Hopefully we’re all over the initial panic and uncertainty of lockdown. Now it’s time to work out how to operate in this strange contradictory time which encompasses both intensive (and somewhat relentless) community connecting and quiet, almost total isolation. I'm sure we're at that point of the map where it says “Here be dragons”.....
That being said, we can all take some simple steps that will help us to navigate this uncharted territory.
Slow your food
We can use this forced change of pace to our advantage. For those of us who are in the habit of rushing from one urgent thing to the next and treating meal times as a sprint race we are now completely able to change that habit. Simply by sitting down and chewing our food thoroughly until it is liquid (yes, each bite) our body and mind immediately benefit in a domino-like way: we dial in to the calming, healing side of our nervous system which automatically reduces the stress we feel; we give our gut bugs the best chance of breaking down the nutrients in our food which is what we rely on for nourishment; we support the correct, paced function of our digestive system; and we hear our brain telling us when we have had enough to eat! These things are foundational to our ability to be well.
We now have the chance to create space in our day to make and enjoy slow food too. That’s the kind that takes us a little while to prepare but massively increases the taste and gives us a proud feeling of being a super chef! Slow food needn’t be complicated, for example you can make your own pasta sauce by simmering a can or two of crushed tomatoes with a couple of peeled but whole garlic cloves, a peeled and halved onion and a few sprigs of fresh herbs (thyme, bay leaf, oregano as desired) or a teaspoon of dried Italian herbs for an hour or so over a low heat (until thickened a bit), then remove everything but the garlic and whizz it up or leave it chunky just by squashing the garlic with the back of a spoon and stirring it in. Stir in a few shakes of cayenne or black pepper or tabasco sauce for a bit of a zing.
When you do make it out of the house to get supplies be mindful that high-sugar, ‘quick fix’ foods are really not helpful. Our bodies need a broad range of whole, minimally processed foods to be resilient. Both to viruses and other illnesses, and to stress. So keep the balance of items in your trolley heavily weighted towards fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs, fish, meat and pulses and brown (whole) grains and light on the tempting sugary or snacky stuff – disappointingly this includes the chocolate and wine we’re all getting used to including in our day! I moved the wine out of the fridge and the sweet temptations to the very back of the top shelf in the pantry to make it harder to get to which has worked quite well! We can enjoy these things in small quantities from time to time, but let's not get into the trap of needing them as a crutch. For those of us also managing the day with our kids it’s important to try to fill them with carbs, fat and protein in the form of whole, nourishing foods (snack examples include apple slices spread with peanut butter; whole grain crackers with cheese; hummus and veg sticks like carrot, peppers, cucumber, sugar snap peas; hard boiled eggs), for their own well-being and because their sugar high and the crash that inevitably follows is likely to drive us into making our own poor food choices.
Slow your mind
Revel in being bored! There is immense value in doing nothing. Far from being negative, boredom opens channels in our minds that can be both restful and illuminating. Schedule it if you have to, but take time every day to sit quietly and stare out the window and watch idly. If you’re trying to do it with kids, quietly watching the flame of a small candle together can be a good focus. After a few minutes you can talk about what you saw/heard/felt while doing it. it’s a nice way to check in with what’s going on in the minds of your little people too.
Put your screens away for a period each day – even to the extent that you wrap your phone in a sock and put it at the bottom of a drawer. (That could work for the wine and chocolate too.) Not only is being bombarded with bad news increasing our anxiety but screen time actually stimulates our brains into an anxious state. This applies to the television too. Watch a movie, sure, then go and do something else – this could be something as simple as standing outside your back door rotating your arms gently for a few minutes (as if swimming front crawl and backstroke). Be sure to take deep, slow breaths while you do it. Removing the immediacy that is so possible with modern technology is helpful for us to embrace the new pace of things. When you do pick up your screen again, consider who would benefit from hearing your voice and call someone to check-in and chat.
Like you, I know it’s easy to be stressed right now. Goodness knows we’re all on an emotional roller coaster. But it is important to know that it is also easy to take real and immensely useful steps to lessen that load and the negative health impact from it. Simply starting and ending our day by sitting quietly and taking 10 deep, slow breaths to fill our lungs completely and then fully expel the air; nourishing our body and mind with real, minimally processed food that we have chewed slowly and thoroughly; and moving around gently but with purpose can really make a difference to our well-being right now. What’s more by doing so we make use of this time to create positive habits that will continue to make a difference to our health every day of our future.
If you’d like a personalised nutrition and lifestyle plan to help guide your body back into balance you’re most welcome to click the button to