Expert tips for practicing self-care in lockdown & beyond
Q&A with a doctor, health coach and fitness pro
In a day and age where stress and anxiety has become the norm, taking care of your physical and emotional wellbeing is key. Building healthy self-care habits is something we should be focusing on every single day – not just when we’re feeling low – both in lockdown and beyond as restrictions loosen and we go back to a semblance of normal life.
To help with life at home and transition into the new normal, we sponsored Dose’s very first virtual event on how to practice self-care in lockdown and beyond that was recorded live as part of their Hacking Happiness podcast series (listen to it here).
Speaking to experts in the field, we discussed how we can take control of our body’s neurochemistry to live happier, healthier lives – from home workouts to send endorphins soaring, taking CBD to soothe anxiety and practicing good nutritional health and sleep habits to boost serotonin.
Julie Moltke, Medical Doctor specialising in mental health, sleep and stress management
I’m Julie, joining from Sweden where I have a farm and run retreats and I’ve been here during lockdown. On a daily basis, I work in the cannabis industry and prescribe medical cannabis and CBD. I also work with stress reduction and I use CBD and cannabis but also use a lot of other techniques like mind and body techniques such as yoga meditation and breath work. I work in the wellness industry in the UK and have a book coming out on CBD if you want to know where to start and what kind of conditions you can use it for, my book ‘A Quick Guide to CBD’ is available on Amazon.
Charlotte Dormon, Holistic Health coach at Healthy Eats London
I’m Charlotte and I’ve been working in natural health for around 18 years in the industry. I work as a health coach. I’m a huge fan of CBD and natural products and self-care in general.
India Bailey, Fitness Pro and Head of Cycle, Brand & Culture at Core Collective
I’m India, I’m the head of Brand and Culture at Core Collective and Head of Cycle so I’m in the fitness industry both from a head office standpoint but also from a trainer standpoint on the ground.
1. Home workouts vs. studio – What workouts are you streaming and how important is exercise to wellbeing and happiness?
Fitness has a huge impact on us during this time. It’s important to get moving for at least 30 minutes every day. For me, it’s my love language. It’s how I find quiet, how I get reenergized and its how I break up my day and work my body.
Everyone’s different so finding what works for you is really important. Now is a great time to discover exercises that vibrate on the same frequency as you. Whether it's yoga, going for a long run or working your mind using mediation apps.
In terms of studio vs. at home workouts, we’ve all had to pivot a bit. I’m used to seeing tons of different faces on a regular basis and this really energises me. So, I’ve been using live streaming platforms so I’m able to see all my favourite instructors with different workouts. Using Zoom is great as you’re able to have that connection with your instructor which can be lacking on IGTV.
I’ve always loved exercising and when I was younger, I really liked endurance, strenuous exercises like long runs. But I must say that since I came up here to Sweden, the pace of my life has changed and it’s been nice to be able to take it down a notch.
It’s been a stressful year so going on really long walks, mediating, and doing yoga in the morning has been great. I find that the slower forms of exercise are appealing to me a lot during this time. It’s been a time for introspection and reflection and I’ve enjoyed being able to reflect that in my exercise.
I’ve really enjoyed doing a lot less. I’m normally at a Pilates studio three times a week or doing a barre class and I’m used to feeling stressed from always having to be somewhere. While I absolutely love my classes and I’m looking forward to going back, I haven’t had to deal with the stress of rushing to and from a class and I feel a lot better for it.
I enjoy the interaction and what I find you miss in an online class is that correction. It’s being there and having that motivation and a teacher that knows your body and what you’re capable of so they can can push you a little bit more.
I've been enjoying the free stuff online. I’ve got friends who are fitness instructors and I’ve been saving their workouts and doing five-minute planks. I’ve also gone old school with Cindi Crawford 90s workouts - if you look at her body now, she’s late 50s and still immaculate. And its free on You Tube!
It's good to have equipment at home you can use. I’ve got a Pilates ring and some bands, and I’ve been using those, but I’ve really tried to take the pressure off myself to feel like I have to do too much.
According to research by Fitbit, many people are getting a better-quality sleep during our new stay at home lives.
2. How has your sleep been affected by lockdown and how can we
build healthier sleep habits?
I’ve struggled with sleep since I was a child. I’ve got a hyperactive mind and I've had to come to terms a long time ago with the fact I’m not a great sleeper. So, what I’ve enjoyed during lockdown is having a routine. I found that I was much more relaxed getting into bed and this way of being, the routine you get into will continue beyond lockdown when we get back to normal life.
