During this unusual, unprecedented and unsettling time, many of us are experiencing some level of anxiety, stress or worry.
Some of us are having to juggle children with working from home (without the help of childcare), while others are worried about potentially not having work at all, and others might be facing the possibility of losing loved ones.
All this worry takes a big strain on our mental wellbeing, and it doesn’t help that we’re spending less time outdoors, less time in the sun, less time exercising, and of course less time with friends and family.
So, given the situation, we think it’s more important than ever for us to look after our mental wellbeing.
With searches for ‘positivity during hard times’ up by 6705 percent on Pinterest (compared with two weeks ago), many of us are trying to make the best of things, while searches for ‘self care at home’ have tripled too, indicating that people are looking for new ways to stay positive and take care of themselves.
Aside from eating healthy, going outside for an hour of exercise a day if we’re able to, and staying in touch with family and friends online and over the phone, there’s plenty more we can do to manage our stress.
Here are some sure-fire ways to get your mood up at home.
1. LET THERE BE LIGHT
Now that we’re spending less time out and about, the decreased exposure to natural light also negatively impacts our mood, mental health, motivation, productivity levels and sleep/wake cycle. Bright light has been shown to immediately increase levels of alertness, boost mood and improve performance, so we recommend investing in a bright light therapy lamp, such as Vitamin L lamp by light therapy experts Lumie.
Having a light box like the Vitamin L at your desk could directly help to improve the way you are feeling. The slimline bright light for SAD and wellbeing promises to improve mood, energy and focus. It has warm white LEDs to create a particularly authentic sunlight effect and a rippled diffuser for a soft, comfortable light.
Lumie Vitamin L, £75, available from Lumie, Amazon, John Lewis, Boots (online) and Selfridges
2. DO SOMETHING GOOD
We think there’s no better mood lifter than doing something good for someone else. Of course, if you’re fit and healthy and haven’t already signed up to volunteer with the NHS then that’s one route to go down. But there’s something you can do from the comfort of your sofa too.
Give a Knit teaches you how to knit or crochet a teddy bear, and once the bear is finished it will be donated to HIHFAD, a UK registered charity supporting displaced children in Syria. Plus, it’s been shown that knitting has lots of mental health/mindfulness benefits too, so win-win.
Purchase a Bertie Bear Kit from giveaknit.co.uk for £15, or download a pattern for £4
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3. HOME FITNESS
Now that your home has become your office, why not make it your gym too? With gyms and fitness establishments closed, searches for ‘workout from home’ are up by 400 percent week on week, as we’re all looking for ways to stay fit and healthy from the comfort of our homes.
The change to our daily lives has already impacted our physical fitness, as Fitbit released their data detailing the global step count decline around the world.
‘Physical activity is great at reducing stress and anxieties, so do workouts at home: there are plenty of great online workouts to try for free. Many are adapted so you don’t need much space or any equipment. Remember to do exercises that get your heart and lungs working and get you out of breath. Aim towards 150 minutes a week. Also remember to do some resistance exercises: these are where you lift anything heavy or use your own body weight – such as doing press ups or squats – to fatigue your muscles,’ recommends NHS GP Dr Dane Vishnubala.
So how do we keep fit when we’re house bound? If you have kids, you’ll have heard of Joe Wicks’ youtube channel offering free PE sessions for kids. But he’s not the only one offering free workouts online. Pilates teacher and founder of facetoned.com Carme Farré, is offering free online 30 minute full body Pilates at 4pm daily, in order to help everyone stay fit and healthy. Watch along on her youtube.
L1VE FIT are offering a free 12 week subscription, while physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst teaches clinical Pilates for back pain, posture, wellness online. Not enough inspo? There’s plenty on Instagram too. Digme Fitness are offering ongoing free virtual live HIIT and Yoga classes via their social channels every day, and FLY LDN are running live barre, yoga, Pilates and low impact classes at 8am, 12.30pm and 6pm daily on Instagram Live (@fly_ldn). Sweat It (@sweatitlondon) are also offering full body and targeted workouts on Instagram Live, streamed from their trainers’ accounts, with a class schedule and Instagram handles for the trainers posted at the start of each week.
4. ALL THE GEAR
If you’re going to be doing indoor exercise, you’ll need some kit. See our roundup for fitness equipment, or at the very least make sure you’ve got some clean indoor trainers to do your workout in. Plus, it’ll do you some good to get out of of your dressing gown and slippers, promise. Superga‘s comfortable, light and simple sneakers are perfect for light exercise and are easy to keep crisp and clean.
5. COMFORT ZONE
As most of us are going to be spending significant time in our PJ’s and loungewear over the next couple of months, we may as well be super-comfy. Thermo-regulating tech sleepwear and loungewear brand Dagsmejan are scientifically proven to help you sleep better and for longer – very important to boost immunity, keep healthy and lessen stress!
Made from merino wool and Tencel from eucalyptus, Dagsmejan’s Stay Warm collection is twice as soft and four times more breathable than cotton.
The cosy ‘Stay Warm’ top & bottoms are £84 each
6. HOME MASSAGE
So we might not be able to call round a masseuse any time soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge ourselves with at-home massage. From back massagers to foot massagers and even eyezone massagers, there are plenty of massage tools out there – and at affordable price points too – so there’s no excuse not to treat yourself.
