Oh I am just so over all these lockdowns now! I miss eating a panini in a garden centre café, I miss the hygge of post-work pub drinks and I miss having a friend over for a catch up over a pizza. But this is the situation we’re in, and it is what it is.
Like many other people, I’m finding my mental health and general outlook fluctuating wildly from day to day in lockdown. Humans aren’t designed to live like this, and obviously it’s all taking its toll on the way we experience the world.
However! There are plenty of things I’ve been doing to drag myself back to normality, even on the really rubbish days. From self-care to exercise and creative pursuits to healthy (or indulgent) cooking, I’ve had a bash at just about everything. That’s why I wanted to put together this DIY guide to feeling better in lockdown.
Exercise, but not as you know it
None of us are going to the gym right now (naturally I’m devastated), so we’ve all had to get a bit creative about the way we move our bodies. Don’t get me wrong – there are days I work on my laptop all day and then just flake out on the sofa for the rest of the night, but I always feel a lot better for a little bit of exercise.
I don’t really enjoy structured exercise or routines. Instead I enjoy ‘incidental exercise’ – that is, exercise that just happens while you’re getting other things done. My favourite two forms of incidental exercise are gardening (I still don’t have a garden of my own, so my mum’s garden has definitely benefited from this) and cleaning. I have a cordless vacuum cleaner which genuinely makes vacuuming a delight (don’t judge me!), and I love channelling my inner Mrs Hinch and polishing up all the mirrors.
I also like Yoga with Adriene, as you can choose a routine that fits into the time you have available or that suits what you’re looking for, whether that’s a morning wakeup, an energetic flow or a bedtime wind down. And on the subject of YouTube, I’ve been following some fun beginner’s line dancing classes. I don’t think I’m the right demographic, but it’s really fun to have a bop to some country tunes safe in the knowledge that nobody can see you!
Making the most of bathtime
I’m always banging on about my bath obsession, and that’s only intensified in lockdown. But a bath for me is about more than just the bath itself – for me, it’s about the healing process.
Along with a scented product, whether that’s my favourite Deep Relax bath oil or a Lush bubble bar, I love adding something restorative into my baths. My absolute favourite is the BetterYou Magnesium Flakes. They dissolve much faster than gritty bath salts, and they’re perfect for soothing tired muscles (yes, after a vigorous line dancing session). They’re unscented, so work in absolutely any bath without interfering with your other products, and they leave my skin unbelievably soft.
I bought a bath board a few months into lockdown, so I can have all my products laid out in front of me. I use a face mask and a hair mask while I’m soaking, and I have my book and a nice ambient playlist to help me unwind. I always have at least one candle on the go (I’m finally using the ones I was saving for some unknown ‘special occasion’), and a glass of something delicious (I highly recommend a bathtime Baileys in winter!). Sometimes I throw in an extra handful of magnesium flakes for good measure, or if I’m especially tense or achy.
Nailing your sleep routine
It’s no secret that I’m a terrible sleeper. My mind springs to life the second my head hits the pillow, so I’ve been using lockdown to try to work on getting my sleep routine back on track. The key word here is routine – the human body likes to know what’s happening and when, so doing the same things in the same order every night eventually trains your body to wind down for sleep. Here’s what’s in my routine:
- Pillow spray – I’ve tried quite a few now, but I always go back to This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray. One spritz on both pillows, and my mind knows it’s time to get ready to start slowing down.
- Sleep oil or lotion – Did you know that as well as soothing aching muscles, magnesium is also a proven natural sleep aid? I love the BetterYou Magnesium Sleep Lotion after a bath, or their Magnesium Sleep Body Spray for a quicker fix. It really helps me loosen up my tense muscles and melt into bed. They say you’ll see results in four weeks, but I saw results much sooner.
- Podcasts – I can’t listen to podcasts during the day because I find them too distracting, but I’ve come to realise that they are the PERFECT thing for me to fall asleep to. I choose podcasts with soothing voices, regardless of the topic, and I often wake up in the morning 15 episodes down the line.
- Suction cups – Hear me out! This one definitely sounds weird, but it really does work for me. I bought a Legology suction cup (£10 off your first £50 purchase here), which is designed to help reduce stubborn cellulite, but I actually find it works wonders on tense muscles. Any body oil that helps it glide over the skin is fine, but once again BetterYou saves the day with its Magnesium Muscle Spray. The cup and the oil are an absolute dream team, and once I’m done I pretty much float off to sleep.
- A notebook – A nocturnal mind means I’ll often have flashes of inspiration at 2am. Once I get an idea in my head, it’s virtually impossible to sleep, so I keep a notebook beside my bed so I can write things down in the middle of the night and fall asleep without running the risk of forgetting everything. I bought a Papier notebook for this reason, because I love the beautiful designs, which keeps my mad midnight ideas safe until morning. You’ll get £10 off your first Papier order if you use this link.
