Eimear Hutchinson: Simple things to do in lockdown to make you feel better

EIMEAR HUTCHINSON shares her advice on how to mind your mental and physical health this January
Eimear Hutchinson: Simple things to do in lockdown to make you feel better

Eimear Hutchinson is going to try and get out walking/ jogging twice a week. Picture: Dan Linehan

THIS January is going to be different than most. We are back in yet another lockdown and for many it might feel like we are back at square one, with the word restriction now so engrained in our minds it’s exhausting.

Usually, I am not one for grand gestures at the start of a New Year but this one is different.

I am not suggesting we set ourselves up for failure by creating a long list of goals that are unachievable, but now might be a good time to reset the habits that set in around Christmas to give us all the best chance to come out the other side of this as healthy and happy as we can.

I spent December being very good to myself — treating myself to a glass of wine midweek after a hard night of wrapping gifts or tearing into a box of sweets because they were only €3.99 — but I have come out the other side of December ready for a reset and that is not a bad thing.

Facing into a starker than usual January, here are some simple things we can all do to give ourselves the best chance of coming out the other side of yet another lockdown feeling intact.

There are three key elements to making sure we are our best selves this January that will benefit our all-round health and wellbeing; exercise, nutrition and sleep. And maybe you might focus on all three, or just one, whatever works for you.

Be realistic about what you can achieve exercise wise in a week, says Eimear.
Be realistic about what you can achieve exercise wise in a week, says Eimear.

EXERCISE

Exercise is so important for our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing, most of us know that, I know that, but I tend to let my efforts slip from time to time. The winter can serve as an excuse for us to let good habits dwindle, walks and runs outdoors can fall victim to the wet or the wind but January can often bring a dry cold that is perfect for getting out in the evenings.

I am going to try and aim to get out two evenings a week for a walk — I need it for the headspace, for the fresh air and to work out some of the tension that can build in times of stress. Twice a week is a realistic aim for me but I will not feel guilty about it if I don’t get out that many times either, it’s all about balance now and not about creating or fuelling guilt.

EATING RIGHT

If you are eating the right food, you have more energy and enthusiasm for life than you do if your body is sluggish and struggling.

I had the time of my life enjoying cheese boards, roast dinners and treats in December, and I regret none of it, but the time has come when I need to pull back, up the green veg intake, get my system back in working order.

I won’t lie, losing a few pounds will help my mood and that’s OK to admit too. I always find January a great time to try out a few new recipes, to mix things up in the kitchen if you have become stuck in a cooking rut.

SLEEP

I have left the topic of sleep until last but it is probably the most important thing to get right. It is not always easy to achieve a good sleep, when we are stressed it is harder to rest and relax the mind in order to get a restful night’s sleep. I have no quickfire cure for easing stress but there are some simple things you can do to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep.

Give yourself time to switch off in the day to process your thoughts so that you don’t wake up in the dead of the night when even simple thoughts can become a worry.

Leave your phone downstairs and don’t get sucked into social media or the news. Try to read a book or do something insular to distract your mind from the outside world — read a book, do some mindful breathing, try Sudoku, take a bath or take some time to massage some lavender oils into your skin.

I know when I don’t have enough sleep I can become set in a negative mind frame which is not a good place to be in in a January that is isolated and bleak.

TRY TO STAY POSITIVE

After the ups and downs of 2020, remaining positive is getting increasingly difficult but we have reason to rejoice with the advances of science and the roll-out of the vaccine. We probably won’t reap the benefits of these advances until later in the year so it’s good to put in place practises to see us through until then.

Hopefully, this is a lockdown we can enter and emerge from with a greater sense of hope. Take each day as it comes, be kind to yourself but give yourself the greatest chance to emerge feeling as good in yourself as you can. 

For some it works to write down things that you are grateful for or it might work to jot down some longer term goals. I think we need to focus on getting the here and now right but also give ourselves something bigger to aim for, it will give us a focus and that is important against the background of the world right now.

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