How to stay active and protect your mental health during this time

I’ve never experienced anything like this. I’m not sure if many of us have. We’re living through uncertain times. There is a lack of cohesiveness, division is rife. Panic has spread to unprecedented levels. As a nation, we seem to have descended into chaos.

We should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?”
– Epictetus, Enchiridion

I try to ask myself this question daily! What can I control? The number one thing you have control of is YOU.

If you’re forced to be at home, use the time wisely to invest in yourself. Now is not the time to shrink away, and feel helpless. Now is the time to take control of your health.

Nutrition

Being and feeling as healthy as possible will provide you with the best defence against illness.

Simply; focus on whole foods, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables, and prepare some recipes that are easy to cook and will provide nourishment for the whole family.

Have foods ready to go such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, pasta, rice. (Don’t clear the supermarket shelves, there is no need!)

Keep fish, meat, seafood in the freezer and defrost as needed. Same with frozen veg.

A simple day of food could look like this:

Meal 1: Porridge with water/milk, frozen berries, a spoonful of peanut butter
Meal 2: Chicken breast, rice, frozen veg
Meal 3: Bowl of lentils, rice, veg

This is super generic and you’ll need to make changes because you want your diet to be sustainable, cost-effective, and make sure it fits your caloric needs.

Hydrate! Such a simple concept, but staying hydrated will keep your mind clear, your energy levels high, and help with good health. Sitting at home, it’s easy to forget to drink water. Think around 2-3 litres a day, or 6-8 glasses.

Staying Active

You don’t need to stop exercising because you can’t make it to the gym. Don’t let that be an excuse.

There are plenty of workouts you can do at home!

If you can, purchase a dumbbell or kettlebell, or even some resistance bands, and a jump rope. If you can’t, there are still plenty of bodyweight only workouts out there!

Keep yourself motivated by getting the people you live with involved. Make the workouts fun, challenge each other and be a bit competitive. Here is a workout idea, and ways to make it fun and inclusive!

Workout – Bodyweight Only

5 x 10 – Press-ups
5 x 20 Squats

Alternate between 10 Press-ups and 20 Squats for 5 rounds

Finish with an AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible):
6 Min AMRAP
10 Jump Lunges
10 Sit-ups
5 Burpees

To make this fun and inclusive, do it as a family. Whoever gets the most rounds, gets to choose which film you watch on Netflix tonight!

NEAT – is basically any movement you do that isn’t exercise-based. It’s important to keep NEAT high because you’re more likely to inactive at a time like this. Fidgeting, housework, pottering around the house are all examples. Don’t sit idle for too long! Get up and just move, every now and then.

Routine

Try to keep some semblance of a routine. Working from home, or just being forced to stay at home, will feel alien to some and may result in feelings of unease, anxiety, and feeling trapped. Make sure your kids also have an albeit slightly relaxed, schedule or routine. Thye will crave it, even if they don’t realise! There are a few things you can do!

Sleep – aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Research is everywhere at the moment detailing the importance of sleep for immunity, physical health, function, and mental health. We need more sleep! Check out my guide to sleep hygiene here.

Keep working hours – there is no need to work longer than you usually do. If you normally work for 7 hours a day, do the same. Take your normal breaks (or mix it up if you want!), but don’t be distracted by other things such as chores, which you can do outside of work hours.

Keep a journal – even if you don’t normally do this, keeping a journal of your thoughts, daily musings, fears, creative ideas, etc. could be a way to mind dump and not ruminate on this bloody virus too much!

Exercise and Eat – if possible, exercise at the same time every day, and eat at your normal meal times. You’re more likely to stick with something if it’s planned out and can become a habit-based way of living.

Finally and perhaps MOST importantly…

Protect Your Mental Health

There is FAR too much misinformation, panic-spreading, and division in our world right now. Limit social media, limit the news you take in and make sure you switch off.

Be kind to others and respect the decisions they have made whether you agree or not.

Call/text/video call your loved ones and friends. There is no need to be completely isolated, such are the wonders of the internet!