It can be hard to get up and start the day on any given normal day.
And now, considering today’s world is far from normal (work is now at home, oh and so are the kids, and wow everyone’s getting a bit stir-crazy), it can be even harder to get going for the day.
We get it.
While it’s tempting to stay in our pyjamas all day, a well thought-through routine that builds energy and reduces stress will be the difference between thriving in our new living conditions, and letting the feelings of isolation and overwhelm get the better of us.
Now’s the time to create a solid plan and stick to it in order to help us get through to the other side.
So with that in mind, we’re sharing how our resident naturopath and nutrition scientist Benjamin Makeham powers up for his day, and how he keeps the ball rolling.
It’s full of tips you can use to create your own foolproof plan to get you through this time of social distancing, and ‘home-based living’.
1. Before anything else, move your body.
It will probably feel like the last thing you want to do, but moving your body is the best way to pump blood around the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to every cell in your body so they can start making energy. You know the saying, you’ve got to spend money to make money? The same goes for energy.
Get creative with how you move your body, it doesn’t have to fit within the definition of traditional exercise. Do you have a basketball hoop out the back? Can you go for a (socially-distant) walk around your neighbourhood? Roll out the yoga mat and follow some online workout videos, yoga, dance, pilates, or whatever!
2. Start with a nourishing breakfast (...and lunch and dinner)
Eating well serves you on so many different levels.
It’s not just something to tick off the list of ‘things to do when you’re an adult’. You need to pay attention to the food you are eating, because it’s literally being used to build your body, and just like a building we need all of the right building materials. Otherwise, we get leaky pipes, doors that can’t open, and flickering lights.
A nutrient rich wholefood diet is going to provide your immune system with what it needs to protect your body, it’s going to support a healthy balanced mood and reduce feelings of stress and panic, and it’s going to facilitate sustained energy levels.
I don’t have strict rules for “eating well”, I aim to eat as many wholefoods as possible, with lots of fibre from vegetables, lentils, wholegrains and fruit, and a source of high-quality protein with good fats from olive oil, nuts and avocados, with every meal.
Every morning, I start my day with a smoothie. It’s such an easy way to pack in so many different nourishing ingredients for a real energy kick.
My smoothie is simple:
- Soy milk;
- Greek yoghurt;
- And, of course, 2 teaspoons of Power Up.
Delicious. Protein, good fats, and fibre. Tick, tick, tick. And Power Up adds a delicious blend of herbal adaptogens and antioxidants to support natural energy production and stress adaptation!
3. Add deep breathing and meditation checkpoints into your day.
Whether you are someone who subscribes to the benefits of meditation or not, even science cannot deny that the simple act of deepening your breath does wonders for the nervous system and your stress levels.
It switches our brains off from fight or flight mode (panicked and stressed) to what is known as the rest and digestion mode (calm and centred). It dampens activity in the amygdala, an area of the brain related to negative emotions, and activates the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain which regulates our emotions.
Whether you incorporate this into your day as part of an existing meditation practice, or you simply sit in silence and breathe deeply, try using this format:
- Breathe in deeply for 3 seconds,
- Hold for 4 seconds,
- And breathe out slowly for 5 seconds. Repeat.
Start with at least 3 minutes, and if you have time build to 10 minutes (it’s worth making extra time for if you can).
I add 2 checkpoints into my day, when possible, to sit and breathe deeply:
- One between 11am-1pm;
- And the other between 3pm-5pm.
Maybe you can try some deep breathing before you get your second morning coffee, and before you reach for that sweet treat in the afternoon… See how you feel afterwards.
4. Get into nature
Yep, this is all about grounding, through connecting with nature.
New scientific research is putting the focus back on the importance of nature and ‘green-space’ for our health, with experts now recommending everyone spends at least 120 minutes per week amongst nature (that’s just over 17 minutes per day). Why? Because those that do have significantly higher levels of good health and wellbeing by simply being in the natural world.
There are so many reasons why, and lots of different theories!
One of my favourites involves the potential influence of bird sounds on our stress response. Birds only sing when it is safe and the surrounding environment is free of predators. Our primal brain responds to these peaceful sounds as being safe, and this helps to facilitate relaxation. How beautiful is that.
Soil is also great for our gut microbiome and our immune system. Exposure to dirt and the microbes that live in it helps our immune system mature properly and function the way it should as we age.
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, see if you can start growing something. Get creative, maybe now is the perfect time to beautify your garden, add some new plant friends, and tidy it up. If not, see if you can re-route a walk or a run through a park as part of your daily exercise… When you can, get your feet out onto the bare earth and grass.
5. What are you grateful for? Write it out!
Gratitude journaling is a powerful tool stemming from positive psychology practices which aims to rewire the brain to be more positive and resilient by focusing on what we are grateful for.
Over time, it helps to change our default negative bias (i.e. pessimism) towards greater optimism. It becomes easier to reframe challenges and struggles in a more positive light.
When we consistently give thanks for what we do have, we build our resilience and our ability to drown out the pessimism and negative thoughts that can creep in. It counteracts feelings of scarcity and lack, and cultivates feelings of self-worth and love.
When we have a daily practice of gratitude waiting for us at the end of the day, we’re more likely to start looking for things to be grateful for during the course of our day. Eventually, over time, gratefulness becomes second nature.
While you’re building this mental muscle, taking a few minutes at the end of each day to write down just one thing you are grateful for can go a long way towards keeping your spirits high.