Whether we’re working from home or not, I think all of us right now are looking for advice and recommendations on how to keep ourselves healthy and sane during this isolation period. No one knows how long we’re are going to be on ‘lockdown’ but it’s essential I think to get some kind of routine going in our lives to create some kind of new ‘normal’.
Many of us have turned to home workouts for our bodies, but what are we doing for our brains? I’ve been working for the last 6 months with a start-up brand called Heights – which is a supplement created to maximise our brain health. And if there is any better time to be looking after this vital organ – I feel it is right now.
The brand’s Chief Science Officer, Dr Tara Swart, recommends treating your brain health as you would your physical health, “Diverse diets, exercise, fresh air and social interactions are all things that feed and stimulate peoples’ brains in normal life. When isolating, basic needs are restricted and brain health is put to the test by heightened factors like increased screen time, social distancing and less time outdoors”
Dan Murray-Serter, who co-founded Heights adds “What we find is that people are in tune with the nutritional needs of other body parts and what it takes to keep fit, but there’s a big knowledge gap when it comes to brain health. The brain is the control organ that’s going to help pull people through this challenging period of distancing and isolation, so we need to treat it especially well. All the nutrients your brain needs to thrive are packed into our smart supplement capsules.”
The brand has also put together some great tips on how to introduce a kind of structure to your day drawing on advice from its team of experts in the fields of neuroscience, sleep, behaviour change nutrition and wellness. I’m sharing a few below but for the complete guide click HERE.
Dr Sophie Bostock, Sleep Scientist recommends sticking to a sleep-wake routine because messing with your circadian rhythms messes up pretty much every other rhythm in your body. It’s the number one most important thing you can do to keep your body and brain in sync.
Natalia Bojanic, Founder of Form, and Meditation Teacher suggests we abide by the age-old adage, Rise. Pee. Meditate. The morning is the perfect time to meditate, as it’s the time before you, and your brain has time to become too distracted. Regular meditation is a way to train your attention and help keep you alert and awake. Especially useful when working from home.
“A cluttered mind leaves little room for creative thinking; therefore, we must use techniques to develop a healthier relationship with our thoughts and in turn enhance our ability to make wise decisions”, says Natalia.
Developing a greater connection to ourselves and gifting the people around us with someone who is cool, calm, and collected is always going to be beneficial – but seems extra important right now.
If you’re new to meditation, or understandably finding it tough at present, here’s pro Natalia’s easy way to bring your body and mind into sync by aligning your breaths with 4 words:
Breathe IN and silently say to yourself: I
Breathe OUT and silently say to yourself: AM
Breathe IN and silently say to yourself: HERE
Breathe OUT and silently say to yourself: NOW
Repeat for four rounds
Give yourself a designated area that’s solely for work. Try and make it:
List all the work tasks you need to get done that day, along with how long you want to spend on each one.
Then, have a think about when you’re most productive – and slot in your most challenging tasks then.
For example, do all your writing in the morning; and research, admin and emails in the afternoon when you’re less likely to be in a flow state.
Have an actual lunch break. It’s tempting to work through when your laptop is (possibly) in the kitchen. But it’s important to step away from the screen and take an hour for yourself to savour your lunch and think about something else for a while.
For social connection – call a family member, ask how they are, ask them lots of questions about themselves, try to really listen – it will make them feel the love and the connection we are all missing right now.
Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Chief Wellness Officer, and author of The Stress Solution*
Let’s be honest, by the afternoon you’ll have been subject to the news, some conversations, and probably a hefty dose of social media coronavirus panic.
So, you’re probably feeling a bit stressed. This is problematic for a few reasons.
According to Heights Wellness Officer, Dr Rangan Chatterjee, chronic stress can cause havoc on our health and wellbeing.
It’s often the root cause of conditions like anxiety, poor memory, inability to focus, gut problems, obesity, insomnia, burn-out, type 2 diabetes, auto-immune disease, depression, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, strokes and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Our stress response is based on how we process the information going into our bodies, and if – based on that information – we conclude that we are safe or under threat. With the amount of stress we’re under as a society at the moment – this response is more important than ever.
Luckily – lots of the tips in this schedule will help with stress. Getting proper nourishment, moving your body, planning your time and prioritising your sleep are all vitally useful tools to help you to control your stress response.
If you need a quick fix in the middle of the day though, (perhaps after the latest press conference broadcast) the easiest and most effective way to take your brain from a stress state, to a thrive one – is to breathe for a minute.
Breathing is part of the information ecosystem. The more stressed you feel, the faster you breathe. Your brain will notice this and read it as a signal that things are not going well.
The fast, shallow breathing that happens when you’re stressed is effectively telling your brain that you’re running from a lion.
But, the reverse of this rule is also true: if you breathe slowly, you’re giving your brain a signal that you’re in a place of calm, and you will start to feel less stressed.
If all you do for one minute is slow your breathing down and aim for six breaths (one breath is in and out) in that minute, it will reduce the stress state and stimulate the thrive state.
Close your laptop and put it away with all your notebooks and glasses. It’s important that your house still feels separate from work so that you allow yourself time to recover from it, and it all doesn’t merge into one messy, stressy space.
Get outside for a stroll to transition out of work brain. Maybe a walk or run or plan a workout at home using an App like FitOn. If yoga is usually part of your life, but you can’t go at the moment – there are plenty of ways to bring it to you. The Downward Dog App is brilliant, and includes HIIT and 7 minute workouts as well.
YouTube is another great resource – check out Yoga with Tim for some added boosts in habit-forming, happiness, and management of stress and anxiety.
Create a schedule for household chores for everyone to pitch in. A tidy and organised home is the best environment for calming anxiety, inspiring productivity, and minimising distractions during the day.
Send a message to someone you’ve not connected with in a while, let them know you are thinking of them and hope they are healthy. At times like this, moments like that make a huge impact.
There are so many recipes you can make from store cupboard ingredients, check Jamie Oliver’s Keep Cooking and Carry On.
Your evening is yours to do with what you wish. A tiny suggestion though – don’t do the same thing every night to help stave off cabin fever. Maybe make a creative date and have a painting night once a week? Or designate Friday night as bad movie night?
Totally up to you – but we can’t help but think that switching things up must be a good idea.
Dr Sophie Bostock, Sleep Scientist
We need to stop thinking about sleep as switching off. Quite the reverse. Sleep is an active process for repairing, and enhancing, brain performance.
Even a cheeky 10-minute nap can improve mood and memory.
But, Dr Sophie Bostock argues that sleep loss also means we lose some fundamental human qualities:
Emotional balance: Lack of sleep signals the brain to be hypersensitive to threat. We become more emotional, argumentative, and vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
Self-control: While the sleep-deprived brain is being hijacked by emotion, it dials down less essential functions for survival – such as long term planning or sticking to our eating goals. We make more impulsive decisions, and – given the temptation – are more likely to cheat or be ‘deviant’ at work.
Learning and memory: Sleep is the process through which important memories are consolidated, and others are pruned back, freeing up more space to learn the next day. Deep sleep also has a cleansing effect on our memory banks, cleaning out toxic proteins like beta-amyloid, which accumulates in Alzheimer’s disease.