Healthy living during lockdown: eating from the garden

I’ve not been as inspired to write lately. Life is pretty repetitive for everyone these days.. We are just trying to make the best of things and focus on keeping our spirits up. One of the things that has helped a lot is being outside in the garden. We’re really lucky to live in an area of Athens where most of the houses have gardens and we are making the most of it.

Like most people I’ve had way too much screen time during this lockdown. Even though I go for walks every day, read, practice yoga, play my guitar and other non-technology related things I still spend a lot of time working on my laptop or watching TV and I definitely notice the impacts on my health and wellbeing. After a long day in front of screens I feel more tired, my eyes feel fatigued and sometimes I get a headache. I notice my mind feels more scattered and find it more difficult to shift into relaxation mode in the evening. Making the effort to take breaks and spend more time outside during the day has helped a lot in recent weeks. It really improves my mood and my energy levels throughout the day. Even a 5 minute break every hour to get some fresh air and feel the sun on my skin helps to keep me feeling calmer and happier and sleep better at night.

Another thing that has been great is learning about seasonal eating and focusing on eating local, seasonal foods. Greece has so many fresh citrus fruits this time of year and we’ve enjoyed picking lemons, grapefruits, oranges and mandarins and figuring out what to do with them all. We’ve made litres of lemon juice to save for lemonade in the summer, lemon confit for cooking in savoury dishes, orange and lemon cakes, tarts and pies, mandarin liquor.. the list goes on!

Citrus fruits are so good for your health, especially in the winter months which is their peak growing season. The markets here are full of fresh citrus of all varieties at this time of year and they taste so sweet, not at all acidic like the ones you can buy at the supermarket out of season. Citrus fruits are an amazing natural source of vitamin C which supports your immune system and the natural detoxification processes in your liver. They also have many micro-nutrients such as anti-oxidants, flavanoids and polyphenols which help to protect your body from disease. More and more research is being published showing the amazing benefits of these little understood compounds. If you eat the whole fruit you also get a boost of fibre and water which help to keep your digestive system functioning optimally and a dose of natural sugars to satisfy your sweet tooth.

As well as making the most of the abundance of fruit, we’ve also had another go at growing our own veggies from scratch. I am really interested in the environmental impact of food systems and I think if you have the option, growing your own food can be an amazing way to eat in a more sustainable way. Our first attempt at growing our own veggies was last year in Nottingham. We bought a tiny raised bed (around 0.5x1m) and experimented planting radishes, garlic, lettuces, onions, cauliflower and potatoes. Let’s just say that some worked better than others but it was fun and we learnt a lot. We learnt that spacing of the plants is important! We thought that if we just throw the seeds down it would be survival of the fittest and the strongest would thrive but actually what happened is the plants ended up all competing with each other and none of them thrived.

Then the moment when you actually pick and eat what you have grown is worth all of the effort. Finally eating a salad made with home-grown lettuces and radishes was so satisfying! It feels so good to eat food that you have grown yourself. You really appreciate food when you understand the work that goes into growing it. You also start to see the differences between different plants, for example, I didn’t realise that each radish plant only grows a single radish so they actually need a lot of space and resources whereas with potatoes you get around 5 big ones and a few smaller ones from each plant. It makes you want to use all of the plant too as you don’t want to waste anything. We found out we could made pesto with radish leaves rather than throw them away which was really cool and a fun alternative to traditional pesto-pasta.

This year we stepped it up a notch and built an even bigger raised bed (around 1.5x3m). We ordered the wood online because all of the shops were closed so it was a bit of a challenge figuring out how the thing was supposed to fit together. After spending half a day arranging all of the pieces of wood and finally starting to build we found the tiny piece of paper with the instructions on it – oops. I can’t take the credit for the construction, my boyfriend built most of it but I helped where I could and did an excellent job of supervising and capturing photos. And it actually turned out pretty well! It needed a lot of soil though and luckily we found a local company who could deliver it in small bags as it’s really heavy. We planted radishes, garlic and lettuces again, carrots, onions and leeks plus some potatoes outside of the raised bed.

It’s been a few weeks since we planted the first seeds and we already have the first signs of life. The lettuces, leeks and carrots are starting to sprout and the garlics already have huge green stems. We had to move the lettuces into small pots as they were already over crowded. We should have done that in the first place really but sometimes it takes making the same mistake a few times to learn the lesson. Hopefully they will survive the move and we can move them back into the raised bed when they get bigger. We ended up transplanting some of the radishes outside of the raised bed too. We’re slowly taking over the rest of the garden but it’s not like a lawn can survive here anyway as it’s much too dry, so we might as well make the most of the space we have!