Loads of people have told me they’ve been struggling to sleep. I think that’s purely because many people aren’t exercising enough – they’re sitting around a lot more.
There are a few things that you can do – one of them, in particular, is to take CBD. That’s something I absolutely swear by. I use it all the time to help me unwind.
Giving up drinking is helpful as alcohol can disrupt your sleep. But generally, a wind down routine is important. I recommend magnesium. It’s great in a bath. If you can’t bath in it then you can use a cream or foot bath.
If you’re a high wired person, high frequency, or anxiety type person then try things like herbs and adaptogens such as ashwagandha, tulsi and rhodiola that calm the nervous system. They help our bodies adapt to stress.
When it comes to food: pulling back on too many stimulating foods like chocolate at bedtime and instead having a healthy snack like an oat cake with peanut butter is really good for boosting serotonin levels.
But it’s not a one size fits all. Everyone is different with their sleep. We think its all the same but actually a lot of people may fall asleep really easily but then they wake up in the night or they wake up too early. I love my apps like Calm or White Noise and recommend a black out curtain so you don’t get the light coming in and waking you up.
I usually sleep quite well but when I’m stressed, I battle to fall asleep. I work with sleep and have two favourite tips. When you’re in bed (after you’ve taken your CBD and magnesium) and you still can’t sleep, there are a couple of things you can do. The first is from an American neuroscientist who is also a hypnotherapist and he discovered in the 70s a great way of self-hypnosis.
The most common reason for insomnia is anxiety or stress and the mind is racing which is what CBD can really help with.
But if you don’t have CBD, what he recommends is closing your eyes and counting two-digit numbers. If you keep doing this, the mind will naturally meditate. When you start thinking again, go back to counting. The process is challenging enough to distract the mind but simple enough for you to quickly drift back off to sleep. Both my partner and I have used it during lockdown and can really recommend it.
If that doesn’t work and you've been in bed for 20 minutes, the best tip is to get up. Research suggests that after 20 minutes, your mind is too frustrated to fall asleep so you should get up, make a chamomile tea, lavender tea or something calming. Try reading a book but don’t go on your phone or look at work emails. Do breathing exercises, maybe a small yoga pose, and then try to go back to bed.
Sleep is sacred to me. When I have to get up at all kinds of hours, finding those eight hours is crucial.
I’m obsessed with baths but having lavender pillow spray for your pillows helps a lot. I have a very overactive mind, so I always journal before bed. I write down the things that I was able to accomplish that day that I was proud of myself for. I go over in my mind: what did I do? What are my controllables? And what do I not have control over? It helps me process what I’ve learned and how I’m going to progress moving forward.
Writing a little to-do list gets the worries out of my mind, it’s a sense of purging those things that you don’t have control over or that you want to action the next day. It really helps.
3. CBD sales are booming during lockdown. Why do you think this is? Do you use CBD and
if so, how does it help you?
It would be strange if I didn’t use CBD seeing as I work with it constantly. At the moment, I use it when I have my period because it helps with period pain and mood with PMS but I don’t use it on a daily basis.
According to psychology studies from the 50s and 60s, major life events or changes are associated with stress; this applies even to positive events like a wedding or having a child so it’s no surprise that mental health issues have been rising. We have a situation now that no one has seen before and there's a lot of uncertainty and stress about finances, jobs and even health. You may have vulnerable grandparents if you’re not vulnerable yourself so there are many reasons why you’d feel more stressed or anxious.
The way that CBD works in the brain is by interacting with our endocannabinoid system which is an incredible system that controls just about every function in the body. It keeps the hemostasis - the balance in the body. CBD also works with serotonin system that controls mood. This isn't working properly when you feel depressed, out of balance or when you have anxiety so CBD is incredible because it can help even out these two systems.
In a recent survey I did, I found that over 40% of people use CBD for stress or anxiety. These are some of the main mental health issues you can use CBD for so it makes sense that sales are booming.
Yes, I do use CBD, I mainly use it as part of my process of going to bed. My sacred sleep. I typically take it in the evening as more of a reactionary method so I will take it if I feel really stressed and I know I’m going to have a hard time getting to sleep - especially if I have an early morning class.
If there’s a situation at work where I’m feeling anxious about then I will take CBD during the day as well but primarily in the evenings. From a physical standpoint, I take it CBD to combat inflammation or any joint pain I might feel if I’m overexerting my body which I find really helpful.
