Keeping your mind and body healthy

This week New Zealanders are coming to terms with a new normal. It’s a global crisis but every person is having a unique experience of it. Some people have a lot more time on their hands, some people have a lot less. The one thing we all have in common at the moment is stress. We’re all worried about our families, developments around the world and the instability created by the sudden change in personal circumstances.

This lockdown is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s important to invest in your body’s resilience, both physically and mentally. The sudden collapse of daily routine can be an opportunity to create new healthy habits that weren’t possible in your previous normal. Key foundation habits can build your resilience and improve your experience of the coming weeks and months.

The first foundation habit for resilience is drinking water. A well hydrated body performs all functions more quickly and efficiently, including your cognitive function. When you increase your water intake it can take time for your body to adapt, and initially there are more trips to the bathroom. Many of my clients have given up in the past due to the inconvenience. The lockdown period is a great opportunity to get your body adapted for better hydration. Drinking water can also slow down your snacking, which is always a hazard when you’re stuck at home.

The second way to build your resilience is to move more. Getting blood circulating helps every part of your physical and mental health. However, just because you have a lot of time on your hands doesn’t mean it’s a good time to embark on an extreme regime. It’s common for people new to exercise to overdo it. If you get injured this is a seriously bad time to be visiting a medical facility. Think twice before you take on something ambitious. Walking is a great option at the moment but again, don’t overdo it on week one. The most common injury for the new walker is shin splints, which require rest to heal. It would be unwise to put yourself in a position where you can’t even stroll around the block, depriving yourself of precious fresh air and sunshine.

The third resilience-building habit is a focus on nutrients. A diet oriented towards plant-based foods and away from ultra-processed foods is best for your body and mind. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy treat foods during your lockdown period. It’s good for you and your bubble-mates to have things to look forward to. But when you’re not enjoying a treat it’s important to eat for resilience fuel. My clients often tell me they eat well at home but the wheels fall off when they’re out of the house. This is a great opportunity to exercise thought and control. Take the time to think about what an ideal diet would look like, including your treats. Consider gut health foods such as kombucha, kefir, kimchi, kraut, probiotic yoghurt. These can help with mood, sleep, nutrient absorption and immunity.  

The forth resilience builder is good sleep. Consistent, quality rest is the cornerstone of health and vitality. Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle. Making a change to this rhythm can significantly affect how you feel and how your body operates. Through the lockdown period it may suit you to stay up a little later and sleep in a little later. This is fine as long as you stay consistent with your new normal. Also be aware of how extra screen time late at night may be affecting the quality of your sleep. When you decide on your bedtime be mindful that daylight savings is about to end, which will create further disruption to your circadian rhythm. To keep your rhythm stable, try to expose your eyes to natural light as soon as you wake up in the morning. Studies have shown that morning daylight exposure is a predictor of a good night of sleep.

Even if we can stay physically healthy over the coming months the circumstances remain a great threat to our wellbeing. However, being at home offers the opportunity create new routines to maximise our personal resilience. These healthy habits will hold our households together through the following weeks and beyond. Adversity brings the opportunity for growth.

By: , Claire Bellingham of Les Mills Takapuna.

Issue 108 April 2020