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,” he 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. 20: Taking a Holiday…
As the pupils are just starting their well-deserved Summer break, I thought it would be apt to close these 2-minute tips for this academic year with some information about taking a holiday. So as if you didn’t need persuading to take a holiday, here’s the top reasons why it benefits you.
- Improves your mental health by decreasing stress levels
- Improves your physical health, including having less chance of heart disease
- Increases your motivation to achieve your goals
- You have greater well-being by improving your sleep and mood
- Increases your mental motivation when returning to work
- Improves your family relationships
- Decreases burnout so you are more creative and productive on your return
- Increases happiness
So, in order to gain some of these benefits, what should you be doing on your holiday to maximise its effect.
- Sleep – this allows your body to recover
- Hang out with your family and friends – connecting with others improves your well-being
- Visit some new places and learn about them
- Turn your tech off so your brain can switch off
- Plan a small list of some of the things that you want to do during your holiday
- Do some things that don’t require much mental stimulation so your brain can rest – meditate, do some colouring, go for a walk in nature.
- Try something new which stimulates the brain in a different way – try cooking, listen to a podcast, try a new activity.
Enjoy your Summer break and I hope that these snippets have helped you in some small way since Christmas.
No. 19: Getting into flow…
You may be wondering what flow is and how we experience it, so have a go at answering the following questions:
- Have you ever been utterly immersed in an activity?
- Have you ever been oblivious to the outside world, focused only on your own progress and what’s going on right here and now?
- Have you ever been doing something you love, like playing music or a certain sport, before realising that time has totally passed you by?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you’ve probably been experiencing flow. It’s a state of mind in which you become fully immersed in an activity. Flow experiences can occur in different ways for different people. It often occurs when you are doing something that you enjoy and in which you are quite skilled. Flow is one of life’s highly enjoyable states of being, wrapping us entirely in the present, and helping us be more creative, productive, and happy. This state is often associated with the creative arts. However, it can also occur while engaging in sport.
Some of the benefits of flow are:
- Better emotional regulation to develop skills that allow you to control your emotions more effectively.
- Greater happiness, enjoyment and fulfilment.
- Greater intrinsic motivation so that you do things for internal rewards rather than for external gain.
- Increased engagement and improved performance in the task
- Learning and skill development.
- More creativity.
So how can you get more flow into your life? The great thing about flow is that anyone can do it. All you need to do is try an activity that you are interested in. It could just be reading a book. Here are a few tips to help you get into that flow state:
- Make goals that provide you with feedback on a quick and regular basis.
- Allow yourself to get immersed in the activity.
- Focus and don’t allow distractions to divert your attention.
- Balance the skills required with the challenges being presented. If something is too hard, make smaller, more manageable tasks. If you are bored and have mastered the task, increase the challenge.
- Engage in an activity that is rewarding in itself.
The more you practice flow activities, the easier it is to achieve.
No. 18: ‘Me’ Time…
I’m guessing that we all crave more ‘me’ time when we can do what we want to do, hopefully without interruption. Having ‘me’ time is a biological need. Most people in our culture feel the need to be on the go all the time. If we are not working and putting our energy into something, we believe we are wasting time. And to some extent it’s true – relentlessly pushing yourself may bring some measure of success. However, going for long periods without time for yourself may cost you in the end. Stress and the inability to just enjoy a little time-out have very real health and psychological effects, including cardiovascular disease, lessened immune function, mental fatigue, anxiety, and increased irritability. Just like we need sleep, we need ‘me’ time.
Here are some of the benefits of taking regular ‘me’ time:
- Allows us to reboot our brains and unwind.
- Improves concentration and boosts productivity.
- Provides some deep-thinking time.
- Helps us work through problems more effectively.
- Enhances the quality of our social relationships.
When we know we’ve had some ‘me’ time we can be more present with others. So how can we get more ‘me’ time into our lives. Here’s a few ideas:
- Disconnect – set aside some time each day to unplug from all the ways you connect with others. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can get done when you’re not distracted.
- Get up earlier – wake up earlier than everyone else in your house and use that time for yourself.
- Close your door – it’s simple but can be very effective. It acts as a barrier for those who are about to disturb you.