4. Can you build up a
tolerance to CBD and how do we know if we’re getting the right dose?
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that you build up a tolerance. You can do that more to THC but with CBD its quite common to use the same dose regularly. It doesn’t make you dependent. There's really no risk of addiction to CBD.
Finding the right dose is a process of trial and error but the normal dose for people suffering with mental health issues is between 25 to 50mg. Of course it depends on the way you use CBD, if you vaporise, use oils, capsules or a topical, but I generally find this dose spread out over the day (or in one dose if you’re using it for sleep) is effective.
When using CBD for mental health conditions like pain and inflammation, most evidence suggests that you need quite a high dose. However, for the average person looking for the general benefits of CBD, it's better to experiment and see what works for you. The FSA recommends not taking more 70mg than a day.
do we know if we are sourcing the best quality CBD?
You want to make sure that it’s a serious brand that focuses on quality control and has these quality control results from a third party available on their website. Check their tests to see the amount of cannabinoids and traces of other minor cannabinoids such as terpenes that go into the product. This is a good indicator that it's a serious company.
90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut.
5. How important is nutritional health and specifically
gut health to our happiness and wellbeing?
The gut has become our new obsession. It's beyond bloating and having a flat tummy though; it’s what we're eating and how it's affecting us. For a long time, we didn’t really realise this. We thought the brain was controlling everything to do with our mood but we all know how we feel when we get a stomachache or an upset tummy.
I’ve given up drinking as I noticed that after alcohol, my serotonin was on the floor. I felt low and anxious and a bit ‘urgh’ – the post drinking blues. Alcohol kills off a lot of the good bacteria in the gut and can affect our serotonin levels. So, it’s important to look after the gut, particularly if you've got issues around mood. Now I’m not saying that’s going to fix everything or that looking after your gut will mean you won’t suffer with depression but it’s so important to be aware.
It’s challenging when you’re going through a low mood, depression or feeling a bit flat not to reach for those foods that give use an instant lift. White breads, alcohol and sugary foods impact the serotonin produced by the gut. The more our bacteria is out of whack and the more gut issues we have, the less chance we have of good serotonin. There are foods that boost our mood: things like oats and fibre that feed the friendly bacteria in the gut will help us get more serotonin.
Probiotics are important, things like kefir. You can go to a health store without spending a fortune. Taking a probiotic for two to three months will help your body create a friendlier space for the bacteria in your gut and impact on your mood.
If you’re someone who suffers from anxiety, CBD is a really good solution for you. Make sure you’re eating the right food and don’t skip meals. Don’t drink too much alcohol and if you are, be mindful of what you’re drinking so you’re not killing off that bacteria.
If you struggle with sleep or low mood, I read this amazing book called Potatoes rather than Prozac and it explains the importance of having a carbohydrate snack before you go to bed to release tryptophan which is what we need to release serotonin. That’s why I suggest having an oat cake or a bit of toast to help your body to release this feel-good chemical in the mind to help you sleep.
So again, CBD is important but also look after your gut, take probiotics, have some kefir. Be mindful because like a gut feeling, we can feel things with our body and serotonin is essential for us to feel good and prevent food cravings, mood swings, and trouble sleeping.
I’ve tried intermittent fasting. I used to get very anxious in the evening and eat a lot before going to bed and now I stop myself around 18:30 and drink more liquids and tea. The mornings and afternoons are when I need the most energy so it's really worked for me.
I feel a lot calmer when my digestive system isn’t working at that time. Along with CBD and drinking a ton of water!
6. Have you been experiencing
more anxiety than usual?
Yes, its a different kind of anxiety though. I’m used to being on the hamster wheel 24/7 and anxiety is a natural byproduct of that. So, pivoting into a more relaxed and controlled pace of life, I've felt anxiety because I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Adapting to something less crazy and chaotic has been anxiety causing for me personally.
But its just about shifting mentality right? You have to choose to shift and change or you’re just going to keep repeating. So, it’s been a great time for reflection and to think about how we want to pace our lives.
I’d like to bring something into that because I’m 40 now and I feel like I’ve got a wealth of knowledge on this. When I was younger, I spent most of my 20s thinking that I need to do what that person is doing, I’ve got to juice and go to yoga.
Everyone I spoke to felt the same and yes, I’ve got anxiety, and everyone has their own things going on but really tuning into you is what’s key. If I could go back to my younger self, I would say that you don’t need to do everything. It's exhausting and I think in wellness, often it becomes the more well you want to be, the more stressed you are. That “oh my god I haven’t had 5 portions of fruit today, I don’t know what I’m going to do!”
