Daniel Poulter, physiologist at AXA Health

Top tips to stay positive during adversity

26 March 2020

Stay positive

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Keeping a positive mindset during unsettling times might feel more easily said than done, but it is possible. Ensuring a healthy lifestyle will guarantee that you’re putting yourself in the strongest position to ensure you remain positive. 

Daniel Poulter, Physiologist at AXA Health, shares his top tips for achieving a positive mind-set during difficult times.

The importance of positivity

Among the chaos and uncertainty that many of us are experiencing, it can be very difficult to remove ourselves from some of the negativity that surrounds the current global health situation.

Worrying about vulnerable or older relatives or friends, work and finances, and limited access to things we might take for granted can take their toll on our wellbeing. And, while it may be hard to think positively, focusing on a healthy lifestyle can really help to facilitate a more positive mindset.

We can all take proactive measures to ensure we’re looking after our health and wellbeing in times of high stress. With many people in social isolation, the need to remain positive is important now more than ever. With that, here are some top tips to help keep positive through these very challenging times:

1. Stay in contact

While in isolation and unable to see loved ones, maintaining social connections is hard. So try, where possible, to remain in contact with people by phone, text or social media – this will not only help to boost your morale but will also cheer up your loved ones, too.

With this in mind, why not try: 

- Regular daily phone calls

- Put five minutes aside to find out how someone really is (sending funny memes, gifs, video clips – it’s important to laugh!)

- Try a video call – you can do this with multiple members of the family at the same time.

2. Take a break

Don’t feel you have to watch the news, read about it or talk about the coronavirus all day, as tempting as it is to keep checking news sites. It’s important to stay informed but not consumed. Try taking a break from social media from time to time, or a break from watching the news. Take heed of  the relevant trusted official sources, such as the World Health Organization, National Health Service, and Public Health England, rather than unofficial opinion.

3. Practise acts of kindness

If ever there was a time to practise being kind, it’s during adversity. Setting aside time to help others in your community can give you a real boost. That’s because being kind has actually been proven to be beneficial to our health and mental wellbeing – it also creates a chain reaction of others paying it forward! Acts of kindness could include voluntary work, getting some essential supplies for sheilding neighbours, or simply setting up a WhatsApp group so isolated neighbours can keep in touch.

4. Take this time to learn something new

Continued learning enhances self-esteem, which helps us to keep a sense of positivity. The practice of setting goals, and accomplishing them, helps increase motivation and will improve your outlook.  

Why not learn something new? Here are a few ideas:

- Research something you’ve always wondered about

- Learn a new language or craft, or anything you’ve ever wondered about but haven’t had a chance to try.  There are tons of tutorials for absolutely anything you can think of on YouTube or Pinterest (and other platforms)

- Listen to an audio book or podcast.

5. Get enough good quality sleep

Getting enough good quality sleep might seem easier said than done, given the worries and anxiety we experience when times are tough. But sleep plays a vital role in our health and wellbeing. This includes getting enough quality and quantity (6-8 hours for adults), to help promote benefits in mental and physical health. Good sleep health is also vital for decision making, building our resilience to setbacks, improving our mood and our energy levels. Those who sleep better are more likely to eat well and keep active. 

Try where possible to:

- Have a regular bedtime routine. This might include a bath, hot drink, reading a book, or practicing some meditation or mindfulness

- Try to avoid any fluorescent light from TVs, tablets, or mobile phones. Some people choose to keep their mobile phone in another room at bedtime or switch them off completely

- Try to avoid any stimulants before bed, including caffeine, or alcohol. Having a glass or wine to ‘take the edge’ off might be tempting in turbulent times, but for good health, it’s best to keep it in moderation and within the recommended guidelines.

6. Practise gratitude

Research has shown that when we experience positive emotions, such as gratitude, we’re better able to deal with stressful events and are more likely to bounce back quicker. This could include thinking of ‘three good things’ that you’re grateful for and reminding yourself of these throughout the day. You could try journaling first thing in the morning, setting out your intentions for the day, what you’re grateful for and how you’re going to achieve your goals. It’s a great way to focus and feel prepared for the day.

7. Exercise regularly

If your gym is closed, or you’re unable to attend the gym, then there is still a great opportunity to be active in your day-to-day routine. Research has found that exercise enables the body to be more resilient to stress as it gives the body a chance to practise dealing with stress. In addition, the more sedentary we are, for example, if we don’t move around much at all, the less efficient our bodies are in responding to stress. When you exercise, your body releases ‘feel good’ chemicals called endorphins, which give us a natural mood boost. In addition, those who are more active benefit from a better night’s sleep.

You could try: 

  • Jogging around your neighbourhood

  • Walking your dog – taking extra walks, or longer walks if you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious.  A brisk walk in fresh air is a real mood-booster

  • Home based workouts, or simply just getting up every now and then for a bit of a move around, especially if you’re working at home, or sitting down for long periods of time.

8. Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness help make a difference to how people think and react in a variety of situations and can really help some people reduce feelings of fear and anxiety. Practising mindfulness, which is a way of directing attention to the present moment and focusing one's awareness on the present moment, has a calming effect and promotes positivity. While we can’t control what’s happening currently in the world, we can learn techniques to take control our thoughts and feelings.

Further resoucres

Looking after yourself during self-isolation - AXA Health

Top tips for healthy eating when working from home - AXA Health

Staying connected when working remotely - AXA Health

Being productive when working from home - AXA Health

Sleep centre - AXA Health

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