- Use your lunchtime – don’t spend your lunchtime working at your desk. Commit to spending lunch with yourself. Walk. Sit in the sun outside. Go to a park and eat. Enjoy the time you have alone.
- Schedule ‘me’ time – mark off time in your calendar for spending time alone with yourself. It doesn’t have to be long. Any time that you can spend alone with yourself to reboot, meditate, focus, relax, create, produce, or think deeply is better than no time.
So, what’s stopping you, get some more ‘me’ time into your life and feel the benefit for yourself and for those around you.
No. 17: Staying Hydrated…
Water is essential to life, and we should all be aware of our hydration needs. We all know that drinking water is good for us but are we drinking enough and how can we try and drink more if we need to? Water makes up two thirds of our body. Therefore, it is vital we drink enough fluid to maintain a healthy balance. Many of us get dehydrated by not drinking enough water or by losing fluids and not replacing them.
Staying hydrated can benefit us in many ways. Here are a few:
- It improves memory and mood. Being dehydrated can also lead to headaches.
- It aids weight maintenance – the brain can’t tell the difference between hunger & thirst, so often we mistake thirst as a ‘sugar craving’. The next time you feel the need for sugar, try a glass of water first. Research has also shown that having water before a meal may fill you up more and therefore promote weight loss through suppressing your appetite.
- It improves exercise performance.
- It helps prevent constipation – water helps to ‘keep things moving’ in the digestive system.
- It supports the health of the urinary system
- It combats fatigue – water is one of the most important sources of energy for your body. It helps cells complete important enzymatic activities which contribute to good sleep, restoration of bodily systems, and the production of energy to get you through your day.
The common recommendation is to drink about 1.5 litres per day, or 6-8 glasses. However, this amount will vary according to health, age, and weight, as well as activity levels, your daily routine and the climate. A rule of thumb is to drink little and often, especially when you feel thirsty.
Here are a few ways to drink more water if you think you’re not getting enough.
- Always carry a reusable bottle with you.
- Set a reminder on your watch or phone to take a drink.
- Replace other drinks such as soda or sports drinks with water.
- Make drinking one glass of water a habit before every meal, when you wake up, and before you go to bed.
- Flavour your water with pieces of fruit (cucumber, lime and lemon are great for this).
- Eat more foods high in water, such as lettuce, cucumber, and melon.
Try some of these tips and reap the benefits of staying hydrated.
No. 16: Being altruistic…
Altruism is one of our five Waconian Values. It is defined as having a selfless concern for the well-being of others. Basically, if you show altruism, you are doing things simply out of a desire to help. It is not difficult to be altruistic and there are so many benefits to both you and the recipient. Here are some of them:
- Helping other people feels good. Evidence suggests that when you help others, it can promote physiological changes in the brain linked with happiness. Helping others can also improve our support networks and encourage us to be more active. This in turn can improve our self-esteem.
- It creates a sense of belonging and reduces isolation. Volunteering and helping others can also help us make new friends and connect with our community. Face-to-face activities such as volunteering for a charity can help reduce loneliness.
- It helps keep things in perspective. Many people don’t realise the impact that a different perspective can have on their outlook on life. Helping others, especially those who are less fortunate than yourself, can help to put things into perspective and make you feel more positive. Evidence suggests that being aware of your own acts of kindness, as well as the things you are grateful for, can increase feelings of happiness, optimism, and satisfaction. Doing good may help you to have a more positive outlook about your own circumstances.
- It helps make the world a happier place – it’s contagious! An act of kindness can improve feelings of confidence, being in control, happiness and optimism. It may also encourage others to repeat the good deed that they’ve experienced themselves – contributing to a more positive community.
- The more you do for others, the more you do for yourself. The benefits of helping others can last long after the act itself, both for you and them.
There are many ways you can get more altruism into your life. Here are a few suggestions:
- Do a random act of kindness by putting others first. Hold the door open for somebody; give up your seat on the train to somebody; make sure the new person feels included at work or in your social group.
- Buy food for a homeless person. It’s much more altruistic to buy something for the person, rather than just handing out cash. Give it with a smile and don’t expect or require gratitude.
