Top people to follow for home workouts

With much of the world’s population recommended to stay at home, and some even on lockdown, I have been asked where I would look for home workouts. Thankfully, in an age where social media is so built up across society and working out is the norm, home workouts are easy to come by.

I asked you guys which you find the best, so here are my findings! Please do share this with your friends and family. Exercise keeps the brain happy and is a great way to structure the day, which is extremely important when all other structure has gone. You could all come out of this fitter than when we went in!

There are loads of paid apps that you can use/subscribe to which have some really great workouts on, but I personally want to support individuals at this time (albeit some pretty famous ones). I may well create another list of apps that you can subscribe to as I know they’re popular! Let me know your faves and if you’d be interested in a separate list of these 🙂

 

Instagram

Thanks to the advent of carousel posts and IGTV, workout videos on Instagram are pretty common. Here are some of my favourite accounts:

Natacha.oceane

Ironman and athlete Natacha Ocean has always been a favourite of mine. With her evidence-based approach to training and nutrition and ‘training’ style workouts, she is definitely one to follow. Check out her IG for workout inspo.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 09.27.06

Shona_vertue

Another athlete, ex-gymnast Shona shares a very balanced approach to training, far removed from the ‘no days off’ crew. As a yoga teacher, a lot of her sessions are already bodyweight based, and perfect for strengthening supporting muscles. Shona will also be hosting live workouts from her YouTube channel so get involved!

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 09.30.24

Aliceliveing

Personal Trainer Alice shares gym-based workouts on a regular basis, but also has more conditioning workouts available too. Also, although she doesn’t post there anymore, you can find some home workouts on her YouTube channel.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 09.38.08

Zannavandijk

Zanna has recently been travelling, but regularly shared workouts before that, so scroll back a little for a wide variety! She also has a YouTube but I can’t find regular workout videos on there (but you might want to check it out anyway) 🙂

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 09.45.30

Sophjbutler

Sophie became a wheelchair user after injuring herself during a workout, but if anything, she has become more determined. She shares home workouts suitable for all, and is just generally a delight to follow. Check out her (somewhat sassy) twitter too.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.22.34

 

Lillysabri

Lilly shares workouts on her YouTube (over 300 available!) and Instagram, so choose your platform! They’re easy to follow and she does them in a bikini, so you can pretend you, too, are in sunny Dubai.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.02.54

Annieopenshaw

Friend, squash player and all-round superb person Annie shares workouts regularly on her Instagram, including many without equipment. She also has a YouTube channel that may provide amusement.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.22.59

Hauptstadttrainer

I met Erik on our little Tour de France trip last summer, and have followed his account closely since. He is incredibly friendly, but also (possibly more importantly on IG) incredibly knowledgeable, and shares home workouts suitable for all. Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.01.56

LeenPeet

Not everyone who shares great workouts is instal-famous. Been Peeters is a certified personal trainer who shares home workouts suitable for all on her Instagram. Check it out!

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.10.07

 

YouTube

Pamela_rf

I personally think it should be illegal for anyone to have 4.6m IG followers at the age of 23, but looking at Pamela’s Instagram account, she’s clearly doing something right! However, her workouts can primarily be found on her YouTube – she even has a ‘home workouts’ playlist.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 09.59.04

Les Mills

Not technically a person, but well known in the world of accessible workouts. Sometimes a little high-impact, but plenty of options there and all free!

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.46.13

Lucy Wyndham-Read 

I’m not a huge fan of the aesthetics-based approach of this channel, but for many it’ll be the difference between exercising and not, and benefits are there whether you exercise for mental health, aesthetics or performance!

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.50.29

Sarah’s Day

Sarah doesn’t strictly do workout videos, but has a wide variety of content. I expect, with the rise of demand, she will be posting more and more home workout content, so stay tuned!

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.48.55

The Body Coach

If you’re looking for a wide variety of workouts and regular videos, The Body Coach is your guy! My friend loved his ‘7 days of sweat’ workouts, and that was before quarantine. Subscribe to stay sane.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.51.59

Madfit

For regular, easy to follow workouts (choreographed to music!), subscribe to Maddie’s channel on YouTube. You won’t get bored with the variety of content on there 🙂

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.47.45

Sydney Cummings

Personal trainer Sydney shares a multitude of workouts on her channel, arranged by time or category. Want 60 minutes of workout or a no equipment workout? Check her out.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.00.12

Heart Alchemy Yoga

Looking for something a little more relaxing? Michelle is catering for those of us with slightly anxious dispositions, sharing yoga and meditations suitable for all abilities.

