restorative functions that help with tissue repair, immune response, stress reduction and positive mood.
Experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Create an evening ritual to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down in preparation for sleep. Make sure you switch off electronic devices a few hours before bedtime and think about including a bath or meditation practice.
Food, glorious food
Our relationship with food can be complicated, especially for women. To be honest, do you always give your body the nourishment it needs, or do you tend to eat what you like? Mindful Eating and Intuitive Eating are new approaches that try to restore your connection between mind and body and re-establishing balance.
Rather than a regular diet plan, they put the focus on listening to your body’s need for nourishment and making peace with food. By implementing healthy habits rather than counting calories or restricting specific foods, you will learn to eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel full.
Move the body, heal the mind
Our bodies were meant to move, not sit still all day. There’s a huge body of scientific research warning us of the long-term physical health risks of leading a sedentary lifestyle. But staying active also has important mental health benefits. This makes working out a win-win situation.
Exercise releases endorphins, aka feel-good hormones, that lift your mood and reduce stress and anxiety. Physical activity sharpens your clarity of thinking, and it also aids sleep. There are many different ways to get physical – choose whatever gives you the most joy and do it every day.
Stretch and relax
Get up from your desk every hour or so and stretch your arms high overhead, then bend over to touch your toes. Or sit cross-legged on the floor for a delicious hip-opening stretch. When you make a conscious physical shift to stretch your body, the mind responds positively.
Yoga can give your body a complete stretch and may reduce levels of stress and body-wide inflammation, even committing to healthier hearts. You can start doing it by taking one or two poses a day, there are beginner yoga poses that can also be considered when starting to do it for the first time.
Doing yoga will take your stretching routine up a notch and provide many other benefits too. Crucially, it links movement with breath – two factors that can affect our reaction to stress. Yoga with Adriene is available free on YouTube; it’s probably the best known online yoga class, though there are countless others.
Find a creative outlet
Allowing yourself to be creative can promote a feeling of well-being. For some people, it’s an opportunity to tune out distractions and focus on one activity at a time. Others use their creativity to express emotion.
From baking cookies to knitting scarves, painting watercolour or tending the garden, there must be something that takes your fancy. It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as it brings you joy. Creative and artistic endeavours can be both relaxing and therapeutic.
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