Top Tips for Researchers to Energise, Reset and Restore
Posted on: 25 June 2021 by Alys Kay (Length: 1057 words - Read time: 4 minutes) in Blog posts
During times of change, it can be hard to stay calm, react wisely and protect our wellbeing.
Editor’s note: Ahead of Wellbeing Week 5-9 July 2021, we will be publishing a series of blog posts that reflect some of the sessions that will be on offer for researchers. In this post, we hear from Alys Kay about strategies to protect and promote good mental health and thrive in uncertain times.
By protecting and promoting good mental health for yourself, you can still flourish in challenging circumstances. The tips below are simple, yet practical tips to protect and promote good mental health and thrive in uncertain times.
- Give yourself a Break: Acting like you are your own best friend can help control the amount of pressure you feel.
- Give your brain a Break: Find healthy ways to switch off from day-to-day stress such as having a bath, going for a walk, listening to music or a podcast, doing something creative or playing an instrument.
- Connect with Others: Emma Sempala's research suggests that when it comes social interactions, it's quality, not quantity, that matters. High quality interactions involve being able to share personal information and going deeper than traditional small talk. Fortunately, there's a growing network of deep conversation events around the globe, allowing you to engage in meaningful conversations while meeting new people.Examples include:
- Deep Conversation Meetups
- Conscious Cafe
- Trigger Conversations (UK)
- You could also suggest starting a Conversation Dinner with your friends, family, partner, colleagues, or someone you're just getting to know? You can even take it in turns to create your own conversation menu. There's lots of inspiration online – search Google for "deep question examples".
Charging up activities
Planning Healthy Meals in Advance
Bridget Benelam, senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation:
“It’s easy to run out of inspiration for what to prepare when you’re having all your meals at home. Try planning out a few meals so you know what you need and don’t have to face the ‘what’s for dinner’ dilemma every night.”
Planning meals in advance can also help reduce your impact on the environment by reducing food waste.
Health eating and meal planning resources:
- Learn about the elements of a healthy diet with the NHS eat wellguide
- Plan meals with BBC food's immune friendly recipes
- Get 7 day budget friendly, healthy meal plan from Heart Matters.
Developing a Regular Exercise Routine
“Walking is man’s best medicine.” - Hippocrates
Exercise reduces the overall activation of your amygdala and sympathetic nervous system – the parts of your brain and body that generate your stress response.
The NHS recommends that all adults between 19 and 64 do:
- at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, such as walking, yoga or cycling
- or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week, such as jogging, or other aerobic exercise.
It’s important to find something that you enjoy when it comes to building an exercise habit. Now more people than ever are interested in fitness, you have endless options. These include ‘bedroom fitness’ resources and tools that make it easy to keep moving indoors.
Here are some ideas:
- Schedule a daily walk
- Become part of the LiverpoolSport community by joining in with group exercise or walking
- Complete ayoutube workout video
- Do onlineyoga with Adrienne
- Do the 5 week strength and flexibility plan from the NHS
- Set yourself the challenge to run with the support of couch to 5k running plan for beginners
- Do this 10 minute home cardiofrom the NHS
- Find an outdoor gym to visit
Don’t forget: Motivation follows action!
Practice Sleep Hygiene
Good sleep hygiene practices include:
- Develop a consistent bedtime routine and schedule, going to bed around the same time each evening and getting up at the same time. Choosing a bedtime routine that involves activites that you know calm you down and make you feel sleepy, such as reading a book or gentle yoga.
- Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. While alcohol is well-known to help you fall asleep faster, too much close to bedtime can disrupt sleep in the second half of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol
- Regular exercising has been shown to improve sleep quality. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can drastically improve nighttime sleep quality. For the best night’s sleep, most people should avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime. However, the effect of intense nighttime exercise on sleep differs from person to person, so find out what works best for you.
- Whenever possible try to avoid emotionally charged conversations or television programmes before attempting to sleep
- Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for individuals who may not venture outside frequently
- Making sure that the sleep environment is dark and comfortable. Bright light from lamps, smartphones and TV screens can make it difficult to fall asleep, so turn those light off or adjust with blue light filters and brightness settingswhen possible
- Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades or ear plugs, if you environment is too noisy because of others in your household or too bright.
In addition, if you’re taking too long to fall asleep, you should consider evaluating your sleep routine and revising your bedtime habits. Just a few simple changes can make a lot of different.
Online Activities that help you Socialise
- 25 video games that help you to socialise
- Schedule video chat catch ups with friends you haven’t spoken to in a while
- Don't forget the phone - some people prefer that and it can make a nice change
- Use the video chat app Houseparty to play popular games like trivia and Heads Up! with friends
- Have a virtual happy hour over video chat
- Consider joining a Meetup.com language exchange (you will be helping someone else as well as meeting people who are very friendly and grateful to be able to practice)
- Volunteer to be a befriender
- Organise a weekly lunch date with a friend over video chat
- Use the Netflix Party extension to watch Netflix with your friends online
- Play Scrabble and chat to friends using the Words with Friends app.
Researcher Wellbeing Week 2021 takes place 5–9 July. For more information, visit: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/researcher/uol-rsa/
About the author
Alys is a coach, and facilitator with over 10 years of experience in HE. Using a people-centered approach to problem solving she has helped hundreds of individuals, groups and organisations meet their goals and better serve their stakeholders. In the community she is a facilitator of participatory art processes, building relationships and facilitating activity and discussion that support personal development and mental wellbeing through art.
It isn’t about always being fine, it’s about recognising when we are not, and learning skills to increase your ability to adapt to and manage failure, challenge and obstacles.
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