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How to keep your calm in an upside down world

It is December 2020 and it feels like we are living in a sci-fi movie…

We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and the pace of change is faster than any rapid weight loss programme could ever promise.

Without getting into depressing the detail, you are most likely wondering how to think and feel right now.

Your Christmas plans have been swiped from under your feet and you probably don’t feel much like looking after yourself right now.

Well, with no social events looking likely in the near future, what have you got to look forward to or work towards anyway?

You are emotionally exhausted, stressed, overworked and the chocolate and wine stash are looking more appealing by the moment.

But the reality is that looking after yourself needs to be your priority right now if you are going to get through this with your sanity.

I have spoken on my social media recently about how January diets and detoxes should be abolished but what should you do to feel well?

It is pretty simple albeit not easy.

Here are my 3 top tips:

1. Prioritise sleep.

This is a piece of the wellbeing puzzle that is so often overlooked.  But not getting enough sleep has a detrimental impact in many ways.

Not only are we more likely to get stressed quicker and easier when we are sleep deprived, all our higher-order cognitive processes, such as problem solving, reasoning, organising, planning, and executing plans are affected. These are all the processes that help us get things done.

Sleep also affects your nutrition choices.  As little as 2 days of restricted sleep can have a significant impact on your hunger hormones. This will leave you feeling hungrier, as your body strives to replenish energy levels, and more likely to crave sugary, highly refined, and therefore calorific foods.

You will also find yourself much less active when tired because you instinctively want to reserve energy.

All of this means that you will not be getting the fuel or movement that your body needs to function optimally.

For some tips on how to get the most out of your sleep, read here.

2. Maintain a routine.

Whilst any resemblance of normality has dissolved, a regular routine is ever more important.  Our bodies can cope much better when we eat regularly, have a good sleep routine, and move often.

It can be so easy to fall into the trap of grazing all day and neglecting activity, especially if the gyms are closed.

But in order to manage stress and stop your mood from dipping too low, you need to do what you can to have regular, satisfying meals.  You don’t need to follow a formal plan but having foods that make you feel good readily available will help.

Keep your kitchen stocked with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, nuts, pulses etc so that you can focus your meals on keeping you well.

That doesn’t mean limiting or restricting all that yummy festive food but when you are feeling good, not only will you enjoy it more, you will be able to manage your appetite for it better.

As will getting enough sleep, as discussed above.

Moving your body regularly will also release those feel good endorphins.  This doesn’t mean you have to run at 6am or dust off your dumbells, it means moving in a way that feels comfortable.  Short walks, playing with the kids, anything that increases your daily activity.

3. Go easy on yourself

Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up about feeling overwhelmed right now.  The more you do, the worse you will feel.  We are all feeling a mix of emotions right now and it is important that we accept and acknowledge them rather than try to fight them.

It is also no surprise to learn that negative self talk is associated with stress, anxiety, even depression as well as unhealthy eating behaviours such as yo-yo dieting and restriction.

And ironically, people who self-criticise for feeling crappy are less likely to look after themselves.

Self-compassion, the opposite of self-criticism, means looking after your basic needs.  It means getting enough sleep, eating balanced meals, enjoying food, taking physical activity and having downtime.

It may sound like a trendy, unnattainable ideology but it really is fundamental to a healthy and happy life.  for more on the topic, you can read here.

Above all else, take care of yourself and use this opportunity to reflect on your values and what matters most to you.  When this is all behind us, you may just find yourself a stronger, more resilient version of yourself.