Whether you’ve been directly affected by COVID, worried about loved ones, missed loved ones during lockdown, struggled through financial woes or just generally felt new levels of anxiety, it’s been a tough 12 months.
And with even more lockdown measures in place, rules changing on the reg, most of 2021, will continue to be tough for many.
We spoke to some of the UK’s top wellness experts and influencers to find out how they have and continue to navigate these strange times, from global yoga star Cat Meffan to nutritional therapist Madeleine Shaw and psychotherapist, Ruairí Stewart.
Madeleine Shaw, Nutritional Therapist & Author
I’ve tried to focus on the positives and in terms of work, I think it’s made me be re-energized, more excited and more passionate, and I’m so thankful that I’m able to work from home very easily.
This virus has definitely made me realise that the simple things in life are best, and actually you don’t need a lot to be happy.
I’ve also been able to work on an incredible launch and partnership with Bill’s – we have together created a bespoke vegetarian menu made of simple and seasonal ingredients – and it really embodies this idea, so I really hope people get inspired by it.
Madeleine’s Top Tips
- Try to take the positives from the situation. For me, spending so much time with my family and having that really close-knit time of it being just us three at home was really really special.
- Appreciate your relationships. I’ve done a lot of work on focussing on how I can strengthen them and what I can do to be better – listening is my main one.
- Try to find joy in a time that feels quite joyless. Write a list of the five things that make you happy or the five things that bring you joy – it could be walking in nature, phoning a friend, cooking a meal, going to get some fresh flowers to put in your house, making a really warm bubble bath or reading a great book.
- Stay healthy – it is important to do so now more than ever. Nutrition is the key to a healthy immune system so make sure you’re filling up on lots of veggies, balancing your plate, having lots of healthy fats, making sure you’re sleeping well and exercising regularly.
Ruairí Stewart, Psychotherapist & Founder of The Happy Whole Coach
One massive negative of this year was seeing the detrimental impact lockdown had on the mental health of many people; many clients were isolated from their loved ones, some were stuck living abroad and not coping well, but many were also stuck in isolation in unsafe and unhealthy environments in their homes.
- Be compassionate with yourself, you couldn’t have expected 2020 to be this way. Communicate how you feel with someone you trust, leverage your support network and reach out for connection.
- Try not to isolate yourself or bottle everything up – it’s ok to feel how you feel, you don’t have to pretend to be ok if you’re not.
- The pandemic and the pace of life slowing down has meant past traumas being surfaced and these need to be dealt with. Many of my clients decided to start their healing journey because of this and that’s always a positive in my eyes.
- Talk to one another. I was and still am working with clients virtually all over the world during this ongoing situation and work has become a lot busier. I’ve been getting a lot more word of mouth referrals being sent to me which shows that people are starting to talk to each other more about having support, which is great.
- If you usually avoid how you feel or distract yourself with certain habits or self medicating behaviours now is the time to learn other healthier strategies which can help you to cope long term. Be gentle on yourself, remember it won’t always be this way and you can and will overcome the challenges. When you feel overwhelmed, find hope by looking forward and focusing on the small daily choices within your control.
For more information visit @thehappywholecoach
Sarah Bradden, Cosmetic Acupuncturist and Founder of The Bradden Method
What an interesting year, it’s definitely been a rollercoaster for sure. The highs and lows really varied.
I loved the fact that life slowed down and both my children were at home. We were able to have dinner together, dog walks in the amazing weather that we had in the summer.
For me, the negatives (apart from the obvious financial one!) was how hard I found it not seeing my family and friends. I missed people, the interactions, the hugs! I’m a very tactile person and not having that human contact was hard.
- Lockdown has been a time that made us face up to stuff, stuff you might have been putting off for ages in the house; paperwork, sorting cupboards, etc… Even conversations that maybe you’ve had the excuse of not having the time to have face to face. Covid has meant that there has been nowhere to hide for anyone, if there were cracks in anything they only got bigger in lockdown and now is the time to face up to things, the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Don’t be hard on yourself, it’s important to create a structure to the day. Talk to your friends and family on good days and bad days – it’s so important to stay in touch.
- Remember you can’t please everyone. When it comes to my relationships, this time has made me realise that I’ve definitely been a people pleaser. I’ve learnt that I can’t please everyone and that’s not my role too either. Having the time to sit back will make you realise and reaffirm a daily practise of making sure you operate from the heart and not the head.
- Trust the unknown and stay positive – this time has really put my beliefs into practice.
- Don’t watch the news all the time. Make your health a priority, choose good things to put into your system like good food and lovely juices.
