The television presenter turned wellness entrepreneur Poppy Jamie launched her mindfulness app, Happy Not Perfect, in 2018 – billed as a ‘happiness gym’ for your emotional wellbeing, it went on to become one of the most popular meditation apps around. Now she’s back with a new podcast, Not Perfect, which explores what it means to be human – from mental health to money matters, happiness to heartbreak – making it the perfect listen for these unsettling times. Here Poppy shares her top tips for handling anxiety during lockdown through mastering a manageable daily schedule.
Staying sane in self-isolation is really all about creating a routine that you like. Our brain loves routine – in that sense we are no different from children. And just like kids thrive with a set bedtime, we do too, because our brains love certainty. In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, we are all struggling with a lack of certainty as so many things are changing – the best way to manage that anxiety is to create reassurance for yourself with a routine you can stick to.
Make your routine as detailed as possible. You can even go as far as to write out the times of the day, breaking it into 15-minute or half hour intervals, with a specific action or activity for each time slot. I start mine from the moment I wake up, at 7.30am. And actually get out your pens and paper to do this rather than just writing it on your phone – that makes a huge difference.
Schedule in exercise that you actually enjoy. Don’t run for an hour if you hate running, because that will only make you feel worse if you don’t complete it. Since lockdown I’ve started doing the nightly Instagram live sessions from wellness brand Forward Space, because I get to look forward to a fun 20-minute dance workout at the same time every evening. I also use the FIIT app for yoga classes, which I do three times a week in the morning. And don’t neglect your mental exercise. Whether it’s a walk to clear your mind, a meditation session to ease anxiety or a happiness workout on the Happy Not Perfect app, schedule it in and be sure to only include things you will stick to and feel excited about.
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Maintain regular eating times throughout the day. Plan what you are going to eat in advance so that you can organise a weekly shop ahead of time – it saves so much stress. I gave up meat two years ago so I eat fish with a mostly plant-based diet now. I usually have a huge salad for lunch with either trout or salmon added to a plate of avocado, olives, lettuce, tomato and beetroot, all soaked in olive oil. I love eating healthy fats as it helps me concentrate in the afternoon. In the evening I’ll have grilled aubergine, beans, pulses and roasted vegetables, or hot soups. I finish my day with three or four spoons of honey – honey has great health benefits, as it’s anti-bacterial and builds immunity, plus it tastes delicious.
Make sure to incorporate social time into your routine. Schedule in specific times of day to call your friends so you don’t get distracted on WhatsApp or the House Party app at 3pm when you’re meant to be working. Zoom quizzes have now become a ritual for me, even though I am hopeless at them! I call at least one friend a day for a good hour catch up and usually try to go for a walk at the same time.
Write a list of all the things you said you were going to do when you had more time. Learn the piano? Learn a language? Get fit? This is your time to do it. Add a realistic goal into your routine – mine is to learn to cook at least one thing, because I’m a horrific cook. I’ve been a total lockdown cliché and learnt to cook banana bread, but it didn’t rise. I ended up eating all of it myself because no one else wanted to try it! I’m also making sure I take time to exercise, stretch and belly breathe every day, because you always feel so much better both physically and mentally afterwards and it really improves your mood.
Celebrate the things you have done each day. Our brain and body need constant pats on the back, so try actually saying “well done” to yourself when you complete your exercise or get to bed early. Our brain loves validation, and it means we are more likely to stick to it tomorrow. Plus, whenever we complete something we release dopamine in the brain, which is a feel good hormone that helps to mediate anxiety.
Learn, learn and learn some more. Learning about your mind is the best education you could give yourself, because it’s learning the manual to your own machine – that’s something I recommend to everyone. My podcast, Not Perfect, was designed to help you do just that – there are 20 episodes live and more to come, and each guest is an expert full of wisdom and advice sharing tips on how to live a happier life. So far we have had the Head of Mindfulness at Brown University, Dr Judd Brewer, explain how to break bad habits and use these life changes to our advantage, as well as clinical psychologist Dr Catherine Pittman simplify what’s actually happening in our brain when we feel anxiety. Look at this time as your reset button to change the way you live and shake off the bits you don’t want to take back into the post-Corona world.