January 18, 2021

Written during lockdown January 2021

I hope you are all well - being stuck at home with teenagers is certainly testing (I feel more sorry for them as I certainly wouldn't have been enamoured to have spent so much time with my parents when I was 18!).   Lockdown has, however, given me a lot of time to think about easy tips and recommendations for people to incorporate into their daily routines now, whilst they have the time, and which may stay embedded when the world finally gets back to normal.

1. Drink more water
Why? Our bodies are approximately 60% water so we need to ensure we drink enough daily so that we don’t get dehydrated and so our organs have what they need to function properly.

How? By always having a bottle with you so you never get thirsty (a sign that you are already dehydrated). Make sure it is a stainless steel bottle (I love http:// https://www.chillysbottles.com/uk) or an old glass water bottle (I used to have one in my car that was the same shape as a vodka bottle - I don't know why, but it made me laugh every time I ‘swigged’ from it in front of all the mums whilst waiting for the kids to come out of school!).  Plastic is not great, especially if it’s been left in the sun as chemicals from the plastic can leach into the water….

Other tips and tricks - keep a jug of water on your desk at home or at work and tell yourself you have to have drunk a whole jug in the morning and one in the afternoon.  As we’re all at home it’s easy to jazz up your water by putting slices of lemon, lime or cucumber in!

2Always read the label
Ingredients are always listed in order starting with the highest quantity ingredient first. So, if you find sugar at the top of the list, the food is likely to be high in sugar. The food industry like to try and trick us however so the key is to look for anything that ends in 'ose' (for example fructose and dextrose) as well as syrups, honey molasses and fruit juice as these are all forms of sugar.  Also, if you don't recognise any of the words listed it means the product is highly processed and/or contains additives and preservatives. Put it back on the shelf!!

Food from scratch is always best.  Whilst I wouldn't recommend you eat a chocolate cake, a home-made one using sugar, flour, butter, eggs, milk and actual chocolate is going to be far superior to any bought ones. For example, here's a 'shop bought' cake (and from a reputable supermarket too):

Sugar, pasteurised free range egg, rapeseed oil, water, FORTIFIED WHEAT FLOUR (wheat flour, calcium carbonate, iron, niacin, thiamin), DARK CHOCOLATE (5%) (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier soyalecithin, flavouring), butter (milk), fat reduced cocoa powder, modified maize starch, cocoa powder, wheat glucose syrup, raspberry purée, wheat and maize glucose-fructose syrup, milk whey powder, raising agents diphosphates and sodium carbonates, salt, emulsifiers mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, propane-1,2-diol esters of fatty acids, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate and soya lecithin, apricots, cocoa mass, wheat gluten, gelling agent pectin, citric acid, acidity regulator sodium citrates, cocoa butter, colour anthocyanins, butter oil (milk), preservative potassium sorbate, flavouring.

Your body will recognise whole ingredients like eggs, sugar, flour - they're not healthy ingredients (apart from the eggs) but they're decidedly healthier than the above.... All recipes can be adapted to make them even healthier, for instance you can make chocolate cakes from avocado and ground almonds that taste just as good as you really only need a small bit to fill you up!

3. Good sleep hygiene
I actually hate this phrase so don't know why I've used it (!) but it refers to the run up to bedtime and the environment in your bedroom so I guess it's easier to say.... Anyway, it is advised to remove all devices and chargers from your bedroom at night an hour before bed as the blue light from the screens (and goodness knows what comes out of a charging phone/tablet) can really affect your sleep quality.  Your room should be as dark as possible so think about blackout blinds and the room should be cool so maybe crack open the window a bit.  Give it a try, could just be the thing you need for a good night's sleep.

4. Practice meditation / mindfulness / hypnotherapy daily
Existing clients of mine will know that I always recommend this, especially when it comes to IBS as stress can really impact on digestion and therefore health.  You get the same effect from lying down on the sofa with your eyes closed listening to your favourite music too (if you find meditation and mindfulness all a bit woo woo....). There are loads of different apps doing this, I've used 'Headspace', 'Breethe', 'Calm' and they all do free trials.  I also just type in "guided meditation" into 'Spotify' and there is thousands to listen to so there is no excuse!

5.  Take a break and get out of the house
More pertinent than ever for those of us working from home, especially if your work space overlaps with your home space.  Leave your phone at home (or take with you but turn it off!) so that you can really look at nature and give your brain a break.  Another trick to make sure you don't sit at your desk for hours on end is to set a time on your cooker for 30 minutes - you won't believe how fast that time goes! Get up, turn it off, have a little stretch and then get back to it.  Think about standing up if you can every time you take a phone call and do a few squats - it all helps!

If possible, try and get out for a walk in the morning so that your body clock knows what time it is - see my Blog on the circadian rhythm for more information on this: https://nicola-russell.co.uk/the-importance-of-rhythm-writeen-during-lockdown-april-2020/ 

So, 5 easy changes to try and incorporate - let me know how you get on?

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