Many apologies for making you wait longer than planned for part 2 of how to stay sane throughout a global pandemic! Life got in the way and, well, I am only human after all!
So as promised here are more tips on surviving this crisis. In part 1 we discussed how to use gratitude, social interaction, routine and exercise to keep our morals up. This week we are covering the importance of getting fresh air (and leaving the house), the concept of information diet and our actual diet.
Let’s kick off!
Tip #5 Get some fresh air
One thing that has changed for many of us since the start of the pandemic is the amount of time we spend at home. Whether you have lost your job, have been furloughed, are now working from home or simply had to rain back in your wild social life, you would have felt a shift.
Even if your home is a super lush place where you would be happy to hibernate for the entire winter, we need to recognize the impact that being indoors 24/7 can have on our mental health.
Being outdoors is essential to our wellbeing. I know this sounds radical but we, human beings, need oxygen to function properly. Radical, I know.
Have you ever suffered from the air quality indoors and craved clean, fresh air? Personally, I have experienced this in an intense way on a few occasions.
My parents used to smoke indoors. I know, shocking, right?! But times where different back then and it was in France anyway. So I grew up in a smoke-filled house and didn’t know any better so I was fine with this until I moved out when I was 21.
Later on when I visited, even when I was a smoker too (a looonng time ago!), but had stopped smoking indoors myself, I found it very hard to stay at my parents for a few days in a row. After a couple of days I started to suffer from heavy headaches. For a long time, I had no idea why. But it happened every single time I visited.
I worked it out eventually; it was the air quality within the house! I am pleased to report that my parents are now keeping the indoor smoking to one room only, which is much easier for me to avoid.
Once upon a time in New Delhi
A few years ago I went to New Delhi for work. I was extremely lucky. My company booked me into a superb hotel and the office was lovely. But even so I struggled to breathe the entire time I was there.
I remember arriving in New Delhi at night in October. When I walked out of the airport, I walked straight into a heavy fog. You could barely see in front of you. But it was so hot, fog did not make sense. That’s when it clicked. It was air pollution. I had never seen anything like this before.
I only spent 3 days in New Delhi but I found it very hard to breathe. The air quality in the hotel was unbelievably clean given the quality of the air outside. We were not so lucky in the office. Even though it was lovely, you could tell the air conditioning system was a little older.
It really affected me physically and of course, the minute your body is struggling, so can follow your mind if you are not mindful of it.
I was so grateful for the opportunity to be there that my mood did not suffer but I was grateful to get back to Malaysia which was where I was based.
So get outdoors!!!
Why am I telling you these stories? Because we take fresh air for granted.
When we commute to work, walk out to pick up groceries, every single time we live the house, if like me you are fortunate enough to live in the UK, you benefit from this clean fresh oxygen re-invigorating your body.
Oxygen gives us energy and help our bodies function better. It is literally vital to keep ourselves in shape this winter and to boost our immune systems to fight the pandemic, so get out of the house at least once a day to get your oxygen quota.
Clear your mind
The other, obvious benefit of getting some fresh air, is that it helps you clear your mind.
There are days when I feel cooked up at home. Even if I started the day by going to the gym, sometimes, after a few intense hours at the computer, I just need to get outside. This summer was easier. The French doors were open all day long and we felt like we were living outside which was so lovely. But sadly, with the autumn settling in, the patio doors have shut.
The windows are still open, but it is not quite the same. So when I need it, I just take a short break and go for a walk around the block. It tends to give me a boost, clears my mind and I can get back to work with a fresh outlook on things.
Tip #6 Information diet
What you put in your mind is just as important as what you put in your body. And somehow we overlook this every day. We let others decide for us what we should consume. News, social media, other people’s dramas…
The information diet is a brilliant way to reduce this constant external attack on your mind. This is something I have learned from Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Work Week and have been practicing for years. And it works wonders!
Watching the news every single day can be depressing at the best of times, but let’s be honest, right now it can easily turn into a huge source of anxiety. The reality of the situation we are in is that:
- We have no idea how long the virus will be around (and the government doesn’t know either)
- All we can do is mitigate the risks of the worst-case scenario – i.e. do what is in our control to protect ourselves and people around us
Watching the news every single day is not going to change this situation. That said, I am not saying we should ignore them totally. It is important to check regularly what is happening so that we know what we are allowed (or not) to do.
