Although the lockdown measures for COVID-19 are starting to ease, it’s quite clear that the transition to the ‘new normal’ is going to be painfully gradual. With the government still urging office-based workers to work from home, we must look after our physical and mental health to make it through this difficult time as unscathed as possible.
To adjust to this big period of change and uncertainty; to juggle working from home with homeschooling and entertaining your children, and to be able to do both of these while keeping your own sanity in check, here are essential wellbeing tips for staying healthy in lockdown and beyond.
GP’s advice for staying healthy in lockdown
1. Create a new routine and stick to it
Whether you’re working from home or not, your daily routine will be completely different over the next few weeks and months, so think about what your new ideal routine would be. Remember to include new elements (e.g. maybe you will get up early to do a few hours of work before the kids get up or you’ll exercise around lunch) but also try to stick as much to your regular routine as possible. This is essential for such an uncertain time, as structure brings with it a sense of control and normality, both of which will help to ease any stress or anxiety.
2. Exercise however you can, every day
Exercise is essential to release those all-important endorphins, to clear your mind, and to help you focus, so make sure that you’re doing something every day. It doesn’t have to be full-on, even just 30 minutes of yoga or trying some squats when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil can make a world of difference. Aim to get up and move at least once an hour. Not only is this good for our bodies but t will help you to manage anxiety and stress levels too.
3. Boost your immune system with the right foods
Eating healthy is great for our bodies and our minds and most importantly, especially now, it keeps our immune systems strong. To keep our bodies in prime condition, we need to eat regular and healthy meals to give us those essential vitamins and minerals. This means staying away from those tempting sugary/fatty comfort foods and turning to nutritious meals instead.
Extra tip: as we are all inside, it is recommended to take a daily supplement of Vitamin D (10 micrograms). Not only is it important for a healthy immune system, but it reduces symptoms of depression too.
4. Keep hydrated
Drinking water is so essential for good health and proper body function, that’s why the NHS recommends that we drink 6-8 glasses (1.2 litres) of fluid a day. Drinking water replaces our normal water loss throughout the day, so make sure you are drinking more if you’re exercising too.
5. Eat and drink in moderation
One of the top pieces of advice from GPs about staying healthy in lockdown is to avoid an excess of anything. For example, it may be tempting to adopt unhealthy coping strategies such as drinking more alcohol or smoking more while you’re at home. You may be eating more unhealthy foods or drinking more caffeine than usual. While it might stave off boredom or anxiety in the immediate, all these habits can affect how well you sleep which will, in turn, make you feel more irritable and anxious generally. In short, these things will make you feel worse so cut down on them as everything is better in moderation.
6. Prioritise self-care
It’s really essential that you take some time every day for yourself to prioritise your wellbeing. In these periods, you should try and be present – you can do this by practising meditation, mindfulness breathing or just observing your surroundings. You can simply think about what you’re grateful for and positively re-frame your day. If you do this for a short period every day, you’ll soon see how it can help to reduce anxiety, clear your mind, and help you focus.
Extra tips for staying healthy in lockdown: you need to be taking care of your basic needs as well so make sure you are getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night!
7. Stay connected with loved ones
Being indoors for 10 weeks and counting is taking a toll on our wellbeing, especially our social needs, so make this a part of your week. Stay connected with your loved ones via video call where possible and check in regularly on your vulnerable family members who need to shield for the longer term. We are very social beings so try to recreate that sense of community where you can.
8. Limit your exposure to social media and the news
While you may feel the need to be informed, the constant bombardment of negativity and doom and gloom really does take its toll; it takes its toll on our perspective, our mental health, and our general wellbeing. So limit it. Give yourself one window of time in the day – GPs recommend after your ‘working period’ and a few hours before bed – where you absorb the most recent news reports and then that’s it. You’ll soon see that you don’t miss anything, you feel a lot brighter generally, and you sleep a lot better.
9. Be extra attentive to your children
Our children may be bubbly and energetic a lot of the time, but that doesn’t mean that they are coping well. Extend these tips for staying healthy in lockdown to them too. During such a difficult time, it’s important to help them learn how to overcome challenges and manage their feelings, so give them extra attention and support. Be a positive role model, talk to them about the situation, exercise with them, play with them regularly, and check-in with them on how they are really feeling.
10. Don’t be too hard on yourself
It may seem like a strange tip for staying healthy in lockdown but GPs really are telling people not to be too hard on themselves. It’s an unprecedented time, there are so many worries and unknowns so it’s okay to feel however you are feeling. Some days will be better than others so it’s important on the bad days to be kind to yourself. On those days, don’t push it and accept that it’s a day for self-care or to spend quality time with your family.
Try to live by these tips beyond lockdown
While these tips for staying healthy in lockdown are especially important now, they are crucial pieces of advice for a healthy life in general. So implement them. Start making them a consistent part of your routine while you need them most and soon they’ll become healthy habits, habits that will carry you through future challenges and whatever is in store for us next.