We find ourselves thrown into a situation we could never have expected. Despite bulk buying, there are many aspects we could never be prepared for.
We are told that the country, and indeed the world, has not seen a crisis like this in 80 years since World War 2.
Men and women are not heading off to war, but many in healthcare may as well be as they are facing threat every time they go to work. The rest of us are just asked to stay at home. For many staying at home can be a time to rest and enjoy family time. For others who are alone or in a tense relationship, it can bring mental health challenges.
In this blog, we look at the key cornerstones to supporting your wellbeing through this challenging time. We include practical ways to incorporate simple changes.
If you are among those who must stay at home, use this time to put some positive healthful behaviours in place rather than slipping into unhelpful ones.
We are going to look at all aspects of lifestyle factors that can help to improve your overall wellbeing. This includes movement and brain engagement, sleep, stress management, social connection and finally, nutrition.
Movement can differ for everyone depending on your physical fitness and desire to engage!
There has never really been a more important time for all of us, who are forced into self-
isolation, to be physically active.
Previous studies have shown that those forced to be sedentary had a RISE in markers associated with depression after only ONE – FOUR weeks of no physical exercise.
This is frightening statistics when you consider that we have all now become part of a social experiment and are forced to isolate. However, luckily, we are not forced to be inactive.
We are told it is safe to be out in nature, out in non-crowded parks, beaches and forests. Within a 2 km radius and as long as we maintain a safe distance from others. Ideally being outside, even in your own garden will bring health benefits of their own. Being out in nature has been shown to reduce blood pressure and anxiety.
However, not everyone has a garden or access to a local park, so you need to work with what you have! Fortunately, many fitness trainers, yoga and pilates instructors
have gone online to keep their businesses up and running.
Also, there are many free classes on YouTube, simply type in 7-minute workout, HIIT or 30-minute beginners yoga class and options will pop up. Choose something to suit your fitness level.
Keeping it Simple
If you want to support an elderly friend or relative that has no access to the internet you can print off some simple exercises for them to try such as walking on the spot, reaching up to the ceiling, a few times sitting down standing up again or walking up and down the stairs. Of course, only if it is safe for them to do so.
Personally, a few squats and push-ups against the kitchen counter is sometimes as much as I can muster up, especially while working from home and simultaneously home-schooling and
entertaining 3 children.
HOWEVER, it is an ACCUMULATIVE amount of exercise that is important. Small regular amounts are as good as longer workouts completed in one go.
Studies show that 30 mins of walking 5 times a week can reduce one’s risk of developing depression by 30%, regardless of your genetic susceptibilities. It all counts, 10-15 minutes twice a day has the same effect as 1 hour every two days.
The message here is simple, no matter how, where or how much, physical movement will have a positive effect on your wellbeing.
We are generally aware that physical fitness and movement is important for overall health and wellbeing. The idea of ‘use it or lose it’ not only applies to our muscles and physical fitness but also brain health.
It is important to engage in brain fitness as much as it is important to engage in physical movement.
In childhood the brain is constantly learning and engaged through new experiences, navigating new environments, situations and phases in life. However, as we get older and more set in our ways and daily routines, we have less opportunity to engage our brains.
Since we are living longer and dementia is becoming more prevalent we must encourage the elderly to continue to challenge their brain.
In the current climate of staying at home, with schools closed and being in the same confined environment daily it is VITAL to find ways to keep all minds, young and old, stimulated. It can be very easy to use screen time to ease tensions with children and teenagers, it can also become addictive watching the news and keeping up to date with the ever-changing situation we find ourselves in.
‘Cells That Fire Together Wire Together!’
There are many enjoyable ways to do this from the comfort of your home;
- Read a book; it could be a novel or educational
- Learn to knit, crochet or pick up a new pattern to try
- Learn a new craft such as jewellery making, or order a colouring tapestry
- Pick up a Sudoku book or app on your phone/tablet
- Do an online art class
- Some international museums have given access online to take a virtual tour
- Take a free online course, there are many sites eg Coursera.org
- Learn a language or upskill online with an app or with books
- Dust off recipe books and try something new
Whether young or old, the above ideas are appropriate for all, turn off the screens and use
something creative to pass the day.
