We’re living in an infinite present, where today feels like yesterday and we’ve no concrete plans for the future. Add that to the growing uncertainty about many people’s livelihoods and health concerns, it’s no wonder our wellbeing can feel rock bottom at times.
For many of us, our routines have completely changed in the past year. Our homes have become the workplace, the gym, the pub, the sanctuary – it’s disorienting and only makes us feel more unsettled.
In times of upheaval, looking after our mental and physical health becomes more important than ever. So whether you’ve fallen out of the habit or are struggling to find the time, we spoke to experts to get their advice on how to make your wellbeing a priority.
Check-in with yourself
It’s essential that we learn what self-care looks like to us and how we can incorporate that into our daily routine. Harley Street therapist Zoë Clews says: “Self-care is very personal to everyone and practices will widely differ but the foundations should always be enormous self-compassion with the intention to reduce stress and take better care of yourself.” Self-care could mean lighting a candle or listening to death metal, the activity doesn’t matter – it’s the impact on your mental health that counts.
Although it may seem like every day is the same at the moment, that doesn’t mean you are the same every day. Sometimes you may wake up full of energy and eager to go out for a really long walk, on other days you might need to curl up under the duvet and watch films. Just as there’s no perfect solution for individuals when it comes to self-care, there’s no one thing that will always work for you. Listen to your mind and body, nourish yourself according to your needs in that moment.
Commit to exercise, but go at your own pace
Though lie-ins and self-care days are important, a lack of a physical exercise can greatly impact our mood. Eni Adeyemo, a fitness and lifestyle coach, explains: “When we do exercise, we release endorphins; your body’s ‘feel-good’ hormone. It’s the reason after a good sweat out we feel an instant mood improvement.”
Incorporating a physical health check into our daily routine is key. “Your physical health especially during these uncertain times can be a lifesaver. It is an escape from the monotony we’ve all been experiencing. I commonly found whilst revising for exams, physical exercise helped me to get refreshed and take my mind off stress,” she adds.
If exercise is new to you, it’s important to slowly build it into your daily routine. Planning ahead is key, Adeyemo says, as it helps you prepare before bed and reduces the risk of you bailing at the last minute. Take a look at your calendar for next week and schedule in some time to work out (it helps to also check the weather forecast, too.) Not every slot needs to be sweat-inducing, a walk or gentle yoga class also helps – just make sure you get your heart rate up regularly, too.
We get it. You’ve got Zoom fatigue, you can’t be bothered to Whatsapp, and the words “pub quiz” make you heave. But staying connected is vital right now.
“We need human connection not just to thrive but to survive,” says Clews. This isn’t just about catching up and having a laugh, but taking care of yourself and others through meaningful connection. “Getting our feelings out is vital in these times, keeping them all locked up inside is when they become particularly pernicious and hard to manage.”
Try ditching the screens altogether and having an old-school phone call with a friend on your next walk. You can also try sending a card to a loved one (and hopefully receive one in return). Reminiscing by sending old photos of fond memories can also help brighten your and the recipient’s day. Remember it doesn’t have to be organised fun for it to count as connection.
Give yourself a good talking to
When was the last time you were critical of yourself, a decision you made, something you said? Chances are, it wasn’t too long ago. Clews says it’s time to stop the negative self-talk and start being kinder to yourself.
“Beating yourself up leaves you feeling anxious and drained. Our nervous system can’t tell the difference between someone else criticising us and ‘ourselves’ criticising us,” says Clews. This isn’t something that can change overnight, it takes a lot of practice. Want to get started? Clews says: “Notice how you are talking to yourself and interject with ‘would I talk to my best friend like this?’ more often than not you wouldn’t - so don’t do it to you!”