Self-care is a necessary yet much-neglected aspect of our lives. In last blog, we talk about some of the reasons why self-care is so important. Yet, even under normal circumstances, we don’t always take the time to think about it, let alone put some self-care measures into practice. In this winter lockdown, so much is not available to us, and self-care has become more crucial than it has ever been. Today, we wanted to share our top tips for looking after your body and mind during the lockdown. With less to occupy ourselves with now is the perfect time to establish some kinder habits:
- Get outside every morning.
Even during lockdown, we can and should go out every day to exercise. It’s worth it – even in the winter – not just for the exercise, but also for making use of the morning light. A 2017 study found that exposure to morning light is beneficial for overcoming sleep disturbances. Participants receiving high levels of natural daylight in the morning found it easier to fall asleep and experienced more restful sleep than those who did not. Daylight helps reset our internal clocks. The best time for a walk is the first hour after sunrise, next best is any time during daylight hours. It doesn’t have to be sunny. Even when it’s overcast, enough sunlight is reaching our brain to improve sleep. We recommend a 30-minute walk every morning, rain or shine.
- Eat real food
Giving your body real food is indispensable for mental and physical resilience. By real food, we mean ingredients, not meals: vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains, pulses and healthy fats. We require many different nutrients every day for body and mind to function as they should, nutrients that ultra-processed convenience foods, ready meals and take-aways just cannot provide. Nutrients aside, good food also stands for (self-)caring and comfort. Luckily, it’s winter and therefore the perfect time for steaming, fragrant, warming soups and stews. If you haven’t yet discovered slow cooking, now is the time. Try it! A slow cooker is inexpensive and cooking skills are not required.
- Hang out with your friends
Humans are herd animals, and we do need interaction with other humans. Ideally in person, of course, but just because we cannot physically be in the same room with our friends right now doesn’t mean we cannot spend time with them. Although online games did exist before the pandemic, the genre has exploded since. You can play board games like Scrabble, Monopoly or Settlers of Catan online, dice games like Yatzy, or card games, such as Uno and many others. There are even virtual escape rooms now! If you haven’t tried it – online or in real life – we recommend it. It’s a great way to team up with your friends and challenge your collective brains. We recommend running a video call on another screen or device alongside it, if possible, for all online games. Otherwise, it can feel as if you’re just playing against a computer, even when you know it’s your friends you’re playing with.
- Lose yourself
Meditation has its undisputable merits. There is so much good evidence now that emptying your mind regularly is medicine for the soul. But, let’s face it, classic meditation is not for everyone. Doing something that requires focus or that you enjoy so much that you forget the world around you does the trick as well. That could be tap dance, crafting or drawing, doing a jigsaw or Sudoku and even adult colouring books. Whatever it is: If you’re absorbed, it’s the thing for you.
- Pamper yourself
Is it your health club or spa that you miss more than anything else right now? Then why not create a “home spa”? Clear your diary for a day – perhaps next weekend -, prepare some delicious, real food snacks and look forward to a day of looking after number one. Light scented candles, put together a soothing music playlist, have a bath using your best, most luxurious bubble bath and wrap yourself into thick fluffy towels as you emerge. How often do you take the time to apply a face mask or condition your hair? Well, now’s the time. We suggest you use natural products and check the ingredients lists. The last thing you’ll want is to store up toxins.
- Be grateful
Isn’t it much easier to notice, remember and talk about what goes wrong, what isn’t working and who’s upset us today? One nasty comment can ruin an otherwise perfect day, and we’re unlikely to forget it in a hurry. Neuroscience shows that we all remember negative events better and more vividly than positive ones. It is part of our basic evolutionary equipment and has to do with our brain’s structure and function. Keeping a daily gratitude journal – ideally every evening before bed – focusses the mind on what was good today. List at least three good things every day. That’s all it takes to take your mind off the negative and shine a light on the positive just before you go to sleep.
- Help someone
A 2005 research article found that “altruistic (other-regarding) emotions and behaviors are associated with greater well-being, health, and longevity.” So, helping others is not just good for them, it is good for you, too! And this is the perfect time to help others in whichever way works for you. Perhaps you could volunteer with a charity, e. g. your local soup kitchen or food bank? Your local care home could probably do with a helping hand, too. Or, if that’s too much of a commitment, perhaps you could support neighbours who are elderly or in the high-risk group for other reasons. There is a caveat pointed out by the study: Helping others is good for you, so long as you do not bite off more than you can chew. Feeling overwhelmed by the helping tasks can turn altruism into another stressor. It is essential, therefore, to pick a cause you can cope with.