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.04.34

How to survive blue Monday

The third Monday of January, also known as Blue Monday, has been calculated to be the most depressing day of the year. Cheerful right? Factors such as weather, debt, time since Christmas and, surprise surprise, it’s a time most of us have failed our New Year’s resolution by. I don’t know if I buy into it – in reality the whole of the winter is kind of depressing, but good days and bad days come and go, and we move on!

However, if you’re struggling around this time of year, here are some ways to cheer yourself up. There’s no doubt that the holidays can sometimes leave us drained. Changes in routine can leave us sleep deprived and unmotivated, especially when paired with media messages trying to get us to buy into every fad. Why not try these little things to reset your mind and body, and make Blue Monday into a positive day, instead of the miserable day the media wants us to expect.

Take care of your mind

Too little time to ourselves over Christmas can mean we forget to give ourselves a break. The first thing that goes when we are very busy is time alone and time to rest. Try these to get back some of that peace of mind.

Headspace app: Meditation has shown to help people relieve stress, focus more and sleep better, leaving us better able to cope with everything else in life. The headspace app takes you through meditation. If you’re like me (i.e. hyperactive and constantly distracted), it’s better than an hour’s yoga, because it’s only a few minutes long. Everyone can spare 10 minutes a day!

Dancing: It may sound silly, but putting on some great tracks and having a ridiculously enthusiastic dance around your room can do wonders for your mind. It doesn’t have to be long, just long enough to get your heart rate up and put a smile on your face. We spend so long being serious, this is a nice change of routine.

Colouring in/drawing: Drawing or colouring in relaxes the brain, especially the fear centres of the brain, reducing anxiety and stopping us from focussing on any worries we might have. Grab an adult colouring in book and set aside some time each week to reset your mind to neutral.

Do good: Helping others is an intrinsically rewarding activity, promoting positive emotions in our own brains. It also can add perspective to problems. Doing good also improves optimism, confidence and gives you a feeling of purpose, without which many people struggle. Consider donating to charity, volunteering or simply helping someone out at work.

Get a SAD lamp: One of the major issues in winter in Northern latitudes is that the daylight hours are very short. Too short, in fact, to acquire enough vitamin D during the day. Low levels of vitamin D can contribute to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and this leaves many people feeling low in winter. A SAD lamp has particular frequencies that allows the body to produce more vitamin D. Put it on in the morning to help you wake up, and in early afternoon to reduce afternoon slumps. Check out my post on how to beat the winter blues to learn more. It’s also recommended that everyone in the UK takes vitamin D supplements in winter!

Social media: Unfollow accounts that make you feel inadequate, jealous or any other negative emotions. Sure, it’s good to aspire to things, but following accounts with unrealistic life goals is never going to make you feel better! Cull cull cull and then find pictures of puppies, great food and positive posts to look at instead. Try not to spend too much time on social media – no more than 2h a day across all platforms. Heavy usage is linked to higher rates of depression.

Tidy up: It’s very tempting, when it’s dark outside, to curl up in bed after throwing all your belongings onto your floordrobe and go to sleep. However, having high levels of clutter at home and at work can mess your mind up too. Need inspiration? Read this.

Stop giving a fuck: It’s fairly self-explanatory, but if you need it breaking down, I can thoroughly recommend this book.

Live in the moment: Worrying about the future, the past and the present is understandably exhausting and stressful for the brain. Living in the moment (using some of the techniques from above) can really help lover anxiety and depression. Another book recommendation: The Power of Now.

Take care of your body

Watch what you eat: and by that I don’t mean eat less. I just mean literally be aware of what you are eating. Paying attention to what we eat increases enjoyment and reduces mindless munching on the nearest available snack. In winter we often rely on sugar to power through energy slumps, but this can backfire, leaving us with sugar crashes, lowering both concentration and mood. Be aware of what you’re eating and you might find a pattern to explain your mood throughout the day. Want a holistic guide to nutrition? Check out Rhiannon’s new book!