- Take 5 minutes out of your day to focus positive intentions on someone who is not a friend or relative.
- Donate good quality items you no longer need to charity rather than selling them. You could offer to build or fix an item for someone in need or give your time freely helping a charity.
- Pick up some litter in the park; cook meals for a family who are struggling in some way.
- Be grateful. Counting your blessings will help you feel more content with what you already have. Start a gratitude journal in which you write at least 3 things you’re grateful for every day.
Try one of these suggestions above. Being altruistic is beneficial for the recipient and for yourself.
No. 15: Connections…
Here’s the headline – connection is just as important for your health as being a healthy weight and being active. When researchers refer to the concept of social connection, they mean the feeling that you belong to a group and generally feel close to other people. Scientific evidence strongly suggests that this is a core psychological need, essential to feeling satisfied with your life. Indeed, humans are a social species; our drive to connect with others is embedded in our evolutionary history. It begins at birth, in our relationship with our caregiver—and the effects of this relationship seem to reverberate throughout our lives. When we are cared for as children, we are more likely to have healthy, secure attachments as we get older.
In addition, the pleasures of social life register in our brains in much the same way physical pleasure does. Scientists believe we are essentially wired to connect with other people because natural selection favoured humans with a stronger tendency to care for their offspring and organise into groups.
Some of the benefits of being socially connected are:
- It lowers your stress levels by decreasing the release of cortisol, our stress hormone.
- It maintains your cognitive ability.
- It boosts your mental health.
Here are some ways to develop and strengthen your connections:
- Have a special connection with someone you can communicate with regularly.
- Stay in touch with your family and friends. Try to give someone a call today who you have not spoken to in a while.
- Make an intention to speak to a different friend each week.
- Don’t rely on your mobile device for comfort – make conversation with people when you’re out and about – in a queue, on the bus, etc.
- Focus on your positive relationships and cultivate these. Avoid the ones which aren’t reciprocated or make you unhappy.
Try one of the tips above. By staying socially connected you will be happier and more content in your life.
No. 14: Self-compassion…
Compassion is one of our five Waconian Values; the others being Resilience, Integrity, Contribution and Endeavour. Compassion is a feeling of sympathy for someone who is suffering in some way, and a desire to help them. Take the scenario of a child who has fallen over, hurt their knee, and is crying. You would go over and comfort the child, not blaming them for falling over. In essence, you would show them compassion. Self-compassion is treating yourself in the same way you would the fallen child. It is attending to your own suffering and treating yourself with attention, kindness, and care. It means not dismissing your own pain and struggles as meaningless or judging yourself harshly for mistakes.
Some of the benefits of self-compassion are:
- You become more resilient
- You have increased productivity and can get more done
- You are less stressed.
Here are some tips and techniques for practising self-compassion:
- Treat yourself as you would treat a friend – allow yourself to make mistakes and care for yourself in the same way that you would for others.
- Be more self-aware – use releasing statements by telling yourself it’s OK to have certain feelings, rather than berating yourself for having that feeling. Try not to judge yourself too quickly. Know your strengths and accept your perceived shortcomings as areas of development. Practise mindfulness.
- Gain (or regain) perspective and realise that we are all part of a bigger picture. Avoid the need for outside validation for what you are doing as this can lead to stress. Talk to others about your self-compassion so that you reframe your perceived problems within the ‘bigger picture’ and start building social support networks that help your well-being.
Here are some ways to boost your self-compassion:
- Write a letter to yourself imagining yourself as a compassionate friend writing to you.
- Write down any self-critical words that you use and ask yourself if you’d say these to a friend.
- Develop an easy to say self-compassion mantra.
- Meditate to release self-critical thoughts and emotions.
Try building one of the tips above into your daily routine. By practising self-compassion your life will be enriched.
No. 13: Journaling…
Journaling can be whatever you want it to be. In essence it is a record of your thoughts. At least 50% of us have probably journaled (sort of) at some point in our lives – a childhood diary, a travel diary, a notebook of your thoughts. Journaling can be fun – writing about our positive thoughts and feelings can bring happiness and warmth. You can also look back on a journal as a reminder of your happy memories in years to come. It can also be a way to help us through tough times – putting our thoughts down on paper will help us to process them and come to terms with them.
