But just as keeping our bodies in good physical health is key to our wellbeing, so too is taking care of our minds. That’s why we decided to team up with Boots to host a Virtual Wellness Festival, spanning four consecutive evenings and really honing in on all things self-care, mental health and holistic wellbeing.
The world is a scary and unpredictable place to be right now. In fact, let’s be real: it’s pretty damn bleak out there.
Many of us are reeling not just from the physical repercussions of being confined to our homes (again), but the mental and psychological ones, too. If you’re anything like us at team GLAMOUR, you may be finding that your anxiety levels are up, your mood is as unruly as Bo-Jo’s hair, and your sleep is suffering. Yep, these bags under our eyes are definitely not Chanel right now.
So, we thought we’d take some of the best snippets of expert advice from the festival and collate them into this handy wellness guide to help you cope.
The experts in question? GLAMOUR’s own wellness contributor Simone Powderly; sleep researcher and author of Sleep For Success! Dr Rebecca Robbins; founder of The Insomnia Clinic Kathryn Pinkham; reiki teacher and wellness coach Kelsey J Patel; emotional health advisor and manifesting expert Roxie Nafousi; holistic health therapist and yoga teacher Sriya Rao; and yoga and pilates instructor Erika Scribner.
Basically, an inspiring group of women who know exactly what they’re talking about when it comes to your physical and psychological wellbeing.
Here are the 19 top tips from the GLAMOUR and Boots Virtual Wellness Festival. Just remember: you’ve got this.
1. Practice awareness
First thing’s first, all of the wellness experts agree that to be mindful, you have to practice being present. “Usually our minds are so scattered between a hundred different things that we’re never just collected, present and focused, says Sriya. “So mindfulness is about channelling our power of awareness, being present with our minds and bodies.” Roxie agrees: “We have so many roles in our lives now – career woman, mother, sister, friend – we are so many things and with that comes such chaos and pressure. And the only way we can cope with all that is to come back to the present moment and take one thing at a time, whether that’s practising a couple of minutes of breathing exercises or meditation.”
2. Take time to breathe
We hear this said a lot in meditation, yoga and mindfulness, but what does it actually mean? Erika shows us how:
- Sit on the floor in a position that is comfortable for you, with your arms resting at your side.
- Allow for the eyes to close and the shoulders to soften.
- Take a deep breath through the nose for around five seconds.
- Hold for a moment then slowly exhale out through the nose.
- Repeat, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the nose three times.
- When you feel ready, gently open your eyes and notice what three simple breaths did for you.
3. Choose the right time to meditate
Saying that, don’t force yourself to meditate if you’re not in the right headspace. “It’s not a good idea to meditate if you’re feeling restless or too nervous or anxious, because then it just becomes torture,” says Sriya. “Forcing yourself to sit in one place and not think any thoughts really doesn’t work when you’re in that headspace. So, get the restlessness out of your body first, whether it’s through stretching, walking, swimming – whatever works for you to get that physical restlessness out. Then when you’re centred and relaxed, you can ease into meditation.”
4. Make self-care part of your to-do list
Organisation and instilling a sense of control in our day-to-day lives is key to feeling calm for many of us. But, as Kelsey advises, it’s important to schedule in time for joy and self-care, just like you would a workout or the weekly shop. “For me, it’s about giving myself spaciousness in the week to bring myself joy, whether that’s experiencing nature or connecting with a friend,” she explains. “It’s important now more than ever, because what we’re experiencing is really intense. Yes, some people may need more structure in times like these, but embracing fluidity and the fact that I am enough is what works for me.”
5. Sorry, but stop Netflix-ing in bed
Yep, we all do it, especially in lockdown. But this eventually tells our brain that bed isn’t just for sleeping, and that can impact how well we sleep. “It’s so easy when you’re confined to your home to spend more time in bed, but what we want to do is classically condition ourselves to look at the bed as ‘the place where sleep happens’,” says Rebecca. “If you’re watching Netflix and scrolling social media in bed, then you start to look at it as the place where more than just sleep happens. So you’re setting yourself up for failure. Keep the bed for sleep, and sleep alone.”
6. Buy an acupressure mat
Erika and Sriya both recommend purchasing an acupressure mat – they like Bed of Nails, £70 at boots.com. Sriya likes to practice yoga nidra on hers (used to support restfulness, try this YouTube tutorial), whereas Erika likes to use this technique to calm her body and mind before sleep:
- Place your acupressure mat with one end against a wall.
- Lie on the mat so your feet are touching the wall, then extend your legs up the wall so that your body forms a 90-degree angle with the floor.
- Lie still on the mat for 5 or 10 minutes, focusing on breathing deeply and clearing your mind before bed.
7. Listen to an affirmation playlist
“I find affirmations such a powerful way to really reprogramme your subconscious and raise your vibe, while also being meditative and calming your nervous system down,” says Roxie. “So for me, listening to positive affirmations not only boosts your self-worth on a subconscious level, but also relaxes your mind. So that’s probably my go-to technique.” Simply search ‘affirmation playlist’ on YouTube for examples.
