ES Lifestyle newsletter

OK, so 2020 hasn’t been the year that you expected. Between Covid-induced health anxiety, job insecurity and a general sense of impending doom, we’ve felt mentally overburdened for months. Not to mention there’s been no release: a staycation is no match for a foreign holiday, and we’re all missing parties and blowout weddings. Many say they feel they’ve lost the best part of the year, and our mental health is suffering as a result.

But it is possible to reclaim a sense of optimism and spend the next four months productively. From how to recalibrate your post-lockdown mindset to getting back into a fitness routine and the latest smart reads and fun listens, here’s how to help you bring this year back from the brink (honest).

Look at things differently

First things first, try to reconfigure how you look at 2020. Dr Martina Paglia, psychologist and clinical director of The International Psychology Clinic, says: “For most of us 2020 has so far had little to offer by way of joy, hope, laughter and optimism and it’s easy to become lost in negative thinking,” but she urges you to try to focus on any positives that may have come out of the situation, however trivial. “Psychologists agree that expressing gratitude, even in the darkest of hours, can help to reduce stress levels and change your outlook on life.”

An easy way to do this is to buy yourself a gratitude journal and create a ritual of noting down things that you’re thankful for on a daily basis. If you really struggle to find any silver linings in the pandemic at all (and you’re probably not alone), Dr Paglia suggests forcing yourself to smile or laugh even. It might sound a bit loopy but she explains: “You know it’s not warranted, but your brain is unable to distinguish between real or fake in this instance, and you could generate happy hormones regardless to boost your mood.” Anything’s worth a try.

Spiritual healer and founder of Project Ajna, Giselle La Pompe-Moore, says we can use this “collective pause”, to manifest the future we want. “It’s important not to bypass what’s happened, call it a blip, and move onto the next thing — we need time to grieve the losses we’ve faced and reflect on what we’ve learned about ourselves,” she says. “Use the discomfort of this year to decide what life you want to step into. For change to occur, we always get pulled into moments of pain to wake us up so we can act.”

Examine yourself on a personal level and ask: “Are things really headed in the direction that feels most aligned for me or are they built from a long list of expectations and shoulds?” Rather than focusing on external factors, like your job, accomplishments or possessions, instead, “go inwards and see what lies there by looking at your biggest fears and boldest desires”. This will encourage you to feel directly accountable for your own overall sense of wellbeing, she says.

Replenish with self-care

You may have had more time to yourself than you’re used to lately, but when we’re unsettled it can be easy to idle away time. It’s time to replenish with some self-care.

Lost momentum with your workout regime? Give yourself a post-summer blitz by signing up to a fitness challenge. It will reward you with a sense of community, explains running coach and personal trainer Tashi Skervin-Clarke (@tashi_skervinclarke), founder of the TSC method, who leads monthly virtual run clubs which focus on specific goals to help runners achieve a new PB — September’s focus is on 5km.

“Goal-setting is a great way to reboot your mindset and kickstart your fitness routine if you’ve got into a bit of a rut. Setting small, specific targets along the way will help you to identify if you’re on track to achieving your overall goal and help to boost your motivation. I ask all participants to check in with me every week and tell me how they got on with their runs which keeps them feeling accountable.”

Alternatively, if you just need some consistency in your fitness routine, home workout app Fiit offers training plans. Start with 14 Days of Fiit, a simple two-week challenge consisting of eight classes balanced across cardio, strength and mobility — you’ll be back in the swing of it in no time.

Meanwhile, if your relationship was one of the many other things that coronavirus battered, carve out some time to nourish it by downloading a couples-focused app like Happy Couple or Paired — launching soon — which encourage partners to communicate by answering quiz-style questions together that are designed to bring you closer.

Find yourself a new hobby that you love doing just for you. Sasha Sabapathy (@sasha.sabapathy), wellness guru and Glow Bar founder, took up pottery in lockdown and says it’s a great way of practising mindfulness. “After ordering the cheapest wheel I could find online and some clay, I began to play around with the help of some YouTube tutorials and books. The spinning is very meditative, but also you become very good with failure. My work has been my life 24/7 for the last few years so having a new hobby that allows me to be creative in a way that has nothing to do with work has been an amazing way to reset my mind. Plus you get something to cherish at the end of it. I’ve mainly been making mugs and bowls to drink my homemade moon milks and smoothies out of.”

Virtual coffee mornings offer socially distanced networking opportunities (Savvy Startup Coffee & Connect)

Invest in personal development

Furlough and endless WFH has left many of us dreaming of a digital nomad lifestyle in Bali. While that might realistically be some way off right now, enrolling in an online course will add strings to your bow before the year’s out, and may get you closer to that end goal. Whether it is to improve your public speaking, dabble in scriptwriting or learning how to code, General Assembly, Google Digital Garage, Masterclass.com and City Lit are good places to start.

Just don’t go in blind, warns career coach and consultant Hannah Salton, “Don’t waste time or money doing lots at random without researching and understanding your goal behind why you’re doing them. Look for online courses that are interactive and involve networking with others to expand your contacts and develop personally.” Virtual coffee meet-ups also offer a good way of networking with others at a distance. Irene Moore, business coach and founder of SavvyStartupClub.com, a podcast and community platform for female founders, hosts a weekly virtual meetup on Zoom for women in business to share wins, struggles and exchange ideas.

“I started the Savvy Startup Coffee & Connect meet-up to support career changes and hold space for like-minded professionals to meet for virtual coffee and feel less isolated during lockdown,” she says. “Whilst learning and starting new things is great, one of the most powerful things we can do to end the year strong is focus on building new connections.”

New reads to devour

Feast on culture

Autumn 2020 is bursting with motivating new reads and fun listens to help break old habits and embrace your new hobbies. Feel like the current economic downturn is an excuse to finally address your relationship with money? Entrepreneur Sarah Akwisombe, founder of the No Bull Business School, offers a 10-step system to manifesting more money into your life in her new book The Money is Coming. A recession is the perfect time to confront money fears and concerns head on, she says.

“Use this time to really understand your money programming by asking yourself — what did you hear growing up? What was implied about money? What do you fear about money and finances? What are you excited about when it comes to money?”

Being really honest with yourself will help to shift the hold money has over you, Akwisombe adds. Or, if you’re in need of a back-to-work confidence boost, Rebecca Reid’s The Power of Rude offers a frank and refreshing guide on how women can assert themselves and stop obsessing about coming across “polite”. Meanwhile, if you were one of the many to rediscover the joys of cooking from scratch during lockdown, snap up Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest cookbook, Ottolenghi Flavour, the veggie recipes created with co-writer Ixta Belfrage are the perfect accompaniment to your new veg subscription box.

Podcast-wise, tune in to Unearthed, the first podcast series from Kew Gardens. It’s hosted by botanist James Wong, who reveals the roles plants and fungi have played in sinister and mysterious real-life stories. And if you need some no-nonsense fitspo, plug into The Foundry’s 3 PTs and a Cup of Tea, where co-founders Ben and Dave and coach Laura Hoggins (@laurabiceps) put the fitness world to rights — terms like “beach body ready” and “getting shredded in seven days” are all off limits.