exercise

Wellbeing and Winter

For a lot of us, it can be difficult to feel on top form during the colder months. Even if you are a winter fanatic, love all things Christmassy and get excited about what comes with the new year, it can still be difficult to manage wellness on cold and gloomy days. So, in anticipation of the winter blues/January blues/Monday blues/basically any unwanted blueness, I’ve worked up a checklist of things to help prioritise our wellbeing this winter.*

((*Note: This article isn’t medical advice. If you’re looking for more specific mental health material – check out the links at the end!))

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Diet and Nutrients

No, I’m not going to tell you to chuck out all the Christmas choccies! This isn’t about having an immaculate diet; what I suggest here is just keeping a mental note of when you last said ‘Hi’ to some fruit and veg. As we head into December and beyond, it can be tricky to keep on top of doing a healthy food shop – especially when there are so many tempting treats. Indulgence is fun, especially in the festive period, but do make sure to balance it out.

Our digestive system and brain are linked by the vagus nerve, and long story short (and all science averted because I don’t really get it), what we eat contributes to how we think and feel. As good old Saint Nick gets ready to do the rounds, by all means, head to the Quality Street! The praline triangles aren’t going to steal themselves. But remember to get in those greens and some vitamin C too. Similarly, because we lack so much sunlight during this time of year, if you’re someone who gets particularly down in the darker months, it could be worth picking up some vitamin D as well!

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Exercise

NO GYM REQUIRED. Fear not- this isn’t a you-must-start-a-spinning-class-and-go-to-boxercise-every-day article. Just get out and about. It doesn’t have to be a lot and it doesn’t have to be the same thing each time. In fact – the more variety the better. If you’re someone who likes exercise or sport then fab! Doing what you enjoy is a great way to get out of the house. It can be gross to go into *nature* when it’s cold and wet and windy, but when the weather is relatively calm, jump at the chance to go out and explore. Anything from a quick stroll to a little micro adventure to a local park.

Remember the Vitamin D we talked about earlier – making the most of the daylight hours is key when it is of limited availability. If you have a hobby that you can adapt to doing outside then use it as an excuse for a change of scenery. For example, photography or other artistic pursuits are a great way to explore outside and get some exercise in at the same time.

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The Power of Plants

There’s a lot of research to show that plants can have a positive effect on us. Having some greenery or flowers around the place can be a mood booster. Equally, having to care for a plant reminds us to care for ourselves. When we’re watering or feeding the plants, and making sure they get enough sunlight, it’s a casual reminder to make sure we pay attention to our own needs. Caring for something else and having that small responsibility with plants can also make us feel good and remind us that we are accomplishing things even if they’re small. (Also, they look really cute!!) 

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Another thing about FOOD

If you’re someone (like me) who finds it a drag to prepare food when your wellbeing isn’t amazing, here are some ideas. Find foods that minimise prep time and are good for you. For instance, yoghurts require zero effort and can be eaten whenever. Also, consider fresh veg and fruit that is in season and doesn’t need a lot of intervention. (And when you do feel like making stuff, stews are great, because they use all the in-season veg, you just leave the pot to do its thing, and you can freeze portions for ages.) Lastly, meal replacement powders (not weight-loss ones – just complete nutrient ones) could also be a solution for some people – I find them handy when my work schedule is a bit crazy or if I don’t have the energy for a big food shop.

In the new year, when everyone’s insisting they’ll start going to the gym, hating going back to work, and remembering how cold February is, this can all be handy to remember. Having quick fix food around that is not just junk food makes it much easier to look after yourself.

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Reach out!

We shouldn’t leave it until we’re actually feeling unwell or not taking care of ourselves to reach out to others. Make sure you check in with your loved ones over the winter period. This can be especially important if you live away from the rest of your family or are a university student away for the holidays. Reach out to close friends and make an effort to get together, or at least call for a catch-up.

Socialising can be difficult to organise over the Christmas period when people can be quite busy and public transport ceases to function, but come the new year when everyone’s aligning themselves with the ‘normal,’ it’s really important to make sure you’re maintaining those connections with people.

Depending on individual needs, doing what you love either solo or sharing it with friends can give you some well-needed space to relax – which does wonders for wellbeing.

Remember not to put your wellbeing on hold just because normality gets a bit suspended during Christmas and New Year, and opportunities to get out and about can seem to dwindle during winter as a whole. When considering your self-care regime, factor both your physical and mental wellness into it!

 

I hope this gets the ball rolling with some ideas you can utilise for maintaining wellbeing this winter. Below are some further sources of wellbeing advice, and also more distinct mental health resources:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/wellbeing/#.W_24Yq2cbPA
https://www.wellbeingnands.co.uk
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/improve-mental-wellbeing/
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/what-wellbeing-how-can-we-measure-it-and-how-can-we-support-people-improve-it
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/things-to-do-this-weekend-to-boost-your-mental-wellbeing_uk_5bd2d714e4b0a8f17ef6413f?utm_hp_ref=uk-wellbeing
 

Words by Lauren Barnard for Anthem Online.
Images from Be Brain Fit, Mental Health Zen, Garden Collage, The Best Brain Possible and Practice Business.