Take vitamin D: As mentioned above, vitamin D is key to our mental health, but also plays a role in maintaining bone health and immunity. The majority of people in the UK are deficient over winter, so taking some supplements may improve your mood.

Workout: Yes, bed is cosy, and yes, it’s dark so early, but working out in winter is one of the best ways to keep negativity at bay. It gives you routine and a sense of purpose and achievement. If you’re not working out 30 minutes, 3 times a week (at least), this is one of the best things you could do to improve your mind-set. If you’re not a fan of the gym, find a sport you think you’ll enjoy and join a club – the added social interaction gives a double whammy of benefits. However, overdoing it (hello New Year’s resolutions to run 10 miles everyday) may backfire, leaving you exhausted and dreading every workout. Keep a balanced schedule with plenty of rest days so you don’t burn out!

Get plenty of sleep: I’ve gone into this in a bit more detail here, so check it out!

I hope you find this helpful – these are some of the things that have helped me over winter in general, and this time of year can be especially hard on some. This advice is sort of always useful, even if you don’t feel particularly down. Check out my instagram for more health and fitness advice.

DSC_0096 2

How to get better sleep

We’re all pretty great at feeling sleepy, but actually sleeping well is a totally different matter! Do you struggle from time to time? Read this post to see just how important sleep is, as well as get some advice on how to do it better.

It’s no secret that you feel better when you’re not massively sleep deprived, but it’s also been proven that people don’t realise how much their lack of sleep is affecting them. On average in the UK, we get only 6.8h of sleep a night, rather than the recommended 8h for optimum health. The figures in the US and Australia are similar, reflecting a culture that shrugs off sleep as an irritating waste of time, rather than the necessity it actually is. The National Sleep Foundation found that for adults older than 18 years of age, between 7 and 9 hours of sleep on average is optimal for health.

When you think of risk factors for diseases, what do you think of? Poor diet? Smoking? Bad genes? I’m sure sleep pattern is not something that comes high up on the list, but poor sleep patterns have been linked to negative short term effects, such as depression, lost concentration and anxiety, as well as longer term impacts including increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. The reason is simple: sleep provides time for your body to repair damage. Without this time, damage accumulates, causes poor life decisions (such as over eating and lack of exercise) and eventually can lead to negative long-term outcomes.

Sleep also gives us time to consolidate memories, strengthen neural pathways and process information – it’s why our dreams often involve events from the day, mushed together into some sort of weird nonsensical mess. There’s a theory that freeing our brains from the constraints of reality allows us to make connections we might not have made before, and process information that would have taken too long when awake. So those times you stay up until 3am revising for a test? Don’t. You’re far better working up until you sleep, then picking it up again in the morning. In my mind, it’s all very cool.

So how do we sleep? As someone who used to suffer from insomnia, I know how frustrating it can be when you are just unable to stop your mind from whirring. Sleep experts call good sleep practices ‘sleep hygiene’ – getting into a good bedtime ritual to prime our bodies for deep, restful sleep. Here are some of my top tips for a good nights sleep.

 

Take a hot bath
Weirdly, it’s not the heating that actually makes you sleepy – it’s the rapid cooling that follows a hot bath that makes you tired. Our bodies naturally cool off about 2h before sleep until around 4-5am, meaning that artificially inducing the cooling before you sleep can help send signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.

Have a hot drink
For the same reasons as a hot bath, having a hot drink before bed can make you sleepy. Certain herbal drinks, such as camomile and lavender are thought to help sleep. This is thought to be because they contain compounds that reduces anxiety and promote relaxation, slowing the nervous system and promoting deep sleep. Try not to drink too much before bed though! Getting up through the night can disrupt your sleep patterns. I usually have a tea in the hour before bed and swear by it to help me sleep!

Avoid blue light
The blue light emitted from your phone and laptop signals to your brain that it’s still daytime. This delays your natural body clock making it harder to fall asleep. Stop using your phone, laptop and TV at least an hour before you want to sleep. If you need to, consider adding a filter using an app like f.lux that reduces blue light on your screen after sunset. 

