Looking after ourselves

General

After we have all experienced an incredibly challenging 2020, CHS Head of Sport Science and Assistant Director of the Waconian programme, Mr Andy Wrathall shares a few thoughts and helpful take-aways for anyone wishing to spend a little time working on their wellbeing in 2021.

2 minute read

“We are all leading busy (and stressful) lives at the moment,” Andy says. “The aim of this blog is to provide you with some tips to make life a little easier to manage. It will only take 2 minutes of your time and you never know there might be a tip which helps, if only a little. Try to take at least one thing into your daily routine. It’s all about marginal gains.”

No. 5: Scheduling your day…

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Do you ever find yourself asking the following questions? “I don’t get any time to myself”, or “I don’t get anything done”. This is not uncommon, and we all do it to a greater or lesser extent, depending on our circumstances. So how about making a detailed daily schedule that accounts for every minute of the day. Most people’s initial response to this would be that it would cause an increase in anxiety and worry as the whole day is planned. You could start your plan as follows:

  • 6.15 – wake up
  • 6.20-6.45 – yoga / mindfulness / reading / workout / walk etc
  • 6.45-7.00 – shower and get ready
  • 7.00-7.20 – breakfast
  • Etc, etc

And plan right through to the end of the day. Make sure that you plan time for yourself to do the things you enjoy.

This may take a bit of time to set up initially, but you’ll soon find that you get more done, and create more time for yourself, without feeling guilty about it (it’s in your daily plan after all!). And then at the end of each day you’ll see a satisfying list of ticked items, indicating how much you’ve achieved.

Each tick will also give you a little shot of dopamine. Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter which contributes to our feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, thus boosting our mood. This positive feedback from your ticked list will reinforce your feeling of being in control. Scheduling will help you prioritise what really matters to you. However, when scheduling you have to be honest with yourself. How much time do you waste on social media, watching mindless TV or procrastinating about what to actually do? 

Once you’ve got used to scheduling your day, you could start a little competition with yourself, by trying to beat your own schedule. This will create more gaps, so you become more productive. 

TIPS TO GET YOUR SCHEDULE UP AND RUNNING:

  • Think about what activity you would like to spend more time doing.
  • Decide what are the three most important things that you’d like to get done each day.
  • Decide who would you like to try and spend more time with than you do at the moment.
  • If you feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to get all that you want done, consider getting up earlier. There are often fewer distractions, and you tend to be more productive earlier in the morning.

No. 4: Getting away from your tech

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The first thing I’d like to say is that this is not an anti-technology post. The change in technology over recent years has been a revolution with a huge number of benefits, especially during this pandemic – greater access to information, increased social connections and interaction, and entertainment, to name but a few. But I’d be surprised if any of us said ‘I don’t spend enough time on my phone, I need to up my weekly minutes!’

Some of the downsides of using technology too much include:

  • Being distracted and not paying attention
  • Stops you sleeping as well
  • Stress levels increase as you become dependent on it
  • Shoulder, neck and back strains due to the position you adopt when using technology
  • Hampers your own thinking as you go to your phone for all the answers
  • You never get away from school or work
  • Nomophobia – phobia of being out of mobile phone contact, increasing your anxiety

TIPS TO DECREASE YOUR SCREEN TIME:

  • When you pick up your phone, use the acronym WWW:
    • What for – what am I picking up my phone for?
    • Why now – why am I doing it now? Can it wait?
    • What else – what could I be doing more productively instead?
  • Leave your phone in a different room so it’s not as easy to pick up and definitely don’t have it with you at night when you are sleeping
  • Put your greyscale filter on. This removes colour from your phone so it doesn’t grab your attention as much.
  • Have designated times in the day when you switch your phone off. I do this between 5pm and 8pm each evening so that I’m more present with my family.
  • Leave your phone at home when you go out.
  • Put your phone on flight mode so that you can still use it as a camera but you don’t get all the notifications.

No. 3: Learning how to breathe…

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This might sound strange as surely we all know how to breathe – it’s instinctive!

But learning how to breathe, so it reduces stress levels is priceless. There’s not an easier, quicker way of calming yourself.

When we breathe out in a slow, controlled way we activate our parasympathetic nervous system. When this nervous system is in control, we feel more relaxed. Opposingly, the sympathetic nervous system, which can also be referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ system, is the one that takes over when we feel threatened or stressed. So, it’s clear that having your parasympathetic system dominating is great for your wellbeing.

Here’s a few benefits of taking some time to breathe:

  • Relieves your stress and anxiety
  • Improves your mood
  • Improves your memory, focus and attention
  • Increases your energy
  • Reduces your muscular tension

You should always aim to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to enhance the benefits.

