As Melbourne heads into our second lockdown this year, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re taking care of yourself mentally and physically. Working and studying from home and not having a normal routine can take its toll! We chatted to two amazing health professionals: women’s health expert Holly Sinclair of The Women Series and Anxiety Mindset Coach, Gut Health Expert & Nutritionist Georgie Collinson to find out how to reduce anxiety and stress in quarantine.
Pay attention to your diet
Your physical health is closely tied to your mental health; taking care of one will inevitably improve the other. “Eat well. I can’t stress this enough. If you struggle with resilience, the food you eat will either bolster your thoughts or debilitate them,” says Holly.
Did you know that your gut health is heavily linked with your mental health? Most of the body’s serotonin is actually stored in the gut! To keep your gut healthy (which will keep your mental health in tip top shape!), Georgie recommends loading up on magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, as well as fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi. All of these can help lower stress levels significantly.
Move your body
Georgie advises to try to get out of the house at least once a day, even if it's just for a walk or some stretching. Exercise and movement in all its forms is known to release significant amounts of serotonin! It also reduces muscle tension, which is often a contributing factor in anxiety. Exercising regularly not only relieves stress short term, but also prepares your body to better deal with stress in the future. There are so many things you can do to keep your body moving—walking, running, swimming, yoga, dancing—so find what works for you and make it fun.
Be mindful and present
There are small daily rituals you can undertake to help you feel grounded and put you in a good headspace. Practices such as meditation, breathing techniques, and journaling encourage mindfulness and are proven to reduce stress and improve sleep and mood.
According to Holly, “The only thing we can control is ourselves. Anchor your anxiety into creating rituals and then exercising control over your day-to-day. As long as our basic needs are met—shelter, food, hydration, and sleep—everything else we fill our mind with is within our control.”
Georgie suggests getting in touch with your intuition. “Learn how to connect with yourself. Spend this time challenging yourself to take up a regular meditation practice if you haven’t done this before. Take up a morning journaling practice to gather your thoughts at the beginning of the day. And of course, seek professional help if you need it!”
Take cold showers
Yes, really! We don’t mean standing under a cold shower for 5 minutes while you try to wash your hair in frigid temperatures. But according to Georgie, turning off your hot water for 30 seconds at the end of your morning shower can trigger your vagus nerve, which will make you feel calm and uplifted. If that seems a little too painful for those chilly Melbourne winter mornings, try just splashing a little bit of cold water on your face instead.
Keeping yourself occupied and busy during this time is a great way to break up the monotony and prevent yourself from feeling restless—just make sure you don’t take on too much! Holly advises not to waste this time. “Start a short course. Read books. Make love. Eat well. Practice mindfulness. Save money. We will never get this opportunity again!”
Georgie proposed setting goals—“Don’t put pressure on yourself to achieve anything specific in quarantine, but set yourself a few fun goals you’d like to work towards, even if you aren’t consistent. Let the goals you set be gentle and forgiving, simply designed to bring you a sense of progress forward, not something that is rigid and strict, setting you up to feel like you’ve failed.”
Both women reminded us that stress and anxiety don’t have to become embedded in our identity. Holly says, “Stress and anxiety don’t need to define us! Too often we attach ourselves to being ‘stressed’ because in a way it’s familiar and comfortable. Moving away from being an ‘anxious person’ is possible so long as we are open to feeling a little uncomfortable.”
Georgie agreed, telling us, “So many people believe that being stressed or anxious is just a part of who they are, but this is untrue. We learn our stress habits and anxiety, and we can unlearn it too.”
Working or studying from home? Check out our 6 tips for staying motivated on the T.M. Edit now!