I hope you enjoyed this quick post sharing what we’ve been up to and how we are keeping ourselves entertained during this seemingly never ending lockdown. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever tried growing vegetables at home and if you have any tips, I could definitely use some. Or if you’ve taken up any new hobbies this year that are helping to bring some joy into your life. I am still busy applying for jobs and working on my upcoming project but I’m always looking for fun things to do outside of work. I am I’ll be back with more posts on health, nutrition and yoga over the next weeks so watch this space!

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The power of a morning ritual during a crisis

I have known about the power of the “morning ritual” for a while now and it was a key part in my healing from hypothalamic amenorrhea and adrenal fatigue, but with work and other commitments its very easy for this to fall by the wayside. With the current global drama that is sweeping the planet right now, getting back to a morning routine has really helped to reduce my anxiety levels and help me to cope. It’s such a bizarre situation that I never would have imagined could happen in my lifetime but here we are.

In the first week of lockdown I was glued to the news, switching on the TV first thing in the morning to see the latest updates whilst drinking my coffee. I didn’t realise but this was the worst thing I could possibly do. Right after waking up, stressing out my mind and body with scary information and a caffeine hit on top sent me on an anxiety rollercoaster for the rest of the day. As someone with a sensitive nervous system, I tend to easily get overwhelmed and overstimulated. Maintaining my hormonal health is a priority for me so when I started noticing symptoms of cycle imbalance, I pretty quickly realised I needed to find a better way to start my day if I wanted to stay healthy and sane during this crisis.

However, I also can easily fall into a perfectionistic, over-controlling mindset so I knew that a prescriptive morning ritual was not what I needed. This is a really great time to embrace the intuitive, fluid feminine energy rather than the rigid, inflexible masculine. So rather than set out exact steps of what to do each morning, I thought about the building blocks that make up a healthy morning routine and now I use these as the foundation to create a unique ritual each morning to start my days off on the right foot.

  1. Hydration

Getting some sort of fluid into my body first thing in the morning always helps me to wake up and feel energised. I know a lot of people prefer to just go straight into breakfast in the morning but I always wake up with a dry mouth and I am so used to this now I can’t imagine staring my day without it. I don’t think it’s necessary to drink a litre of water or anything crazy but just a small cup of something is great to wake up my digestive system and feel refreshed. What I drink depends on the day but its usually either lemon water, green/herbal tea, a smoothie or plain water. I still drink a coffee most days but I make sure its later in the morning to allow my body to wake up naturally.

     2. Quiet time 

Having a moment of stillness and quiet is really important. We spend most of our days being bombarded with information either from the news or social media and it’s very easy to distract ourselves by constantly seeking stimulus. I’m not saying that we should (or could) avoid this altogether but giving myself the gift of 30-60 minutes of quiet time in the morning has done wonders for my stress levels during the day. Again it depends on the day but I will use this time either to read, play with my cat, write in my journal, meditate or just sit and watch out of the window. I just do whichever or a combination of these depending on how I’m feeling each day.

3. Movement

The last thing I like to do before getting on with whatever activities I have for the day is to move my body. I am generally not in the mood for intense exercise early in the morning but going for a walk in the park outside my house or a gentle yoga practice is a great way to refresh my mind, wake me up and reduce muscle stiffness after a night’s sleep. I was resistant to practicing yoga in the morning for a long time as I preferred to do it later in the day when my muscles were warmer and I felt less stiff. But I’ve started to enjoy doing a short practice first thing and then on the days I feel like doing a longer or more intense practice doing this at lunchtime or early evening.

I’ve actually enjoyed following yoga practices on youtube lately. Even though I’m a qualified yoga teacher there is something soothing about being guided through a sequence and it allows me to really relax and melt into the flow rather than thinking about what comes next. Plus it’s great to see other teaching styles and get inspiration for developing my own lessons for when this quarantine is finally over! Some of my favourite morning yoga flows:

The Mindful Movement:

Yoga Upload:

Yoga with Adriene:

Cat Meffan:

I hope this gives you some inspiration for how you can start your day off on the right foot. Let me know your morning routine or if there are any other morning yoga flows that you enjoy as I am always looking for new teachers to follow 🙂 P.S I look hench on this photo.. who said yoga is easy??

morning yoga