What an unexpected and confusing situation this is for all of us. With Switzerland now in lock down, and with many other countries in the same position, more and more of us are finding themselves confined to the home.
In addition to the heightened anxiety about what will happen with yourself and your loved ones, and the uncertainty about the long-term impact on our global economy and community, I know many are also feeling a little overwhelmed about how to deal with quarantine.
For people who are not used to home life, this transition will likely be uncomfortable. But there are many ways in which we can support our health and happiness through this strange time.
I know it sounds cliche but it really is true, it’s time to use this slower pace as an opportunity for care; caring for oneself, for your loved ones and your immediate community. I get it… for career driven and hyperactive people, slowing down and surrendering can be really hard. Adjusting to a slower pace and applying patience was a lesson that took me many years to accept, and I’m not a master yet!
To support you in this transition, I do have some tips and advice. Here are 7 things you can do to make this time easier, and ultimately continue to support your commitment to your happiness, health and wellbeing.
1) Eat at regular intervals
Ideally stick to the same or slightly adjusted times you would usually eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Especially if you’re not used to working from home, it’s easy to fall into the trap of working through your breaks and only stopping to eat or drink something when you feel you have to.
It’s a common myth that people who work from home have their feet up watching Netflix! In my experience the exact opposite is true. Without distraction, office chit-chat and with less team meetings, the inner workaholic and perfectionist easily comes out to play. Setting alarms for break times can be a really helpful way to keep your own drive and ambition in check.
A change in pace can affect your sleep pattern, but nutrition can help. Grazing on snacks all day (even if they’re super healthy) keeps your blood sugar levels consistently up and prevents the body from fully digesting and resting. This can play havoc with your energy and keep you from rested sleep. Try to keep the 4 hour rule between main meals, with one snack in between if needed.
If you live with people or family, agree on a mealtime and break together. Remember that food isn’t just about fuelling the body, but it’s a great opportunity for social interaction and support.
2) Opt for low sugar and low glycemic food
If you are used to going to the gym or exercising several times per week, and your home exercise routine is not yet established, your energy output for the next weeks will be greatly reduced. If stabilising your weight is a priority for you, remember to adjust your calorie input for your new physical routines. Keeping an eye on portion sizes and avoiding added sugar will keep you on the right track.
If you have kids at home with you, keeping routines will be challenging, and sweet treats are always a tempting incentive for finishing chores and school work. But just remember the sugar crash! Maintaining balanced energy levels is always a great idea and even more so at times when groups of people or family are sharing confined space.
Besides the obvious sugary foods, ones with a high glycemic index (GI), increase the blood glucose levels steeply over a short period of time. After the peak comes the downfall, which has an impact on your energy level and emotions.
High GI foods include: white rice and pasta, soda, sweets, instant noodles, cornflakes.
Low GI foods include: broccoli, lettuce, steel-cut oats, dark chocolate (70%), lentils, cashews, natural yoghurt.
3) Keep a moderate consumption of caffein and alcohol
In the same spirit as above, keep your caffeine consumption at a lower level than usual, and be wise when it comes to consuming alcohol.
You may enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day to calm your nerves or keep your spirits up, but be aware that only a couple of weeks are enough to create a new habit that you might struggle getting rid of when things are back to normal.
4) Time to embrace home cooking
For many of my coaching clients, under normal circumstances getting into home cooking is seen as a ‘necessary evil’. Those who are typically in corporate settings, learned to rely on canteens to get their warm meals. Breakfast is often basic and forgotten, and the ‘best’ meals are usually shared at a business dinner.
With the current situation we are all thrown back into the kitchen and all of a sudden depend on our own culinary skills to nurture ourselves and satisfy our taste buds. But before you put on your apron, take a moment to assess and re-set your belief around home cooking.
If you’ve always felt it was a waste of time, start to get excited for the opportunity to create something nourishing with your own hands.
If you dread homecoming because of your ‘terrible’ skills, now’s the time to practice! Open those cook books and get on the internet to get creative with what supplies you have in your cupboard. It only takes a bit of imagination and dedication to make even the most basic meal delicious.
If you’re cohabiting or have family with you, get everyone to chip in. You can make it a fun experience for everyone involved.
Remember to also keep an eye on food waste. Now is not the time to bin those leftovers nor leave them forgotten in the fridge. Save both unused prepped food and cooked leftovers. With a bit of meal planning, you’ll be surprised how they all combine to make extra, tasty meals!
Whether you’re used to exercising regularly or not, now is the time to continue or start!
If you’re a regular exerciser, stay committed to sweating a few times per week. It will keep your body energised and also support you to maintain the level of fitness that makes you feel great – in your body and your mind. It’s so much harder to get back into routines once we’ve gotten out of them.
Even if you haven’t exercised much, now is a great time to welcome in some additional movement into your day. When staying at home, working from the laptop and reducing our usual physical outputs, our body can become stiff and uncomfortable.
There are so many great options from yoga to HIIT classes online. There are training apps, online programmes or livestreams which you can participate in. Try out new equipment such as TheraBands which are a great way to train your strength in your own home. If you are able to get into the open air, go for a run in nature. It’s a great way to be outside, clear the mind and nourish the body while still respecting social distancing.
6) Start listening to your body
In the absence of many external stimuli, with no colleagues around who offer their home-made cakes, this is a good time to tune into your body and learn to listen to your needs. Which foods make you feel great, which foods after eating them make you feel low or sluggish.
Do you crave relaxing and calming activities such as yoga, meditation or reading? Or do you have a load of energy to release through an aerobic workout, listening to upbeat music and even dancing?
Of course if you’re feeling ill this is the time to rest, rest and rest some more. Don’t try to push through, and at any sign that sickness is coming, really tune into what you need and clear your agenda as much as possible for anything else but self-care.
7) Mind your own mind
Start getting mindful of your thoughts and emotions. Do you have a morning routine that works well for you or is this now the time to review it slightly? You may find ideas here.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the news and uncertainty, or maybe feeling heightened anxiety within your body, start a meditation practice.
This is a great idea for anybody, even if you’re feeling a little bored.
If you are beginner, you can start with a guided meditation, or simply sit and listen to calming music as you breathe in and breathe out slowly. Ten minutes every morning make a significant difference to the day. It’s also nice to meditate in the evening to wind down and prepare your mind for a relaxing and rejuvenating night’s sleep.
If at any time things feel overwhelming and stressful, take a break. Sit in a quiet room and connect in with yourself and your emotions.
Some great (and free!) apps to try are InsightTimer for guided meditations and Breathwrk for a range of calming and energising breathing exercises. Or others such as: Just Breathe, Calm, Headspace, Portal.
If you are a generally healthy person, the next couple of weeks might be strange und inconvenient for you, but do not have to be all doom and gloom. I encourage you to find the silver lining and focus your mind on the areas in your life which you can influence and shape.
How do you plan to use this time at home? What do you want to practise and learn more about? Any apps or books you can recommend?
Wishing you lots of health!