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Taking control of your health: what to do in self-isolation

Taking control of your health during self-isolation

It’s undoubtedly a challenging time for people globally; in the midst of a pandemic, it may be easy to feel hopeless and for physical and mental health to decline. But here at Reset Your Health, we want to help you recognise the opportunities there are in your daily lifestyle by taking control of your health to improve both your physical and mental wellbeing. By focusing on 5 different areas of your lifestyle, you can be taking control of your health and use this time to set in place the habits and mindsets which will produce long-lasting beneficial results.

Diet: why you should care and how can this effect your physical and mental health?

Did you know that human cells only make up 43% of your body’s cell count? [1] Your gut bacteria are essential to aiding your health, as amongst many things they support the immune system (70% of it is in fact located in the gut [2]). Therefore, your diet is incredibly important in determining your overall physical health. You can have a big influence in helping your body thrive! Try to avoid processed foods, reduce your intake of refined sugar and follow a predominately Mediterranean diet rich in plant foods and lots of fibre. Such dietary changes may well also lead to mental health benefits, as 95% of your serotonin – a ‘happy’ hormone – is produced by gut bacteria. So, a happy gut can contribute to a happy mind [3]!

Fasting is still in the realms of “ might help” but you could use this time to look at the pattern of your eating habits and try fasting for 12 hours a day to see if it helps reset your digestive system, reduce inflammation, potentially lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels, in other words see if you feel better for not eating for 12 hours in 24?  While it may be harder to access certain foods during this period, our patterns of food consumption are still up to us. (Please be aware that fasting may not be suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as those with weakened immune systems or a history of eating disorders).

Water: how much should you be drinking?

Aim for 6-8 glasses of water a day [4]. With two-thirds of your body weight made up of water, it’s essential for bodily functions. Carrying a water-bottle with you around the house may prompt you to drink more. You could try making it more appealing by flavouring your water with some freshly squeezed lemon if you have any available. You can also increase your fluid intake by trying to consume foods with a higher liquid content, such as soups and fresh fruit and veg like tomatoes, to help keep you hydrated.

Sleep: what does your sleeping pattern look like?

Try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night [5]. As well as being more vulnerable to infection [6], a lack of sleep affects your appetite regulating hormones [7] which may jeopardise any new healthier dietary habits you’re trying to adopt. Challenge yourself to use this time to build a sustainable sleeping pattern! This should also help provide some regular structure to your days, and therefore help provide a sense of stability. If you’re struggling to get to sleep, check out this blog post and have a look at the point below…

Exercise: take control of how you move your body!

Some exercise during the day can also help you sleep better [8]. If you can, try and make full use of what opportunities you have to go outside (whilst keeping to social-distancing rules!) and try going for a 30 minute walk or even a run, perhaps while listening to a podcast. Even if you’re in full quarantine, stay indoors and find some videos online such as here, for inspiration and follow-alongs to get creative. As well as providing many physical benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease, exercise has been shown to reduce the level of stress hormones and stimulate the production of ‘happy hormones’. So, get outside for a walk or find some yoga/dance videos online!

Mindfulness: what if you were really in control of your own mind?

With so much uncertainty, unwanted thoughts may well occur. Mindfulness is a form of meditation which enables your focus and consciousness to be fully centred in the present moment. This creates a certain distance between your thoughts and feelings so that they can be observed objectively, rather than attached to. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stimulation of the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in emotions like stress and anxiety [9]. It’s a skill honed with practice, which can be helped by certain Apps or resources online designed to help you work through exercises, or else you can try to practice yourself in some small daily tasks; the next time you go to wash your hands for example, try and really notice the sensations of the water on your skin and let it guide you fully into that moment, so that you’re less caught up in your thoughts.

Particularly in a time of much change and cause of great alarm for many people, some comfort can perhaps be taken in the fact that there are elements of your lifestyle which you can still focus on to not only use as coping strategies, but actively improve your current physical and mental well-being. These changes are no short-term fixes, but long-term solutions to embody the powers you have within yourself and enhance your life experience.

[1] Professor Rob Knight U of C. More than half your body is not human BBC Radio 4. 2018

[2] Vighi G, Marcucci F, Sensi L, Di Cara G, Frati F. Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clin Exp Immunol. 2008;153 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):3-6. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03713.x

[3] Whiteman H. The gut microbiome: How does it affect our health?  Published 2015

[4] NHS. Six to eight glasses of water ‘still best.’ 2011.

[5] Novati A, Viktor Roman TC, Hagewoud R, Den Boer JA, Luiten PGM, Meerlo P. Chronically restricted sleep leads to depression-like changes in neurotransmitter receptor sensitivity and neuroendocrine stress reactivity in rats. Sleep. 2008;31(11):1579-1585. doi:10.1093/sleep/31.11.1579

[6] University of Oxford. Waking up to the health benefits of sleep. 2016:30.


[8] Kline CE. The Bidirectional Relationship Between Exercise and Sleep: Implications for Exercise Adherence and Sleep Improvement. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2014;8(6):375-379. doi:10.1177/1559827614544437.

[9] Hölzel BK, Carmody J, Evans KC, et al. Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdala. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2010;5(1):11-17. doi:10.1093/scan/nsp034