Staying healthy in the ‘new normal’

Now that we are more than halfway through September, many of us are starting to settle into a new routine. For some people that means going back into an office or workplace or establishing a new daily routine in a quiet house now that children are back to school. So how do we stay healthy in this new normal?

Working life is not what it used to be and plenty of us are adapting to the delicate balance of managing spreadsheets and zoom calls from our kitchen table. By now this has become the ‘new normal’ and for many of us, it is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

There are, of course, pros and cons to this way of working – for me, my daily commute between my home office and kitchen means I have been delivering health workshops and cookery demos for workplaces and community groups far and wide. Just last week I had 90 people in my kitchen at lunchtime (albeit virtually)!

So life has changed, and our eating and exercise habits have too.

As the seasons change, it is time for a plan. Rather than drift into another month of raiding the biscuit tin at lunchtime, autumn is a time to get focussed on the next phase of the year. So whether you are working from home, or have started a phased return to your office, let’s think about easy ways to stay fit, well and healthy in these weird times.

Get sociably social distanced!

More of life is happening online, and we are careful to reduce our contact with other people outside our households. As the nights draw in and autumn takes hold, there is a risk that we might start to hibernate a little bit too much. We are a sociable species and we need human contact.

I heard a commentator on the radio this week exclaiming that if we meet a group of friends on the street, we should not stop for a chat. I understand why we are being asked to keep a safe distance, but does this have to mean that we become anti-social?

There are ways to be sociably socially distanced. Meet a friend for a walk, go to an exercise class that is outside, or meet for a coffee outside. We need human contact. Loneliness is a risk for our mental, emotional and physical health. This is even more important as the days become colder and shorter.

Plan your meals

If you want something, you will need a plan. So if you want to improve your health, mood, energy or waistline, you will need a weekly menu plan.

Sit down once a week and plan what you are going to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Think about recipes and meals that you can cook once and eat twice – soups, curry, stew, chilli, autumn salads – these are all good ideas.

Add handy lunchable ideas to your shopping list so you don’t resort to eating cereal for your midday meal. Tinned fish, falafels, houmous, eggs, wholemeal pittas, oatcakes and salad ingredients can form the basis of a few healthy mid-day mid-week lunches.

Get outside!

Do not hibernate. Even if the weather is dull and dreary outside, head out for a 20minute walk every day. Most of us are sitting on our ass a lot more than we used to, so we have to make more of an effort to get moving. Get into the routine of walking or exercising at the same time every day – first thing, lunchtime or as soon as your working day finishes are good times.

September is always a busy month and this year we have the added stress of trying to navigate our way through a pandemic, coping with our own stressors and that of our loved ones. Make one small change that will make you feel well. Your body will thank you for it!

This blog post first appeared as my column in The Irish News on Saturday 19 September 2020.