For many of us, the last few weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown have brought a mixture of emotions and anxieties. A change in routine, uncertainty about the future and a flurry of scary news from around the world - it's safe to say a global pandemic isn't the most peaceful of situations.
If you've found your anxiety has flared up during the lockdown, you're not alone. If it's debilitating and you're finding it hard to sleep, we'd recommend you talk to your GP - they're there to help.
If you're looking for some at tips to keep your mental health in check at home, award-winning health and wellness author, Rachel Grunwell has some advice.
The wellness expert and Fitbit ambassador has put together her top five ways Kiwis can stay mindful, keep moving and unwind.
Move more and regularly.
The World Health Organisation says we only have to move 150 minutes weekly of moderate-intensity (or 75 mins at high intensity), but this is not enough. Movement is not about getting Insta-worthy abs or having a tight butt for a pair of jeans (God knows I wasted my 30s with that focus!), it's about how you think, feel, perform, and how much energy you have. Movement is a prescription for wellness. Movement helps us live longer and with less disability as the years progress. Movement helps us manage anxiety and depression. Running has been my savour in lockdown particularly as I have only needed a pair of run shoes and my Fitbit. It’s saved my mental health.
People have learnt that they can do workouts from home in lockdown - either by running or doing strength workouts via the internet or even through their Fitbit App, which has over 150 workouts (Note: You don't need a Fitbit device to use the app). I love the meditation/diaphragmatic breathing exercises for de-stressing. Please know that any movement you do can have a positive impact. You don't have to flog your body to get benefits. Dance, walk, do Crossfit, or run. Go for a bike ride with your kids, or swim. There are thousands of different things to do. Enjoyment is a key factor.
Try calming yoga poses
A great tool to help you relax and unwind (and be a nicer person to be around)! Yoga doesn't have to take hours, be complicated, full of wu-wu and BS. It can be 10-minutes of restorative stretches that help you to feel good. I’m a meat-eating, straight-talking real-kind of yoga teacher. My students like because I'm not a crystal-waving scary hippie who tells them they’ve got to do this stuff perfectly. Progression is everything. Don't worry about looking like a yogi and feeling like you have to eat hummus and chickpeas and preach. I work with a lot of male clients and they come to me scared and not interested in meditation… but after a short period they love it as much as me. It's like dance - there are many different styles of dance. Just find the style of teacher you can relate to.
Learn diaphragmatic breathing.
This is a yoga and meditation tool I share with corporates at wellness workshops and at speaking events. This can calm your nervous system in a matter of moments. How to do it? It's just slowed down, deep belly breathing. Simply breath in slowly for four counts in the belly area (not the chest area), pause, breath out slowly for four counts in the belly area, pause and repeat for one to 2 minutes. Fitbit has a great two minute breathing exercise that guides you - it's so simple,yet so powerful. You can use it anytime anywhere. Everyone has two minutes in their life - use it. It can powerfully calm your nervous system in two mins. It’s gold!
I love sharing with my yoga students how I used to be the worst fidgeter and couldn’t meditate. I hated it. I had a terrible monkey mind!!! So if I can, anyone can. You don’t have to meditate for hours and sit cross-legged - just start with a minute and try a simple technique. Then build on that as you like - or if you want to. Meditation so research-backed. If you want a one minute mediation there's one on my Instagram - I love making meditation real, accessible and not overwhelming (or weird!)
Laughter with friends is the best medicine.
Connection keeps us mentally strong. Being social is crucial. Just make sure you surround yourself with people who make you laugh, feel happy and are cheerleaders for you in life. One of the fave parts of my wellness book is the tips from a neuroscientist explaining that the people we surround ourselves with literally make us! It’s fascinating. It’s not just COVID-19 that’s contagious - smiling and kindness are too. Let’s spread smiles, kindness and uplift each other in this world. The world needs more of that right now - for the sake of our collective mental health.