health

"I asked a bunch of experts how to reset when you're feeling 'gross'. Here's what they said."

Anyone else feeling a little... gross lately? A little, y'know - not yourself? Cause SAME.

Between recovering from a ✨third✨ knee reconstruction, not being able to exercise (cos, can't walk), falling out of my regular sleeping routine and currently having absolutely no rules surrounding meals (I ate several spoonfuls of Cadbury Hot Drinking Chocolate powder for lunch yesterday) - things are feeling SUPER NOT GREAT right now.

The mood. The mind. The everything.

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I'm foggy, tired, frustrated and full of this weird guilt and worry that I'm just not doing good enough.

I'm turning 30 in a week, and I can't help but think that this wasn't exactly how I envisioned it. In lockdown, unable to walk, wearing a metal leg brace and watching episode after episode of the X-Files circa 1996.

I mean, it's not bad, but it's not ideal.

It's called fashion. Look it up. 

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The good news? I know this feeling isn't forever - and you need to know that, too. Because there are a few very simple tweaks you can make to your everyday routine to help get your body, mind and mood back on track. (Attractive leg brace, optional.)

Here, I spoke to a bunch of experts and asked them for their top advice when it comes to resetting your routine.

1. Monitor your moods.

According to Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno, the first thing you need to do is to suss out exactly what's triggering your mood changes. 

Is it being in that weird half-work half-home limbo? Is it a lack of social connection? Not exercising as much? A combination of all three?

"Monitoring your moods is important in order to ensure you are able to be aware of factors that are affecting your mental health. Take steps towards improving your emotional wellbeing and seek help if, or when, you might need it," said Sokarno.

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"Issues with your mental health can impact your emotional wellbeing and affect your ability to function in everyday activities."

In other words, when you have control - use it. If you can recognise some of the causes and issues behind how your feeling mentally, flex whatever you have. 

2. Write it down.

Let it all out, boo. Let it out. Sokarno said the most simple way to get in tune with your emotions and be aware of what's going on inside your head, is to put a pen to paper. 

"Writing down your emotional state can also be a great way to track changes in your emotions and be aware of the factors that are affecting your wellbeing," she said.

"Mental health can be affected by various factors such as your diet, stress, physical health, sleeping pattern and how you react to others."

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As a writer, I find this worryingly hard to do. I'm unsure why. But if you're anything like me, there are ways around it.

Instead of doing the whole journal thing and writing out how you feel, Sokarno suggests jotting down a couple of things you're grateful for each day.

"If writing it down doesn’t seem like the right thing for you, consider keeping a gratitude journal where you write down the things that you’re grateful for as a constant reminder that actually enhances your positive outlook."

"By focusing on all the positive aspects of life, you’re more likely to put less emphasis on anything that’s getting you down (at least for a while)."

Worth a shot.

3. Practice mindfulness.

When it comes to mindfulness - this is something I really struggle with. I find it difficult to kind of switch off, and I've never quite caught onto de-stressing practices like medication or yoga. Which TBH, is probably why I'm wiring this article right now ha ha ha. *Wipes away tear*.

"Practicing mindfulness activities such as meditation, journaling or yoga can allow you to outline the causes of your low mood or slump and develop a greater awareness of what is happening around you." 

"It may sound slightly alternative, but being mindful can allow you to react differently when mood changes occur, or simply notice that you’re not feeling completely balanced."

If meditation, yoga or journaling isn't your kinda thing, Sokarno said something as simple as deep breathing can also be a great way to manage your mood. Not only does it help to slow down your heart rate, but focusing on your breathing will allow you to concentrate on your thoughts. 

"Simply by taking your time to practice deep breathing, you can help relax your moods and slow your heart rate down."

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4. Talk to someone.

This. This one is important. Especially if you're one of the poor squids in lockdown. Sokarno said to continue reaching out to and communicating with family and friends, even if it’s just a phone or video call.

"Talking to people can have a positive impact on your wellbeing by reminding you that you’re not alone and have emotional support if you need it. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to family or friends, consider seeking the support from a professional."

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"Places like Beyond Blue and Lifeline offer free over the phone counselling, and services like Lysn offer appointments with a psychologist from the comfort of your own home."

5. Make exercise fun.

"It can be hard to find motivation when you're feeling gross or just not up to it – we've all been there, and it's okay to feel that way," said Duke the Label’s sports physiotherapist Simonne Reynolds.

If you're anything like me, you might be feeling pressure to get back to where you were before - whether it's lifting weights, running, smashing out a HIIT class or going on morning walks.

"Rather than feeling as though you have to jump right back into old routines, find a way to exercise without feeling like you're exercising," said Reynolds. 

"This might mean that you try a new form of exercise you've never done before (I hear '80s style aerobics are making a comeback) or do a completely different form of exercise, whether that's endurance, strength, flexibility and balance. Better yet, grab a friend and go for a long walk and talk, or do a virtual class where everyone can join in."

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Hell, maybe it's these dorky dance workouts that'll help get you through.

"Set yourself a small reward for meeting your new goal every day for a week," suggests Reynolds.

6. Listen to your body.

According to Reynolds, the worst thing you can do is to push yourself when you're just not up for it, encouraging us to listen to our body. Because sometimes that might be exactly what you need.

"If you're usually a runner but your body is feeling tight, don't push it and go for a long walk instead. If you are feeling any aches and pains, don't push it."

"If you have recurring pain, injury, or are struggling to find your rhythm please consult an expert like a physiotherapist who can support you on your journey."

For me, I think it's letting go of the guilt around 'being lazy' (something that seems to be literally ingrained in me), looking at the bigger picture and learning to shift my focus from exercise to recovery. 

