How are you? No, really, how are you? It’s a question many of us are asking ourselves right now and if not, we should be. After a rough start to the year for so many Aussies, checking in with yourself, adopting a great self-care routine and taking it one day at time, are key to our mental and physical wellbeing. So, what does ‘taking care of yourself’ really mean and what makes a great routine? In a world full of CANT’S, I speak to the experts Peta Teuma, Naturopath for Go Healthy and Tammy Seligmann, General Manager Grants of Australia and get their advice on what we CAN do to take care of ourselves right now.
Easier said than done right? According to Peta Teuma, “whilst small doses of stress over a short time are normal and can be good for us. Stress over an extended period can impact our immune system, increase blood pressure, and leave us feeling fatigued, depressed or anxious”. To help reduce stress Peta suggests:
- Eat well – The neurotransmitters, Serotonin and Dopamine, that keep us feeling happy and motivated are impacted by a poor diet. It’s important to include whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetable, nuts and seeds, oily fish and lean protein in your diet;
- Exercise – even 20 minutes a day can be of benefit;
- Make the most of the morning light. Natural light helps regulate our circadian rhythms which in turn can help us get a good night’s sleep. It also helps with our daily dose of Vitamin D which impacts on mood;
- Laugh! Research has shown that laughter can help to reduce stress, bring greater happiness, and support healthy immunity; so find ways to increase the laughter in your life. Fake it ‘til you make it if needed, but make time to laugh-out-loud every day.
Embrace the good and avoid the not-so-good
We all react differently to stress and uncertainty. Now more than ever, we are faced with a long list of challenges to navigate – from working remotely to being unemployed or under employed; having a house full of people to manage to being alone and isolated; not to mention the long list of worries associated with health, finance and what the future holds. It’s no wonder that as a country our consumption of alcohol has increased by over a third compared to this time last year. Domestic violence is on the increase and calls to mental health hotlines have sky-rocketed.
Whilst there is no easy solution for our current situation or any of the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in now, as the saying goes, “we don’t always have control over what happens to us in life; we do have control over how we choose to respond”. Peta suggests that learning to redirect our thoughts from the negative to the positive is key. For example, rather than “I hate being stuck at home” perhaps, “I am safe at home while this is all happening”. Or “what do I with myself every day?” to “I can finally get things done at home”.
If changing the way you think is difficult, why not consider finding an affirmation that resonates. Place it in a prominent position around the house and read it daily. Consider meditation, it can have a great impact on your mood and reduce stress and anxiety; even a few minutes a day will help. Try apps like Calm or Smiling Minds.
Create a great routine
Having a great routine is key. Here are some tips to get your routine sorted:
- Have a regular wake-up time – decide on your time and stick to it;
- Prepare your schedule the night before. Once you’re up you won’t waste time trying to work out what you need to do;
- If you’ve got an overwhelming task ‘eat that frog’ as the saying goes and get the biggest or worst job done first up. Lisa Messenger, Founder of Collective Hub, talks about dividing her day into two. “Before 10am is for proactive stuff – yoga, meditation, podcasts, reading, journaling (all things to feed my mind and body = me time). After 10am it is GAME ON – this is the reactive stuff. Emails, working with my team and clients, new ideas and all the stuff I need to do to run my businesses”;
- Build in breaks in your day – to eat, exercise, meditate. Put them into your schedule just like you would a meeting;
- If you’re working from home decide on your ‘knock-off’ time and stick to it;
- Batch your tasks for work and home. It’s a great productivity hack and you’ll feel more in control of your time;
- Most importantly do something you LOVE every day, celebrate the wins, and take time to smell the roses.
Try something new or up-skill
If you’re lucky enough to have some spare time why not try up-skilling or a hobby that’s been on your ‘to-do’ list for a while? There are plenty of great courses online – check out Skillshare for some inspiration. The NSW Government is offering free enrolment to their Women in Business course – no catch, just a fantastic opportunity for anyone thinking about going into business.
Don’t get caught in the comparison trap
Social media is overflowing with people talking about using this time to learn a new hobby, up-skill, finish all those odd-jobs or start a side-hustle. Are you one of them? Or are you struggling just to make it through the day after working from home and home-schooling the kids? If you fall into the latter group, Peta suggests that right now “you need to find what works for you; don’t worry about what others are doing. Your best accomplishment through the Covid-19 situation might be looking after your mental well-being by focusing on exercise and your diet, that’s ok”.
More helpful tools
Vitamins and minerals
Apart from maintaining a healthy approach to diet and exercise, Peta suggests that adding some vitamins and minerals to our diet might be helpful right now. “Magnesium is a favourite amongst naturopaths. It’s a great relaxant and also reduces your cortisol levels which can impact the immune system. Foods like leafy greens, whole grains, nuts and seeds will provide a great source of magnesium. I love the mineral zinc for immunity. It’s found in things like lean meats, seafoods, legumes, nuts and seeds. Whilst we’re at home it’s pretty common that we’re not reaching for the healthiest foods, so if you find yourself doing this, look at putting some zinc in your diet.
“Vitamin C and traditional herbs such as Echinacea and Elderberry are also beneficial to help regulate our immune system.”
Staying in touch with loved ones even via Zoom, FaceTime or on the phone is important right now, particularly for those who are living alone. Perhaps think about helping an elderly neighbour or volunteer in the local community.
Maintain oral hygiene
With level 3 restrictions effectively limiting dentists to treating patients in serious pain or requiring urgent attention, it’s important to stay vigilant and maintain your regular brushing habits. Tammy Seligmann, General Manager Grants of Australia says, “brushing and rinsing are THE most important things you can do to reduce the risk of cavities or gum disease, along with limiting the consumption of sugary drinks.
“Using a good quality, clean toothbrush that has upright, not worn-down bristles, is as important as your toothpaste. Your toothpaste should support your efforts of maintaining a sound oral care regime. Check the ingredients as some toothpastes contain such ‘nasties’ as SLS, parabens or titanium dioxide.
“Grants has just unveiled an Australian made natural toothpaste with fluoride, it also contains Xylitol to further reduce cavities and protect enamel. We’ve also added a new Bamboo Toothbrush with charcoal infused bristles to our range. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties that help reduce plaque and bacteria for healthy teeth and gums; it not only benefits us but the Earth too!”
Switch off the news and get a good night’s sleep
“One of the most important things you can do to build your immune system is to get a good night’s sleep” advises Peta. “Studies have shown that if you don’t sleep well your immune system is impacted and you’re more likely to get an infection. Around 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night is perfect but everyone is different. It’s about figuring out how much sleep you need to wake up feeling great.
“Finally, switch off the news, keep up to date with the facts but then switch it off. We are being saturated with information and it can become overwhelming. It’s never ok to avoid the situation but it can be detrimental to our health if we are constantly listening to it. Try putting on something uplifting, maybe some music and get up and dance”.
Stockist information for toothpaste and toothbrush can be found at Grants of Australia.