In the world of wellbeing, September seems to be the new January these days – with good reason. It’s a far better time of year for a health reset than the freezing winter months. In September you can smell the back-to-work vibe in the air as children return to school and routine is somewhat restored. Plus, you don’t have to wrap up in multiple layers or face depressingly dark mornings when you leave the house.
This September, I feel, will be a big one. As mask wearing begins to lift and a slither of normality returns, we are left staggering through the aftermath of the past 18 months. Even aside from the actual virus, the pandemic has taken its toll on our general wellbeing. And as we emerge from survival mode, we start to look at ourselves again. You may have got into comfort drinking habits; perhaps you have fallen off the exercise wagon or lie in bed until 8.48am because your home working day starts at 9am. Whatever you want to change, here are some small steps to tackle Covid-induced bad habits.
1 Be kind to yourself
Don’t beat yourself up. ‘Remain compassionate with yourself,’ says Kathryn Dombrowicz, psychotherapist and addictions specialist at mental health clinic. ‘We have been through tough times and lost structure in our lives. It’s natural that we have wanted to make ourselves feel better in a time of anxiety,’ she says.
2 Take baby steps
‘It can be overwhelming to tackle everything at once,’ says nutritional therapist Nicola Moore (). ‘Start with the one thing that’s bothering you most and focus on that. Consistency, not striving for perfection, is the healthiest way to make changes.’
3 B.L.A.S.T bad habits
A habit is something we do again and again to the point where we are not actually experiencing it any more but going through the motions. You can break the pattern by consciously interrupting that habit. Kathryn uses the B.L.A.S.T. technique. ‘Ask yourself if you are bored, lonely, angry, stressed or tired,’ she says. ‘Then think of healthier ways you can nurture yourself instead.’
4 Don’t ditch ‘drink o’clock’
It could be that your daily glass of wine (or two) is more to do with the ritual of drinking and what that signifies emotionally rather than the drink itself, explains Nicola. ‘You don’t have to ditch that time in the day when you enjoy a relaxing drink,’ she says. ‘But try replacing it with something non-alcoholic while keeping everything else the same. Keep the wine glass and connect to the act of drinking it, which can elicit the same good feelings as you’d get from a glass of wine.’
5 Don’t go OTT on exercise
Going from sofa surfer to gym bunny will set yourself up to fail. Instead, says Kathryn, walk for 20 minutes four times a week. The next week, add an exercise class or make the walk longer. Doing something is better than nothing and a daily short walk will have an instant impact on your wellbeing.
6 Replace bad habits with good
‘By repeating a bad habit you will have created a neural pathway,’ says Kathryn. ‘You can override it with a positive habit by keeping at it,’ she says. ‘Some studies say it takes 21 days to break a habit, others say 40. I think it’s somewhere in the middle.’