7. LOVELY LAVENDER
Psychotherapist Nick Davies says: ‘Having a warm bath for at least 20 minutes, especially with Epsom Salts will help relax all of your tired, stressed, anxious muscles, which in turn helps stimulate your ‘parasympathetic nervous system’ (which is automatically engaged once the danger has gone, and produces calming chemicals which in turn relax our busy minds and help us sleep better.’ Ramp relaxation up a notch by infusing salts with a little lavender. Dr Teal’s lavender scented epsom salts will put the ‘ahh’ in b-ahh-throom.
Continue the lavender theme in the bedroom with Heyland & Whittle’s Sleep Easy Gift Set, consisting of lavender and chamomile pillow mist, a room diffuser and scented candle. The lavender scents will soothe your mind, and take away any tension you’re carrying from the day. The gift set also comes with a free Lavender Soap of 45g.
£19.99 from Heylandandwhittle.co.uk
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For a kick-start to your morning, try a shower steamer; a fragrant and fizzy steaming tablet that you place on the floor of the shower, then just turn on the warm water, step in and inhale. It comes in a pack of 8 tablets, bursting with uplifting peppermint, rosemary and ginger scents.
£7.99 from Prezzybox
Ever heard of a shower head that can infuse your shower with essential oils while simultaneously eliminating hard water? A favourite among A-list celebrities, Vitaclean’s Vitamin C showerhead removes shower water impurities and toxins to restore skin and hair to their natural lustre. The shower head has anti-bacterial properties, it neutralises chlorine, limescale and bacteria build-up from your shower, all while also infusing antioxidants and essential minerals, meaning it can help to heal cracked, dry patches on the skin, improve the appearance of fine lines and give both the skin and hair a soft and silky feel. You can also add aromatherapy scents.
Vitamin C Aromatherapy Filtered Showerhead, from £59.99
For aromatherapy at home, try the Ellia Gather Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffuser. Simply add a few drops of your favourite essential oil and inhale the mist. The product promises to keep stress levels to a minimum and concentration levels to a maximum.
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9. CHANGE FOCUS
Take your mind off things by picking up a new hobby, like gardening. Hydroponics is one of the fastest growing (excuse the pun) horticultural trends, and Ikea has a complete hydroponics collection for cultivating plants indoors all year round. The Växer range includes LED lights, nursery and sprout boxes, cultivation insert sets and growing media, including starter plugs, pumice and fertiliser, all mounted in a stylish cultivating unit.
Gardening not your thing? Fine tune your cookery skills with a new recipe book. Bite-sized philosophical notes, meaningful questions and a focus on small but joyful daily rituals all go to prove that this new cookbook from environmental foodie Heather Thomas is much more than a mere catalogue of vegetarian recipes. Consult her blog of the same name for an insightful look at holistic eating, ways to connect with nature and hearty, seasonal cooking.
The Mindful Kitchen by Heather Thomas, £20, Leaping Hare Press, waterstones.com
10. DON’T WORRY, BE APPY
Meditation and mindfulness are also hot topics right now, with ‘Meditation tips for beginners’ trending on Pinterest. When it comes to wellbeing, mindfulness and meditation apps, there’s plenty out there – and many of them are free.
Pinterest have launched a new feature called the Today Tab – a fresh source of daily inspiration with curated topics and trending Pins – as a way to help keep people positive and inspired during the week. There’s everything from kid-friendly baking ideas, self-care tips and trending Pins, with content refreshed daily. And, to make the content as relevant and helpful as possible, Pinterest have liaised with the World Health Organisation and the Centres for Disease Control to showcase expert, accurate information.
With Scandinavian countries topping the World Happiness Report (yet again) this year, for the eighth year in a row, the Scandinavians clearly know a thing or two about happines – we say take note!
Catharina Björkman, Swedish lifestyle expert at Contura explains: ‘Mindfulness, meditation and gratitude rituals have been shown to improve overall health and happiness. Mindfulness teaches us to take time out of our busy lives to think about the positives in our lives, refocus our attention on what matters and create a more calming environment by being more present in the moment. Meditation also teaches us to be aware of our own thoughts and feelings and be in tune to the world around us. Just 15 minutes’ meditation before work or during the commute can make a huge difference. We recommend the Calm app.’
NHS GP Dr Dane confirms: ‘Apps such as Headspace or Calm are great introductions to short focused meditations. Or simply lie down flat on your back, let your arms and legs go floppy and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing and slow it down as much as you can. Just let everything go for 5-10 minutes. If you’re worried you may fall asleep, simply set an alarm so you can completely relax. This is surprisingly refreshing!’
NHS app Thrive is free and helps prevent and manage stress, anxiety and mental wellness. The thrive app tracks your mood and teaches you methods to take control of stress and anxiety. Users can learn relaxation techniques like meditation and deep-breathing to help cope better with stressful situations and manage negative thoughts during this uncertain time. Thrive also recently introduced a webinar series covering topics such as stress, anxiety, coping with remote working, dealing with life-changes and isolation to help thousands of employees during these unsettling times.
And finally, as if all that wasn’t enough for our download lists, Music Zen is an app that’s free for all (until the 31th May), and provides users with a range of features to support mental health. The app offers a variety of relaxation practices, including guided meditations, audiobooks, breathing exercises, and even relaxing games that are simple to play and have been designed to reduce stress and anxiety.