WITH the wintry weather and the country practically closed down, it might seem like a glum time ahead.
But instead of getting depressed, you can make the next six weeks the best of your life with our lockdown challenge. Tone up you body, learn some DIY, become a master chef and more with help from the experts, as revealed by Claire Dunwell and Siobhan O’Connor.
1 – Boost your libido
Nearly half of adults say their sex life has declined during the pandemic. So why not make this lockdown a six-week bonk bootcamp?
Sex and relationship expert Kate Taylor says: “Ladies, your libido will decline when sex becomes repetitive.
“Spend lockdown researching new fantasies and positions. Fill your Kindle with filth, spice up bubble baths with a waterproof toy and have naughty video chats, even if you’re in the same house.
“Create time that’s just for you and use it to do an online tantric sex class or watch a steamy film.
“Men, the stress of lockdown can make erections scarce. If that’s you, use your daily exercise time to do cardio and weight training to boost your levels of testosterone.
“Don’t escape into too much solo-pleasure, but try to connect with your partner to relieve tension.
“Your natural sex drive peaks at 7am, so start your day with a bang or a loving, sexy video call to leave you feeling connected and content.”
2 – Rekindle Romance
Are you one of those couples wondering if you can survive another lockdown?
Take these essential steps to save your relationship before it is too late.
Kate says: “Have sex at least once a week. It’s the best stress-reliever and floods your bodies with oxytocin, which makes any partner less annoying.
“Start a list of things you can look forward to together — a holiday, a house project, big purchase, party — to keep your mind on the future.
“Stay grateful, complimentary, flirty and appreciative, even if you have to say nice things through gritted teeth.
“Take comfort in the fact that you’ve already survived lockdown before.
“And if you’re in a long-distance relationship, use this to your advantage. A study found the more couples missed each other during an enforced separation, the more committed they became when reunited.
“Stay in touch, and use homemade gifts and hand- written love letters, rather than just new technology, texts and Zoom, to keep your connection strong.”
3 – Tone up your body
Gyms are shut but you can still use the next six weeks to get into the best shape of your life.
Lucy Wyndham-Read, the nation’s most-watched fitness YouTuber, says: “Set yourself an end goal and then research online to find out the best exercises to achieve those results.
“Make a weekly fitness plan but don’t set unrealistic targets.
“You are better off aiming for seven minutes a day and sticking to it than an hour then giving up.
“Have a picture you can use as your inspiration as your screensaver and set a reminder on your phone so you do exercises at the same time every day.
“Press-ups are great to build upper body strength. If you are a beginner, try leaning against a worktop, rather than the floor.
“The stairs are a great way to achieve a firm, shapely bum.
“Step on to the second step and squeeze the other leg behind you.
“Whatever exercise you choose, make it ones you enjoy to keep motivated.”
4 – Lose a stone
Follow in the footsteps of Meal Prep King John Clark, who lost 8st 10lb over 18 months by batch cooking healthy meals.
John, who has his own meal prep book out, advises: “Create a realistic routine which includes the meals you are planning to eat and at what time, as well as when you’re going to exercise. Write it down.
“Start off each day by getting showered and dressed as though you were going to work.
“Eat a healthy breakfast. I’m a big fan of smoothies or anything with a high protein content. It will fill you up and mean you’re less likely to snack on unhealthy foods.
“Make a list of foods that you enjoy eating and think of healthier alternatives to stock up on. Lockdown is a great time to try out new recipes and some batch cooking.
“Make sure that you exercise every day, even if it’s just a family walk.”
Most of John’s recipes are under 500 calories and include meals such as dirty chips and fakeaway Chinese rice, so you will not end up feeling like you are missing out on treats.
5 – Sort your finances
This downtime is ideal to get your budget in check.
Personal finance expert Andrew Hagger says: “Get credit card and energy bills all in one place. Go through everything you are paying out and ask which direct debits you can cancel — for example, a gym membership or a magazine subscription.
“Nine times out of ten you can save money by switching energy suppliers, so check comparison sites for better deals.
“If you never pay off your credit card balance in full, switch to a zero per cent deal to avoid interest charges. A lot depends on your credit rating but overdrafts are very expensive, with most banks now charging around 40 per cent interest. Even using a credit card to make purchases is better than using an overdraft.
“Zero per cent money transfer credit cards are a good way to clear your overdraft and you have a year to 18 months to clear the balance without interest.
“And don’t bury your head in the sand. If you are struggling to meet repayments, tell your lender.”