Eye mask – I always used to hate eye masks, until I bought one from SMUG (this one, to be exact). What makes them different to normal eye masks is that they’re contoured to stand apart from your actual eyes, so your lashes don’t end up squished up against your face. It’s so much more comfortable, and they really do block out the light, so you can sleep peacefully.
Cooking as therapy
I know lots of people absolutely hate cooking, so feel free to disregard this if that’s you, but I find it extremely therapeutic. Trying out a new recipe helps break up the monotony of endless days stuck inside, and I’ve certainly discovered a few new favourites to add into my ‘real life’ rotation.
Nigella’s Cook, Eat, Repeat, Ottolenghi’s Flavour and MOB Kitchen’s Speedy Mob are all firm favourites in my lockdown recipe roster, but I’ve also been spending more and more time scouring Pinterest for some tasty inspiration. When I just can’t be bothered, I’ll chop up some vegetables, stir them into passata with a handful of herbs and chuck them into an oven dish with penne for a speedy pasta bake. I love pasta bake leftovers, and use wholemeal pasta to make it a little bit healthier.
On the baking side, I’ve been seeking out the absolute best of the best recipes for classics like brownies (these!) and muffins (these!). In the absence of anything ‘real’ to look forward to right now, I’ve decided I’m going to do a little afternoon tea for Easter, so I’ve been looking for some new recipes to refine over the next couple of months. This apple cake recipe, this cappuccino traybake and these low-sugar raspberry oatmeal bars are all next on my list to try. I often post photos of my baking escapades on Instagram, so follow me there to see how they turn out!
Make time for hygge
In the absence of real social interaction, you can still hygge alone or within your household.
If you, like me, are absolutely sick of Zoom, it’s probably time to focus on hygge for one. What this looks like is entirely up to you. It could be a jigsaw with your favourite playlist, a nest of blankets and cushions in front of a new Netflix series or even partaking in fika with a cup of coffee and a slice of (homemade) cake.
Or, for anyone who’s still craving that human connection, why not try playing online games with your pals? This can be anything from Animal Crossing to Among Us or even online board games, giving you something to get your brain working. If you’re completely burnt out with phone and video calls (YES, they’re tiring), it might be time to pick up a pen and scribble out a real, handwritten letter. My own handwriting is almost completely illegible (I should’ve been a doctor), but I absolutely love putting pen to pretty paper and sending notes that might just end up in someone’s memory box one day.
Get outside, whatever the weather
I’ve written before about my ideas to get more sunshine even when the weather is a bit grey and drizzly. In the UK in January, it’s not always easy to get enough sunshine, but that’s not the only reason to get outside! Come rain or shine (or snow, or fog, or hail… it’s the UK, anything can happen here), going outside is great for your mental and physical health.
You may not feel motivated to hit your daily step count when it’s freezing and soggy outside, but that’s fine – something is better than nothing. A ten-minute walk to stretch your legs and see other faces can make the world of difference. Even the ritual of getting dressed and making yourself look presentable for the outside world can change your mindset, and getting some fresh air will never do you any harm.
Much of the UK has enjoyed some snowfall in the last few days, and I for one can’t resist the lure of a fresh blanket of snow on grass. Snow is for grown ups just as much as it’s for children, whether that means creating a makeshift sledge out of a tray, building a snowman or just going for a simple winter walk to marvel at the quiet crispness of a snow-clad landscape. Naturally, in Brighton, all we’ve had is rain, rain and more rain – but even that doesn’t mean we should stay cooped up inside.
COMPETITION: Win a BetterYou magnesium bundle
The lovely people at BetterYou have given me a bundle of all the BetterYou magnesium products mentioned in this article to help you feel better in lockdown and beyond! One lucky winner will win:
- BetterYou Magnesium Flakes
- BetterYou Magnesium Sleep Lotion
- BetterYou Magnesium Sleep Spray
- BetterYou Magnesium Muscle Spray
I personally chose each of the items in this bundle because I love them myself, and I’d love to help one of my readers experience the health benefits of magnesium. The entire BetterYou magnesium range uses transdermal application, meaning it enters the body through the skin – very fortunate, considering skin is the body’s biggest organ! 70% of adults in the UK may be deficient in magnesium, and dietary magnesium has reduced by 21% since 1940, making it important for us to supplement our intake. Boosting your magnesium intake can help improve sleep and relaxation, sports recovery, tiredness and muscle tension.
It couldn’t be easier to enter! Just complete any of the actions on this form and you’ll be entered. Simple! The competition closes on 12th February at 23.59pm, and I’ll contact the winner within seven days. Good luck!
PS – If you can’t wait to find out if you’ve won, you can get 25% off the entire BetterYou magnesium range until the end of February!
Post contains PR samples from BetterYou and affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions my own.