Aim to have a go at one of these examples every day for at least one minute:

  • Box breathing – breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds. Repeat for at least one minute.
  • Six breaths – focus on taking six deep breaths in one minute.
  • 3-4-5 breathing – breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and breathe out for 5 seconds for at least one minute.

FINDING TIME TO BREATHE:

It’s easy to fit some breathing into your daily routine. Here are some suggestions:

  • While taking a shower
  • When having a drink
  • On a walk
  • When you wake up
  • Before you go to sleep

No. 2: Getting more lux light…

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Firstly, you’re probably asking what lux light is.

A lux is a unit used to measure the intensity of light hitting a surface. And for comparison, these are some average lux values:

  • Lux on a bright sunny day can be up to 100,000 units
  • Lux on a cloudy day can still be up to 10,000 units
  • Lux in a brightly lit interior room is only about 500 units

So, as you can see, it’s so important to get natural light into our bodies, even on cloudy days, due to the considerably higher lux value in natural light when compared to artificial light.

But why is getting lots of lux light beneficial?

  • Improves our mood.
  • Helps us sleep better.
  • Makes sure our daily circadian rhythm (our daily sleep – wake cycle) is working well
  • Boosts vitamin D which helps maintain healthy bones and teeth, supports immune and brain system health, and aids cardiovascular and respiratory health.

Therefore, it’s vitally important that you try and get outside during the day and take in some of that ‘free’ natural light, especially in the morning.

TIPS TO INCREASE YOUR MORNING LIGHT:

  • Have your morning tea or coffee outside, either in the garden or while walking – pop a coat on if it’s cold!
  • If you drive in the morning, park your car a short walk from your destination
  • Walk to the local shops instead of driving / taking the bus
  • Get off the bus or train early and walk the remainder of your journey
  • Have a morning break from work / school and go for a short walk with a drink / snack
  • Take a meeting while out walking
  • Move your workstation so it looks out of the window
  • Exercise outdoors or near a window

Try to take at least one thing into your daily routine to make your life better. It’s all about marginal gains!


No. 1: How to sleep better 

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As a nation we are sleeping less than we did 50 years ago. It sometimes seems as though it’s a badge of honour to function on less sleep, but sleep (and good quality sleep) is one of the most important requirements for a healthy life. The amount you need depends on your age. An adult requires 7-9 hours, with teenagers needing more. 

Here’s some benefits of a good night’s sleep:

1. Sleep helps reduce stress

2. Sleep can improve your memory

3. Sleep can lower your blood pressure

4. Sleep helps your body to fight back

5. Sleep can help you maintain your weight

6. Sleep puts you in a better mood

7. Sleep could reduce your chances of diabetes

8. Sleep helps keep your heart healthy

9. Sleep can be a painkiller

10. Sleep can make you smarter

So, with that list why wouldn’t you want to try and have a good night’s sleep.

4 GREAT TIPS TO HELP YOU SLEEP WELL:

1. Power down your tech – 90 minutes before bed, try and switch off all modern technology: tablets, phones, etc. This reduces the amount of mental and emotional stimulation you are receiving.

2. Get some daylight in the morning – exposing yourself to natural light, especially in the morning, helps you sleep better. It does this by helping you set your body’s daily circadian rhythm.

3. Avoid caffeine after midday – opinions vary but it can take several hours to metabolise caffeine which means it can still be in your system when you’re trying to get to sleep. If you don’t think it is, try giving up caffeine after midday for a few days and see if your sleep improves. I’m convinced it will.

4. Have a bedtime routine – young children have one so why shouldn’t we all have one. It helps us unwind from our busy lives. Try doing some meditation or reading a book before going to sleep.


Keep checking back, or better yet ‘follow’ the Be Extraordinary blog to be kept up to date with more wellbeing tips from Mr Wrathall as they’re added. In the meantime…

Tune in to our ‘Healthy New Year’ episode of CHS’s very own The Ed. Podcast

including more tips on looking after your mental and physical wellbeing. Featuring…

  • Nutritional advice with Nick of CHS’s catering team Independents By Sodexo
  • Sports motivation with CHS sports scholars
  • Looking after our mental health: combating exam stress and Seasonal Affective Disorder with CHS School Counsellor Rachel Vora
  • Reading for mental health with Year 7 Book Club
  • Ever tried Zumba? with Senior School Zumba Class

And much more!


Feeling a little flat? Why not lift your spirits by giving CHS Sports Department’s daily lockdown workouts a go… visit the playlist on our YouTube channel now and hit ‘subscribe’ to be alerted with each new session as it’s updated.