Back in March, we spoke to doctors and health experts about the steps they were taking to stay well during the time of Covid and their advice from taking zinc supplements to calming breathing techniques became invaluable during lockdown.
With a winter lockdown coming into effect today and experts predicting a mental health crisis, we again caught up with wellness experts for their personal strategies for staying mentally and physically fit as we live in the midst of a second wave.
Kim Pearson, nutritionist at nutrition clinic Kim Pearson Nutrition, London
Taking time out
"Prior to lockdown I took regular breaks abroad and spent time socialising with friends as a way to decompress from work. When this was no longer an option I found myself doing little else but working. Our (now virtual) clinic has been busier than ever over the last few months and I'm grateful that we are in a position to be able to continue to support our clients, old and new, but I am also more aware than ever of the importance of taking time out for myself. I now plan ahead and block out 'restorative time' in my diary to ensure I commit to it. I have been accused (more than once!) of being a workaholic so this isn't as easy as it sounds!"
A varied exercise schedule
"Before lockdown my workouts were varied. In a typical week I'd do spin, play tennis, go to the gym and work out at home with my trainer. During lockdown, I upped my online PT sessions. I still do five sessions a week with my trainer - four of those are training and one is a stretch session in an effort to compensate for so much time spent at my computer.
"I also take my dog Lily for walks twice a day which is great for helping me maintain a routine. The impacts of nature and natural light on our health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated.
Supplements: vitamin C, D and zinc
"I'm a nutritionist so of course supplements form a part of my health routine! I'm currently taking personalised supplements from Bioniq . I love their concept as they take regular blood tests and tailor your nutritional supplements based on your unique needs. I'm particularly keen to ensure my levels of vitamin D , C and zinc are optimal throughout the winter. I also take omega 3 essential fats."
"At this time of year, like many of us, I gravitate towards warming comfort foods. I like to batch cook stews and soups using my Ninja Foodi Max Multi-Cooker which does EVERYTHING! I try to eat seasonally as much as possible which is made easier thanks to weekly organic vegetable box deliveries from Riverford ."
"I aim to meditate daily and I find it makes such a difference to my state of mind when I do. My go-to meditation app is Meya which uses sound wave therapy to help get you into a meditative state and make you more receptive to affirmations. I alternate between this app and a meditation process known as 'Isha Kriya' that I learnt when I spent time at the yoga centre Isha Life Ashram in India last year."
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Magnesium to combat stress
"I regularly use a magnesium spray ( Better You Magnesium Oil Spray , £13), lotion ( Neom Organics Perfect Night's Sleep Magnesium Body Butter , £36) or bath soak ( Westlab Pure Magnesium Flakes , £6.99) to try to counteract the effects of the stress hormone cortisol which leaches magnesium from the system."
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"I take Symprove as this bolsters immunity by improving the quality and diversity of our own gut microbiome and prevents nasty bugs from sticking in the system. I also eat/drink one of kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut or sourdough bread on an alternating daily basis as they are food sources of pro- and prebiotics.
"As well as Heights' Smart Supplement for brain health, which also contains vitamin C, at the beginning of the first lockdown I was taking a high dose vitamin C supplement ( Micro Liposomal C by Allergy Research Group , £29.81) but I took a break from that over the summer because I only add extra when it's cold and flu season. I'll start taking Altrient Liposomal Vitamin C 100mg , £39.99, now that we are entering the season again."
"I cannot over-emphasise the importance of taking this for a host of reasons including anti-inflammation, cancer prevention and the fact that lack of it is associated with higher mortality rates with Covid 19."
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"For mood and self-care I love the Aromatherapy Associates Rose range, particularly the Bath and Shower Oil , £49, which I apply to my major organs (heart, lungs, liver and kidneys) after dry body brushing , and also the Oil to Milk Body Cleanser , £26, that feels like a hug in a bottle! Immersing yourself in warm water or feeling lovely textures on your skin releases the bonding hormone oxytocin which can help alleviate loneliness or lack of physical affection."
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"I only use non-toxic candles such as soy, coconut or beeswax. My favourites include Neom Organics , Bamford or Gold and Black ."
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Avoiding the news
"My phone is always on silent and I never watch the news and only very occasionally read it - it is too stress-inducing and repeatedly looking at bad news has been shown to cause PTSD. I keep up to date by getting the headlines from my husband or friends as the human interaction with loved ones counteracts all the negativity!"
