Before I get started, let’s lay our cards on the table – we’ve all been inundated with emails and social media posts telling us to eat this, don’t eat that, meditate, start running etc over the last few months. Being honest, lots of us have had our fill – we just want to be left to our own devices to get through this mayhem as best as we can. And if that’s where you are at, I hear you!
At this stage in the game, it’s all about surviving and coming out the other end with our sanity intact!
But bear with me a little longer – I’m not going to tell you what to eat, or what exercise you should be doing or what to give up. All I want to do is share with you some really small, practical things that you can easily introduce to your routine. Things that can make mealtimes easier and provide a positive focus for the month so that you get to the 5th of March feeling stronger, both physically and mentally. Feel free to use some, all or none of them depending on how you’re feeling.
One of my favourite topics – I love to eat it, cook it and talk about it!! Unfortunately, all around the country “What’s for [insert meal here]?” has become a toe-curling question that everyone dreads to hear. For me, it’s like someone dragging a ruler down a blackboard! I seem to have become the resident chef and my only role is to fill bellies on (what seems like!) an hourly basis!!
So I’ve tried to come up with ways to reduce the number of times I hear said question and, in the process, make mealtimes less stressful for us all!
Meal planning – Hands down, the one that I find helps the most – nothing sexy about it, does exactly as it says on the tin – write down what you plan to eat for the week. I focus on lunches and dinners – breakfast is a bit more freestyle!
Before you roll your eyes and run for the hills, hear me out!!
Writing it down means:
it can be freely available for anyone that wants to know what their next meal is => less of “that” question!
you can shop based off your plan => you know that you have all the ingredients in the fridge/press and there is less food waste at the end of the week ; and
not having to look in the press each day and think “what am I going to cook today?”.
Involve everyone! If everyone gets to pick a meal that goes on the list, they are more likely to eat the other meals with less fuss! Get others involved in cooking to help free up more of your time
Make extra – whether you batch cook at the weekend or, in my case, make extra as you’re cooking, having meals made in advance can be a massive stress reliever. I buy enough ingredients so that I have leftovers – things like soup, curries, Bolognese sauce etc freeze really well and make it easy to put a quick meal on the table when you really aren’t feeling like cooking! Plan a “freezer dinner” each week to give yourself a night off!
Try something new – I love trying new recipes and having something different to shake up your usual repertoire can help to break the monotony of being chef!! Even once a fortnight is a good place to start!
Stock up! Keep plenty of things in the press and fridge that older kids can help themselves to as snacks so you’re not constantly on duty.
I have definitely noticed that my sleep has been affected during this lockdown. It’s something a lot of people are experiencing, and some sleep experts have even coined the term “Coronasomnia” to describe it. The main drivers are increased screen time due to home schooling and remote working, irregular sleep patterns, lack of exercise and outdoor time, anxiety about the virus and information overload from the media.
Lack of sleep can have a significant impact on our health and quality of life,
so what can we do to improve our chances of a good night’s sleep?
Reduce screen time in the hours before bed – blue light reduces production of melatonin, our sleep hormone
Have a regular sleep/wake pattern – helps to regulate our body clock
Wind down – reduce exposure to the news and try to do something relaxing in the hour before bed, like reading or taking a bath
Move more daily – I’ll come to that in the next section
Check your room – make sure it’s dark enough, not too hot or too cold and try to remove electronic devices.
I don’t like to refer to exercise – people can have very negative emotions associated with exercise. When it comes to movement, I prefer to focus on finding the thing that you enjoy that also happens to move your body more – it can be anything - yoga, walking, cycling, running etc. Physical activity has many health benefits but right now, it’s the mental health ones that are important to me – giving your mood and energy a boost, helping your focus and concentration and reducing the feelings of stress and anxiety. My top tips:
The key is that you are happy to do it regularly and it isn’t something that feels like a chore
If you are very stressed or anxious, do something gentle like walking or yoga – too much intense exercise is a massive stressor on the body and can negate the positives
NEAT movement (ie anything that expends energy outside of eating, sleeping or formal exercise) is just as important. So hoovering, gardening and walking to the shop all count when you’re trying to increase your daily movement levels. Increasing this can be a great place to start!
COVID has upped the ante in terms of stress, most of which we have absolutely no control over (which stresses me out – I have control issues!!!). What we can control is how we respond to that stress – physically and emotionally. If you can find a way to incorporate any of the tips above to focus on food, sleep or movement, you will already be well on your way to supporting your body’s stress response and building your resilience to those stressors that we can’t remove from our lives. Other things to try:
· Small simple things – like having a laugh (listen to comedy if you need to!), taking an extra couple of minutes in the shower to do a body scrub, take your coffee break with no distractions (no phone, email etc) - outdoors if possible!
· Journaling – especially at night, can be a powerful tool to help clear your head of worries or to-do lists that might keep you awake
· Gratitude – focusing on the positives, no matter how small or insignificant they feel can help to switch your mindset and relieve feelings of anxiety and stress
· Eat to support your stress response – eat foods rich in magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and Omega 3 fats. Keep your blood sugar balanced to reduce peaks and troughs, which further stress the body.
And that’s it! Nothing terribly complex, nothing that requires lots of time or money, no special diet or exercise plan to adhere to! I really hope that some of it will feel do-able for you and give you something to focus on for the next 5 weeks. For me, it’s getting my sleep back on track! I'd love to hear how you get on!
If you'd like some support to make simple diet and lifestyle changes a reality, get in touch now to book a FREE 20 minute call with me to chat about how I can help.