As the days pass in this unprecedented lockdown, there continues to be more and more information rising to the top around our mental wellbeing. Whether we are working or not, most of us are confined to our homes for many more hours than we are used to. This compounded in either situation of family members being around all the time or the opposite of being in solitude. It’s such an important time for us all to stop, take a moment and to assess how as individuals we do what’s required to keep our minds clear and sharp for the challenging days ahead.
Here’s some simple initiatives you can implement into your day to stay as positive and productive as you can be:
1. Dedicated physical activity – no surprises we start with exercise and training! Research tells us about the endless benefits to exercise for a range of outcomes, but when it comes to the brain it’s been shown that those who do not engage in daily vigorous physical activity do not function anywhere near optimal levels. Vigorous can be defined as activity that elevates breathing and heart rate for 15mins or more.
The benefits of activity are huge to our cognitive brain function. Cognitive functioning refers to multiple mental abilities, including learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving, decision making, and attention span. Activity is just as important to our executive brain function. Executive function is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. We use these skills every day to learn, work, and manage daily life.
Last but not least activities benefits to our mental health is crucial. Its ability to release endorphins along with a host of other ‘feel good’ chemicals is the ideal injection we need in these tough times.
2. Movement snacks – With or without the lockdown, prolonged periods of sitting aren’t good for any of us. When it comes to brain function prolonged periods of sitting (be working or on the couch!) allows stress hormones to take charge, not to mention the lethargy that comes with it.
Movement snacks are just the fun term used to describe 30 seconds of continuous full body movement; could be running on the spot, could be star jumps, could be squats – whatever you like and are capable of doing. This is a great way to recharge the brain and get it back to a productive state.
3. Box Breathing – is a breathing technique to come out of the special forces and now used more widely for 3 reasons; cooling down after activity, a meditation exercise to slow the body and centre your thoughts or as a stress relief in periods of anxiety or frustration.
The easiest way to describe how to perform it is 4 easy steps; Breathe in, hold, breathe out, hold. Each of the steps can be at intervals of 3, 4 or 5 seconds depending on what you’re most comfortable with.
So for example it would sound like:
- BREATHE IN 2, 3, 4
- HOLD 2, 3, 4
- BREATHE OUT 2, 3, 4
- HOLD 2, 3, 4
Then repeat minimum of 5 times for best effect.
These and many others are shared from the work of Paul Taylor, the director of the Body-Brain Performance Institute and one of Australia’s leading fitness industry presenters.
It’s certainly not an easy time for any of us and with our sites closed, that has felt like a part of our lives and routines have been taken away. Hopefully implementing some routine and examples from above can make things somewhat easier until we return to the world we are much more familiar with.