Limit yourself to 9 hours max
Plenty of people struggle to even stay asleep for this long, but I would easily sleep for 10h a night if I let myself. However, staying in bed for over 9 hours can actually harm your sleep in the long run. Forcing yourself to get up in the morning means that your body clock stays in check – if you allow yourself to sleep until you’re not tired anymore, you will end up going to bed later and later, meaning that when you do have to get up early you’ve restricted your sleep even further. Try to wake up on your first alarm – snoozing it only leads to more sluggishness. Winter may be a time of hibernation, but sleeping for too long won’t do you any favours. If you need to nap during the day, limit it to 20 minutes. Longer can affect nighttime sleep.

Don’t expect to be able to catch up on lost sleep in a night
A lot of people think that a bad night’s sleep can be recovered by sleeping more the next night, and while the evidence is not conclusive, studies suggest that this isn’t the case. The damage done by one bad night cannot be undone by one good night, and it often takes a few days to get back to normal. In addition, going to bed later disrupts your circadian rhythm (your internal body clock that tells you when to sleep and wake up), so it’s best to avoid significant amounts of lost sleep.

Exercise!
As anyone who has stopped exercising for an injury will know, exercise and sleep go hand in hand. Cut out exercising and a good night’s sleep goes too. Exercising tires out the body enough that falling into bed after a hard workout earlier in the day is just one of the nicest things. It also promotes the same cooling effect as having a bath and drinking tea does, but has the added benefit of decreasing the anxiety and stress that often keep us awake. However, avoid working out late in the evening – placing stress on the body late in the day can delay your natural body clock, making it harder to sleep, so try to end exercising at least 3h before bed.

Be comfy
Get a good mattress and a pillow that’s not too high. Nighttime discomfort can lead to light sleep. If you’re in a rented flat or a student where you didn’t choose the mattress, consider buying a good mattress topper (and take it with you when you leave!).

Fresh air
Linked to exercise, getting outside and some fresh air during the day can help get that ‘flop onto the bed’ feel at the end of the day (in a good way). I actually don’t know why this is, but it’s likely a mixture of getting exercise and getting natural light. Natural light inhibits melatonin (the hormone that sends us to sleep), meaning that when you go back inside, there is more of the hormone before bed to make you feel tired. This is especially useful in winter, when it is dark for a lot of the day.

Avoid caffeine
A little in the morning shouldn’t be an issue for most people, but avoid any caffeine past 3pm. The effects are long lasting – even if you don’t feel wired, the stimulant will keep on powering your body far past the point when you would like to sleep. Also bear in mind that caffeine can be hidden in lots of drinks that aren’t coffee, such as teas and fizzy drinks.

Limit alcohol
While alcohol may help you get to sleep, sleep quality is poorer and once it wears off you’re more likely to wake up. Dehydration can also be a cause of waking through the night, and alcohol makes this far worse.

 

Ironically, overthinking sleep can be one major cause for struggling to fall asleep and sleeping lightly. Try to get into a good routine early in life so that when you are under pressure, sleep is one thing that comes naturally to you. Sadly, for one of the most natural of behaviours, sleep is sometimes difficult to find, but hopefully with the information of how important it is, as well as some of the tips above, you’ll start prioritising it over another episode of Game of Thrones (other series available).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post and tips for a good night’s sleep! Head to my instagram or comment below to let me know.

DSC_0617

It’s no secret to those that know me that sleep will always be a priority for me!

Christmas confidence

Are you an introvert or extrovert? A mixture of both?

I used to class myself firmly in the introverted category, avoiding social situations where possible and finding myself feeling reluctant and awkward any time a situation required speaking real words to real people. Even now I find myself beating myself for saying X because no one laughed, or patting myself on the back when people seem genuinely interested in what I have to say.

I don’t think that talking to people with ease comes naturally to most people, and lots of us find it actively uncomfortable, but there are ways to make it less so, and maybe even enjoy it. There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay at home instead of go out and socialise (trust me), but as we head towards the Christmas season it might be helpful to try a few things in case you find yourself being dragged to a Christmas party where you know no one (events where I know no one still give me pretty bad anxiety).