"I invested in a Peloton bike during the first lockdown as I was getting way too sedentary doing so much more work on my laptop than I used to when I walked from meeting to meeting in central London. It has changed my life! I use it in the morning to boost productivity or in the evening to create a boundary between work and life. Along with this, I have been using a foam roller to pinpoint and release tension in my body - either from a day at the desk or due to the stress of the global situation."
"There have been a lot of reports of shallow, rapid breathing or even breath-holding due to stress. I focus on my breath throughout the day or if I meditate and make sure the exhale is longer than the inhale."
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Wearing face masks - and hot washing them!
"I always wear a face mask if I go out to the shops (which is rare). They get washed at 60C after a maximum of four hours use. I used to wear gloves and wipe everything that entered our home but since we know more about the mechanisms of Covid19 contagion (breath particles more than droplets), I have relaxed on that but always wash my hands thoroughly and/or use Neals Yard Organic Natural Defence Hand Rub , £5.75, after contact with anything outside my home."
Buy Dr Tara Swart's book The Source: Open your Mind, Change your Life
Roxie Nafousi, emotional health advisor and manifesting expert
"Affirmations are a powerful way to speak to our sub-conscious which is where our self-confidence and self-love are formed. I listen to an affirmation playlist when I’m lying in bed as I’m waking up or while I’m doing my skincare routine in the morning. You can find them on YouTube or have I have a collection on my website too . You don’t have to actively listen and it still does the job which is great."
"I've been doing breathwork sessions with Breathe With James . I always cry the next day; it’s a really powerful tool for releasing emotions. Emotions and trauma sit within our body and shaking therapy and breathwork unlock the trauma, release and let it go – essential after the year we've all had! "
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"I wasn’t a runner at all, but it’s really changed my relationship with my body. My cardiovascular health is improving and so is my mental clarity. It’s great for setting yourself goals and also understanding how your body is different each day. Some days I’ll run two KM and I’m done and another day I’ll do 11 KM. It’s a good reminder to listen to your body. I don’t think we check in with our bodies in the same way when you’re doing a HIIT class whereas with running you’re really aware of how you’re feeling and being able to be at one with you body."
"I’m really getting into CBD at the moment; I started using it as drops and I was instantly relaxed. I love CBD drinks too, especially Meda . It relaxes and makes me feel much calmer. I get really bad anxiety and it has definitely helped me in recent months."
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A wind down routine
"My bedtime routine really helps me feel well at the moment. At 6pm I light incense bought from Amazon as my signal to wind down from the day. I’m an early to bed person – I can be asleep by 9:20 pm. I read before bed and it makes me such a nice tired. Watching anything too stimulating gives me a really disturbed sleep and I feel my body naturally wants to be away from my phone before bed. Scrolling aimlessly makes me feel uncentred and I don’t sleep well if I do that, so putting my phone on aeroplane mode really improves my sleep."
Find Roxie's positive affirmation playlist on her website
Dr Meg Arroll, Chartered Psychologist at Healthspan
"I make sure I go for daily walks, especially if I don’t feel like it or it’s miserable outside. Luckily for me, there’s a park nearby and it only takes 20 minutes to walk there and around it, it helps me feel like I can focus again and stops me feeling so fatigued and burnt out. I never take my phone when I go for my walk because I know I’m only going to be 20 minutes. It helps with mindfulness, noticing what’s going on around you, the change in seasons, the smells, it all helps you feel more connected and grounded."
"Another thing I started doing at the start of lockdown, and something I’ve continued doing is sending letters again. Writing by hand especially, because you have to think about your thoughts and put them down carefully to avoid having to scribble something out, not like on a computer where you can delete and add as you please. It’s more mindful and thoughtful. It helps you feel more of a connection to the person you’re writing to and there’s nothing better than receiving a handwritten letter by family or friends."
Fruit and veg smoothies
"I’ve never been a smoothie person, I admit however I’ve been getting a weekly local veg box for years, but I’ve found that even working from home I’m so busy that I just don’t always have time to cook something nutritious. So I can just throw some of my fruit and veg into a blender and make a smoothie, it really gives me peace of mind knowing I’ve at least had some fruit and vegetables on a daily basis even when I’m run off my feet."
"I really like giving myself time to have a bath, with bubbles and I use the Healthspan Magnesium Bath Soak, it makes it feel like a ritual, setting your bath up exactly how you like it so you can just soak and relax. Rituals are fantastic for making us feel grounded and it’s all about giving yourself some mental space and time in the bath.”
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