Staying motivated and dealing with the lockdown blues

Staying motivated and dealing with the lockdown blues

I think it’s fair to say there is a collective sadness in the UK right now as we brace ourselves for what are undoubtedly going to be the toughest few weeks we have faced since the start of the pandemic.

The New Year, typically a time for setting goals and the prospect of new beginnings, has taken on a different feeling with reports already of people abandoning Dry January in the light of this week’s lockdown news.

So what can we do?  How are we going to manage our way through this as individuals and collectively?  How do we maintain hope and motivation?

Staying positive and motivated are directly linked to how we are taking care of our minds and bodies.  You know the saying ‘you put rubbish in you get rubbish out’.  So self-care really is at the root of how we feel and how we feel directly impacts the actions we do or do not take.

So, to put yourself in the best possible place to navigate your way through the next few weeks consider some or all of the following:

Get the foundations of sleep, exercise, and nutrition in place.  Be gentle, setting the goal of losing a stone or having abs by April is perhaps a little unrealistic and irrelevant right now. Instead, think about what your body needs to feel good.  Have breakfast, don’t skip meals, drink plenty of water, and limit the caffeine (for a host of reasons but certainly to help with sleep and reduce anxiety). Ease back on the alcohol if you’ve indulged over the Christmas period.

Think about cutting down on sugar particularly if you’ve had more than your share of the mince pies. You may have heard of the gut-brain axis? Our moods and behaviours are now understood to be directly linked to our gut health.  Sugar is a major offender disrupting our microbiome; the ecosystem of bacteria in our gut.

Give yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep. Step away from your phone an hour before bed and turn off any notifications.  Blue light affects the quality of your sleep. Instead try to create some quiet time, take a bath, read a book, listen to soothing music.

Get outside every day.  Being outside in the fresh air and among natural surroundings is therapeutic and calming.  It brings perspective.  Walk and listen to inspiring, uplifting music or use the time to be mindful and fully present in the moment.

Move your body.  Whether that’s walking, yoga, or running getting our heart rates up and our bodies moving releases endorphins which make us feel good.

Do something for someone else. By helping others we help ourselves, so even picking up the phone to a colleague just to see how they are can make a difference to them and to us.  We need to feel connected and that our being here makes a difference.  Aim for one act of kindness a day and see how creative you can become.

Limit your access to the news and social media. Use credible sources to avoid sensational platforms.  Enough said.

Do something you enjoy every day.  A little treat, whatever that looks like for you.

Manage your mental energy throughout the working day. Set a timer for an hour and when it goes off get up and move around for at least 5 minutes – go do something, change over the washing, put the bins out, play with the cat.  Working for long uninterrupted periods of time is draining.  You want to have some energy left over at the end of the day to enjoy your evenings.

If you have kids at home again cut yourself and them some slack.  There will be stressful moments for you all. Focus on what is great about having them at home, if they are old enough, agree on routines of work and breaks. Don’t aim for perfection ‘good enough’ is enough right now.

Perhaps you can mix-up your working routine?  Getting out in daylight for a couple of hours may mean you do some work in the evenings instead.

It may sound a bit ‘woo woo’ but meditation is proven to reduce anxiety and stress.  There are some great apps such as Calm and Headspace if you are new to this.  Don’t dismiss it.  Famous meditators include Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey. It has other benefits too. Over time meditation changes the structure of the brain and research has shown that regular meditators have more grey matter in the frontal cortex, which is associated with working memory and executive decision making. What’s not to like?

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