Covid-19

A Routine And Mental Health

Photographer Bianca Maria Cornick

Having a routine during the Covid lockdown has proven beneficial to my physical and mental health. Research backs up my findings of this positive effect. Test studies show how a structured day reduces stress levels, alleviates bipolar disorder and other mental disorders.

Despite these positive reports, a case can be made for the positive influence of change implementation. This change can come in the form of treats to promote mental well-being. I can confirm both of these findings. I experienced improvements in my physical and mental health by using a routine and the implementation of treats. My routine improves my mental health, leaves me feeling healthier, happier, erodes my fear for the unknown, and my ability to study continues to improve.

1. Use Sunlight As A Natural Antidepressant

The first thing I added to my routine was to expose myself regular to sunlight. Whenever possible, my day starts with a sunbath. We humans cannot live without direct sunlight. After going outside became impossible after I became bedbound I asked my wonderful husband to build a bed that made me lie level with the windowsill.

This made it possible to look out onto the green behind our home and combat the shortage of direct sunlight. When the weather permits I sunbathe stark-naked for up to 30 minutes. The advice of so-called experts is to expose our skin, unprotected, for 5 to 30 minutes depending on our natural skin colour.

I no longer sunbathe for vanity reasons. Nowadays, my motivation is to benefit my overall health. A sunbath is a natural way to lower the cholesterol stored in my skin by synthesizing cholesterol into vitamin D.

Besides keeping my cholesterol at a healthy level, sunlight immediately boosts my mood. The rays trigger the release of the hormone Serotonin from my brain. After sunlight touches my skin for 30 minutes, I feel different. The sunbath relaxes my body and improves my ability to focus on my study.

Currently, I work on my dissertation towards a master degree in creative writing with the Open University. Like many, I study from home. Unfortunately, not all my study sessions are equally productive. My chronic health causes moments in which my brain creates impenetrable fog. The routine improved my ability to disperse this fog.

Adding a sunbath to my routine not only benefits my well-being during my day, but it also improves my sleep at night. The release of Serotonin into my bloodstream helps my body’s ability to produce Melatonin after the sun sets. Melatonin is needed for a good night sleep. In addition, a good quality sleep. In addition, a good night’s rest positively influences the way I feel the following day, which indirectly improves my overall mental health and well-being

The lack of daylight can be seen in the Scandinavian populations. Many of these Northern communities live through long dark winters. My husband and I have bought a house in Sweden for health reasons. We met some wonderful people and some have become friends. A son of our friends feels intensely tired during the dark Swedish winter.

After hearing this we bought him a SAD light. When used correctly, these lamps can reset the sleep-wake rhythm thrown off by the lack of light. Although the light from the lamp does not synthesize cholesterol into vitamin D, it does regulate the production of Melatonin in the brain. This SAD light positively relieves this young man’s symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Here in England, due to the recent Covid lockdowns, many British people have been unable to spend enough time in the fresh air and expose their skin to sunlight. As a result, the media regularly report of the effect this has on their well-being. A decline in people’s mental health is taking place, primarily in young adults and children. The media attributes this decline to a few factors; the lack of interaction with other humans, the confinement to our home, and the lack of sunlight.

Photographer Bianca Maria Cornick

2. Intermittent Fasting

The second thing I added to my routine is intermittent fasting. Due to my chronic health problems, it is essential to keep my weight under control. Many people report to have gained weight during the lockdown. The problem is extensive to the point that the NHS offers free weight loss programs to battle these so-called ‘Corona-Kilos’. Lack of movement and comfort eating is a dangerous combination. When I first fell ill, my weight dropped down due to stress.

I lost two stone in about four weeks only to gain them al back, and more, during the five years I spend in bed. Not moving and getting treats to lift my spirits ballooned my weight from 10 stone to 16.10. My weight gain was not called ‘Corona-Kilos’, but its negative effect on my mental health was the same to that which so many people currently experience. My self-images plummeted with the same speed treats converted themselves into fat.

When lockdown happened and people started to gain weight, I knew I could add even more weight to my already struggling body. My husband, who is also my full time carer, looked into intermittent fasting. We decided not to eat before noon nor after six o’clock during lockdown. Doing this has proven very beneficial. Not only has my overall feeling of well-being improved, but it also benefit my physical health.

We provide our bodies with al the nutrition needed within this six-hour window. Forced to make the best food choices, eating the best possible nutrition immediately influenced my overall well-being, mood and physical health in a positive way. We both knew the importance of making each meal as healthy as possible so not to undermine our health.

Eating this healthy food within a six-hour window means that our digestive system rests for the remaining 18. Doing this truly transformed the way I feel. If you like to try intermittent fasting, make sure this is the right thing for your body and mind. Please, consult your GP or health care provider before you start.

Some people report that fasting leads them to overeat, to binge, due to the production of the stress hormone Cortisol. Sure, if you starve yourself to lose weight, binging might occur. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to make the best possible food choices to prevent falling into binging and instead accomplish the positive physical and mental health benefits I experience.

A side effect of intermittent fasting is the drop in the body’s insulin levels. When a fasting period is long enough, insulin levels drop low enough to force the body to burn fat for fuel. We added intermittent fasting to our routine to prevent ‘Corona-Kilos’. Not only did we accomplish what we set out, not gaining weight, we also lost some. We eat as much as our body needs. We stop eating at the point at which we feel satisfied.

