While we are all enjoying being able to have more normality again in our lives after the past 18 months, it’s naturally going to take a little adjusting to as diaries fill up, people get back into offices and children get back to school. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the sudden freedom, so managing our lives right now is key in making these adjustments without burnout both mentally and physically.
This is not just an age thing! There are plenty of twenty-somethings around the world currently saying “I honestly don’t know how I used to do what I used to do! I feel so tired.” A study was conducted at the end of 2020 by the charity The Centre For Mental Health which predicted that up to 10 million people in the UK may need additional mental health support as a result of the pandemic, with 1.5 million of those predicted to be children.*
With that in mind, anything we can do support ourselves makes sense, rather than throwing ourselves back into ‘our old lives’; let’s hang on to some of the calmer, less frenetic way of living that many of us have come to appreciate. It all starts with physical self-care.
Get enough sleep and relaxation
Our mood and sleep are inextricably linked. Aim to go to bed at the same time each evening and try to be technology free at least 2 hours before bedtime. If that’s impossible for you, try to make it an hour. The blue light from mobile devices has been shown to impact the quality of sleep. If you are one of the majority who use a phone as your alarm, ensure notifications are switched off. iPhones, for example, have a Night Shift setting that subdues brightness.
Try not to eat too late into the evening, optimally your last meal should be at least 3 hours before bedtime. It also makes sense to not be stimulated by caffeine and alcohol in the evening and a night-time routine can ease you into a better night’s sleep; a warm bath, relaxing music and reading are all activities that allow your body to wind down and make a good night’s sleep more likely.
Food equals mood
Support your body with nutritious foods and hydration. Too much food and/or processed food will not support your mood or your energy levels. Indulgence is fine as long as it isn’t every day. Save those treats for the weekend or when you can have a more relaxed start on your days off. Instead of reaching for that sweet snack in the afternoon, take 5 minutes to simply focus on your breathing; it’s amazing how shallowly we breathe when we are busy. Just a few rounds of slower, longer breaths stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which makes us feel calmer and more relaxed.
Manage your diary
Learn to say ‘no’ and perhaps set some rules about how many social activities you will accept during the course of a week and weekend. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we are rushing from one thing to another, even if it’s for pleasant social encounters. It can rob us of being in the moment and truly appreciating the here and now as we get consumed mentally by ‘what’s next’. This really is within our control, we just need to exercise it. By doing less we achieve more and the people we are with also benefit as we are more present and at our best when we are not running on empty.
Look after your gut
It’s becoming increasingly accepted and understood that the gut and brain are inextricably linked; hence why we call the gut our second brain. There is bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain and imbalance in our gut bacteria impacts our mood. It’s also where 70% of your immune system is housed so it deserves our attention and care.
We became a nation of walkers during the lockdowns – let’s hang on to that good habit. Being outside and moving around is a natural mood booster, plus it’s free and accessible to us all. As Laurette Mortimer so beautifully said, “Walking brings me back to myself”.
*Study by The Centre For Mental Health:https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/news/10-million-people-england-may-need-support-their-mental-health-result-pandemic-says-centre-mental-health