23rd April 2020
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In the last post we talked about the importance of a routine in Lockdown - either maintaining as much of your usual routine as possible, or establishing a new one if you have spent the past month in Christmas Holiday mode (step away from the Turkish Delight now....).
Here we dig further into some of the key areas that will help you to maintain balance in your mindset and in your physical body, and offer some practical advice that you can put into place right now, today. Off we go:
When you have days that are wide open, taking control of what your day looks like is the most important thing you can do.
That is true whether you are working from home, taking care of children, or riding solo on furlough and struggling to fill the time.
The more you can advance plan what you are going to do, the less likely you are to end up on the sofa in your pyjamas at 2pm watching Love Is Blind and panic eating your month’s quota of Kettle Chips.
Structure and planning allow freedom and action, and they stop your habit-obsessed subconscious brain from having to use all its energy on willpower.
Tell it what to do and it will do it. Here’s how:
Plan what you want to do the night before. It only requires about 10-15 minutes. Jot down what needs to get done and then figure out when you can do it. Don’t use this to unrealistically jam pack your schedule, or to fill it with brand new activities that won’t be sustainable over time. Just write down that you need to vacuum the living room, finish the work pitch, make the children’s lunch, read the final 3 chapters of your book. And write when each thing needs to happen.
Schedule in breaks. If you have a designated break you are less likely to deviate from the activity you have scheduled.
Think about meals and snacks before you feel hungry. Ideally you’ll plan the night before. Don’t put yourself under the pressure of having to conjure up a culinary masterpiece every day, or even once a week. Just eat good, whole foods that are easy to prepare and as many vegetables as you can fit in your mouth (not all at once). At this stage it’s not really what you’re eating, it’s telling your brain that in a moment of satiated clarity the night before, you decided that this is what you were going to eat and now you’re eating it. Take the need for willpower away, you have enough going on right now to make life harder than it needs to be.
Schedule in activity and then make sure you do it. Don’t be over ambitious. Don’t be under ambitious. You know what works for you and what makes you feel good. If you know that you lose momentum as the day passes, schedule exercise as one of your first things to do. Get up and put on exercise clothes and don’t let yourself take them off until you’ve done something, even if it’s 20 minutes of disco dancing in the kitchen.
This is a big one.
If you have an iPhone, take a look at your Screen Time, which gives you a breakdown of all the usage on your phone from the previous day, and your average collective time from the previous week. (Android has a more basic form of this, or you could download an app such as Quality Time which gives you more detail).
Take a look at the Instagram usage, the Facebook usage, the Twitter.
Unless you are an influencer or are responsible for your company’s social media marketing strategy, you shouldn’t be on social media for more than 30 minutes a day TOTAL.
Tough love time: social media is passive action. The benefits to it are minimal.
If, for example, you are watching an Instagram or Facebook live that is teaching you a new hobby or gathering a collection of like minded people to talk about health or knitting or being a keen netballer, then yes that is an exception to the 30 minute rule and it will likely aid your sense of community or your skillset.
But let’s be real, that’s the absolute exception and not what most people are doing most of the time on social media. It can be tough to break the smartphone habit, but right now is the time to do it.
Here are a few actions that you can take if you need motivation:
Agree with yourself that from now on you will never take your phone into the bathroom. Bathrooms are for toilet roll, not toilet scroll!
Mute Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook notifications and only check to see if anything has come in once an hour or less.
If you are with your children or partner, walk into the furthest away room in your house that you can every time you feel a compulsion to check your phone for social media. Let the sense of physical distance illustrate to you how disengaged you become from those around you the minute you pick up your screen. You probably wouldn’t walk out of the room halfway through your child telling you about the worm they saw in the park that morning, so don’t pick up your phone then either.
Use one of your 30 minute allocations this week to actively consider what you are looking at. Does it inform, entertain, provoke thought? Does it spark a positive response within you, or a negative? Or barely any reaction at all? If it’s a negative or barely there reaction, unfollow or mute that account. Be discerning with how you are choosing to spend your 30 minute-a-day allocation, because over a year that time adds up to a full 7.5 days. That’s over a week non-stop spent looking at and engaging with these posts. Make them count for something.
If you check your Screen Time and discover that, like the average Brit, you spend 1 hour 50 minutes per day on social media, then over the course of a year that adds up to 28 full days, which is the amount of time that the UK lockdown has been in place so far. Time flies, eh?
Your social media feed may have been full of people ordering local vegetable boxes, baking banana bread and making cute cupcakes with their children.
But we also know the reality for many people has been thoughtless eating, stress drinking and over-ambition on the domestic culinary front.
If you are trying to maintain your job or business, and/or you have children and/or you never previously cooked more than a few different dishes in a week, it is NOT a good idea to suddenly decide that you’re going to make everything from kids cookies to Saturday brunch from scratch.
