My 'Quarantips' - A guide to caring for our PHYSICAL and MENTAL wellbeing throughout Covid-19
You don’t need me to reiterate that which everybody is already talking about. Clearly, the world is in a state of crisis. Covid-19 has caused devastation quite unlike most of us have seen in a lifetime.
However, in a time where kindness, empathy, community and compassion is ever so important, I have witnessed more malevolence and hostility than ever before.
This is so very disheartening.
I would like to take a moment to really sew in the message; we are all in this together.
We may not be in the same boat; some may be shipwrecked whilst others a safe in a private yacht- however we are all riding the same storm.
If your neighbour isn’t volunteering at hospitals or soup kitchens, don’t degrade or disparage them. Consider that maybe there is a member of their household with vulnerable physical or mental health who requires their attention.
If your family or friends aren’t donating money to fund our NHS or other charitable organisations during this time, do not think less of them- maybe they (like so many across the county) have temporarily or permanently lost their position of work due to the current state of lockdown.
My point is we have no idea what goes on behind (literal) closed doors.
Personally I am struggling MASSIVELY with the current climate, and of course I am not the only vulnerable individual. In face I believe you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s health hasn’t been affected.
I thought I’d make a free survival guide to help us all through this trying time! Of course, all of the information below is personal and I must stress that what works for me may not work for someone else. Still though, I am first going to introduce my top 10 ‘Quaran-tips’ for better mental wellbeing during quarantine:
1) Open all blinds and curtains- let in as much natural light as possible. Obviously natural lighting stimulates the mind and reduces the risk of depression and other mental illness but did you know that exposure to vitamin D also improves your sleep and reduces the risk of heart disease, weight gain and various cancers.
2) Blast music all throughout your house and sing at the top of your lungs. (If you have thin walls or live in a flat/terraced house then instead of disturbing your neighbours try blasting your music through some headphones and dance until you drop!)
3) Shower and dress yourself in clean clothes every single day. Strangely enough this is what I am struggling the most with but when you have no reason to go outside it’s very easy to let good health and hygiene habits slip. However, if you allow yourself to spend all day every day in lounge wear then that’s exactly what you’ll do- lounge around! Too many days like this and your sense of self worth will start to dissipate. It’s amazing what a quick shower and clean clothes can do to invigorate a person’s state of mind.
4) Drink water! Plain and simple. At least 4 tall glasses a day to help nourish your body. Try 1 glass when you wake up in the morning, 1 glass 30 minutes before each meal, 1 glass with each meal, 1 glass before you go to bed and of course a flow of water whenever you decide to exercise!
5) Do not graze on junk food just because you are bored. I promote intuitive eating which, in simple terms, means eating when your body advices you to despite any social diet construct or culture. However, when you have little else to do, your body often mistakes intuitive eating for boredom. We eat because it occupies our hands and our mind for a hot minute, but over eating- especially when our bodies are remaining relatively sedative, can leave us feeling bloated, nauseous and despondent.
6) Watch a movie or play a board game every evening as a family. Set a time and make a promise that every evening you will sit down to dinner as a family or household and watch an entire movie from start to finish or break out a board game that has been sitting in a cupboard for years getting dusty. If you live alone then get in contact with friends or family members via video chat and participate in a virtual quiz night! Set aside your phones and just engage in the company of loved ones.
7) Go for 1 walk, run or bike ride each day. Do not make a mockery of the rules. Don’t meet up with friends for a stroll along the beach or a picnic in the park…but make sure you head out for 1 form of exercise each day (or at least 3 times a week), either alone or with a member of your household. My fiancé and I make our way to one of the many beautiful parks near us to walk our dog roughly 5 times a week to clear our heads, boost morale and get our blood pumping.
8) Keep your living area clean and tidy. Nobody’s saying you have to spend your days scrubbing surfaces (although that would certainly keep your mind occupied), but a relatively clean and tidy living space does in turn allow your mind to feel less cluttered as well.
9) Call and chat to at least 1 family member or friend each day. Isolation doesn’t have to mean isolated. It’s scientifically proven that a simple hug can reduce anxiety and alleviate symptoms of depression. However, in a time where human contact is prohibited we must find another way to connect with one another. We are lucky enough to live in a digital age where you can see and hear your family and friend’s with just the press of a button thanks to social media. Be sure to check in with your loved ones every day to spread community spirit and help prevent loneliness.