We've got to try and calm down because that anxiety can be exhausting. Sometimes we need to say “okay, let just chill out.”
Giving back to others gets our happy hormones firing too - serotonin and dopamine specifically. It can also make us feel more purposeful, connected and grateful for our own lives. The hormone oxytocin is often linked with social bonding and connection.
can we make sure we get enough of oxytocin when we're social distancing?
Oxytocin is a very interesting hormone because at we used to think it was primarily secreted during childbirth and breastfeeding. It’s responsible for this incredible strong connection straight away between mother and child.
But now we also know that there are many other things that trigger it – things like touch, massage, acupuncture, but also physical exercise releases oxytocin. So, if you have a partner, a 5 – 10-minute massage is a great way to feel more connected.
9. Let’s talk about
CBD and intimacy. How can CBD boost our sex lives?
I think it’s really important and a lot of people, women in particular, find it hard to connect when stressed. I’ve given up drinking and one of my ways of unwinding was a couple of glasses of wine and let’s get in the bedroom. A lot of people use sex as a way of unwinding.
I was using CBD at the time and I thought about giving it a go in the bedroom and what I found was that my body was very relaxed and it really improved the orgasm. For me, it was the intensity of it and the release of oxytocin which is very good for you. Taking CBD under the tongue and a few drops under there, I’d like to say give it a go – it certainly worked for me.
I haven’t tried it specifically for that, but I can understand it and totally get that aspect of coming out of your mind. Sex is such a mental thing as well. If you’re mentally not there, especially for women, it’s very difficult to be present in the moment.
And the way I use CBD for anxiety and sleep, its releasing those external things you don't want to worry about anymore. So yeah, I’m up for giving it a go for sure!
One of the main reasons why CBD can help enhance your sex life is because it makes you less stressed and anxious. It’s difficult to have an intimate sex life if your amygdala is firing away.
CBD does to the mind what meditation does to the mind. It makes it more spacious where you can open up to a bigger, more relaxed picture. When you're stressed, its like having thoughts going around in a glass of muddy water and suddenly when you take CBD or meditate or do these kinds of exercises that activate the parasympathetic nervous system, everything clears.
And it’s fun too – there are many lubes with CBD and I think that bringing a bit of playfulness into your sex life is great. So, whether CBD actually helps to give you a greater orgasm on a cellular level, who cares?
10. What learnings and
tools can you take away from your lockdown experience to help you prepare for your
return to normal life?
Having more patience and setting boundaries has been a big one for me. I think there’s so much power in saying yes. But also there's power in saying no and developing boundaries for yourself. Sometimes you have fingers in all these different pots so you’re not actually giving attention to the moment.
For me, writing in my journals at the end of the day has made me feel more grateful and at peace. Taking inventory of your accomplishments is important.
Picnics! I love picnics. My boyfriend and I love finding new places to go for walks and as lockdown has opened up a bit, we could go and see the outside world a bit more. Now we get the alcohol-free wine, two flasks of tea and little cakes and go for picnics. I’ve been cooking a lot more and it's saved me a fortune as I'm not spending money on grabbing food out.
I've learned that you don’t need to go to lavish restaurants or the latest juice bar. It’s about enjoying the simple pleasures in life. Don’t be afraid to say “I really like this way of being, let’s go for picnics, have walks out, cook food” and have boundaries. Ask your employer if they’d consider you doing more stuff at home if that's what you want. It’s a great opportunity to renegotiate and look at your life and say “this has been amazing. I feel so much better as a person doing this and I would like it to continue.”
This time for introspection has made a lot of people realise what really matters. So, it’s about sticking to these values because they’re ultimately the only things that can guide you.
There are never going to be any external values or ideals that are going to be able to give you a happy life. I've been weeding out a lot in my life during lockdown and there are many things I am not going to let back in.
I think another one is encouraging kindness and compassion, and especially compassion towards oneself. I’ve been working with a mediation teacher called Tara Brach and she works with the concept of compassion-based meditation. It’s getting in touch with these feelings of kindness towards oneself. I am going to try to bring that forward into life after lockdown. I hope that other people will do the same. As I think if we are kind to ourselves then we will also be kind to others.
We want to thank our wonderful guests and our partner DOSE for creating a space to share these meaningful experiences. We hope you’ve found some value and can apply these self-care tips towards your own wellbeing in lockdown and beyond.