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If, like us, you’ve spent the entirety of this week in a flurry of anxiety brought on by the news of a second lockdown and the unbelievable scenes of the US Presidential election, then this post is for you. We wanted to provide you with some advice, tips and suggestions that will have tangible benefits for your mental and physical health during the next month.
Thankfully this time we’ve got unlimited amounts of outdoor activity to look forward to plus that precious meet up with one other person from outside our household. Still, despite these slight improvements, another month of less social contact, working from home, worrying about our bills and businesses isn’t going to be easy. As ever we caught up with Nutritional Therapist @gracekingswell to get her advice.
1. Make the most of that precious one person
Human beings thrive on community and feeling connected and supported by those around us. One of the saddest things to come out of this national pandemic is the lack of contact with those around us, so I urge you to make the most of that meet up with one person outside of your household and get some dates locked in in your diary now for walks in the park with friends and loved ones. If you live by yourself then make sure you bubble up with someone (as your ‘executive support bubble’) and get days and times sorted out where you can sit down for a cup of tea or glass of wine together.
It’s all too easy to cancel on a Zoom hangout or FaceTime last minute, but if you schedule it in now you’re much less likely to!
2. Eat to benefit your mental health
Your brain needs feeding - and the best way I know how to do this is with nutrient-dense animal foods rich in EPA/DHA - oily fish, seafood etc. The nutrition we find in these types of foods is completely unparalleled in the plant kingdom and is generally why I personally choose to eat an omnivorous diet. That being said, big respect for those that go plant based, and if you do, get yourself some plant based omega supplementation with EPA and DHA in. Vivo Life do a good one called O3 Plant Based Omega 3.
Of course, anxiety and depression are no one’s fault but you can help your brain a great deal by making sure you’re not missing essential nutrients from your diet. On the topic of mental health, once we’ve got the nutrition sorted (quality sources of protein, lots of healthy fats and tonnes of rainbow veggies), we need to think about nitric oxide, endorphins and light…
3. Exercise outside
As anxiety and depression are mainly cases of neurological inflammation it’s so so important that we stimulate Nitric Oxide (NO) in adequate amounts to dilate the blood vessels and carry enough oxygen to the brain! Exercise is the fastest and most effective way of doing this, alongside breathwork, so take the time to do 10 mins of HIIT in the morning, some sprints, some skipping or some stimulating breathwork (p.s. There’s loads of breathwork on my Patreon page).
Endorphins - you can't beat them for that feel good factor! Whether it’s a little boogie around your kitchen or a fast session on your bike, getting your ‘runners high’ will really help you stay positive and happy.
And why outside? Because to have effective protection against a viral pandemic we need to be sleeping well because sleep is the best anti-viral medicine. We all need to be sleeping like it’s our job right now and there’s one simple way you an optimise your sleep quickly and effectively. Get outside first thing in the morning (and as much as you can during the day for that matter). Full spectrum daylight exposure when we wake up helps keep the body’s own circadian rhythm working properly and sends key messages about melatonin (our sleepy hormone) to our brain - helping us sleep better at night time.
Of course, you can’t do all that good work in the morning and then go and sit in front of the TV or on your phone at night without protecting yourself from blue light, so get yourself a pair of blue light blocking glasses ASAP (mine are from Swanwick and they have red lenses for maximum blue light filtering).
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4. Remember that sugar is not a substitute for happiness
Preaching to myself right now because I really need to get a handle on this as well! Unfortunately we’re programmed to crave a sugary, comforting hit when we wake up feeling blue. But if you can just find the willpower to choose a delicious protein based breakfast (protein, veg, fats) over that sugary bowl of porridge, everything from your mental health, hormones and energy levels will benefit greatly.
If we think about it, the thing with sugar that’s so addictive and amazing is that we get a huge dopamine hit from it, but there’s so many other ways we can get that same dopamine rush. I encourage you to find something else to satisfy that dopamine hit during this second lock down. During the first, mine was sunbathing (R.I.P summer) but you could try 10 mins of hard core boogying round the kitchen, purchasing something new for yourself from a local, small business that needs your support, a deliciously hot bath etc etc ...
Sugar adversely affects our gut bacteria and puts our immune system on the back foot - it’s such a simple lifestyle change but it will have profound health benefits for you over the next few months. There’s still so much joy to be had from a bowl of hot stewed apple with cinnamon and tahini - it doesn’t always have to be a sickly sweet chocolate brownie!
5. Nutrition and diet
Lastly, let’s not repeat what happened the last time (again, totally talking to myself as I massively took to the peanut butter jar with a spoon and did.not.stop). Eating is comforting, and a way to quash uncertainty and activate all those lovely reward and happiness pathways in the brain, but remember that we need to support our bodies through this time and not hinder them. So, lots of bone broth based soups and stews, slow-cooker meals, stewed apples, tonnes of liquids (warm water, herbal teas), and remember to use pungent herbs in all your cooking - fresh rosemary and oregano, basil and thyme etc. Lots of turmeric, chilli, ginger and all that good stuff. Aim for between 30 and 50 different plant foods per week and check yourself - have you eaten something from every colour of the rainbow today?!
Wishing you all well,