Dr Catherine Bacus has six healthy habit suggestions to help you look after the foundations of your lifestyle. This will help to improve your overall health and wellbeing, and support your mental health during this COVID-19 crisis.
Closed Captions available for those in our Alevia community with a hearing impairment.
Sleep is crucially important for your mental and physical health. If you’ve been stressed and having trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. It’s really important to focus on making habits around getting to sleep and getting up at the same time each day. Try to set a regular wake up time each day, which might be 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning, and go to bed at the time when you start to feel tired, which should ideally be around 10pm at night. You need 6-8 hours of sleep every night, otherwise you may start to get increased feelings of hunger and less satiety or suppression of our appetite which can cause weight gain. A lack of sleep can also enhance your stress and anxiety levels, as well as disrupt your brain’s cognitive ability to process information and concentrate on tasks throughout the day. If you’d like more tips on getting better sleep, check out BeyondBlue’s page on quality sleep here.
#2 – Nutrition
Looking after you what you eat each day is crucially important as well. We know that when we eat junk food, it often then makes us like junk afterwards… so eating foods that are vital and are rich in vitamins and nutrients is essential. Particularly, our healthy, low-starch vegetables, such as broccoli, capsicum, tomatoes, spinach, green beans, etc. If you’re doing a VLED and you get into ketosis, then that’s fantastic because that’s really good for your appetite suppression and you’re getting your nutrients covered. If you’re in a low carbohydrate diet, the important thing to remember is to reduce those refined carbohydrates as much as you can. They can be a desired food when we’re trying to improve our mood and well-being, but we end up riding that the sugar roller coaster and the highs and lows don’t do us any favors – we end up crashing after that. So healthy, vital foods are ideal during this time. If you struggle with cravings and emotional eating as a coping mechanism, you can read our blog post on tips to handle emotional eating here.
#3 – Alcohol (avoidance!)
Alcohol affects our GABA receptors in our brain and also has the risk of addiction, so we really want to limit our alcohol intake during this stressful period of time. It can be tempting to use alcohol to manage stress anxiety, but it does decrease our cognitive power, interrupt our sleep quality and heighten mental health issues such as depression. So avoidance of alcohol is always crucial for your health and well-being in general, but especially during this uncertain period of anxiety and stress.
#4 – Physical Activity
You should aim to get active for about 30 mins everyday – whether that may be walking, body-weight exercises, stretching or even something fun like dancing around the house to release some stress. You can watch Dr Bacus’ video on exercising in COVID-19 here.
#5 – Sunshine
Getting outside for some fresh air and sunshine is important for decreasing stress levels, our Vitamin D levels and improving our sleep cycle. If you can combine physical activity outside with sunshine…even better! This habit will be harder to enforce as winter and the colder weather sets in, but if you can aim to get even 5-10 minutes of sunlight between 12-2pm in the afternoon, this will be great for your health and wellbeing.
#6 – Social connection
In some ways, this habit is the most important! You need to be making sure that you have people who you can feel a sense of
intimacy with, people that you can share the stresses or the burdens that you’re carrying with, and simply people that you can have a laugh
with. You can use social media and technology to stay connected with your friends and family, whether that is through Zoom, picking up the phone, or even posting in the private Alevia support group on Facebook to reach out to people who are in the same boat as you. (If you’re not currently in the support group for patients but you’d like to be, you can join by clicking here)
The Coronavirus pandemic is really showing that everyone actually is in this together – the changes that we’re all going through are universal, but it can be hard to remember this sometimes when we’re physically isolated from each other. So it is important to make sure that you are connected to your people, because it will do a world of good for your mental health and well-being.