How the information diet works
The idea of the information diet is that you should let the news come to you instead of chasing them. It translates as disabling the news notifications on your phone, not switching on the news channel and not reading the papers.
The concept is that really important news will naturally make their way to you because people around you will tell you about it. Therefore, you no longer need to seek the news. What you really need to know will find you.
I have been practising this for years and it works rather well. I only hear about things I really need to know. And I have piece of mind that, should I need to know something, someone will tell me.
Why this is good for your wellbeing
Since I have started this information diet I am a lot more chilled as I am no longer affected by sad news around the world that I cannot do anything about.
I get a fair amount of time back. Instead of listening to the news I now listen to audio books or watch fun uplifting NetFlix series.
I am more focused on my work and my goals as I have more mind space for the things I choose to focus on.
How I adapted the diet since the pandemic
Now the current situation is unprecedented. At the beginning, the situation was evolving really fast and I felt drawn to keep up with the news again. Like many people I was watching the PM address every day. But I soon realised that this was not helpful. The situation was not evolving that fast that we were given important information every day.
So I started by reducing my intake to 10 minutes a day, just to check if something new had come up. And rather quickly I went back to my complete information diet when I realised that this situation was here to stay.
Would I like to know when we will get back to normal? Yes.
Would I like to know when I will be able to visit my family in France? Yes.
Will watching the news every day give me those answers? Not anytime soon.
So the best way to stay calm is to put these questions to one side and to carry on with my life. The answers will come to me when they are available. No need to stress about it in the meantime.
Tip #7 Food
I am not going to go into the details of the link between food and mental health as I have already covered this at length but the summary is: the healthier you eat, the better you will feel within yourself. If you want to know more about this, check out my article How food impacts your mood using good mood food or my interview of Cath Brown, dietician specialised in emotional eating.
Pandemic and eating habits
What I want to discuss today is the fact that, for some reason, people have been using the current situation as an excuse to eat unhealthy food and drink more. Why?? When people were panic buying a few months ago, there was no actual shortage of vegetables… I eat mostly vegs, fish and lean meat and I had zero problem finding my usual products. That says it all, doesn’t it?
I think there are a number of reasons for this behaviour: boredom, anxiety, online socialising… Most of it comes down to one thing tough: emotions. Many of us use food and alcohol to deal with our emotions. If this is you, you definitely want to watch my interview of Cath Brown, dietician specialised in emotional eating.
Getting back on track
Anyway, if the pandemic has affected your diet, I would strongly recommend you try to go back to normal. If anything, now is the time to clean up your diet as you do not have the usual excuses of: “I am out with friends” “I am networking” and all the rest of it.
If you are struggling with this, this could be a sign that you have an emotional relationship to food. Don’t worry, most of us do! If you want to clear that up, it could be done using one of the techniques I talk about on my YouTube Channel, such as hypnosis or energy healing (TetaHealing and AccessBars).
But the main issue is likely to be your motivation. This is where accountability comes in. I have talked a lot on social media about the cleanse I did in January and in July last year (Clean detox). This all started (funnily enough, in the pub!) with agreeing to doing the cleanse with a colleague. If I hadn’t agreed to do it with her, I probably would not have lasted the full 5 weeks. You got the idea: get yourself an accountability partner or a coach 😉
80% good 20% human
Personally, I have used the pandemic to seriously clean up my diet. I am a lot healthier now than I was before lockdown and that is simply because there are less temptations around me. I also spend more time cooking, trying different recipes, and creating healthy snacks. I am enjoying planning menus for the week and having fun with it all. Being healthy does not have to be un-fun!
Don’t get me wrong, I still have the odd wine and cheese dinner, but I would say I am following a CLEAN diet 80% of the time (CLEAN diet: no alcohol, no caffeine, no sugar, no gluten, no dairy, no processed food). Like my personal trainer says, the goal is to be 80% good and 20% human. That’s my new mantra!
Hopefully I have given you food for thought and you can now see areas that you can work on to help yourself and feel better during these super weird times. Life doesn’t have to stop because there is a health crisis out there but a global pandemic is a good reminder of how important our health is. My health is my number 1 priority. And you?