My Mental and Physical Wellness During Lockdown by Dana
Hi, my name is Dana I am 36 years old and I live in Belfast with my partner, my 15 year old son and our 2 Dalmatians, Shea, who is just the most beautiful dog and Harley, the hyperactive one. My day job consists of selling shoes in a retail park, I love the buzz of the retail environment and meeting new customers from all walks of life and like many other people, this lockdown has proven to be very difficult for me. I knew early on in lockdown I would have to set some goals and stick to them and no matter what, every day, I would get my body moving on one way or another. Here are some things I do on a daily basis to keep mentally and physically healthy;
Although I miss the gym I am making up for it being part of Challenge Training Studio’s fitness classes with Natalie on Zoom, they help keep me motivated and the craic is always mighty. I decided to do 3 classes per week, I would definitely do more but I set aside days to do yoga and go for long walks with my son and the dogs. I believe exercise is vital for mental and physical health and I am always buzzing after Natalie’s classes.
I started practicing yoga 6 years ago, I prefer a slow moving, stretching, mindful practice than exuberant vigorous yoga, and I’ll keep the sweating for Natalie’s classes. Yoga has really helped my anxiety, I feel like I don’t anger and stress out as easily as I used to, though some of that may come with age, lol. I know that yoga isn’t for everyone but it makes me feel good and I enjoy it so much. I am really missing yoga classes but I try to practice on the days I don’t take part in Challenge’s online classes. If you enjoy yoga I recommend following along with videos on YouTube, some really good teachers are ‘yoga with Adrian’, ‘YOGATX’ and if you don’t have much time ‘five parks yoga with Erin Sampson’ she has some short practices.
Meditation and Breathing Techniques
Although yoga and meditation go hand in hand and at the end of each yoga session I try and get in 20 minutes mindfulness meditation, this has also become a healthy habit after my workout with Natalie and the Challenge ladies. I go to a quiet space; I find it is very important to wear earphones, especially during lockdown when everyone is home. I begin with ‘alternate nostril breathing’ or ‘full yogic breath’ I find these can give instant relief if you are feeling anxious, but you will find your own preference. After 5 minutes of breathing techniques I am ready to meditate with relaxing music. I have found meditation very difficult in the past, I used to become annoyed when my mind would wander off and I always tried too hard to keep focused, this made the whole experience very stressful and ended up being the exact opposite of what I was looking for, I gave up more than once. That was until my yoga teacher explained it was okay for your mind wander, that is what it is meant to do and when it does all you have to do it guide it back and focus on breathing in and out, once I accepted that it became much easier to do it, I also learned in class that preforming a ‘body scan’ before focusing your mind on breathing really help. I begin concentrating on my feet, then relaxing them, I work my way up to my legs and so on until my whole body is relaxed, then it is much easier to focus on my breath. Another helpful tip is don’t be hard on yourself, if your mind decides to concentrate on other thoughts, just kindly and gently bring the awareness back to your breath.
Hiking and Nature Walks
Another activity I really enjoy is hiking as I am a nature junkie; thank goodness the Cavehill is so accessible, nothing like fresh air and natural light to brighten up my day. I read that our affinity towards nature is genetic and deep rooted in evolution, how something as simple as watching some leaves sway in the wind makes us feel like we are ‘back home’ and therefore makes us feel safe, no wonder I feel instant calmness walking through a forest.
An important thing for me is to eat well, drink lots of water throughout the day and provide my body with all the nutrients it requires. Being vegan I try to eat between 5-10 pieces of fruit and/or veg per day, mainly veg as fruit is full of sugar and sugar is sugar no matter where it comes from. I also eat quinoa, oats, beans, lentils, nuts and seed as they all contain a good source of vitamins, mind you I still love my crisps but as long as I am getting enough nutrients I know I will feel good. My morning coffee is very important to me and not for the reason you think, I use this time in lockdown to decompress, I am not in any panic to get ready, making sure my son has everything he needs and running out the door to travel in rush hour to the other side of the city before 9AM, making coffee and sipping it in my front garden with the sun beaming on my face, or the rain beating down, then making another cup and taking life slowly.
My whole life I have been an early riser, even if I go to bed late I am awake at the crack of dawn, I find if I do not get enough sleep I feel agitated and anxious and I crave sugar or caffeine to get me through the day, which ultimately leaves me feeling more exhausted. Video calling has been so important to connect with others and not feel so alone during this epidemic, my partner is working from home and my son has his school work or is video calling his friend so it has become a life line, from contacting friends and family to taking part in classes.
I have been writing in a gratitude journal for a few years and it has definitely taught me that there are positive moments in everyday and there is always something to be grateful for, be it time spent with family, new accomplishments or even the internet, there are loads of journals to choose from but I prefer the kind that allows you to write three things in the morning that you are grateful for and in the evening, three amazing experiences that happened that day.
I have always had that ‘to-do’ list, the one we all have pinned to the fridge, but struggle to find time and motivation to get it done but as the saying goes, there really is no time like the present. I usually leave it to the weekend so all three of us can get stuck in, like turning a boring spare room in to a cool movie room with LED lights or painting the outside wall, it always feels good being a team and getting things done gives you that sense of accomplishment. To not become over whelmed by the tasks I make a list of 3 things to do, once completed, after a small celebration, I write down 3 more items.
Although in ways social media has been a life saver it definitely affects my sleeping pattern, I try really hard to stay off all social media an hour after waking up and an hour before going to sleep, doing this has really shown me just how addicted I am to aimlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, so I try to have a day a week of ‘social media detox’.
I hope my blog was inspiring and I understand that what I do for physical and mental wellness is not everyone’s cup of tea but I guess what I am trying to say is, find what you enjoy and what makes you feel good and you are more than likely to stick to it.
Love, Dana x
(*images of Cavehill by Natalie Sloan)