Being an introvert is no bad thing, in fact it gives you qualities only someone who has spent a lot of time in their own company can have. But instead of finding yourself hiding in the loos (tick) or by the food counter shovelling food into your mouth so no one can talk to you (also tick), wouldn’t it be nice to get something from parties? Find a reason to enjoy them and relax? Here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful over the years – I still get anxious and socially awkward internally, but for the most part these tips have helped me enjoy almost all the events I go to, find new friends and have great conversations I would never have had if I had avoided people from the start.

 

Body language
This may seem a bit ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, but some evidence suggests that acting confident with your body language can actually make you feel more in control. Looking into people’s eyes is another thing that makes you appear confident, but this actually takes a lot of practise to get right if you’re not used to it. However, it can really help you connect with people and help them feel more at ease around you. Related to this is smiling – I can’t stop smiling now, it’s just a habit (and usually I’m pretty happy anyway). Everyone loves a smiley person. Everyone should do it more 🙂

Don’t worry what people think about you
This goes for anything – you shouldn’t spend your life thinking that you should/shouldn’t do X, Y or Z because people will like you more/less for it. It’s impossible to please everyone, and in trying you are putting yourself second. The only way to be able to make others happy is to also be happy and confident in yourself. Putting others first and worrying what people think all the time is unhealthy and can never lead to true happiness. Self-confidence needs to come from within, otherwise by definition it’s not really self-confidence. Life is too short to worry about wearing or doing something: just do it.

Find people you recognise
Finding people you recognise at the beginning of an event can help make you feel comfortable, but equally they can introduce you to people you would not otherwise have met. Anyone they introduce you to already has something in common with you – you both know your mutual friend, which is a good starting point! I also often think of parties a little bit like networking opportunities – new people you meet could be friends or business partners in the future. It may seem a weird way of looking at it, but for me that gives a focus for the party. Meet people, enjoy good conversation and network at the same time.

Wear clothes you feel comfortable in
This is important both physically and mentally. I used to try to wear ‘in fashion’ whatever, but quite frankly I couldn’t care less what’s in fashion now. I love clothes and I think they’re great for self-expression, but trying to impress people with clothes, when secretly you’re dying because you can’t breathe or you feel worried your left boob is going to pop out of your new top any second, is not cool. Wear clothes you love (yay sports clothes!) and own it.

 

This may seem like a bit of a random post for my blog, and I wasn’t sure about doing it. However, a few years ago it was just the sort of thing I wish someone had helped me with, especially in the run up to Christmas, and if I can’t be honest on my blog, where can I be? If this helps just one or two people be more confident this year, then it’s done its job. Just remember, you are enough as you are, you don’t need to impress anyone (seriously), and you should do what makes you happy. You do you.

I4vE7PNjqDXwcNxdKtQEHJvMUV4zdnzbzCpxg8HbW3Q

What christmas should be about – enjoying a relax and spending time with friends and family

 

Rhiannon – Winter wellness

This is a guest blog post by leading Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert, taking us through some advice to keep us fit and healthy this winter. Find Rhiannon’s socials at the bottom of the post and enjoy!

 

As we enter these next few cold wintery months, our immune system can often get shot down by illness, whether that is cold and flu, sore throats or generally feeling exhausted. But what can we do to keep our wellness high and working in the winter?

Following a balanced diet full of nutrient dense foods such as complex carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats and of course vegetables and fruit are the key to a successful healthy winter. While there is no, one food that dispels infection, there are plenty of foods that can be introduced to help prevent infection and keep your body fit and healthy.

 

5 KEY STAPLE FOODS FOR IMMUNE SYSTEM:

  1. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are full of Vitamin C, which is known globularly for its benefits to the immune system. Vitamin C is highly concentrated in immune cells that help fight infections fast, and since our bodies do not produce or store it, we must source it from the diet! Popular citrus fruits include; oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit. Have a piece of fruit for a snack, or infuse your water intake with lemon and lime!

  1. Spinach

Spinach is also a brilliant source of Vitamin C. But additionally, spinach is full of beta carotene and antioxidants, which increase the ability of your immune system. Spinach is also a darky leafy green, which we hear so much about as they are full of vitamins such as A, K, C, and B and minerals such as magnesium and calcium.  Cook your spinach, or eat it cold, either way claim the benefits of spinach.

