During this time of isolation and uncertainty, stress levels can naturally increase. You might be worried about catching Covid-19, the health of family and friends, how the lock down is impacting your business or job and feel anxious about when the lock down is going to end. Stress dramatically lowers the immune system and significantly impacts your mental health.
One thing I have learnt from recent expeditions and ultra-marathons is that there is no point worrying about things that are out of your control, it is a waste of time and has no benefit. Unforeseen complications are likely to arise on expeditions, instead of panicking and worrying about them, or feeling sorry for yourself, you need to be prepared to overcome them. For instance, my recent expedition to Svalbard involved polar bear encounters, extreme arctic weather and the prospect of falling through sea ice. During the expedition I tried not to worry about these dangers; instead I poured all my energy into being well prepared to deal with sticky situations when they arose.
I appreciate that not worrying about scary things is easier said than done especially in these unprecedented and uncertain times. Luckily there are some simple steps that you can incorporate into your daily routine that will help minimise stress levels and keep you feeling relaxed and healthy.
As the saying goes, a healthy body will help ensure a healthy mind. One of the best ways to minimise stress levels is regular physical exercise. A walk each day as the government advises is a good start but to really get the endorphins flowing through your body, also try to fit in a short home workout. A simple search on Google or YouTube will unveil an abundance of effective body weight workouts that can be done in your living room or garden and don't require access to a gym or spending time in parks.
A 20 minute body weight workout for instance can be a really effective way of getting your heart rate up, shedding calories and giving your muscles a thorough workout so that when you are finally allowed to travel again you will be expedition ready. Mindfulness, breathing exercises, yoga & meditation are also great ways of reducing stress levels; again, a quick google will produce a huge selection of inspiration.
If you are working from home, you may have gained some extra hours each day that would usually be spent commuting to and from work. Why not use these hours to try and learn a new skill?
There is no better time to learn that instrument you have always dreamed of playing, improve your cooking skills, paint more, or learn a new language. Learning something new or creating something tangible can be hugely beneficial; not only is it fun, it can also improve confidence and give you a sense of pride and achievement. You'll also surprise yourself by how quickly you can pick something up.
A few years ago, I skied the Engadin cross country ski marathon in Switzerland. Living in London I didn't have any access to slopes to train on so learnt to cross country ski from scratch by attending five hour long roller skiing sessions in Hyde Park.
A well-balanced, healthy diet is also an important aspect of improving fitness levels and minimising stress. Hopefully you are following government advice and only heading to the supermarket when the fridge and cupboards are empty. When you eventually take the plunge and go for that big shop, stock up on highly nutritious foods such as nuts, pulses, grains and vegetables.
The key is to maintain a well-balanced diet, eat the right quantities and keep hydrated. There is a temptation when in the comfort of your own home with easy access to the kitchen and larder to snack more - try and keep snacking to a minimum and keep regular mealtimes.