The past 14 months have really thrown everyone for a loop. I don't know a single person whose life has remained exactly as it was before the dreaded 'rona hit. Everyone is doing life differently than they were before 23rd March 2020.
In some cases, people have found a new, and maybe happier, work/life balance. In other cases, work, kids, life admin etc. has all rolled into one long 48hr job in a 24hr day. For some, the chance to take stock and re-evaluate life choices and goals has been great. For many, the sense of isolation and fear of uncertain circumstance and the virus itself have been overwhelming.
If you were already dealing with health-related issues before all this kicked off, then the likelihood is that you're still struggling and maybe even feeling worse than you did to begin with.
Even if you were perfectly healthy before the lockdowns you're probably feeling pretty fed up with the whole situation by now too. Maybe sleep has become slightly more of a challenge, you might have found that you're more anxious than you were before, irritable even?
Most people have noticed a definite impact on their mental health and emotional wellbeing. We tend to underestimate the impact that human contact has for us, although maybe we won't in the future having gone through this experience! Especially the importance of spending time in the company of loved ones. The power of a hug. Even a comforting hand on the shoulder! These are all things we've missed desperately. We've been unable to celebrate, commiserate and even mourn together. These are things that hold our communities and families together like glue and most of us have struggled without them on some level.
I hear a lot that "I just don't have the energy/motivation/resilience'' for this at the moment. So many people are struggling with sleep and stress in ways they've never experienced before. I myself find it a struggle to find words some days! Honestly, listening to me chat with my colleagues at work is probably hilarious for the flies on the wall. We're all struggling to put sentences together, forgetting words, and are generally just exhausted by the extra things that go into making the shop a covid safe environment.
The truly insidious thing that people aren't so aware of is that this ongoing, heightened, drip-feed of stress is impacting the way their bodies are working. Some things that can be directly impacted by stress are:
Anxiety - obvious but worth adding
Blood sugar levels - energy highs and crashes along with the associated mood swings!
Hormone balance - both guys and gals, no-one is immune/exempt
Immune issues including eczema, asthma, psoriasis and many more
I could go on but I'm sure if you've felt weird and different in any way over the past year then one of the above is likely to be ringing bells for you!
So how can we get back on an even keel again now? The world is slowly reopening but we're all feeling like we've metaphorically been hit by a bus and need a Red Bull/Monster/evil sugar-laced 'energy' drink of choice on an IV drip. Well, it's not going to be an overnight fix but there are a few things you can do to reclaim your mojo.
1) Don't put pressure on yourself to dive right back into your former life! If ever there were a time to be kind to yourself, it's now. Take stock of what you're looking forward to, things that you've enjoyed doing that you may not have before, and try to keep in mind that you don't have to be the person you were before if you've found a version of you that suits you better now!
2) Set a bed time and time to get up every day and stick to them. Just having this kind of fixed routine helps to set your body clock (aka. circadian rhythm). When you wake up, get straight out of bed and open the curtains to get a face full of daylight before your brain even has a chance to object. Getting daylight on your retinas actually signals to your brain that it's time to produce more of the hormones that get you up and motivated for the day.
Let’s call this 2.a) Create yourself a little bedtime routine. An hour before you get into bed start to wind down. Maybe listen to a meditation app, have a warm bath with some magnesium salts, drink a chamomile or other bedtime type tea, read or listen to relaxing music, do a little gentle yoga or stretching, enjoy your skincare routine. Avoid screens; if you can't avoid them either make use of the blue light filters installed in your devices or invest in blue light blocking glasses and use them from 6pm every day. Banish devices from the bedroom, buy a cheap small alarm clock; there are no excuses here. Whatever your pre-bed ritual, make it a real self-care type ritual and indulge yourself. Observe it nightly if you can and the ritual itself will start to become a signal to your brain that it's time to wind down for sleep.
