Keeping Cork Healthy: Crisis = an opportunity

The Echo is teaming up with the Mardyke Arena UCC during this lockdown period to give readers weekly tips on how to stay fit and healthy. In this edition, how you can turn the pandemic to your advantage, plus advice on gut health and the importance of sleep. 
Keeping Cork Healthy: Crisis = an opportunity

WRITE IT DOWN: Compiling a list is one way you can cope with Covid and achieve some goals. Picture posed, iStock

COVID-19 and its lockdowns have been tough on everyone. Life as we knew it has changed drastically, as well as the added uncertainty that has filled each day, writes Dr Margaret O’Rourke, Director of Behavioural Science & Psychological Medicine at University College Cork.

No-one can deny the changes we’ve all felt, from limiting physical social interaction with friends and family to adjusting to working from home for many.

But it doesn’t have to be all bad, we can use this time to take a step back, to recharge and to figure out what is really important to us in life.

Essentially, we’ve been given an opportunity, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Psychological science has demonstrated that coping with a crisis (such as lockdown) is less troublesome when there are three easy actions we can take.

Maintaining a sense of purpose throughout the lockdown and during the pandemic is vital. This works both in our personal and work lives. Remind yourself, and your team, as to why you are working so hard. What are the goals and how can you reach them?

Meaningful purpose is a very important basic human need. With that comes a sense of accomplishment that keeps our minds focused.

Another way of keeping our minds focused is through maintaining control. This is an easy one to grasp. We can gain control by focusing on what we want, be that in day to day life or in the future. A good way to feel in control is by writing daily lists — a brilliant way to arrange our thoughts and tasks. Divide your lists into two sections; Important tasks on one side, such as work deadlines or studying, and the less important, i.e. cleaning the bathroom or going on a walk, on the other side. No matter how big or small the task, write it down.

A list will keep you in control and help you to remain focused on your goals, while offering daily feelings of accomplishment. Your list will also help you to keep a routine, which many of us have felt we have lost due to lockdown restrictions. A routine will create a sense of normalcy in daily life.

Finally, maintain a sense of hope. Remind yourself the lockdown is necessary for your safety and the safety of those you love. Keeping this is mind will make the days easier.

It’s important to remember that you get to choose how you think, act and feel and how you choose affects your day, your work and home life. Practicing gratitude can be a great way to help boost your sense of hope. Buy yourself a journal, one you’ll enjoy writing in, and write down three things you’re grateful for each day. Doing this will help to shift your mindset in a more positive direction and you’ll be amazed by how much good a single day can hold.

So, remember three little things….Have Goals — write them down, Control what you can ,and maintain HOPE — we will get through this maybe making life even better.

Cut yourself some slack, no matter what your coping strategy is. Recognise that things are difficult right now and you’re working to make the best or even the better of it. Sometimes the steps that seem small are the ones that make all the difference.

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Good sleep patterns can aid gut health
Good sleep patterns can aid gut health

The Mind / Body Connection

The importance of gut health, and its effects on physical and mental health, has gained prominence and popularity in the past decade, writes Dr Margaret O’Rourke, Director of Behavioural Science & Psychological Medicine at University College Cork.

Neuroscientists and clinical psychologists have called the gut the “little brain” because of its prominent role in mental health and wellbeing. And while gut health isn’t the only impacting factor on mental health and mood (we’re much more complex than that) it is something that can enable a mental boost. But what constitutes a healthy gut? Why is gut health so important?

Gut health is referred to as the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. The gut does more than just digest food and has a large part to play in overall health. It contains both healthy bacteria and immune cells that work to fight off bad bacteria and viruses. The gut is also in constant communication with the brain to help maintain general well-being.

So, what can we do to achieve a healthier gut? It’s as easy as making small changes to three aspects of daily life: Food, exercise and sleep.

You don’t need to follow a complex diet or spend loads of money on the latest super-food to achieve a healthier gut. Drinking two litres of water a day, including fibre in your diet, and eating plant-based foods such as fruit and vegetables are great first steps. Focusing solely on one food type won’t offer the same benefits as a varied diet. It’s recommended we should try to aim for 30 plant-based foods a week. Sounds like a lot to you? Let’s break it down. That’s just four plant-based foods a day. Meal planning and writing a shopping list are two surefire ways of keeping on track to 30.

Regular exercise such as swimming, cycling and yoga are other great ways to promote a healthy gut. Exercise can change the make-up of your gut independent of what you eat by increasing the microbial diversity.

The internet is a great source of online classes, with YouTube offering a large range of free content that can be done from the comfort of your own home. Gone are the days of having to attend a class in person.

Another essential for gut health is ensuring you get adequate sleep. It is quite common for people with disturbed sleep to experience symptoms such as bloating and nausea.

Some easy tips for a healthy night’s sleep are to shut off from technology at least an hour before bed to allow the brain to unwind. Try reading a book or meditating instead. Avoid taking naps after 3pm and ensure you go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends and days off. If you struggle with keeping this schedule, many phones now have an option to set soft alarms as reminders for bedtime.

Changing our gut health doesn’t need to be daunting. All that is needed to get started are these three simple steps. So why not trust your gut and give it its best chance to take care of you.

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Join in with Free Fitness Classes Online

The Mardyke Arena UCC are running Free Fitness Classes Online via their YouTube Channel. New classes will be added each morning (Mon-Fri) at 7am and available for you to do in your own time.

Next week’s schedule:

Monday: HITT

Tuesday: Total Tone

Tuesday: EYL Aerobics (Energise Your Life Over 55s Class)

Wednesday: Pilates

Thursday: 10-10-10

Thursday: EYL Pilates (Energise Your Life Over 55s Class)

Friday: Circuits & Core

Mardyke’s Physiotherapy Clinic remains open as an essential service

The arena clinic based at the Mardyke Arena UCC, a centre already recognised for excellence has remained open during this lockdown period as their physiotherapy services are deemed an essential health service.

The clinic continues to operate under Government and HSE guidelines.

It is a unique clinic, incorporating physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and specialist rehabilitation. To book an appointment contact the arena clinic at 021 490 4760 or visit www.mardykearena.co to book online.

Doing a fitness class from home? Share it with us, using #KeepingCorkHealthy and tagging ‘Mardyke Arena UCC’

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