Young Women's Support Specialist & Qualified Yoga Instructor
We are living in new and strange times since the outbreak of Covid-19. It’s becoming more important than ever to stay well and look after ourselves and those around us. This includes tending to our social and spiritual needs, as well as looking after our physical and emotional well-being.
Although the world is slowly returning to a new 'normal', many of us are still working from home and social distancing measures are still in place. Thankfully, there are still ways to connect with loved ones, colleagues and community, but it's still so important to take care of yourself. We wanted to share tips from our Optibac experts which have helped us all get through these challenging times!
So, what is self-care?
This might seem like an obvious question to ask. But the truth is it’s going to mean different things to different people. This is something our Co-founder, Farah, reminded us of at a recent lunchtime Zoom meeting – as individuals, effective self-care is going to vary depending on your likes, interests, personality and need.
And circumstance. Some of us are still more isolated whereas some are, for better or worse, still surrounded by family! There are those juggling working from home with childcare, and others with much more time on their hands than they’d like. And for every person who has space to spread out, there'll be someone else feeling very hemmed in.
Luckily, our team has come up with some suggestions that can be adapted for nearly any situation. All are designed to nourish us and keep us going through this challenging time. We’ve been sharing our own practice with each other daily – all you need to do is take your pick from our highlights!
Rest, relax and digest
We need to get the parasympathetic nervous system switched on, often referred to as ‘rest and digest mode’. In this mode our nervous system relaxes, lowering our blood pressure and promoting better digestion.
1. For lots of us this period has been an opportunity to rest, which is always a good thing. Go to bed a little earlier, sleep in a little later, take naps when you need to. Keep a regular bedtime and try to get as much natural light in the mornings as possible.
2. For some of us the solace of physical contact is still minimal. If that’s you (and even if it isn’t) self-massage can have a hugely relaxing and calming effect. Our Nutritional Therapist, Camilla, uses an Ayurvedic oil blend after a bath or shower to massage feet, legs and arms towards the heart then, in a clockwise motion, the stomach, and finally the neck and shoulders. She explains, ‘the technique helps boost the immune system, aiding lymphatic drainage and decreasing the toxic load.’
3. 70% of our immunity is in the gut! Eating colourfully (lots of fresh fruit & veg), staying hydrated and having plenty of downtime will support better gut health and boost immunity.
Ritual and routine
When our world feels uncertain, it makes sense that the normalcy of routine and the reassurance of rituals are even more comforting than usual. You can find tips for creating a family morning routine.
4. Providing our day with some structure is a good place to start. Jo, our Marketer, has been setting an alarm on her phone to remind her to have lunchtimes and breaktimes as normal!
5. If you are trying to work from home, think about how you can make your workstation distinct from your home-space, even if it’s just a case of packing your laptop away and out of sight in the evenings.
6. We can find inner strength by speaking daily affirmations. Our Scottish Trainer, Ghaz, starts each morning by picking an encouraging affirmation from her ‘Sunshine and Positivity’ jar and reading it aloud!
Mind, body & soul
Self-care is a holistic practice, involving tending to our whole selves, and is as much about mindset as it is about action.
7. Whilst knowing and accepting that this is hard, is there also space for opportunity and growth? Can we find a silver lining? Claire, Nutritional Therapist, is a big believer that ‘how you decide to ‘frame’ what is happening, will determine your experience’. For her, this is the equivalent of being given the gift of time, maybe to learn something new.
8. Daily gratitudes have become a mainstay for me through this experience. I am grateful I am safe, I am grateful I am well, I am grateful for my home. However small, try writing them down – this can become a ritual itself.
9. We care for ourselves by caring for and supporting others. Whether checking in on an older neighbour, signing up as an NHS Volunteer Responder, or simply being a good friend, you feel better when you know you’re helping.
10. Meditate, even if you’re new to it. Our resident Gut Microbiologist, Dr Kate, says that at first her ‘inner scientist wasn’t so sure of the benefits’ but that she’s found it really beneficial, especially the grounding exercises. Try ‘Finding Hope in Uncertain Times’ with Deeprak Choprah and Oprah – a 21-day meditation experience released for free in response to the pandemic.
11. And smile! Even if you don’t feel like it, smiling has been shown to lift your mood.
Movement medicine - treat yourself to exercise
It’s so very important to keep our bodies moving, especially when we might feel restricted in other ways.
12. Stretch, flex and dance! Dancing to your favourite music is freeing, playful and fun.
13. Try to take at least one form of exercise per day. If you’re able to, use it! Whether it’s to walk, jog, run or cycle you will feel better for having been outside, especially if you’re able to find some green space.
14. Yoga comes up time and again in relation to self-care and that’s because it works, helping us to connect with our breath and calm the nervous system. So many studios are now offering online classes and there’s an abundance of free classes across Instagram and YouTube. Yoga with Adriene has been a big hit with us.
Appeal to your senses
Nearly everything we experience is enjoyed via our five incredible senses which, in times of stress, can also be used as tools to help us stay grounded and present.
15. Our Naturopath, Veronique, uses a diffuser with essential oils – ‘I have it on from the moment I start working to the moment I go to bed, burning stimulating oils like rosemary and bergamot during the day and calming oils like lavender and ylang ylang at night.’
16. Have fresh flowers in your house – their colour and scent can be so uplifting. As can caring for houseplants, old and new.
17. Lots of people have been taking this opportunity to try new recipes. Our Ghaz is one of them – she says that anyone looking for inspiration on homemade Indian cooking can give her a shout!
18. Another of our Nutritional Therapists, Seher, says ‘Awaken your senses, listen to music!’
Find connection (…and know when to switch off)
Our ability to keep in touch despite the distancing has been key – the more connected we are, the better we will cope with the past, the present, and the future...
19. Continue to keep in touch with friends, family and teammates. Try setting up a weekly or a daily check-in if you're still working remotely. Lots of Dr Kate’s friends are using the Zoom or House Party apps to host quizzes and social gatherings – she says it’s been fun and ‘in a way less stressful as there’s no travel!’
20. And if you’re trying to keep in touch with someone without a smart phone, maybe this is your chance to put pen to paper. After all nothing shows you care more than a handwritten letter.
21. After being in lockdown, in some ways we are better connected than ever before. And that’s great, until it’s too much. Sometimes we need to know when switch off, so the final tip goes to our Co-founders and sisters, Farah and Soraya, who have introduced a ‘corona curfew’ in their house, meaning that after 6pm no one is allowed to talk or to read about the coronavirus – it gives them permission to relax and think about happier times to come.
People often speak about practising self-care. It’s an important reminder that self-care is something to practice, rather than perfect. Afterall, you don’t want the thing that’s intended to bring you comfort to end up feeling like a chore. Ultimately, self-care is about showing yourself love and tending to your needs, so remember to be kind and do the things that feel good.
If this has felt helpful, please do share it with your friends and followers on social media and get in touch to let us know what’s working for you – we would love to add your ideas to the list! And otherwise, stay well and look after yourself.
Article Updated: 16 Mar 2023Originally Published: 13 Apr 2020