Everyone’s home cooking requirements have increased, in some cases by up to 75%. You need to get a personal collection of meals together that you can consistently cook with ease and in advance for the next few months of your life.
Hopefully it won’t be that long, but let’s assume the worst and hope to be pleasantly surprised….. You can’t live on delivery food or ready meals and maintain a good nutritional balance or decent physical health. Equally, the stamina required to cook from scratch for every meal and snack is monumental.
So find a balance between the two.
There is a plethora of ideas online, so take some of your evening planning time to look ahead at what to prepare the following day.
Here are some things you probably know already but it’s always good to recap:
Plants are the best. They provide every nutritional requirement for the human body. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits.
Don’t eat loads of crap. Don’t buy loads of crap and then you won’t be tempted to eat it.
Snacks are as important as meals in your planning. An unplanned snack often ends up being crap (see point 2)
Make an agreement with yourself that you’ll organise yourself around alcohol. For example if you’re having a glass of wine at 5pm when the kids have their dinner, wait instead until they’ve gone to bed. Then you’ll drink less wine.
It’s a grim and grisly topic for many people right now, but you need to be aware of your financial situation - really aware - now more than ever before.
This will inform everything, from how much you’re spending on takeaways to paying your rent or mortgage for the next 6 months. It’s far better to know than to not know.
Get your information together. Your online banking information, your self-assessment password and UTR, your credit card bills, your mortgage statement., your utilities bills. Just do that on day 1 and don’t do anything else.
On day 2, start exploring, one category at a time. Your income may have dropped in the past 2 months, but so will your outgoings. If you’re employed and working from home you may have extra cash, so perhaps you set up an online saver for next year’s holiday. If you’re self employed you can defer several payments that may be upcoming, and if you’re an employer then you can look at furlough. All the information is available on the UK government website. Get stuck in, when you plan your day the night before, schedule 3 hours for this and go for it.
Try to take the emotion out of finance. Easier said than done but what you do or don’t earn is not a reflection of who you are as a person. You do however need to make sure you can afford to live, and that you’re getting all of the financial support from the government that you are eligible for.
On the evening of day 2 you are allowed to have a glass of wine when the kids have their dinner.
A huge topic for women everywhere, compounded by current stressful circumstances and the fact that in most partnerships or families women carry the domestic load (physical and mental) of the household.
We’ll dig into fatigue in more depth in future posts, but for now, here is what you can do to keep yourself rolling instead of toppling:
Sleep. Sleep sleep sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night, as near as you can, and if you have to regularly wake up early for children, work or other reasons, go to bed earlier than you currently are. You don’t need that extra episode of Netflix! And if you really really do, watch it when you get up in the morning.
Drink more water. It’s not rocket science. Drink it, it will give you more energy.
Get up at least 15 minutes before everyone else in your household. Do not check your phone. Do not turn on your TV. Instead make a cup of tea or glass of water, and think about what is planned for the day, what you can look forward to, and what the challenges might be. If you already meditate or practice mindfulness then this will be something you’re already doing, but if this is a new concept to you then just try it out, see how calmer you are giving yourself a proper waking up period, that doesn’t involve rolling around in bed or hitting the snooze button. Allowing your head to get organised before the onslaught of the day is priceless.
Decide when you’re going to allow energy to come in and out of you, and also carve out time for yourself for stillness. This doesn’t have to be complicated. If you have young children you might need to be full ‘game face’ for the first 6 hours of the day, say 7am to 1pm - high energy, songs, playing, discipline, snacks etc. If they nap or have quiet time for a period, take some of that time for yourself. Similarly, if you are working all morning, block out a time, aside from lunchtime, to be still. Half an hour might be enough. Walk away from chores or emails or your phone, or even your partner(!) and stroll outside without headphones, or sit and read a book or lie in the garden. Refuel your tanks and don’t allow anything to encroach on the time you have set for yourself. Make this time part of your planning the evening before and let the relevant people know about it. Equally, if you are struggling to fill your time in the day, use this half an hour to positively engage with someone. Go for a walk with your partner and talk about future plans. Call a friend who you’ve given prior notice to and chat through happy thoughts.
If you generally have a balanced mindset but veer towards a tendency to catastrophize in times of stress, schedule yourself 15 minutes a day to think the worst - actively encourage yourself to go really lowest point scenario, have a cry if you need to, and then focus yourself back up to where you are right now in the present. Set a timer, and if your thoughts start to wander at other times in the day, say something distracting out loud to yourself. A simple ‘NO!’ and a clap of the hands might work.
Sleep. Worth saying again.
Spend this week trying out some or all of the above suggestions and let us know how you get on.
If there's a particular topic you'd love to see covered in depth on the blog then let us know in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe, stay balanced, and we'll see you next time!