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How To Cheer Yourself Up When You’re Down

This post is an interesting one, because it’s not just me talking about my issues, it’s not just interviews with friends on similar issues, and it’s not just advice being passed on to you lovely readers. Instead, it’s all three.

The Personal

Since going to university (and generally just growing up some), I’ve become notoriously bad at looking after myself. It’s something millions of people struggle with, and it’s not something they teach you at school, but it is important to deal with. Often the worst part isn’t just feeling sad or upset, but feeling that way when you’re alone.

Everyone has friends, or partners, or family that they feel comfortable turning to, but sometimes these friends are asleep, at dinner, at work, or uni or so on. Sometimes, they can’t help. In some cases, people don’t want to reach out, or ‘bother’ their loved ones, but whoever you are within this mix, I’ve gone out to research what other people do, to help us both.

When I used to feel sad as a teenager, I would often watch YouTube videos and vloggers, or listen to my awful iTunes playlists, but I don’t really go for that anymore. These days I tend to light candles, carry on listening to music, don some comfy pjs and eat (and not just when I’m sad). It’s basic but effective. On better days, I’m smarter when it comes to looking after myself.

As a result, I’ve decided to ask what other people do. I’ve asked around and posted to social media to work out how my friends look after themselves when they only have themselves to turn to, and the results are all achievable and easy things to do. Seems only fair to start with myself…

The Interviews

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When I get down these days I tend to watch a classic Disney film like Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, because they’re very uplifting. Alternatively I’ll stick on The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh – sounds childish I know but it’s so innocent and pure that it just makes me so much happier. Other methods involved adult colouring or dot-to-dot, and ultimately a cup of tea and an early night.

 

Next up, my housemate Nathan offered up his solution:anthemnathan
Most of the time I’d message a friend, but if I couldn’t do that I’d probably find a film or TV programme to watch. That always takes my mind off whatever is wrong, and I can just keep up with any current show I’m watching. If not, I try to get some fresh air and go for a walk. If all else fails, music can a God send, for me rock or grime especially – it’s a bit more fun and energetic.

 

What about fellow Anthem writer, Jess? She always seems to have wise words:anthemjess
To be honest, I do tend to just watch TV, or binge on whatever series I’m on currently and then I can forget about being down. Occasionally I’ll paint, bake or maybe cook a meal. A lot of it is mental, and so a lot of the time if I’m down I’ll sort of sit and take a moment to just redirect my thoughts to things that I know I’m lucky to have like family, my degree and so on. Something that always helps is going for a walk to look at all the lovely things that exist, and then I’m able to tell myself that good things have to mixed in with the bad so that we can understand and appreciate them better.

 

If you haven’t quite got the hang of the mindfulness skill yet, sometimes it really is quite simple to cheer yourself up. I asked my friend from uni, Jamie how he went about it: anthemjamkie
If I need cheering up, I’ll normally turn to a film and most of the time it will be Love Actually. It always makes me laugh and smile.

 

And what about my friend Amber? Well hers made me feel a bit better too:
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I had to think about this quite hard. It depends why I’m feeling sad I guess, and what kind of sad; like if I’m feeling defeated or shit about myself then I tend to write things down that are good about myself or that I have achieved. Sometimes I do something simple like having a nice long shower, or ‘mindful’ washing like really taking in smells of shower gel etc. which might sound super lame but it works. I have a teddy (judge me) and I cuddle that sometimes. If I need distracting, I watch Netflix or I’ll read. I like to go for walks as well if it’s a nice day and really take in my surroundings and tune out of my head if I can. A lot of them seem quite obvious but whatever works!

 

The Advice

So it’s not as hard as I (probably you as well) make it out to be sometimes. Just have a drink (tea/hot chocolate/wine) and some food, watch a film that makes you happy, binge on some TV, do some painting and colouring or writing. These guys are a great bunch of people who I consider quite happy people as well, so how can I be sure I can do this next time I need to?

I guarantee that a lot of time if I’m sad I’ll either text Jess into the night until I fall asleep, or moan at my friends and boyfriend until they tell me I’m probably being silly and should just have a cup of tea and calm down (which is correct), but when I’m alone it is harder to get happy again. Something that you, I, and generally all of us can do is plan ahead. I know it sounds stupid but hear me out. 

Blurt Foundation Buddy Box Depression Care Package

There are companies built entirely on care packages (see: BuddyBox, PinkParcel), but if you’re as skint as I am, then you can make your own, or be super cute and make one for a friend. The idea in this case is to make sure you have what you need to look after yourself when sadness strikes. You can either go full Monica Geller and set aside a box full of snacks, treats, books and fun things and DVDs, or you can make sure you know what makes you happy. Simple as.

Asking other people has been useful because I feel like I’m not missing something that everyone else is doing. It seems clear that looking after yourself is as simple as eating, drinking, sleeping well and making time for a walk, or bath, or favourite film. If I can just remember that there are good things and happy things then all I need to do is find them and make use of them.

What else do you think is important to remember? Let us know how you look after yourself!

 

Words by Briony Brake
Interviews with Nathan Oliver, Jessica Yang, Jamie Clarkson, Amber Berry
Photo by BuddyBox: The Blurt Foundation