Tips to stay healthy in mind and body in challenging times

The rollercoaster that is 2020 is nearly coming to an end. Between shutdowns, quarantine, and adjusting to a new way of life as we navigate the murky waters of a global pandemic, there’s never been a better time to put more onus onto your health and well-being. Whether you’re struggling to stay active while working from home, dealing with waning motivation to cook healthful meals, or have noticed your usual bubbly spark losing its brightness, these factors all play into chipping away at your overall health. And while exercise and nutrition are important components of a vivacious life, your mental health should hold equal weight. Read on for tips to amp up your healthy lifestyle in a holistic way, taking both your body and mind into consideration.

Stay active

Okay, so we here in the Valley may not have been affected by fitness facility closures during quarantine, but we most certainly felt the effects of transitioning into a work-from-home situation or maybe have lost the motivation to get out for daily walks as we stayed glued to the TV screen to get the latest pandemic-related news. Time to snap out of it! Try these ideas to spice up your active lifestyle:

  • Get moving with kids or pets. Kids and pets are two creatures who never stop moving. Schedule some time in your day to walk the dog, play with your cat, or bundle up the kids for a few hours at the park.
  • Bust out your old workout DVDs or download an app. You know you have some old step aerobics or Tae Bo videos lying around. Fire them up and not only will you enjoy a great workout; you’re also guaranteed to have a laugh, which can do wonders for your mental health. If you were born after 1990, check out apps like Obé (literally ALL fitness formats you could imagine). You can surf YouTube for free options (Yoga with Adrienne is a favorite).
  • Find a new hobby. Winter is approaching, but that shouldn’t keep you from staying active. Instead, take up a new hobby that gets you moving such as skiing, skating, or sledding. Hey, even making snow angels can burn up to 100 calories. Engaging in new activities has also been shown to boost brain health.

Eat better

When it comes to nutrition, the little things can add up. Instead of viewing “eating well” as cutting out all the foods you can’t have, reframe your thinking in a way that lends itself to abundance. For instance, replacing your sugar-laden breakfast cereal with a nutrient-packed smoothie and an omelette with tons of heart healthy veggies can feel like a decadent experience.

  • Watch the booze. If having a glass of wine or beer (or two) each night has become a ritual for you, consider nixing it, or cutting back. Not only are you looking at around 150 calories per beverage, but the negative effects of alcohol include increased risks of heart disease and some cancers.
  • Up the veg. Aim for half your plate to be chock-full of veggies at each meal. You’ll save money by decreasing your meat consumption, and more vegetables in your diet will help to support your immune system against cold and flu (or otherwise).
  • Cut the sugar. Your daily double-double and a donut habit isn’t doing you any favours. The average Canadian consumes 26 teaspoons of sugar per day, and you might be surprised to learn how much of that number can come from strange sources such as condiments or fruit juices. Check your food labels and opt for whole-food sources whenever possible.

Be happier

Mental health is perhaps one of the most important health considerations when it comes to living in our COVID-19 world. From instant shutdowns, to worrying about loved ones, to income anxiety, it’s no wonder our brains are having a tough time coping. If you’re feeling more stressed or quicker to anger than usual, or have days where it takes all your effort just to get off the couch, you’re not alone. Try these tips to gain control over your mental health, and remember that if you need extra help, it’s always available. If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis, call Pembroke Regional Hospital’s hotline at 1-866-996-0991.

  • Practice mindfulness. Is your mind spinning faster than a hamster on an exercise wheel? Try taking a deep breath and gently bring your mind back to the present task instead of splitting your attention. If you’re still having trouble, write down all the things that are going through your mind so you have the chance to sort them out one by one when the time is right.
  • Talk it out. Give your ruminating thoughts a place to land and call up a friend. Not only does it help to talk things through so you can process your feelings, but research shows that being social can add years to your life and support your brain health.
  • Count your blessings. It’s easy to get caught up in feeling like you’re doomed, especially now. But practicing gratitude has a host of health benefits, namely, improved resilience and self-esteem, and even better quality sleep. Next time you’re feeling down in the dumps, list three things in your life that you’re truly grateful for, and watch your mood improve.

Consult your healthcare practitioner before starting a new exercise program.

About the author: Chelsea Clarke relocated from Toronto to the Madawaska Valley in 2016 in search of a slower pace. In 2017, she opened Madawaska Valley Dance, a dance and fitness studio for children and adults, which has found a permanent home in Wilno. She’s also the assistant editor for STRONG Fitness Magazine. In the interests of full disclosure, both in-person and virtual classes are available at Madawaska Valley Dance.

photo tereza hoskova

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