  1. Ginger

Spice up your foods. You can even try a whole range of spices such as garlic, chili peppers, and turmeric to boost immunity and enhance circulation. Ginger is great to remedy a sore throat, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Ginger is great in hot water on a cold winters morning, as well as in autumnal soups.

  1. Yogurt

When buying Yogurt, it is always important to look for one that contains “live and active cultures” as these cultures will stimulate your immune system to fight infection and disease in your body. Yogurt is also a great source of Vitamin D which can often be low during the winter months, but is needed in the diet as it can be beneficial to the immunity. A thing to note, often pre-flavoured yogurt contains high amounts of sugar so try to choose a plain yogurt and top with your own fruit for flavour!

  1. Protein

Everybody in their lifetime has been given chicken soup or broth when they are ill in bed.  Poultry, such as chicken and turkey is high in Vitamin B6. This vitamin plays a vital role in many chemical reactions in the body, such as forming new and healthy red blood cells.  Additionally, when making chicken broth, the use of boiling the bones holds benefits such as gut healing and immunity.

Vegetarian sources of protein, especially pulses, contain tons of fibre and nutrients to keep you fighting fit. Quinoa has a complete amino acid profile, which is excellent for the building blocks of protein (the structure of our body) and add some pulses to your meals. Pulses can also be a great source of iron and B vitamins providing you with energy and ensure your veggie sources are fortified as often as possible to get B12.

In total, we should be focusing on not only macronutrients, but the micronutrients that are often forgotten, such as vitamins A, B and C, and minerals such as Iron and Zinc.

Apart from keeping our diet full of goodness, there are other ways to keep your body both mentally and physically well in the next coming months.

rhi-pic1.png

Follow Rhiannon on her Instagram to see delicious food like this!

EXERCISE

Getting out and about, breathing in fresh air does your health a world of good. But also exercising stimulates the release of endorphins which makes you feel “happy”.

 

CLEANLINESS

Illness can spread fast in a home, especially the common cold. Preventing infection from spreading around the entire family is vital, and cleaning surfaces, door handles and objects that everyone touches; TV remote, toilet handle can minimise contamination from family member to family member.

 

REST

Taking enough time for yourself, to recuperate can be beneficial for your health. Getting enough sleep at night can make a big difference when waking up the next morning. We all know when we don’t get enough sleep we feel grouchy, and this can affect the rest of the day, and even your immune system. So be mindful in the winter months, give yourself rest to maintain your health.

 

There are so many ways to a healthy winter, and most are basic. Eat well, sleep enough, and get out. Most seem like common sense, but making an active effort to follow through can be beneficial in the long run and the key to winter wellness.

 

Don’t forget you can pre-order Rhiannon’s book, Re-Nourish, released on the 28 December 2017!

 

How to beat the winter blues

It’s inevitable that as the winter draws in and days get darker (thanks clock change) that lots of us will start to feel a little down and start to get the ‘winter blues’. A lot of people in the UK suffer from S.A.D, also known as seasonal affective disorder, a mood disorder that causes otherwise positive people to have symptoms of depression ranging from mild to severe in the winter. Symptoms include excessive sleep, tiredness, lack of motivation, hopelessness and low moods, although the severity can range widely between people and from day to day. Whilst the exact cause isn’t known, it’s though to be to do with low light levels reducing serotonin (the happy hormone) or increasing melatonin (the hormone that allows us to sleep at night). Whatever the cause, it’s an annoying fact of winter for a lot of people, but thankfully it can be managed and reduced. Even for those without SAD, doing some of these management techniques can help with general low mood found around winter.

In my past I suffered from depression, starting in my pre-teens and drawing out for almost 10 years. Over time it diminished, thanks to the support and help of family, friends and professionals. During my late teens and early twenties it manifested as SAD – thankfully sparing me summer months but returning as the weather got colder and days darker. My experience coping with it has allowed me to spend the last two winters in relative peace from the low moods associated with SAD. So here are some of my top tips to keep happy this winter! I hope you find them as useful as I have 🙂

_KJM6551-Edit

Autumn is a beautiful time of year – but for many it just means darker days and feeling blue

Get enough sleep – but don’t overdo it!

