No matter what kind of stress you’re facing, a crisis is the most important time to prioritise your health as much as possible. But anyone who’s stress-eaten an entire box of Cocoa Pops on the couch in their pyjamas knows that that’s easier said than done.

Chances are, you’re not very likely to turn to burpees and broccoli when times get tough, no matter how much you may need to focus on your health right now. So how the heck do you do that?

Fortunately, maintaining healthy habits can be easily achieved using a few simple but powerful tricks. No five am wake up times, strict dieting, or hour-long meditations required.

Hack #1: Prioritise Mental Health

When facing a crisis, you should still be striving to always do your best. But what changes is the definition of “best”. 

There’s no use in placing unrealistic expectations on what you can achieve right. Now is the time to practice self-care, not self-discipline.

Don’t have the energy to do that gruelling HIIT workout? Go for a walk instead. Too stressed to track your calories? Just eat mindfully and enjoy your food. Workout schedule looking overwhelming? Schedule in more rest days and spend the time playing videogames instead.

Implement a period of grace and go easy on yourself. You’re not going to turn into a blob and lose all your progress from a week or two of slowing down.

Hack #2: Nail the Non-Negotiables

Want to nourish your body and maintain some semblance of health without having a total mental breakdown? Focus on three simple things: food, sleep, and sunshine.

Prioritise filling your plate with whole foods. Fuel your body with vegetables, protein, and healthy fats. These will help you to feel good mentally, boost your energy, and otherwise stay on top of your game physically, 

Without adequate sleep, you’ll be vulnerable to stress both physically and mentally. That doesn’t just mean going to bed on time, but limiting harsh blue light from screens after dark (especially before bed!). Sleep and light exposure are closely linked. Wear blue blockers, or have a screen cut-off time. You’ll be surprised at how much your sleep quality improves.

If you can, try to get some sunshine every day. If possible, go for a walk or just sit in your backyard or on a balcony. If those options aren’t available to you, a sunny window will do.

Hack #3: Pick Your Top Three

Setting goals is a fantastic way to stay on track and keep working towards what you really want. But in a time of crisis, it’s a good idea to adjust these to be as realistic and achievable as possible.

Choose three small goals that are a welcome distraction from the situation without causing too much stress. Some ideas include:

  • Complete one set of full push-ups
  • Learn how to do an advanced pistol squat variation
  • Complete 30 days of yoga
  • Wake up before eight am every weekday for a month
  • Learn how to do double-unders without tripping over
  • Complete a 12-week bodyweight fitness program
  • Do one new HIIT workout video from YouTube each week

Forget training for that half marathon. It’s time to change up how you challenge yourself.

Hack #4: Make Consistency Your Ally

Maintaining your health (and sanity) during a crisis comes down to your daily routine. Remember: change is dependent on what you do most of the time, not some of the time.

Create a routine for yourself and stick to it. That doesn’t mean a regimented list of 12 actions that must be completed before the sun rises. Again, be realistic and most importantly, go easy on yourself.

Using the above list, you might wake up at 7:30 and spend five minutes practising your pistol squats (it still counts if you’re in your pyjamas!). That night you do 15 minutes of yoga before bed.

And just like that, you’ve ticked three things off your list.

Hack #5: Safeguard Against Self-sabotage

The biggest obstacle to being hashtag-health-goals is that annoying tendency to completely derail our own progress.

You eat “healthy” all day but can’t stop binging on junk at night. As much as you want to start morning workouts you keep oversleeping. You wish your diet was better but before you know it, you’re eating pizza for dinner again.

The trick here is to examine the barriers that are in your way. Why are you sleeping so late? What’s causing those late-night binges? What’s stopping you from eating whole foods?

Maybe you’re binging at night because you’re not eating enough during the day, or you keep filling your kitchen with junk food you know you won’t be able to resist. Those sleep-ins could be linked to your midnight gaming sessions, afternoon coffee, or even lack of exercise during the day. And making most of your meals healthy and nourishing is a lot easier when you take time to look up delicious recipes, health-ify your favourite dishes, or even set aside a couple of hours to meal prep on the weekend so you’ve always got options on hand.

Once you understand what’s really standing in your way, you can figure out solutions to overcoming whatever’s stopping you. And surprisingly, the answer is almost never to “be more disciplined”. Work smarter, not harder.

Want more health tips? Check out the blog for more posts on nutrition, fitness and mindset, no matter what stage of your health journey you’re on.