Understandably, it’s a challenging and uncertain time at the moment with the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19), but everything is continuing as normal here at Second Nature. The digital programme is more relevant now than ever, particularly with practising healthy habits to keep our bodies as healthy as possible.
The recent government advice regarding the outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) means that the majority of us will either be in social isolation or socially distancing ourselves from public places. Isolation of any kind can be extremely frustrating and negatively impact our mental health as well as our physical health.
The goal of this post is to support those of us who are currently well and in isolation or social distancing to remain feeling positive and healthy.
We’ve provided our top tips for social distancing or isolation, and more detailed advice around emotional eating, exercising at home, and managing anxiety. We’ve also included recipes using mostly non-perishable ingredients.
Finally, although this situation is unpredictable, our mental wellbeing may benefit from focussing on any possible silver linings of spending more time at home. Perhaps that’s enjoying making home-cooked meals each day, reading books we have wanted to for a while, trying out some new recipes, or getting into the habit of exercising at home.
Second Nature’s 5 top tips for self-isolation
If you’re well but socially distancing or isolating, follow these top tips to remain as positive and healthy as possible:
1) Keep a routine
Even though you might be out of your normal weekday routine, aim to wake up and go to bed at similar times each day, have set mealtimes, and exercise at similar times to usual. Unless you’re in quarantine, consider going for a quick walk to start your day and replicate your usual routine.
2) Stay digitally connected
Calling and messaging friends and family helps us stay positive and get some form of social interaction.
3) Prioritise self-care
Use any extra time to have a bath, cook a new recipe, meditate, practise a musical instrument, read a book, or anything you’ve wanted to do for a while!
4) Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Our physical and mental health are interlinked, so it’s important we provide our bodies with the vitamins and minerals it needs. Eating well also strengthens our immune system.
5) Keep moving
Follow our more detailed advice below on how to keep moving from our homes.
Be mindful of emotional eating
Between stress around uncertainty, working from home, and reduced social interaction, emotional eating might be particularly prevalent in the coming weeks.
Emotional eating occurs when food is used to soothe or suppress negative emotions such as isolation, anger, boredom, or stress. Often comfort or emotional eating ignore feelings of physical hunger that come from an empty stomach. The most common foods craved are usually ultra-processed, such as biscuits, crisps, chocolate, and ice cream. These foods are scientifically engineered to quickly target the pleasure receptors in our brains.
Most of us experience emotional eating at one time or another. However, when emotional eating happens frequently, and food becomes the primary coping mechanism for a stressful situation, it can affect our health and mental wellbeing.
As emotional eating can be more likely when we’re isolating ourselves, these practical steps can help us navigate away from emotional eating episodes:
1) Know your trigger
Keeping a food diary of what we eat, how much we eat, and what we’re feeling when we eat can help us identify what triggers comfort eating. For some people, it’s boredom, whereas for others it’s stress, anxiety, or sadness.
2) Find a new outlet for emotion
Once we know what triggers our emotional eating, we can find other simple activities at home to manage these without food.
The best tasks to do to take our mind off food are cognitively challenging ones. This means going for a walk, meditation, or taking a bath may not be effective ways to distract ourselves. However, something that engages your brain can be a better distractor, such as sudoku puzzles, crosswords, brain training apps, chess or scrabble, calling a friend, playing a board game, listening to a podcast.
3) Be prepared
We can prepare for when we feel compelled to emotionally eat by noting down some ‘if/then’ scenarios. For example:
‘If I’m bored and feel the urge to buy unhealthy snacks, then I will do a crossword puzzle for 10 minutes’
‘If I feel lonely and start craving crisps or chocolate, then I will call my friend for a quick chat’
‘If I feel anxious and overwhelmed, then I will pause and read my book for 10 minutes.’
We can also prepare our environment, by avoiding having large amounts of ultra-processed foods (e.g. crisps, biscuits, ice cream, chocolate) in the house.
Instead, buying healthier wholefoods to snack on will mean we’re less likely to overeat and they’ll keep us feeling more satisfied. Stock up on things like:
- Unsweetened peanut butter
- High-quality dark chocolate (85%+)
- Frozen berries
- Natural yoghurt
- Plain Ryvita crackers
- Mixed nuts
- Hard cheeses
4) Take away the guilt
It’s important that we don’t harbour feelings of guilt when we do experience an episode of emotional eating. One way to do this is to avoid labelling foods as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘treat’ or ‘syn’.
This can foster a negative relationship with food and create an ongoing cycle of comfort eating. Instead, we can class foods as foods that we enjoy every day and foods that we enjoy less often.
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Keep moving at home
With gyms closing and recommendations to avoid group activities, it might be challenging to follow our usual exercise routine. However, don’t worry, there are plenty of ways you can stay active without leaving the house.
1) Try a home workout
2) Start ‘snacking’ on exercise
This means doing just 1-2 minutes of exercise as often as possible, whether that be press-ups, star jumps, squats, lunges, running on the spot, or going up and down the stairs a few times.
Finding the time to exercise doesn’t always mean taking long periods of time out of our day. For example, doing squats while we wait for the kettle to boil, or jogging on the spot while our food heats up in the microwave.
3) Consider a physical challenge
Many of us will be saving time in the day that we’d normally spend commuting to work or travelling to social events. This is a good opportunity to make the most of our extra free time and take on a new challenge, such as a 30-day yoga challenge.
Being bombarded with constant media about the pandemic can seem relentless and take its toll on our mental health. Especially for those of us who’re more vulnerable, live alone, or live with anxiety or depression.
For those of us who’re well, healthy, and not in social isolation, we should consider reaching out to older or more vulnerable members of our community to offer our time and support. Something as simple as picking up a prescription, doing a food shop, or even having a quick phone call to check-in can be a huge help to many people.
It’s incredibly important that we all take steps to protect and prioritise our mental wellbeing, for example:
1) Chat to friends or loved ones
Staying socially connected via digital platforms is essential for our mental health when our social contact is limited. This might be calling or FaceTiming family members, neighbours, and friends on a regular basis.
2) Meditation or deep breathing
Meditation is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety. If you’re new to meditation, try practising deep breathing with your eyes closed in a quiet room for 2 minutes each day.
3) Practise yoga
Yoga encompasses the benefits of both exercise and meditation. One of the ways meditation is so effective is through controlled breathing, which is also practised in yoga. Yoga also increases our release of serotonin – the ‘happy’ hormone.
4) Use adult colouring books
Colouring provides a cognitively stimulating mental activity, which can relieve stress and anxiety by providing our minds with a distraction.
5) Monitor media exposure
It can be overwhelming to receive constant notifications about the virus, which lead us to panic and lose control of our thoughts. It’s important to stay informed right now, but consider checking reliable sources (e.g. NHS or WHO websites) for information once each day and turning off notifications in between.
Non-perishable ingredient recipes
We should only buy what we need from supermarkets, otherwise, others won’t get access to the products that they need. We can also make use of local farm shops or farmers markets where possible. These places will have a higher chance of supplying fresh produce, and it also means you can support local businesses.
If fresh produce is limited at your supermarket, don’t panic! Remember tinned, dried, and frozen goods can be just as nutritious and will last much longer. Below are some example recipes where we can easily swap the fresh fruit or vegetables for frozen variations (e.g. frozen mixed vegetables or frozen berries). We can also swap any fresh herbs for dried versions. Consider batch cooking some of the recipes and freezing the extra portions for another time.