You will be aware that if you have had disrupted or poor sleep it can impact you in many ways. Some issues that can arise with little or poor-quality sleep include: increased levels of
anxiety or low mood, reduced willpower to do the right thing (ie exercise or eat well) or increased hunger or cravings.
Many times when we are distracted with daily routine we can overcome some of these but when we are housebound and faced with cupboards full of food and a comfy sofa it can be harder to resist if sleep deprived!
Aim to go to bed at the regular hour you would Sunday to Thursday. Maybe you are not working or working from home so have less travel time, this makes it tempting to maybe binge on Netflix or read an extra few chapters of that book, staying up later than usual.
However, as the ‘lockdown’ continues indefinitely it is best to maintain regular sleep patterns.
Exercise and Fresh Air
If you have been inactive all day it can sometimes be harder to get a good sleep. Aim to get out at least once or do some home exercises.
If you are feeling anxious about the current situation, look at our stress management ideas below to help yourself wind down.
If you have always had sleep issues see our 6’ tips here on how to get a better night’s sleep.
It can be difficult to switch off from the constant COVID-19 updates, they are constantly coming at us in news bulletins, on the radio and online notifications. If you are finding it all too much and becoming anxious or low try out a digital detox or limit yourself to listening to one news bulletin per day.
Here are some tips
Avoid screens for a certain period of time each day or a couple of days if it helps. Turn off notifications or WIFI and just have your phone on so that you are contactable if necessary.
Practice Daily Relaxation Techniques
This can differ for anyone, it can simply mean lying on your bed and taking a few deep breaths and enjoying the quiet or listening to calming music for 10-20 minutes.
You may prefer to have a guided meditation, there are many free apps that provide relaxing music or guided relaxation exercises such as Headspace or Calm app.
Take a Bath
Adding magnesium or Epsom salts can add the additional benefit of supporting the adrenals and relaxing the muscles. Also, a few drops of lavender can aid sleep. If you do not have a bath try a foot soak!
Community and Social Contact
Selfisolating or cocooning can have a huge impact particularly on those who live alone or who live in a tense household.
Physical distancing, however, does NOT have to mean social distancing. Find alternative ways to be part of a community.
We are lucky to be in the age of technology that many of us have access to Skype or Facetime – type facilities. Keep in touch with loved ones and with elderly neighbours. Pop a note in their door. Call them or wave from the driveway. It is important for people to be aware that they are not alone.
Getting involved with initiatives like delivering food or making face masks has now become the norm. It helps people feel part of a community.
Whether you are the giver or the receiver of altruism, studies have shown that it can support the immune system by increasing levels of secretary IgA and Natural Killer cells.
So by helping others or receiving help, you are supporting your immune system!
Last but certainly not least it is important that we are supporting our mental health, immunity and general wellbeing with the quality and quantity of food we eat
Cook from Scratch
Many of us now have the time to dust off our recipe books and enjoy some fresh meals or baking. Cooking from scratch using single ingredient, nutrient-dense foods
is one of the best things we can do.
It is also important not to fall into bad habits! Again keeping routine as much as possible will prevent this. Aim for 3 main meals, eating every 4-5 hours. Only rely on a snack if you are going longer between meals.
Aim to avoid snacking between meals or at night-time. If you feel hungry enjoy a handful of nuts or oatcakes with hummus.
There is no need to have packets of biscuits in the house ‘in case you have a visitor’!
Try Intermittent Fasting
There are many health benefits from extending your overnight fast. Aim initially for 12 hours, so if you have your last meal or snack at 8 pm wait until 8 am until breakfast. If this works well for you, you can try to stretch it out a bit longer.
Remember to drink enough water, sparkling water and herbal teas. If you have sleep issues aim to only have caffeinated drinks in the morning time.
If you feel overwhelmed by the information above, aim to take on one new behaviour at a time. Choose a ‘cornerstone’ that you feel may benefit you best and build on it – set yourself some weekly goals.
We are all in this together, look after yourself and your neighbours. Use this time to put some long-term healthful behaviours into practice