6 – Declutter your home
There is no better time to get your home in order — and Style Sisters Gemma and Charlotte, who declutter celeb homes, can tell you how.
They say: “Staying on top of organisation does wonders for your mental well-being.
“The key is giving everything a home and being realistic about what you’re actually going to use.
“If you won’t use it, don’t keep it. Your wardrobe is a really good place to start with a detox.
“Use slimline hangers, drawer dividers and wardrobe scents. This will help you fit more in so that everything has a home, such as underwear, belts and other fashion accessories.
“Think seasonally. If you can see your summer dresses in your winter months it can have a negative impact, so store them away.
“In general, using storage boxes and ottomans — and categorising your clutter as you store it away — will make your home look neater and allow you to keep more.
“Use spaces above and below, such as above wardrobes and under beds, and label where necessary.”
7 – Banish wrinkles
Six weeks is plenty of time to smooth out wrinkles, according to Jennifer Rock, author of The Skin Nerd Philosophy and founder of skincare brand Skingredients.
She says: “Diet, supp- lements and general care can make a difference.
“Up the essential fatty acids, so cold water fish, walnuts and omega supp- lements.
“These contribute to the formation of cera- mides, which give our skin barrier structure.
“The healthier and stronger our skin’s barrier, the more hydration our skin maintains, and therefore the plumper it looks. Sleep is when our skin carries out repair to the best of its abilities, so get seven to nine hours kip a night.
“Vitamin A is the key ingredient to tackle signs of ageing as it prompts the skin to synthesise collagen, the protein that makes your skin more plump.
“You’ll see the best results from a vitamin A serum from eight weeks onwards, but by the six-week point you’ll certainly have what I call the ‘vitamin A glow’.”
Try Vitaskin vitamin A serum, £9, Holland & Barrett.
8 – Become a master chef
What’s the secret to delicious cooking? Keeping it simple, says Rosemary Shrager, whose show Best Leftovers Ever is now streaming on Netflix.
She adds: “Anybody can cook and it’s never too late to learn. Cooking shouldn’t be daunt- ing and you don’t need fancy equip- ment to get started. All you need is a knife, a spoon and a saucepan.
“First, decide what you enjoy. If you want to make a sausage casserole, have fun developing your own recipe by throwing in a tin of beans. There is no right or wrong way. Grill, roast or fry a piece of fish, boil a potato and mash it with butter.
“Not adding enough seasoning is where people often go wrong, so focus on flavour and taste as you go along to check if more needs adding.
“If you lack confidence, join me on my Facebook live cookalongs on Satur- day evenings, when I will take you through the basics in the kitchen.
“There are plenty of other resources, too. For example, BBC Good Food has the 25 skills every cook should know.”
9 – Learn to do it yourself
Have you always been too nervous to put up a shelf or revamp the kitchen?
Now is the time to take the plunge — and you can get tips from home makeover expert and 2000 Big Brother winner Craig Phillips.
Craig, who shares advice online at mrandmrsdiy.tv and on instagram @mrandmrsdiytv,says: “Your home is the biggest investment you’ll ever make.
“Inject some bright colour into your house with bold tones, giving rooms a fresh look. If you’re a first-time DIY-er, start small by putting up shelves or picture frames. Make sure you check what brackets and studs you need, depending on how heavy the item is. Invest in a stud detector, which scans your walls for pipes and wall studs to avoid costly mistakes.
“When you’re feeling more confident, revamp your kitchen by painting the cupboards and changing the handles.
“Each time you do a small job you build your confidence. All of a sudden those small jobs are turning into big jobs, and then you are putting significant value into your home.”
10 – Bag your dream job
Whether you are on furlough or the time has come to part ways, having six weeks to focus on what you really want to do career-wise might be just what you need.
Sun columnist and business expert Karren Brady says: “Now is a good time to apply for jobs.
“January often calls for a ‘new year, new start’ mindset, but this pandemic has really turned our attention to what’s important and to a better quality of life.
“If you’ve been put on furlough, take this time to do free online training courses to expand your skill set.
“If this is new territory for you, it’s time to dust off your CV and make sure it’s up to date.
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“Highlight what you can contribute to this new role. It takes the employer approximately seven seconds to assess you, so stand out by telling them what YOU can offer them.
“It is also a good time to volunteer and network.”
For online courses search websites learndirect.com and reed.co.uk. If you are looking for for volunteering opportunities visit do-it.org.
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