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Staying well in lockdown: a guide to health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 outbreak

The outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown are impacting everyone in very different ways. However, something almost everyone is experiencing is isolation. This can make us feel any number of different emotions, and can even begin to take its toll on our health. We have come up with a few ways to improve your wellbeing and try to reduce stress and anxiety at a very uncertain time.

Call your loved ones – if you aren’t able to be with your closest friends or family during the lockdown period, give them a ring – especially those you find yourself worrying about. Often the scenarios our anxious minds conjure up are a lot worse than the reality.

Try something different – though there is nothing wrong with watching tv and taking naps, it can sometimes make you feel worse in the long run. If you have work to get on with perhaps try and tackle it in small amounts with regular breaks. Also perhaps try doing a new craft, baking or cooking, or start reading the books you’ve been meaning to read for a long time. Whilst still being relaxing and enjoyable these are meaningful activities that will leave you with a feeling of fulfilment and achievement rather than guilt.

Spend time with nature – spending time outdoors is especially helpful if you find yourself feeling cooped up. If you are lucky enough have a garden, use it! If not, have a stroll in a nearby park. Spending time in nature is soothing and helps you reconnect with the outside world after spending long periods inside. If you live in a city or somewhere that doesn’t have a great deal of green space, try to find other areas that make you feel relaxed and let you decompress. Perhaps a quieter stretch of river or canal, or a churchyard – anywhere that feels just a little bit more restful than the rest of the city.

Counsellor and occupational therapist Dr Claire Hart gave us some tips on how to stay positive and feel as good as we can during lockdown.

“Establish a routine with a balance of activities throughout the day. Try to have a balance of tasks that allow you to be mentally active but physically relaxed (like reading, doing a jigsaw), and things that are physically active but allow your mind to rest (exercise, housework etc).

Try to have a different structure at the weekend; keep treats for then, focus more on leisure, and leave the housework so that every day doesn’t feel the same.

Don’t let physically isolating become emotional isolation. Keep in touch with others by phone our social media. If you are outside, keep your distance but smile and say hello. You can have a good chat at a 2m distance, and this can be really helpful if you’re feeling lonely or live on your own.

Limit your intake of news and don’t let your social media be full of negativity and fear. Either step away or unfollow things that make you feel uncomfortable. Look for the helpers; alongside all the difficult news there are loads of examples of wonderful people showing courage and compassion. Watch those stories and let them lift your spirits!

Keep a good balance between productivity and leisure – it is good to take on some jobs while you can, but pace yourself and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Set yourself a doable goal. Clean out a draw a week, tidy one room a week – doing one thing well (however small) is better than feeling you’ve taken on too much.

Leisure can be different things to different people. If you can, maintain a hobby or interest that will give you a sense of continuity during the crisis. If not, look for something new; be creative cooking, or try something you haven’t done since you were a child. Ideally look for the kind of activities that let you lose track of time and forget yourself – reading, running, knitting – there are loads of them. These kind of activities are particularly good for the soul.”

As well as taking care of ourselves emotionally, our physical health is just as important – it can have an impact on our emotional wellbeing too. Eating well is a very important aspect of maintaining your health. Nutritionist Lucy Coates gave us some advice on how to maintain a good diet whilst in quarantine.

“Fresh fruit and veg might be difficult to get (and may not last longer than a few days), so try to include tinned and frozen fruit and veg in your meals;­­ it keeps a lot longer and just as healthy and nutritious as the fresh stuff! Some good staples are thing like frozen peppers and tinned tomatoes; these can be incorporated into your usual meals to add extra nutrients. You can also freeze other staple foods such as bread, cheese, milk and meat, so you can just take what you want and the rest will last much longer. Frozen berries are also a brilliant thing to keep in the freezer, and can be defrosted and added to things like cereal or porridge – they’re nice with yoghurt too. However, the most important thing for me to say is please don’t be too strict with yourself. This is a very uncertain time for everyone, so if you’re feeling sad and overwhelmed, you’re allowed that custard cream!”

Hopefully this has been a helpful guide to staying positive and healthy during the coronavirus outbreak. Taking care of yourself is the most important thing, so make sure to stay at home to protect us all and our loved ones.