By Lauren Killey
How do you improve sleep quality and reduce stress during a time of global panic (COVID-19)?
With our current world changing, and everyone experiencing a shift into the unknown, we are moving even more from a relaxed (parasympathetic) into a constantly stressed (sympathetic) state.
Our mind and body will respond to the stressors in our environment with this ‘fight or flight’ state. So, how do we learn to relax, rejuvenate, rest and get ourselves into our optimal, sympathetic state?
To optimise your sleep and get better quality rest:
Develop a consistent sleep routine: begin by turning off your phone after dinner and avoid blue light (devices, fluorescent lights and LED lighting) in the evening as this light will impact our body’s natural circadian rhythm and potentially limit the release of melatonin (sleep hormone).
Wind down: 20-40 minutes before bed, avoid stress-inducing activities (working out too late, social media, television etc) and replace with an activity which promotes a relaxed state.
This could be reading, journaling, meditation – whatever helps you to wind down the mind!
Drink tea! Passionflower tea will help to calm the mind as it will extend the half-life of GABA (the hormone which helps us to relax).
Kick things up a notch: Use supplements to aid in sleep quality. Magnesium is a bang-for-your-buck supplement which not only aids in muscle soreness and cramps, deficiencies (which are common in highly-trained individuals) but it also helps to calm the mind; ideal if you struggle to unwind in the evening. If you have trouble staying asleep, try melatonin (our natural sleep hormone).
To destress, we want to focus on behaviours, thoughts and daily rituals:
Stay focused! We want to have purpose each day. Without a goal, something to focus on, we have no direction. This can lead to a sense of loss, doubt, confusion; an array of negative emotions.
If we use each day to grow, learn and progress in some way, if we have clear goals to focus on, we will foster more positive emotions of fulfilment and pride.
First, focus on the big picture. Who do you want to be in 6 months? What do you want to achieve? Then break down these BIG goals into monthly, weekly and daily goals.
Each evening, as a part of your wind-down routine, write down the priority tasks and to-do list you need for the following day. Having a clear schedule each day will keep us busy and on track; rather than focusing on the uncertainty of our current world, we can keep our blinders on and succeed in what we want to achieve.
These positive emotions will help to mitigate anxiety and stress caused by uncertainty and fear of the unknown.
Establish and maintain daily habits: our habits and rituals shape who we become. Our daily actions lead to our future success. By developing consistent habits, we will have structure; this will help to mitigate daily stressors and anxiety caused by the unknown, disorganisation or, simply, a lack of structure.
Develop lifestyle routines (sleep routines, water intake, goal setting), nutrition (meal prep, food tracking, water intake, supplements), training (home-workouts, steps, cardio, mobility and stretching).
Turn weaknesses into strengths: Do you have a weaker core but stronger legs? Great hip mobility but limited movement in your upper body? Are you great at communication but not so great at making-schedules?
Take note of your weaknesses and come up with an action plan to work on these every day. In time, and with consistency, the weaknesses you focus on will become strengths. Part of this is becoming more educated in areas which will benefit you.
Use this time to LEARN! Have you always wanted to learn another language, try a new hobby? Make a goal to learn one new thing every day. Dedicate time to growth and progression and focusing on YOU.
Connect: We are experiencing lock-downs, isolations and containment – it doesn’t mean we can not connect with others. And this is so important for overall health! Keep communication and quality time up with phone calls, video chats and social distancing catch ups.
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