6 Wellness Habits I’ve Committed to Since the Start of the Pandemic
Updated: Sep 16, 2022
Like many people, I lost my job as a result of the pandemic. After spending three months on furlough, it gave me a lot of time to work on myself and invest more time into the things that make me feel good on a daily basis – the things that bring me happiness and contentment that aren’t as a result of work or personal achievements. After freelancing for a while, I started in a new role that gives me a huge amount of flexibility. In my old job, I used to feel like taking even a three minute screen break was unacceptable, as if my bosses knew I wasn’t at my computer. I’ve never been the best at keeping healthy habits – I don’t read every day, I go on my phone in bed, most days I forget to take my vitamins. But working from home since March, and going through some trial and error, allowed me to discover the healthy habits that really help me through these weird times, ones that I’ve stuck to.
I have always found that my mental wellbeing is immensely better when I can work around my own natural body clock, meaning I get the most out of my days when I allow myself to get up when I’m ready. When I was on furlough and then when I was freelancing, I allowed myself to wake up naturally every day, and I always felt amazing for it. I know this is a privilege that not everyone has, but since starting in a new role, I set my alarm for between 9:30-10:30. The time I get up moves around a lot and so do my working hours. While I try to keep my work day fairly structured to prevent really late evenings, pretty much every day is different. This power to disrupt my traditional routine has helped me massively while living in a time where the weeks are blurring together and there’s nothing to break up the days.
During the initial lockdown when I was on furlough and schools were closed, my mum and I found so much solace in long walks. More than ever we appreciated the streets, parks and fields that made up our local surroundings, feeling so grateful that when there was nothing to do, we could at least do this. Finding new walking routes, while treating ourselves to slush puppies, ice cream, and all the little treats that made the hot days in lockdown a little more bearable, was a really pleasant time despite everything. We both realised the benefit that these walks brought us both mentally and physically, and while we are both now back at work, we still try to go for walks that fit in our new schedules.
I quickly realised just how foggy and unpleasant my headspace became when I spent the whole day inside, something that could be lifted if I just went outside for even 20 minutes. Every day now without fail, in rain or shine, I do two laps around my local park to clear my head. Sometimes it’s so muddy that I’m slipping off the paths and it’s raining so much that I can’t see through my glasses, but I always do it, and I always feel better for it.
There are some downsides to not having a rigid working schedule, mainly being that it’s hard to switch your brain off from work mode. I find myself sometimes obsessively thinking about the things I need to get done at work, things which require other people’s actions, not my own. It really astounds me sometimes just how much significance I put on things that 1) I have absolutely no control over and 2) Can absolutely wait until tomorrow. I enjoy yoga but sometimes even when doing something physical, it’s not enough to calm my mind. I’ve found that practising guided meditation is one of the few things that really gives me perspective when nothing else will. The idea of seeing your thoughts pass by you, and acknowledging them without judgement, has been incredibly helpful in either getting me ready for the day or setting me up for sleep.
Radio and podcasts
Working in my room where I also sleep, exercise, read, and now socialise too, can be isolating. Anyone who’s worked from home has probably experienced that loneliness where you’re forced to sit with your problems and not bounce off other colleagues. In my two previous jobs we always listened to BBC Radio 1, and I’ve really come to love it. As well as being the radio station most suited to my music taste, it does also make me feel less alone, in the way a dog likes the radio for company. My productivity seems to increase when I have the radio on too.
In the same way I use my walks to temporarily switch off, podcasts have become an important supplement to this. I always listened to podcasts on my commute, but I took a break when I was put on furlough. But as I started work again and the self doubting voice began to creep back into my daily life, I realised just how important podcasts were in distracting me from these unhelpful thoughts. Most recently I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail (while also reading the book), and it has been like a gentle therapy for me.
Multiple Coffee Treats
When I was working in the office of my old job, I tried to limit coffee to the days where I had dance class, since those were incredibly long days and very late nights. One thing I do miss a lot is my weekly Cafe Nero vanilla cappuccino on a Tuesday after work while I killed some time before dancing. But overall I didn’t like the idea of my body being reliant on it and I always saw it as a treat. Since working from home, I definitely haven’t needed that caffeine boost, so my coffee intake has reduced. While this is good, I missed having something small to look forward to. And sometimes, it really does just hit the spot. On the particularly challenging work days now, I always treat myself to a festive coffee from the local Gregs at the garage. And as they say, it very much is the little things.
In my pre-pandemic life, I longed for my Sunday rest days when I would get a break from my 6-day dance and workout regime. While I very much welcomed a break when the initial lockdown brought things to a halt, I quickly realised how much I would miss my usual routine. At the height of my training for the World Championships, I had a profound realisation that the way to reach your peak potential for a healthy and happy mind was to exercise six days a week.
I injured my foot badly after a fall during Zoom dance class one day in May, and after a prolonged (and ongoing) recovery period, I quickly realised that it was no longer about staying at peak fitness and losing weight that was important to me – it was the mental benefits and the general physical wellbeing that regular exercise brings. I truly believe that this realisation will help me forever now, and I always know that when my mood is low and I haven’t exercised, that that’s something I have brought upon myself. Finding as little as 15-20 mins of exercise in the evening can make things so much better.
This year has made me realise that you will never do the things that you know are good for you unless you have truly experienced and genuinely believe in their benefits. So I can say these habits are one good thing (or six) to come out of 2020 for me.