3) Make sure you're having nourishing food for most meals. Everyone needs to be able to enjoy their food, but if you aren't giving your body at least 80% of what it's designed to use i.e. whole food plants in their basic forms, then it's not going to be best able to support what you're asking of it. You need it to be juiced up and ready to go but you've been feeding it pizza, burgers and pasta for the past few weeks? Unless you've been using amazingly veggie filled toppings and sides the chances are you're feeling sluggish and generally flat. This is because your body can be pretty picky. It needs vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, proteins and fibre to function properly. If you don't know where those come from then now would probably be a great time to get in touch with me!
3a) Try not to use tea or coffee to wake yourself up. It kicks your adrenal glands up the hiney and can be extremely counterproductive. Daylight and fresh air first (just hang your head out of the window if you can't go outside first thing) are amazing at blowing the cobwebs away and give you the chance to get going naturally without the need for a massive jolt of caffeine. Also make sure breakfast has protein and fat to keep your blood sugar in check. One of the biggest mistakes I see so often is a carbohydrate laden breakfast (toast & jam, instant porridge, pastries, something from your local coffee shop of choice, cereal etc.) with nothing to balance it. This just spikes your blood sugar with a hit of instant energy then crashes you back down to below nothing by roughly 10am, when you'll reach for the next sugary hit to see you through until lunch (which also sends your stress hormones for a loop as well).
3b) Whilst we're on the subject of food, try to make sure you are relaxed and focused on your food whilst you're eating. If you're distracted or stressed and eating on the run then your body isn't engaged in digesting your food and you'll get little to nothing from it nutritionally. We've got 2 states of being in our nervous system; sympathetic (fight, freeze or flight) and parasympathetic (rest & digest). Your body diverts blood and resources away from your digestive system when it's in the sympathetic state, therefore food isn't going to get the attention it needs. You won't produce as many digestive enzymes, stomach acid, your stomach won't be as mobile to break down food, your intestines won't be as mobile to move food through effectively. This can also lead to things fermenting in the wrong places in your gut. Starting to see where the uncomfortable post lunch/dinner bloat is coming from? Slow down and enjoy the break you get for meals. It will benefit you hugely!
4) Drink water! Again, this might seem like an obvious one but most people barely drink any water at all. Regular tea and coffee are dehydrating, not the devil, just not helpful for getting hydration in. Oh, and they may be adding to your stress and anxiety if you're feeling it at the moment! Plus, even a 4% drop in ideal hydration can impact your brain function, leaving you feeling a little slower and foggier than usual. Dehydration also stops your liver from detoxing effectively, prevents your body from producing the fluids that it needs to like lymph (part of your immune system), spinal fluid, fluids in your joint capsules, intracellular fluids, even your blood needs water! Also, did you know that your body will recover water from wherever it can if you aren't drinking enough? Yep, want to guess what one of the biggest water reserves in your body that it can call upon is? Your bowel. Yep, it'll pull the water right out of your poop in order to function. Leaving you tied up and constipated. Just what you need at the moment, right?
5) Another obvious one here; exercise. Daily if possible. You absolutely don't have to be putting in an hour of cardio or weight sessions on the daily though. All movement is exercise. Stick the radio on and dance, go for a stroll on your lunch break, do a little yoga (check out YouTube for some great yoga to do at your desk if you're office bound), walk the dog (get on www.borrowmydoggy.co.uk if you don't have your own but would enjoy walks more with a canine companion!), go for a bike ride, mess about with the kids in the garden, do some gardening, go wild swimming (this one has some amazing benefits for mental health too). Just move yourself a little more each day doing something you enjoy.
6) A mindfulness practice can be really helpful for grounding you back in the real world if anxiety is taking your brain for a spin. Apps like Gaia, Headspace, Calm and Hyptalk are all worth checking out. The Honest Guys on YouTube are also lovely. Finding anything that can help your brain to switch gears to a more comfortable level is going to be helpful.
If you've tried all the above and you're still not feeling like yourself, drop me a line and see what else I can do to help you feel your best self again!