Journaling can help with the following::
- Achieving your goals.
- Reducing stress and anxiety.
- Problem solving.
- Improving thought processes and cognitive functioning.
- Strengthening your immune system response.
- Improving your mood, especially if you note what you are grateful for each day.
The basic idea is to write down a few of your thoughts every day. Try to avoid your journal being a record of what you did each day (e.g., for lunch I had…). Don’t think too much about things, just start writing and allow the words to come in any way. If you are struggling to put pen to paper some prompts could be:
- What are your dreams?
- What three wishes would you like?
- What would you like to be doing in 2 years?
- What are you grateful for?
To gain the full benefit of journaling, keep it private so that you can really express yourself without the fear of someone else seeing it.
A FEW TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED:
- Try to write each day, even if only for 5 minutes. Have a set time, usually when you wake up or before you go to sleep, so that you get into a routine of writing.
- Don’t worry if you miss a day or two, just get started again.
- Don’t worry about neatness or grammar, just write.
Journaling can be a great way to express yourself and help you rationalise and understand your thoughts and feelings.
No. 12: Gratitude…
Gratitude is the expression of appreciation for what you have. It is taking time to think about the positive things in your life. Showing gratitude is becoming increasingly more valuable as a practice to promote wellbeing and contentment. When practising gratitude, you are making a conscious effort to be thankful for all that you have.
Having a daily gratitude practice has several benefits including:
- Boosting your mental health.
- Relieving stress.
- Being more optimistic.
- Improving your relationships with family and friends.
- Helping you sleep.
Gratitude is an affirmation of warmth and goodness and makes you feel better. By regularly practising gratitude, it moves your inner attention away from negative thoughts and worries and decreases your use of negative words and phrases.
And it’s really easy to start doing some daily gratitude practice.
IDEAS OF WAYS TO BUILD GRATITUDE INTO YOUR DAILY LIFE :
- At dinner, each family member gives three things they are grateful for that day.
- Keep a gratitude journal, noting when you feel thankful for something.
- Perform random acts of kindness for others during the day or write someone a thank you message.
- Be mindful so that you are using all your senses as much as possible and be thankful for what you see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.
- Have a visual reminder at home or in school or at work which triggers your gratitude that day.
- Be polite – say thank you, greet people, ask how a friend or colleague is today.
- Use positive words and phrases.
- Do some gratitude-based meditation.
Try building one of the tips above into your daily routine. If we are more grateful for what we have, we will gain more from our lives.
No. 11: Meditation…
Meditation and mindfulness have many similarities and can overlap, but the terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Meditation tends to refer to formal, seated practice. It usually begins with deep breathing in a comfortable position, bringing all your awareness to your breath and consciously guiding the mind toward a single point of focus.
Mindfulness is the simple act of paying attention and noticing, being present in whatever you’re doing. When you are being actively mindful, you are noticing the world around you, as well as your thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and the affects you have on others around you. You can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere, & with anyone by being fully engaged in the here and now.
Meditation brings the following benefits:
- Increased calmness, concentration, awareness, and emotional balance.
- Decreased stress and anxiety.
- Improved self-awareness and sleep.
- Generates kindness and gratitude.
A SIMPLE MEDITATION PRACTICE TO GET YOU STARTED:
- Get comfortable & prepare to sit still for a few minutes, free from any distractions. After you stop reading or listening to this, you’re going to simply focus on your own natural breathing.
- Focus on your breathing. Where do you feel it most? In your stomach, chest, or nose? Try to keep your attention on the place where you feel it most & focus on inhaling & exhaling.
- Follow your breathing for 5 minutes. Take a deep breath in, expanding your chest and stomach, and then exhale slowly, lengthening the out-breath.
- While following your breathing, notice your thoughts. The purpose of meditation is not to clear your mind—your mind is bound to wander. Instead, focus on gently bringing your attention back to your breath whenever you notice your thoughts drifting. Don’t judge your thoughts or try to analyse them; simply direct your mind back to your deep breathing.
