We're nearing the summer of 2020, and whilst once upon a time we might be working on our beach bods...most of us have been working on our 'please don't let the stress eat my soul' bods instead. Who needs a backyard beach bod anyway?
What does 'stress body' look like? Well that's a little different for each of us.
What I've been hearing lately is sheer panic around how far some of you may have gone down the rabbit hole of not-so-healthy coping mechanisms.
In this post, I'll look to help you with some of my top tips on looking after yourself in this environment, and also some at-home gym stuff you can try out.
Why is everything so difficult when I'm not doing anything?
Has that question crossed your mind at all during this lockdown? Have you sensed yourself feeling more and more on edge, yet less and less motivated to take any action about that? What action could you take anyway? You're stuck at home with your officially designated excercise period to day dream about, and maybe seventy slices of cake from all that solo baking.
You're not alone by any means. The longer this lockdown has gone on for, the more I have watched as people get themselves increasingly stressed over all sorts of things - and then judge themselves terribly for it. Unless your name is Rinder or Judy, put the gavel down. Let's have a look under the lockdown bonnet (is it wrong to use a car metaphor when we aren't travelling? Answers on a postcard).
- Pina Colada anyone? Health and mindfulness gurus the world over are spreading the message that this is a retreat. A time to step back and consider things. A time to be at peace. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't feel like I'm on 'a retreat', and I have almost 0 desire to start plotting and planning things given the uncertain future ahead. A good friend pointed out that on 'a retreat' you are given far more time than usual to think about things, and this can dredge up your mind in the same way that one might dredge up a pond. So maybe they're right and we are on a retreat...but that certainly doesn't mean it's pleasant.
- The Outlet of Fear: There's an enemy, but it's invisible, unvanquishable and potentially deadly. This has a secondary effect to it's viral status, and that is to make us all a little less sane than we once were. We have become hyper-vigilant, of a ghostly entity. Hyper-alert to who has or hasn't seen the ghost and whether it's spectral form will be more or less likely given anyone's actions. We have started to understand TV shows like 'preppers' in a far more engaged sense, and we feel the need to rant and rave about anyone or anything that isn't doing what we feel they should be doing.
- The Digital Onslaught: Have you felt generally overwhelmed? We are being bombarded with incoming messages from the news, from our social media accounts, text messages from friends, emails, video chats, family crises, instructions...the list goes on. Your digital traffic has likely risen massively. With the knowledge that people are at home, this makes refusing calls or delaying responding to texts for your own wellbeing feel pressurised. Not only because 'well what were you doing?' but also because we are all aware of everyone else's suffering too, and may feel responsible to help. Video conferencing is great, but the frustration when technology doesnt work properly, and the effort expended trying to work out facial expressions and hear tone, is substantial.
Then there are the host of individual factors that start to build up to form a better or worse version of lockdown. Things like the size of the space you are in and who is in that space. Whether you can or cannot work, or are furloughed. Your ability to get your medication, and whether human rights abuses going on at this time are affecting you or not.
This is an incredibly stressful time. You are allowed to find it difficult. You are allowed to have done odd and magnificent things to support your own welbeing. Nobody, including you, should get all judgey about it.
Actions You Can Take
Lower your Cortisol:
Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone. At the moment, most of us have a lot of Cortisol roaming around our bodies. Whilst it's fine in short bursts for survival, extended exposure causes your body to store fat. It can affect your sleep, your appetite and even your immune system. It is really important therefore to switch your mindset from a survival and support approach, to one of self-preservation. One of my favourite phrases is that you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. It comes from the airline safety talk, where the plane is crashing. Before you can help others, you must first be able to breathe. Changing your focus will also help you disconnect from many things causing stress-spikes. Sit yourself down and really think about your needs. How would you be treating you, if you were a 5 year old. Are you eating properly? Do you have a sleep schedule? Are you drinking excessive caffeine?
Tell people how you are feeling:
How many of you have actually confided in someone about how you feel right now? I'm not talking the pleasantry of small-talk, I'm talking 'today is really tough and I'm scared and I want to cry' or even 'my spouse is driving me up the wall and there is no more gin'. It really does help build your resilience to have one or two people who you are willing to be that raw with.
Feed your Fitness:
One of the great things about excercise is that it burns up stress hormones. If you're concerned about putting on weight over the lockdown, then there is the added benefit of a few more calories being consumed too - and of course, lockdown has meant people are far less mobile, so it's great for overall keeping you healthy and well. Here are my lockdown fitness tips:
- Bodyweight workouts are King (or Queen...or Joker...). These will keep you lean and healthy. They are generally good for boosting your athleticism, don't need much space, and you can find loads of youtubers who offer various levels of difficulty with relation to sets of movements. For those of you worried about muscle mass, just remember: Charles Bronson does nothing but bodyweight workouts...and he is an absolute monster.
- Gym equipment is hard to come by at the moment, so you may need to get crafty if you're looking at lifting heavy things. A top tip is to get a sturdy bucket. Fill it with water or rice and use it for curls, rows and chest presses. If you choose rice, you can also use it for finger strength. Another option is to fill a suitcase or holdall with weighty items.
- I cannot stress enough how much you should ignore suggestions to shut a towel in a door and use it for pull ups. This ends in disaster 99% of the time.
- Try a zoom class or an instagram live workout. Some of these are even free. You'l be able to learn something new, participate with others, and hopefully feel uplifted.
- Got a streaming service? Many of them host sets of workout videos already. That means no extra money spent by you, but all the benefits of a video workout class.
What Did We Learn?
Lockdown has a host of complicated factors causing people's stress to rise
You need to put your own oxygen mask on first
There are a host of ways to keep fit without a gym