Maria Mander is Health & Wellbeing Advisor providing specialist advice for participants of Skills for Growth - SME Support across Greater Manchester, to assist them in developing a thriving workforce with healthy, productive, engaged and happy employees.
Staying happy, healthy and resilient during lockdown
We’ve all had a difficult year full of much sacrifice and change. We looked to Christmas as a milestone for things to hopefully return to normal, but in reality, we’re still trying to combat Covid-19 with another hard lockdown, so looking after our mental wellbeing is more important than ever.
Health and Wellbeing advisor Maria Mander says “Daily self-care is most important to support your mental and physical wellbeing during the pandemic. As we are faced with different challenges each day and our needs will change accordingly.”
As we plunge into the colder, darker months and adjust to another state of isolation, we must prioritise self-care and remain vigilant with regards to taking care of our mental health.
Here are some useful tips for taking care of yourself and others, to ensure we’re as happy, healthy and resilient as can be in the lead up to the new year.
Keeping a solid routine is proven to help alleviate levels of stress by grounding us and helping to compartmentalise our day without having to think too deeply about it. It might seem mundane, but having a regular routine helps to break the day into simpler, more manageable moments in time. Routine helps us to make priorities, develop healthy habits and to differentiate between what we need to do, what we want to do and what we can do in our day.
There is an undeniable link between food and mood. Our gut and our brain operate using similar chemicals and the symbiotic link between the two cannot be ignored. Eating regularly, making responsible food choices and staying hydrated helps to keep us feeling energised, focused and healthy! Be sure to eat a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables, look for foods high in protein and don’t ignore the need to eat good fats (there is a difference between good and bad fats!) to ensure your body is getting the nutrients and vitamins it needs to keep you feeling good.
Mander reminds us to also “be mindful of any bad habits you are creating during lockdown and the winter months ahead e.g. snacking or drinking too much alcohol. Whilst we need treats during lockdown, bad habits will be hard to break and can have a negative impact on our health.”
Finally, the issue of caffeine… Caffeine, being a stimulant, increases our alertness, but can also increase our levels of anxiety and negatively affect our ability to sleep. Cutting caffeine out entirely could lead you to experience withdrawal symptoms but starting to by reducing your caffeine intake slowly is a healthy step in the right direction.
Sleep is just as important as diet and exercise and yet humans are the only mammal on the planet that willingly denies sleep! Most healthy adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep and yet studies show that UK adults are sleeping only 6 hours a night on average every night of the week – that’s means we’re missing out on a whole night’s sleep every week!
People who don’t get enough sleep are also more likely to have bigger appetites due to the fact that their leptin levels (leptin is an appetite-regulating hormone) fall, promoting appetite increase. So, if you feel like you’re relying more on replenishing your energy during the day with food, sleep could be the answer.
Physical exercise helps foster confidence and increase our feelings of self-worth. It’s an easy way to combat feelings of anxiety and depression and contributes to numerous aspects of our daily life. Exercise helps us to sleep and eat more regularly, it gives us a natural energy boost, keeps us focused and motivated, helps to release anger and stress and gives us a sense of purpose and motivation. Adults are recommended to exercise vigorously for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week, which may sound daunting, but only indicates exercising to the point at which you breathe more heavily, your heart rate increases, and you feel warmer.
Two thirds of UK adults feel they have no one to talk to about mental health problems. That means that even if you’re not the one experiencing low mood, you’re highly likely to know someone who is. Seeking help, reaching out and talking about our feelings can be daunting because it forces us to acknowledge in ourselves that something doesn’t feel right, but recognising and addressing the issue helps us to move forward. Whether you feel the need to speak to a professional, or whether you can confide in a close friend or family member, it’s important to find someone you can talk to, and if you’re not the one who needs to do the talking, start by asking those you care about if they’re ok and make yourself available to listen.
Even the toughest among us are feeling worried and stressed right now, so it’s important to remember that you’re not alone! Thoughts and feelings might be scary, but they can’t hurt you unless you let them.
Talking helps, so if you do feel that things are getting a bit much to manage on your own, here are some useful numbers to call:
Samaritans - Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
CALM - The Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
The Growth Company is an award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. We provide individuals and businesses with a wide range of services that improve employment, skills, investment and enterprise for the benefit of all, and have been working in the Greater Manchester city region for more than 30 years.
This project receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.
The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme.
Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.