[Disclaimer: This sponsored post is in conjunction with TEMPUR® but all thoughts are my own.]

I had a surreal experience recently… I boarded a flight and went on holiday.

It was a moment I dreamt about, a day I’ve craved for so long. In the lead up to it, I should’ve been excited about it. Except I felt extremely stressed and anxious, especially with the thought of being on a plane in close proximity to strangers. I was constantly wary about the risk of catching COVID and I realised that on a day to day basis, I allow these thoughts to control me more than it should. It wasn’t going to ruin my holiday.

I think back to the beginning of the pandemic and how genuinely frightening it was. The worries we had as we wondered what would happen to our jobs. The dread of losing loved ones. The fear of death. The intense panic, anxiety and stress of the future’s uncertainty and it took its toll on all of us. 

But how far we’ve come in a short space of time. Even if “learning to live with it” is still rather exhausting.

Now everything has gone back to “normal”, it sometimes feels like nothing ever happened. Still, the pandemic has had an impact on all of us whether you choose to believe it or not – affecting our personal, work, and social life.

If there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught me is that nothing is more important than your health. Having health anxiety myself meant that the coronavirus pandemic was very triggering for me – I am aware of how it affects my mental health and I take steps to ensure I look after myself to. 

It’s important to set things in place to find ways to improve your wellbeing after a pandemic, it shouldn’t be overlooked just because things have gone back to normal now.

6 Way To Improve Your Wellbeing

Bedtime rituals

Before the pandemic, I was such a night owl. My bed time was around midnight-1am. Hard to believe it now but these days I’m in bed before 9pm (ok, 8). I don’t know whether it’s because I have a more structured routine now or maybe I just can’t handle late nights anymore, but each night I make sure I get at least 8 hours of shut-eye. 

My bedtime wind-down rituals include clearing the bed of all of my things, my NEOM wellbeing pod misting in the air, a sleep mask over my eyes and a 10-minute meditation session. Not every night, but most nights. There are evenings where I scroll endlessly on TikTok and regret it as soon as I clock the time and notice it’s midnight. 

It also helps to invest in quality memory foam bed products that help you look forward to a good night sleep or a fluffy pillow that gives you comfort like no other. When I moved into my new house 2 years ago, I upgraded my bed mattress, TEMPUR® pillows and a new duvet set – that first night I was giddy with joy. I felt like I was sleeping in a fluffy cloud!

Structure your days

For me, there’s nothing more distracting than having little to do. My job keeps me busy, my side hustle fills in the gaps, and my down-time is spent doing something that brings me joy. Gone are the days where I’m doing something for the sake of it. I have zero patience for that now.

Even though I was working throughout the lockdowns, I found myself with free time since nowhere was open and there was nothing to do. As a far-too-self-aware-of-a-person, I recognise that this is usually when my mental health declines.

Therefore, I distract myself by keeping busy so I don’t have too much time with my own thoughts. I don’t like to stop but I also now recognise signs of burnout. I’ve also learned to not take work so seriously that I suffer physical symptoms of stress! My days are structured so I know when to switch off which is especially important now that I’m back in the work from home club. It’s all about the work-life balance. I make an effort to adhere to a routine which gives me a sense of purpose each day.

Make yourself a priority

Putting yourself first does get more difficult as you get older – but I have no qualms in making myself a priority when it comes to decision-making.

It may be because I have a small circle of friends or perhaps I’m more assertive now, but I’m so much happier now being upfront about the situations I choose to be in. It probably sounds quite selfish, huh? We’ve come out of the pandemic with a different mindset towards life and how we choose to spend our time.

Seriously, when you make yourself a priority, it’s pretty life-changing! You get to enjoy all the benefits that come with that such as zero tolerance on people’s judgement of you, more time doing things you enjoy with the people you genuinely like, and having more money in the bank because you’re not wasting it on doing things you don’t want to do! Honestly, no drama. Life’s too short. Put yourself first, you won’t regret it.

Challenge your thoughts and behaviour

I’m constantly in survival mode and it’s not a great way to be. But now if ever I feel sick to my stomach about a situation, I take a step back to assess what’s real and what’s made up. When you’re anxious, your mind goes 100 miles per hour with the “what ifs”. And it is those “what ifs” that might almost never happen that can spiral and therefore trigger an anxiety attack.

Try to challenge thought-process by reminding yourself that you’re safe, firstly. Challenge your brain to recognise what reality is and what’s occurring in your mind. The two can conflict when you’re feeling anxious – but observe what’s around you to access the facts to help you untangle your thoughts. Even if it’s just for a minute, you will start to think about the situation differently. 

For example, I’m a terrible car passenger and I was recently in a taxi from a night out. It was late, and dark, and the driver swerved over the lane once. Something in my brain switched to “he’s tired, he’s going to fall asleep at the wheel, we’re going to crash and I’m going to die”. I went from one extreme to another and I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my body making me feel physically sick and dizzy. But I challenged my thoughts to calm myself down and with every deep breath that I took, I thought… 

He’s a professional driver (deep breath in)

He does this for a living (deep breath out)

He works night shifts so he probably sleeps during the day (deep breath in)

He went over the line ONCE, Sarah – it happens (deep breath out)

His job is to literally transport passengers safely to their destinations (deep breath in)

He’s going to get us home safe (deep breath out)

And guess what? He got me home safe and sound.

Mindfulness with meditation

Exercise is something I found helpful during times when I struggled the most – to tire me out, if anything! But I recently attended meditation classes. It’s so handy for me because there’s a meditation centre at the bottom of my street and I always wondered what it was like. It was there that I learned more about how to challenge my thought process to release negativity and focus on reality.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that meditation class is where you’d sit in a circle, barefoot with your legs crossed. I mean, that would be nice, but it’s a relaxing 2-hours of being in the present time, sharpening your focus, being mindful, and at peace with yourself.

I recommend the Headspace series on Netflix as a starter into meditation. When I’m feeling nervous before a job interview or first day at a new job, for example, I put Headspace on while I get ready and on my commute. It helps to tune out the negative energy, clear your head of the busy (and unnecessary) thoughts to focus on one thing at a time.

Taking your vitamins everyday:

Before COVID, I went through a time where my diet was terrible. My job was stressful and I ate to comfort myself. I wasn’t eating the right foods and suffered poor health as a result, it felt like it was one thing after another. 

When COVID hit, I was paranoid that I’d catch it and fall ill because I was convinced I had a poor immune system. After all, I hadn’t been taking care of myself.

Avoiding a scary place, I enhanced my well-being by consistently taking vitamins. Two years in, my energy and immunity is restored, and no sluggishness. And… I say this with trepidation (touch wood) that I’ve not caught COVID (…yet).

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