How to stay positive, focused and happy through lockdown 2.0
Here we go again. It may feel like longer, but we’re not yet a week in to lockdown part two, with an estimated three weeks more to go.
If you’re already finding quarantine is putting pressure on your sense of wellbeing, it makes sense to try to flip this lockdown on its head, putting into practice lessons learned from the first one.
That means embracing the steadier pace and doing everything you can to make sure you come out the other side unscathed.
Here, five experts share their tips on how to emerge as the best possible you…
Get enough sleep
‘The reason we struggle to sleep at stressful times is because of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline,’ says James Wilson aka The Sleep Geek.
‘If your body feels under attack and is producing these stress hormones, then the natural wind-down process that leads to sleep is affected.
‘Sleep is fundamental to us being physically and mentally well; it is during sleep that we physically recover, where we consolidate memory and where our brains go through a process that clears the neurotoxins that can contribute to conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia.
‘The quality of the REM stage of sleep contributes to our mood and wellbeing.
‘REM sleep is like an overnight counselling session, it is where you work through the emotions of the day and is fundamental to us being ready to deal with the emotions of the day ahead.
When we are not sleeping well it is often REM sleep that we do not get enough of and this leaves us starting the day feeling emotionally fragile and ready to blow – whether in anger or tears.’
Try herbal remedies
’Combine the loss of freedom with financial anxieties and you have a recipe for poor mental health,’ says Lauren Johnson Reynolds, a wellness coach qualified in Homeopathy and Nutritional Therapy (londonwellnesscoach.com).
‘Using herbal medicines such as St John’s Wort and passionflower (Passiflora) may help ease your lockdown worries.
‘Research has found Passiflora extract to be 100 per cent as effective at managing generalised anxiety disorder as Oxazepam, a drug used to treat anxiety and insomnia.
‘Additionally, in a review of 27 clinical trials, St John’s Wort was found to be comparatively effective in easing mild-to-moderate depression as antidepressants.
‘The benefit of using herbal medicines is you get the same improvement of symptoms with a much smaller chance of side effects (although a qualified herbalist or naturopath should be consulted if you are already on medication such as antidepressants).
‘There are also hundreds of homeopathic remedies that can be prescribed to an individual’s specific needs which are non-toxic, non-chemical and side effect-free.
‘They work with the body to restore balance, something I think we could all benefit from right now.’
Exercise does not have to be vigorous
‘If you can only do one thing during lockdown, focus on core stability,’ says Tim Lawson, sports scientist and sport and exercise physiologist (secret-training.com).
‘Reframing lockdown as an opportunity to complete a productive exercise goal could be key to beating the Covid blues.
‘The reduced freedom, social interaction and lack of routine in lockdown conditions are often compared with incarceration and unsurprisingly have negative consequences on mental health.
‘In 2009, researchers from South Eastern Oklahoma State University studied 60 low-security inmates and concluded that exercise is helpful in reducing depression, stress and anxiety regardless of the mode of activity.
‘Incorporating core stability exercises into your lockdown routine may achieve meaningful results in as little as four weeks, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.
‘In this study, participants completed stabilisation exercises five times per week and ultrasound imaging confirmed an improvement in glut and abdominal muscle size and tone, in addition to a reduction in non-specific lower-back pain.’
The simple art of breath
‘There is a tiny cluster of neurons in a part of the brain called the Locus Coeruleus,’ says Dr Alka Patel, a GP, coach and lifestyle medicine physician.
‘The nerve cells in this area exhibit a rhythmic behaviour and the timing of the rhythm correlates with the timing of breathing.
This area of the brain in turn connects with our emotional centres which is why the way we breath affects the way we feel.
A negative mindset, loss of motivation and poor productivity can all be changed by your breathing. If you’re feeling low, on edge, stressed and burnt out, turn to breath control.
‘Research has shown that slowing down your breath rate to six or less breaths a minute, turns off your stress response and switches on your relaxation response.
‘This allows you to feel calmer and more uplifted in the moment and protects you form the long-term effects of stress.
‘Rhythmic breathing can also transform your mindset, increase your productivity and help maintain sustained attention to tasks. It can also reduce your blood pressure and improve your respiratory fitness.
‘During this time, anything that provides us with an extra line of defence has to be worth it.’
A mundane routine is often beneficial
‘Daily routines are good for our brain,’ says Miguel Toribio-Mateas, a clinical neuroscientist at Motion Nutrition.
‘These include getting up at a specific time, showing up at work, eating, exercising, and engaging in social and leisure activities at relatively fixed times.
‘These are important timekeepers for our sleep-wake cycles (aka circadian rhythm) to remain synchronised so we can enjoy restorative sleep. If working from home, start and finish at the same time and break for exercise at the same time.
‘Make this around midday because exercise balances cortisol levels, which is why it helps us release tension, but can rev them up if you exercise in the evening.
‘Why are timings important? Because they imprint a pattern in our brain that works like the beat in a melody, setting the rhythm that is behind healthy hormone production, cell regeneration and a whole lot of other biological activities linked to daily cycles, like digestion.
‘This is why your gut is likely to suffer when your sleep is disrupted. When you’re ready to stop work, do something rewarding, like call a friend or relative, to help you unwind.
‘Give these small hacks a go and you may be surprised by the positive effects on your productivity and mental wellbeing.’
Products to instantly boost your mood
Rather than promising to change your life, The Bee’s Knees Journal will help you embrace your current life in all its tragic glory.
It offers a template to guide you through your emotions and celebrate the small wins, taking each day as it comes.
Nail varnish, £9
With nail bars closed, what could be a better mood booster than a home manicure in a cheery shade. Cienne Rose’s aptly named The Fuchsia Is Bright is infused with vitamins, antioxidants and moisturising lemongrass.
Position Jo Malone London’s Orange Bitters Liquidless Diffuser around the house and let the energising scent of bitter orange, sandalwood and amber, wash away your worries.
Weights set, £89.99
Get the blood pumping and those mood boosting hormones flowing with this Viper Ladies Dumbbells Weights Set which comes in a carry case.
Silk pyjamas, £365
What could be more enjoyable after a hard day, than slipping on a pair of Yolke’s 100 per cent silk Anais Classic Pyjamas? Guaranteed to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter.
Yoga Mat, £67 (2mm)
Crafted from eco materials, this biodegradable Fable Yoga Mat offers a strong grip for sweaty practises and has a dotted design to help you align. Fable plant a tree for each mat sold.
Essential oil, £6
You can use this Botanics Fresh Mind Essential Oil for massage, vaporisation, or in the bath. It harnesses the power of tea tree oil to revive the mind and improve emotional wellbeing.
This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.
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