"Continuing to train through pain will eventually catch up to you, and force you to stop exercising, which can make it even more difficult to start again."

Hear, hear.

7. Get it done in the morning.

If you're one of the dames who struggles with upholding the motivation to move your body in the evening, Reynolds recommends switching up your routine.

"If it's lack of exercise and unhealthy eating habits that are causing you to feel gross, try to implement some changes first thing in the morning," she said.

"That way you get the exercise out of the way and you don't spend all day dreading it. It can also help to kick-start your day with a healthy breakfast, which sometimes can make you want to keep up that type of eating for the rest of the day."

8. Get the gear you need.

See? Retail therapy fixes EVERYTHING. Just ask Reynolds.

"If you're looking to introduce more types of exercise into your routine, ensure that you are well equipped."

"We've all heard the saying 'all the gear and no idea,' but I do think it's better to have the gear in the first place (rather than risk an injury for things like running in the wrong shoes or slipping because you're trying to do yoga on the floor instead of a yoga mat)."

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Not only can some new training gear help you avoid injury and better support whatever exercise you're choosing, but it can also be a great motivator to get started again. 

"One of my favourite sayings is 'look good, feel good,' and what better time to do that than when exercising!"

9. Be mindful of your habits.

"It can be easy to fall into a habit without even realising it’s happening, and before you know it, it can be so much harder to break!" said nutritionist and naturopath Jess Blair from Duke the Label.

While it might not sound like a big deal, apparently eating Smarties for lunch isn't the kind of habit you should fall into (?). Shocked and confused.

Lunch is served.

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Blair therefore suggests making some small adjustments in your daily routine before it becomes a ~thing~ you always do.

"Try keeping a food journal for a couple of days, noting down what you eat and drink, when, and if you had cravings for that particular food/drink," she suggests. 

According to Blair, this can help you notice what you might be lacking in your diet (EVERYTHING GREEN) and help you "work towards ways at either supplementing it or making it more well-rounded".

10. Make some small swaps.

Okay, Blair. The swaps. Hit me with 'em!

"Have you noticed that you feel like chocolate at 3pm every day?"

Yes. 

"Or perhaps you can’t kick the desire for a plate of ice-cream every night?"

A little bit of column A, a little bit of column B, actually.

"Try making some simple swaps that might help you to ease out of bad habits," she suggests.

"Things like replacing having a chocolate bar with a bowl of fruit instead or having a hot chocolate after dinner instead of ice-cream. You don’t have to have a sudden overhaul, just introduce these changes a couple of times a week and it can help you to ease out of habits."

Blair said another great swap is ditching the takeaway apps (*screams*) or processed foods, and switching to home-cooked meals. 

11. Prioritise your sleep.

If you're anything like me, your sleeping routine is Out. Of. Whack. Since the whole lockdown thing, I've been staying up waaay too late and binge watching every streaming service available to mankind, and then crawling out of bed approximately two seconds before starting my work day. 

It ain't normal. And it ain't good for you.

Not me chucking up a peace sign at 12pm.

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"If you are working from home, it is important to try keeping your regular sleep habits," stresses Blair.

"I know it seems tempting to work in bed, stay in bed and stay up late watching Netflix, but during this time of uncertainty it is best to concentrate on getting that solid sleep and also going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time."

12. Get outside.

Hey. Remember nature? And going outside and stuff?

"Getting outside and getting some sunshine can do wonders for your mental health," said Blair. "Getting out in nature and going for a walk is recommended every single day. 

"If you can't get outside, adding some greenery on your laptop background or on your phone lock screen can really help with combatting those feelings of overwhelm."

13. Add in some supplements. 

"Eating a fresh, healthy diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs. However, we often struggle to eat as healthily as we might like, and supplements are a good way to remedy a vitamin or mineral deficit," explains Blair.

"Nutritional deficiencies may occur in people who are fussy eaters and don’t have a lot of variety in their food choices, or in people who avoid certain food groups (whether it is for ethical, personal reasons or due to a specific health condition)."

As always, the best thing you can do is to check in with your doctor and suss out if you have any nutrient deficiencies. That way you'll be able to know exactly where you need to pick up the slack - whether it be something as simple as incorporating more foods into your diet or using supplements.

"This is one of the reasons that I don’t advocate any food plan that eliminates an entire food group. If you know your diet is deficient, it is very likely that you will need to bolster your health through supplements that can be tailored for better health and wellbeing."

14. Close the stress cycle.

While stress affects us all differently, Blair said the one thing that we all need to do is to put a close to what she calls the 'stress cycle'.

"When the 'stressor' or 'trigger' is taken away, whatever that may be, our body still feels the effects of that stress so it's important we close that stress cycle."

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"Some ways to close off the stress cycle are: sleep, a long hug, a work-out or a creative outlet."

15. Connect intentionally.

If you're a person with a phone, chances are you spend way too much time scrolling through the perfectly curated images of people's lives that make you feel like utter poo. Yeah?

Well, it's time to do a lilttle cullin'. I'll go first.

"Stop the mindless scrolling and only use social media intentionally," said Blair. "Follow people who make you feel good, and don't make you feel overwhelmed."

"If you need to disconnect, do it and re-connect at a later date!"

16. Reach out for help.

Above all, if you feel like you're really struggling - it could be time to reach out to a professional and get some advice.

"If you feel like you need some extra support, talk to your health care professionals or your village, now is a time to reach out for those resources if you need them!"

Need extra support? Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. You can also contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you or someone you know needs assistance. 

Have some thoughts and feelings about the above? Go on - share 'em with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Erin Docherty/Mamamia

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