In winter all I want to do is sleep sleep sleep – biologically scientists think that’s because there used to be less food around in winter and sleeping more would mean using less energy so you didn’t have to eat as much. But nowadays with tesco just down the road and deliveroo at the other end of a phone, we don’t exactly have any food shortages to worry about! Having a good sleep schedule is important at any time of year, but especially when there is no natural light to wake you up. Set yourself a strict bedtime and wake time and try not to deviate from this. That way you’ll be getting enough sleep without getting too much and feeling lethargic from it. I aim to be in bed by 10pm, asleep by 10:15pm and up by 6:45am everyday. Sleeping more than 9h a night can leave you feeling more tired, and restricting sleep to 8-9h means that when you sleep, you sleep deeper – something we all want and need!

 

Exercise

I cannot stress enough that exercise – although it often feels like the last thing you want to do when you’re down – is some sort of miracle drug when it comes to SAD. Of course, as with everything, this is a balance of getting enough workouts without exhausting yourself. My gage is how much I can manage – I tend to do a similar amount, allowing for 2 rest days a week. I try to workout when it’s dark outside – the pumping music and energetic atmosphere allow me to forget how dark it is and get lost in the endorphins of the workout.

 

Fresh air and LIGHT

With a lack of natural light being one cause of SAD and low moods, it’s not surprising that getting natural light is on my list of ways to improve symptoms. If you work full time you’ll be familiar with the sad reality of arriving at work in the dark and leaving in the dark, leaving you no time for some sunshine or even any light! Artificial light doesn’t have the right wavelengths to suppress melatonin enough so broad spectrum lights and natural light are the only two that will help with moods. I would 100% recommend getting outside for at least 20 minutes at lunchtime to make the most of the natural light and get some fresh air to keep you awake. I also have a sun lamp – a broad spectrum light that helps me to wake up and produce vitamin D in the winter – I turn it on as soon as I wake up and eat breakfast with it shining on me. I swear by it to help keep my body-clock in check when it always seems dark outside. If you really struggle with SAD I would recommend getting one of these and using it for 30 minutes every morning.

 

Food

Whilst the winter can leave you reaching for the quickest pick-me-up, it’s important to remember that relying on unhealthy foods for energy can leave you feeling even more down after you eat them, often caused by a sugar crash. High carb meals, whilst delicious, should be saved for days of heavy exercise, as they cause the release of melatonin, which is often what makes you feel sleepy after a big meal. Avoid carb-heavy meals at your desk to avoid this, and try not to increase refined sugar intake, as the crash after your blood-sugar spikes can also cause low moods, not helping the situation. I try to avoid coffee in the winter because I know that if I start I will end up relying on it to feel normal, but on tired days I have some just after lunch to get through the afternoon. Research has shown that if you’re not a morning person, having coffee in the morning can mess up your body clock, making you feel weird and anxious, rather than alert.

 

Talk!

If you’re struggling don’t be afraid to talk to family and friends – the chances are that they’ve probably felt the same way too. Research suggests that up to 40% of depression is genetic and that SAD affects 1 in 15 of the UK population. Talking through how you’re feeling (or even just talking about anything) can help alleviate symptoms. Having supportive friends and family around can make the difference between letting SAD ruin your whole winter and managing your low moods and coming out the other side with an even stronger support system. Make the most of them – they’re there because they love you and want to support you. Use that!

 

Self-care

Make time for yourself and don’t ignore your feelings. Run a nice hot bath, light some candles and just sit, enjoying your ‘me’ time. I’m definitely guilty of pretending that I don’t need time alone, and will sometimes go for a week without spending an evening by myself. For many people, all they want is to be alone when down, but for others it’s only too easy to ignore thoughts by keeping too busy. There’s a fine line between keeping busy and ignoring your personal needs. Set aside at least one day/evening a week to pamper yourself to show your body (and mind) some love. Do a little yoga, mediation or just read a good book – it’ll do wonders for your inner energy.

 

I really hope these tips help you manage any winter blues you may be feeling – they’re common, everyone has their days but there are lots of things you can do to help minimise the bad days. For me, rather than being 3 months of feeling horrible, winter now comes with only a few bad days here and there, meaning I am left to enjoy the festive season with family and friends as it is meant to be enjoyed.

DW-FoodFitnessFlora-20170914-IMG_0440

Make sure to eat well and get enough vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy in winter