10) Maintain structure and daily routine. Structure doesn’t mean scarifying your free will. Nobody is saying you have to be jumping out of bed by 7am and on the treadmill by 7:02. All I’m saying is do not allow your daily routine to completely dissipate. Do not be going to bed at 4am and waking up at 2 in the afternoon. Set yourself a few tasks to achieve each day- if you don’t accomplish them all, that’s okay- but allowing yourself to coast in a state of limbo will cause the days to feel 100x longer than they truly are and this mentality will also cause prominent feelings of anxiety and hopelessness.
So those are my top 10 ‘Quarantips’ to set you on the general path towards better physical and mental wellbeing. However, I would like to delve into the importance of caring for our physical and mental wellbeing in a tad more detail.
Looking After your Mental Health.
Forget the facemasks. Forget the multivitamins. It’s no secret that severe depression and/or anxiety can lead to an incapacity to care for one’s physical wellbeing. While looking after your physical health is undeniably important during this time, your mental wellbeing is the key catalyst in being able to do so.
We have been instructed to stay at home and to only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work,. This means that many of us have suddenly had our sense of purpose, structure and daily routine stripped right out from under our feet. It’s fair to state that having no option but to stay inside for weeks and possibly months on end is going to amount to new levels of stress and boredom for the majority of us- particularly when the sun is shining so brightly outside. However these worries can easily shift into feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and even insignificance of one’s existence.
The Mental Health Foundation has published a valuable guide to safeguarding your mental health throughout these weeks of isolation (https://mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus/staying-at-home).
Plan your day & keep to a schedule. Even though it might be tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day, try and keep to a daily routine as you usually would. Set yourself daily lists of things to do, stick to times as you would if it were a regular working day. Set start times, end times and regular break times throughout your day.
Move more every day. If you are really concerned about heading outside (even with the social distancing regulations implemented) then make it a priority to keep yourself active around the house. Clean your kitchen. Do your laundry. Dance around your bedroom. Have a shower. Clear out your wardrobe. Being active reduces stress, increases energy levels and can help us sleep better. However, it also keeps your mind engaged- even small, simple tasks will activate your brain cells and exercise your thought.
Eat a balanced diet. I like junk food as much as the next person. I am addicted to sugar, I love a pizza and I’ll never say no to a Chinese takeaway. However, the food you eat has a huge impact on your mental stimulus. The amount of salt and MSG in your average takeaway is nauseating. It tastes great going down but it certainly doesn’t feel so hot the next morning when you feel heavy, lethargic and dejected. You don’t have to use this lockdown to reconstruct your entire diet and you certainly do not have to cut out all forms of sugar or saturated fats from your intake. However it is important to cook all of your meals from scratch as much as possible, include plenty of fresh fruit and veggies and retain some form of portion control in conjunction with the amount of exercise you are managing to get in your new temporary routine.
Try some relaxation techniques. I must admit I debated whether to include this point. Personally, I can’t stand relaxation strategies. Every doctor or therapist I have seen throughout my life regarding my mental health have pushed for me to introduce meditation into my recovery. This has never worked- not for me. I found that these mindfulness techniques actually increased my levels of anxiety for the moment I began to ‘focus on my breathing’, I overthought this ingrained concept and suddenly forgot how to breathe! However, I fully recognise that this is a personal grievance against an otherwise well respected method of relaxation. What I do fully endorse is journaling and other similar methods of relaxation. There are some great wellbeing apps in place to help reduce anxiety and stress. ‘Calm’ and ‘Headspace’ are free to download and …………
Keep connected with each other. I’ll reiterate, it’s important to maintain human interaction during such an isolating time- particularly if you live alone. Whether it’s sharing a cup of tea and a gossip with your grandma, playing an online game with your friends, or even sending a supportive text message to your colleagues; you need to explore the ways of connecting that work for you. This could be by post, telephone, social media or video chat. Get yourself adjusted to virtual socialising via Zoom, Google Meet, Facebook Chat, Skype, House Party or FaceT