My husband lost a one-and-a-half stone and his waist shrunk from 34 to 31.5 inches. I lost a similar amount dropping from 16.10 to 15.5 stone, and my waist went from 46 t0 41 inches. Although according to the NHS health website, my body is classed obese, the weight loss improved my self-image, contributed to an overall feeling of well-being, and strengthened my mental health. According to an online ‘Waist-to-length’ calculator, I need another reduction of two inches to qualify for the overweight category.

That my self-image is negatively influenced by the way I look is not something I am happy about. Through my husband’s eyes, I feel and look beautiful, but the eyes of society are able to make me feel unattractive. The image of an ideal woman held up by the media negatively impacts the way many women feel about themselves including me.

The way we women are portrayed is slowly changing. I recently came across a post by the actress Kate Winslet. She asks the media to show and celebrate women of all sizes, shapes and looks in their natural state. I applaud her effort. No matter how big my waistline is, I should feel good about myself. The happiness I experience about my weight loss should not depend on the approval of others. Instead, the source of my joy should be the positive influence upon my health.

While I work to accept myself as I am, I continue to make the best food choices for each meal. These choices will determine the positive effect of intermittent fasting. My husband and I decided to remove refined sugar, all foods containing high amounts of saturated fats, and processed foods from our diet.

Therefore, the majority of our meal consists out of salads, vegetables, olives, nuts, seeds, oily fish, tempeh, egg whites, almond milk, all chicken without skin, porridge, sweet potato, homemade chips, brown rice, herbs, spices, fruit, and a lot of extra virgin oil.

Although intermittent fasting is a new term, only eating at set times was once the norm. When I grew up during the 60s and 70s our family ate at precisely the same time, each day–three meals a day with no snacking in between. Black and white footage of those days show hardly any obese people.

Sweets were also no part of our life. The only time we were given treats was on birthdays and Saturday night. After one of only two baths a week, I sat on the sofa, with a clean-scrubbed shiny face, beside my siblings. We all held a small bowl filled with crisps. This treat was equal to my idea of Heaven. Most of us ate each crisp slowly, genuinely tasting it, trying to be the last to finish so my brothers and sister would look on in envy, sad theirs had gone.

Photographer Bianca Maria Cornick

3. Exercise

The third thing, equally crucial in our routine, is exercise. After my afternoon study session, it is time to pump a high amount of oxygen through our body. Nowadays, science tells us the most beneficial way to train is doing a 20 to 25 minutes HIIT training session. No matter what exercise rocks your boat, the beneficial effect on our health comes from pumping oxygen deeply into each of the cells in our body.

Oxygen is the reason why we bought a home in Sweden. Each time we are able to spend time in Sweden, the most beautiful country, covered in forest, a miraculous improvement takes place within my body. We contribute this to the Swedish clean air which contains a high oxygen level. This, together with clear clean water, positively influences my physical and mental health. In my eyes, Sweden is magical.

4. Treats

Photographer Bianca Maria Cornick

Training day in our household are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday and weekends are rest days. On these rest days we have implemented treats into our routine. Red wine is by many considered beneficial to health. My husband and I drink a good quality red wine each Tuesday and Friday evening. This is a treat we genuinely look forward to.

As long as we drink in moderation, the antioxidants in red wine will benefit our health. Allegedly antioxidants prevent coronary artery disease and prevents cell damage by radicals. But be aware. Drinking alcohol can harm our physical and mental health. On average, my husband and I drink two glasses of wine within each given week. This amount is classed as five units well under the advised 14 units a week by the Department of Health and Social care. Alcohol affects the neurotransmitters in our brain, and it are the neurotransmitters that influence the way we feel.

Success to improve my physical and mental health was accomplished by the implementation of our routine. Implementing a routine during the lockdown turned out to be a good move. The intermittent fasting makes that we truly look forward to our next meal. Our tastebuds seem to be purified and make that our food taste amazing. #

The routine also returned an old friend from my youth: the slight feeling of hunger before each meal. I can’t remember the last time I felt slight hunger before we started the routine. Hunger pangs are a good sign. They signal that all food consumed has been successfully transformed into the energy my body needs to main maximum health; the body says I am ready to receive more.

It also leaves me with a pleasant feeling of well-being. Another childhood friend also popped its head up–the pleasure of looking forward to a scheduled treat. Tuesday and Friday ‘red wine’ evenings make me experience that wonderful feeling from over a half-century ago. Saturday evenings, my young self sat beside my siblings in perfect health while my small hands held that little bowl with those precious crisps.

4 replies »

  1. Thankyou for this post Bianca it was useful reading it because like yourself my wife and I were gaining weight and not being able to go out and socialise made that we both became irritable and unhappy with each other maybe if we can take heed of what you did with your husband it will change things.
    Its difficult to climb out of ruts sometimes, and thanks again.

    • Super happy you found my article useful. Thank you for sharing your story. Make sure that you ask your GP first if you like to implement intermittent fasting into your routine. I wish you and your wife well. Take good care. Stay safe.

  2. Such an honest and openly written. Very inspirational for those who sees themself in your story. Thank you xoxo

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and your encouraging support. When I write I have people like you in mind. It are people like you who inspire me. Thank you.

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