- Take note of how you feel at the end. You should feel more relaxed and focused.
There are numerous meditation apps and websites out there for you to try. Have a go at meditating daily, I do it every morning and it’s definitely made a positive difference to my life.
No. 10: Creating habits…
We’ve all tried (and probably failed) to introduce something new into our lives to improve our wellbeing in some way – usually physically or mentally. Ask yourself why didn’t that work, what caused it to fail?
The answer is often linked to it being unrealistic. We often make the goal or habit too big and then beat ourselves up when we inevitably fail. If the goal is too big it often creates anxiety and pressure, it requires too much effort to sustain it. So, here’s a solution – why not start small?
Micro-habits are small parts of a larger habit. By breaking down an ambitious goal into smaller, more achievable ones that you build over time, micro-habits help you complete the big goals.
To succeed with micro habits, try to piggyback it onto an existing daily task. When each micro-habit is so small, it’s hard to skip, meaning willpower isn’t an issue. This helps the micro-habit become part of your daily routine. Track your progress with the micro-habit and use family and friends to hold you accountable and to motivate you. Research suggests that it takes about 66 days for a new habit to become automatic.
Micro-habits link to the Japanese concept of kaizen which means “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” It is a Japanese business philosophy regarding the processes that continuously improve operations and involve all employees. Kaizen sees improvement in productivity as a gradual and methodical process. This can be related to us, as by developing your micro-habits you are trying to improve in a gradual and methodical way.
So, what micro-habits can you start building into your daily routine?
SUGGESTIONS FOR BUILDING MICRO-HABITS:
- Do some squats while cleaning your teeth.
- Always sit with your bottom to the back of the seat.
- Write a daily to do list.
- Start meditating with 5 minutes each day
- Write a journal for a few minutes each evening – it gets things off your mind, so you sleep better.
- Have a glass of water first thing when you wake up and before you eat any meal.
- Do a minute of breathing prior to doom scrolling on your phone – you might decide not to doom scroll.
Try to take at least one tip into your daily routine.
Here’s a few links to look at if you wish to find out more.
No. 9: Having a rest…
It may seem strange to talk about taking a rest, as we all rest at different times of the day – watching TV, reading a book, and brushing our teeth for example. But do we all know how to rest effectively so that it recharges us?
Most of us don’t know how to take a genuine rest: we have always got something on the go, striving to finish something, or get somewhere. Have you ever said to yourself ‘I just need to finish this’ or ‘I’ll rest when this is done?’ It’s as if taking a rest and doing nothing implies we are being lazy.
But actually, taking a rest mid-task may help you complete it more productively. There is also much confusion about what rest actually is. Scrolling through your media feeds definitely isn’t resting as you are absorbing lots of sensory information.
So, what are the benefits of taking a break. Among other things, you are:
- Improving your memory – research has shown that short, repeated sessions of learning with breaks increases your concentration and helps you memorise information.
- Boosting your energy levels as it allows your body to recover and stops you feeling drained if you focus entirely on one task.
- Reducing your stress levels.
- Improving your health due to the positive impact on your immune system, along with lowering your risk of heart disease.
- Raising your performance and creativity – sometimes you get stuck on a task but by taking a break it allows you to process the information and then arrive at a creative solution after your break. Your productivity will be better after a break as well.
TIPS TO GET MORE REST IN YOUR DAILY ROUTINE:
- Set an alarm at certain time intervals to encourage you to take a break.
- Agree to meet someone for a break so that you show up.
- Get away from your workspace when taking a break and don’t take any media devices with you – go for a walk, do some meditation, do some breathing exercise, be mindful.
- Be aware of the benefits of taking a break so that you want to take one regularly.
Resting is stopping work and worry, a sense of being rather than doing. You need to be present in the restful experience, a sense of restful awareness where the whole body and mind is engaged in the restful state.
No. 8: Being active…
We all know how important being active is to our overall health and wellbeing. I’ve deliberately called it ‘being active’ rather than exercise, as the word exercise can sometimes put people off. Making sure we are active every day, whatever our age, helps with the following:
- Decreasing the risk of major illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and type II diabetes.