- Do lots of facial massage on yourself, it helps calm the parasympathetic nervous system down and gives you glowing skin. There are lots of tutorials on my IG.
- Even if you don’t feel like exercising, do something gentle, go out for a walk or follow some great classes online. I start each day with meditation and Qigong, and add some exercise into the week with either walking the dog or online sessions.
Luke Worthington, Elite Personal Trainer
The period of enforced isolation caused us all to be much more purposeful in our interactions and connections with others. Incidental interactions were no more, so we had to reach out with intent to connect.
- Take ownership of your health and fitness. It’s one of the few things that we have direct control over in an uncertain world, and is our main line of defence against COVID-19, should we come into contact with it.
- Restructure the way you work. Since being allowed back to work in July, I have restructured my week to limit client work to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, leaving Tuesdays and Thursdays to focus on online work, writing, studying, and anything that I consider to be working ON my business, rather than just IN it.
- Reach out to people. Everyone I know has had some form of challenge as a result of the situation this year. So I feel we’re probably all in a much more empathetic position than ever before. Everyone ‘gets it’ and is ready to listen.
- If you’re finding things easier than others, take the time to call someone who may not be – you could be the thing that makes the difference to them today.
Cat Meffan, Yoga Instructor, Influencer & Founder of Soul Sanctuary
I definitely feel more comfortable and accepting of a slower paced life, which I think is a huge positive. We live in such a fast-paced world, so being more present and slowing down to be grateful for the small things is special.
- It’s crucial to have a separate work and living space. Even if it’s a case of going out for a walk before and after work to set your headspace for a productive day.
- Lean into a place of acceptance and understand that though some things are extremely frustrating, they are out of our control.
- Remind yourself often that you’re not alone even if it feels that way. We’re in this weirdness together, and your emotions are normal. Allow yourself to feel however you need to, talk to friends, exercise, practice mindfulness in any way that serves you. Be gentle with yourself and try to let go of the constant expectations we put on ourselves to be doing more.
Louise Parker, Founder of The Louise Parker Method
It’s safe to say that 2020 is a year that none of us will ever forget. But in the midst of it all, what I have most been struck by is the fortitude and resilience of the human spirit.
What I feel has most come to the forefront, is the sense of global community and togetherness that has connected us all throughout these difficult times.
The sheer dedication of our NHS key workers on the frontline – all of whom are doing an extraordinary job – has been inspiring. We have learnt to be stronger together, but we have also learnt to be vulnerable and authentic with one another about our struggles as we navigate through this unprecedented period.
- Be creative about how you keep in touch with your loved ones. It isn’t easy, but we are all in this together and there’s almost a sense of solace that you find in that.
- Make a separation between work and home life. Though it can often feel easier said than done, I try to make a point of being truly present in each moment.
- Remember: none of us are superhuman. Managing the complexity of emotions and feelings that have arisen this year has been nothing short of challenging.
- It’s important to acknowledge that it’s ok to reach out for support when you need it. If you are feeling overwhelmed, or vulnerable, try not to go it alone. It can be daunting sharing how we are feeling with others, but in doing so we can find a great deal of comfort and connection.
- Keep some form of rhythm in your day to keep yourself grounded. Design your day in a way that makes looking after yourself a priority. Define your simple pleasures and weave them throughout your week so that you have little pops of joy to look forward to, whether that’s connecting with an old friend on a phone call, learning a new skill, revisiting former passions or hobbies or simply making time for rest.
- I find that focusing on what I can control helps me to remain on an even keel. If you find yourself worrying, choosing to think about the day you’re in, rather than thinking too far ahead into the week or month can really help to keep things in perspective.
- Go into each day with a clearly defined purpose to stay positive and hopeful. Each night I do a digital detox where I switch off from my electronic devices and give myself a window of an hour, screen-free before my head hits the pillow. I love to call this time my ‘bedtime sanctuary’. I find that nurturing a good night’s sleep really helps me to lift the ‘brain-fog’ I feel when I’m lacking rest and helps me to feel more inclined to think positively during the day.
- Limit your intake of social media to help prevent information overload and stick to just the formal updates and recommendations.
- Eat in a well-balanced way. I like to base my meals and snacks on vegetables, fruits, lean sources of protein including legumes, beans, pulses and including heart healthy fats helps me to feel well. I love to present my meals and snacks in a way that look as delicious as they taste – it takes a little extra time, but it’s worth it as it helps me to be more mindful when I eat.
- Exercise and moving your body is an important part of self-care. Get your 10,000 steps in daily as a baseline and step it up with structured workouts across the week to help keep things interesting.