With the pressure to eat well, feel well and look well higher than ever, the picture-perfect expectation of ‘having it all’ (as usually depicted on social media), doesn’t always match the reality. Times are stressful and the amount of information at our fingertips overwhelming, so we could all do with some bite-sized healthy living hacks that not only work in the short-term, but also the long-term too.
We asked nutritionist Jessica Sepel for her top tips for helping declutter mind, body and soul and overcoming healthy living overwhelm to ensure your health doesn’t pay the ultimate price for a hectic lifestyle.
1. Unfollow unhealthy influences
“Unfollow people on Instagram who are not serving you well,” recommends Jessica. Scrolling through our Instagram feeds can often be a showcase of the svelt, but also the smug, making us feel worse rather than better about ourselves. “Be really specific about who inspires you,” says Jessica. “I actively encourage my readers to spend an hour at the weekend on their social media looking at each account that they’re following and asking themselves, ‘Does this person add to my life or make me feel threatened or intimidated? Do I wind up feeling anxious and/or comparing myself to them?’ If the answer’s yes, then unfollow them.
2. Don’t diet
“Decluttering is all about giving up dieting, wouldn’t you say?” says Jessica. And we agree. Calorie counting and unhealthy obsessions surrounding healthy eating are not only exhausting, but also take up an awful lot of headspace. “Instead of having a mentality of extremes, saying that you’re committing yourself to a wholefood diet of balance is a huge form of decluttering.”
3. Keep it simple
“Healthy living is really all about decluttering,” says Jessica. “Taking steps to give up processed and packaged foods by for example, swapping condiments and bottled sauces for herbs and spices is a way of decluttering your life.”
With this more manageable approach making healthy eating all the more sustainable, it also has more practical implications - specifically, on our weekly food shops. “When I go to the grocery store, I just head for the fresh produce section which saves a lot of time (as I don’t end up having to go through all of the aisles) and money too. It gives me less choice.”
4. Embrace the power of no
“It’s also decluttering to be able to say no,” says Jessica. “These days, I’m now able to say ‘no thank you’ to a social arrangement without feeling that I have to give an excuse. If you’re exhausted after a long week of work and your friends are going out drinking, if you’re able say ‘thank you so much for the invite but no thank you,’ that to me is a sign of self-love and self-worth. Prioritising rest declutters your life. Then you find you’re just so much more productive in every way - with work, family...it helps every part of your life.”
5. Switch off from social media
Slave to your smartphone? You’re not alone. With studies showing that the blue light emitted from them can be significantly disruptive to our sleep patterns, even innocently scrolling through our newsfeeds before we go to bed can prove the most unhelpful of bedtime reads. “I’m committed to managing my social media,” says Jessica. “I switch off from it by 7 pm every night and I don’t check it until 1 hour after waking up. It’s requires huge discipline! I've also deleted my personal Facebook off my phone. It provides balance for me.”
Long-term, this plays a pivotal role in becoming a master in stress management. “You could be eating the right foods, drinking the right things, but if you’re stressed, you’re not going to look and feel your best and your digestive system isn’t going to work well either,” explains Jessica. “I’m not saying to anyone not to get stressed as that’s unrealistic, but to simply manage it. Me switching off of social media at 7 pm is me managing my stress and taking power over it.”
6. Create your own ‘Stress-free zone’
In her book, ‘The Healthy Life’ Jessica talks about the importance of building a ‘Stress-free zone’ into your days - just 10-20 minutes where you go offline and properly switch off from life. It’s simple, but its effects are wide-ranging for both mind and body. “It sounds scary when you first hear it, but it’s a really realistic 10 minutes a day. After a crazy day in London, I go home to my hotel room, put my legs up for 10-15 minutes and breathe deeply. I have to be committed to it though. If I don’t commit fully, I won’t do it.”
A quick way to schedule in some relaxation time, this easy yet effective daily ritual forms a pivotal part of a bigger picture in the journey to creating a less stressful life. Finding a formula that suits is personal to each individual. “Yoga and meditation have decluttered my life,” says Jessica. “When I come out of a yoga session, everything feels calmer and clearer. It really does fuel that mind-body connection. I practice Vinyasa Flow, but I’m really into Yin yoga which involves going into rest position for around an hour to restore your nervous system.”
Never has this enforced type of mindfulness been more necessary than in our current more tech-reliant times. “If you think about our ancestors - our grandmothers, our great grandmothers - they had a lot more rest in their lives and I think we’re craving that. I’m craving that and I’m 27. I’m not a mum, I recently became a wife and I’m not leading a typically crazy life at the moment, but I still crave slower - slower of everything and that scares me because it’s only going to get busier!”
She adds, “I see yoga, especially restorative yoga like Yin yoga, being what females really need right now in fast-paced places like London and New York where it’s non-stop. Adrenaline can be so unhealthy. I think it can be good in small amounts, but we seem to be living off of it. I feel we really need to be slowing down and not care what the consequences of that are. Our health has to come first and slowing down is what our bodies need.”