- Lowering blood pressure and assisting with weight management
- Boosting self-esteem, and mood.
- Improving the quality of our sleep and increasing our energy levels.
- Helping us connect socially
When you are active your brain releases feel-good hormones, such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. These hormones promote positive feelings, including happiness and pleasure. They are released when we are active, along with, for example, when we are outside (especially in sunlight), when we laugh, when we listen to music, when we meditate, and when we stroke our pets.
TIPS TO HELP INCREASE ACTIVITY LEVELS:
- Walk and cycle more instead of jumping in the car or taking public transport.
- Use the stairs instead of the escalator or the lift.
- Park a small distance from your destination or get off public transport a stop early so you walk the remainder of your journey.
- Build some activity into your daily routine – do some squats when brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil.
- Start with a tiny habit – set yourself a goal of a 5–10 minute workout each day for a week and then slowly build it up week on week.
- Get an activity buddy to share your journey. Plan your activity together so that you must turn up to avoid letting your buddy down.
No. 7: Being mindful…
It’s so easy to rush through life without taking time to notice things. We end up living in our own heads, caught up with our thoughts and all the emotions they may bring. When we are mindful, we are consciously aware of something and focusing on the present. Mindfulness is about calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is well known that being mindful helps you to improve your mental fitness. Mindfulness can help you enjoy life more and understand yourself better. It lets you reconnect with your body and the sensations that you experience. It involves waking up to the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the present.
Being mindful brings so many benefits:
- It eases any anxieties and reduces stress.
- It improves focus and productivity
- It enables your brain to practise being calmer, so you become less reactive
- It improves your sleep and relationships
- It makes you feel happier
- It improves your physical health and decision making
And it’s so easy to start incorporating it into your life.
TIPS FOR BEING MINDFUL:
- Try some mindful eating – focus on the textures, smells, and tastes.
- Be mindful when you are moving – think about how your muscles feel, the feeling of your feet on the ground, or how you are breathing.
- Do a body scan by moving your attention through different parts of your body and check in with how you are feeling. Are there any areas of warmth or tension or relaxation?
- Feel the warmth of the water next time you have a shower and do some breathing exercises at the same time. See post number 3 for some breathing suggestions.
- Next time you are walking anywhere, focus on the sounds, sights, and smells, rather than what’s on your to do list.
- Listen attentively to someone when they are talking to you, so you focus fully on the conversation.
No. 6: Transition…
Over the last 12 months we have all had to adapt to changes in our lives. Whenever something changes, there is a period of transition as you adjust to a ‘new’ normal, often for an indefinite period. Transition is defined as ‘a change from one type, or form, to another, or the process by which this happens’. Both parents and pupils will currently be preparing for another transition as we get ready for the return to school.
Transitions can cause anxiety and be difficult as there must be some adaptation to the change. As humans, we like routine and a sense of knowing our boundaries and what is expected of us. So, when change occurs this can upset our sense of control and confidence in what we are doing. However, try to view the transition as a new challenge that you are going to embrace and grow and learn from. You have all already successfully navigated several transitions throughout your lives. Let the knowledge that you have coped before, give you the strength to cope again.
There are things that we can all do to help both ourselves and each other with any transition…
TIPS FOR A SMOOTH TRANSITION:
- Be aware that any period of change may cause some worries or anxieties.
- Be kind to yourself – sleep well, eat properly, exercise, enjoy nature, have some downtime, do something you enjoy.
- Try to remember what things worked well with previous transitions so that you can use them again, and maybe what didn’t work so you can try something different this time.
- Share any thoughts you may have with your family, friends, or teachers. Often when you talk about something you find that the issue is not insurmountable. It might be that someone else is having the same thoughts as you and you can talk them through.
- Don’t forget about all the support that CHS offers – make sure you talk to your Form Tutor if you have any worries, and they can direct you to the necessary help.
- Write things down. This often helps you to process your thoughts.
- Focus on the positives of being back in school, such as being with your friends again, having face to face teaching, getting away from a screen and being outside more.
- Be kind to everyone around as you have no idea how they’re feeling.
No. 5: Scheduling your day…
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…
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…
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…
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
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…
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.