Dr Michael Barnish, MBChB, Head of Genetics Nutrition for Global leaders in Preventative Health, REVIV, gives his top 7 tips and advice on how to look after our minds and wellbeing during lockdown.
Social isolation, not seeing your usual friends, family and colleagues, will mean that the release of several neurotransmitters, including dopamine and oxytocin are not being released. The outdoors can improve short-term memory and focus, reduce inflammation and fight against anxiety and depression.
Therefore, when we are unable to venture outside we can become more distracted, less motivated and stressed. Not something we want to be facing during lockdown, below I have listed my expert tips and tricks.
Nourish the body
There are certain mood and immune boosting micronutrients that can help maintain a good level of health during this time. To ensure that your food is loaded with nutrition, where you can go for wild caught (fish), grass/pasture fed (animals & eggs) and organic produce where possible. This is my food quality rule. We are what we eat, and this is no different for animals and plants. They are only as nutritional as the food they have eaten or taken up from the soil.
Cooking from scratch is essential for boosting both mood and health as fresh, non-processed foods are the best for your health. It is a fantastic way to learn, laugh and create. Tired looking vegetables can be easily be boiled up to make a soup with some stock, very easily done, and good for the environment and tasty. Freezing leftovers will also make sure that you stay well stocked up. Immune boosting foods include: spinach; kale; broccoli; cabbage; mushrooms; turmeric; rosemary and ginger.
What to avoid
Sofa, box sets/movies, snack and booze may be appealing, as we step back from our busy day to day lives. However, lack of exercise, excess sugar, alcohol and refined carbs will soon change the body’s metabolism and cause unnatural insulin and cortisol spikes, leading to poorer mood, reduced cognitive function, hormonal imbalances and ultimately, reduced immune function. Not to mention the potential weight gain.
Practice mindfulness and mental stimulation
The easiest way to include mindfulness in your day is to concentrate on your breathing. By breathing in for 4 seconds, holding it for a further 4 seconds and breathing out over 8 seconds. Doing this for one minute, upon waking and before sleep, is a simple way to really bring your body into the moment and focus the mind away from all thoughts.
Mental stimulation is also key and it is easy to move into binge mode during this period of self-isolation. Great ways to stimulate your brain includes, socialising (electronically of course), reading, writing, engaging in a hobby, brain games, research and even cooking or gardening.
Stand up and move
We all know exercise helps to maintain a healthy heart and increases the release of endorphins. Creativity is potentially required here if you are stuck inside, depending on the national guidance. Doing exercise outside is a fantastic way to boost vitamin D levels, get fresh air and spike those endorphins. If you don’t feel comfortable going outside then follow an online trainer. You could even try dancing, using home gym equipment or using household items, then there are plenty of options to explore.
Self-isolation means that we are not able to see our friends, family, or our work colleagues. This can be very difficult on our mental health. We are lucky, though. We live in a digital age, with immensely easy and available technology at our fingertips that can ensure that we can remain in touch with everyone, wherever and whenever we want.
Get great sleep
8 hours sleep has been linked to better mood, immunity and health. Firstly, reduce exposure to blue light. Television, computers, tablets and phone screens emit it. It will help to confuse your bodies internal clock and melatonin release, tricking the body into thinking it is not time for sleep yet. Try reading instead. Secondly, avoid eating before you go to bed and finally, the chemicals released while we sleep means that our deepest sleep occurs before midnight/1am, so try getting an early one.
Of course, this crisis isn’t making it easy for any of us, but these weeks of self-isolation are critical. The points I have discussed will make sure we emerge from this in a good state of mind.