8. Ditch the ‘early night’ mindset
We all know that good sleep hygiene includes having a regular bedtime routine – aiming for 6-9 hours of sleep every night and waking up at the same time every day, according to NHS.uk – but one of the common mistakes we make is to go to bed early, according to Kathryn. “This goes against what we were always taught we should do but if you’re not sleeping well, the worst thing you can do is go to bed earlier,” she explains. “Because one of the things that controls our sleep pattern is our ‘sleep drive’ – it’s a bit like building an appetite; the longer you’re out of bed for, the stronger the appetite for sleep will be. So one of the biggest mistakes you can make is having a lie-in because you slept badly, and then going to bed early that night too. My advice? Even if you’re WFH and don’t have to commute, set your alarm early and don’t go to bed too early. That way, you’re focusing on quality, not quantity – the quality is what will help you feel better. So, spend less time in bed in order to create better quality sleep.”
9. Give EFT a go
“EFT (emotional freedom technique) is an incredible tool to help clear anxiety,” says Kelsey. “You can find tons of videos on YouTube – do it for 60 seconds and you’ll feel a clearing and a shift.” EFT works in a similar way to acupuncture in that it works with meridian points – areas of the body where energy flows through – using fingertip tapping to apply pressure to these points to restore balance.”
10. Take a ‘grounding’ break
Feeling restless and unable to settle your mind? Take a quick break from whatever you’re doing to try grounding. “Grounding – ways to anchor yourself in the present – is an amazing tool,” says Sriya. “There are different ways to ground but the quickest grounding hack is to literally connect with the ground, whether through your palms or your bare feet, and just take five deep breaths into the earth. It immediately brings you to the present and helps keep you centred.”
11. Stop tossing and turning
We all know how frustrating it can be to wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep. But all the experts agree that the key is not to stay in bed. “I often wake up at about two or three AM,” says Simone, “and I’ve learnt not to just lie there, I get up and do something, reset, then go back to bed.” Kathryn agrees: “The worst thing you can do is stay in bed stressing. The more we associate our bed with that kind of feeling, the more likely it is to happen each time we go to bed. So, if it’s been a while and you’re just lying there getting yourself worked up, leave the bedroom and go and do something that you find relaxing – like reading a book, then go back to bed when you feel sleepy.”
12. Do something different to break up your day
“My go-to technique is to have a three-minute dance party at home to just shift my energy,” says Kelsey. “Basically, it’s about moving that energy around particularly in lockdown, when everything is happening in our homes – our workout space, our nourishment space, our socialising space, our work space – it’s hard to create boundaries in such an intense dynamic. So whether it be a dance party, meditation, or journalling, just try to break your day up by doing something different to create that new vibration within yourself.”
13. Dance it out
“When I’m feeling that depressive energy and feeling sluggish or like I don’t want to do anything, I turn on some music and dance it out,” says Erika. “I get super silly and dance around with my yoga studio with a mop and sing along. It works!”
14. Try nadi shodhana
“If I’m feeling anxious, if my energy is too high or I need to restore some calm, I find the nadi shodhana – alternative nostril breathing – very helpful,” adds Erika. Here’s how:
- Sit comfortably and tall with a straight spine.
- With your right hand, make a peace sign with your forefinger and middle finger, then relax them down and bring up the remaining fingers, so your pinkie, ring finger and thumb are upright.
- Bring the thumb to the right nostril.
- Take a deep breath through your left nostril, then swap so that your ring finger covers your left nostril.
- Exhale through the right nostril.
- Repeat by inhaling through the right nostril, then swapping so your thumb covers your right nostril, before exhaling through your left.
- Continue for a minute – or for however many minutes you have – focusing on your breathing and alternating nostrils. You will feel your anxiety levels drop.
15. Forget about ‘night caps’
We don’t know about you, but in the first lockdown, we definitely fell into the habit of drinking more than normal after work in the evenings. “Yes, alcohol can help you fall asleep, but it can actually disrupt the quality of your sleep,” says Rebecca. “That’s why you wake up after a night of drinking and feel exhausted, because alcohol pulls you out of the deep and most restorative stages of sleep.”
16. Turn off notifications
It’s no secret that our phones can be a source of daily stress and anxiety, so if it’s getting too much, take control. “Take your device and turn off those notifications and that stimulation,” says Kelsey. “Turn it off for just 15 minutes a day, an hour or the whole weekend – getting off those pieces of technology for however long you can will help you come back to yourself.”
17. Get out of bed with your alarm
“Most of us are guilty of waking up to your alarm, hitting snooze and instantly grabbing your phone and scrolling social media,” says Simone, “but by doing that, you’re already gathering other people’s days and thoughts and you haven’t even tapped into your own mind yet, and that can have an affect especially with what’s going on right now. So, wake up, don’t hit snooze, drink some water, tap into yourself, get up and make your bed!”
18. Make tiny, attainable changes
“Think about when you are most at peace – who are you with, what are you doing, where are you and what’s around you? – and slowly embrace more of that in life,” says Roxie. “It doesn’t have to be difficult; it’s just small, consistent things that you do every day to work towards making your life a better place. So if you are feeling lost, just think of one thing you can do today to feel better tomorrow, and then do it again, and again, and again, until one day you go: “Life is good”’.
19. Remember that this won’t last forever
“So many of us feel isolated during lockdown, and I think it’s important to remind ourselves that this is not permanent; this is temporary,” says Kelsey. “We have never experienced something like this in our lives and there is a sense of trauma that we are actively experiencing as human beings on this planet at this time. And so I really want to just remind everyone that whatever you’re feeling is completely normal – it is OK. And when you need to take time away from your phone, technology or anything that’s making you feel disconnected from yourself and from your feelings, do that. We are all just doing the best that we can. We are all figuring this out at the same time we are experiencing it, so above all, remember to be loving with yourself.”