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 FaceTime and embrace an idea you would never normally be able to organise around everyone’s busy schedules. How about a virtual dinner party? A pub quiz? Or even a synchronised movie night?
Whatever it is, remember that while we may not all be facing the same battle, we are all struggling with the adjustment, so if you start to feel lonely, isolated, lost or confused do not hesitate in calling your colleagues, friends or family.
Avoid fake news. There is a lot of information on a lot of different websites and it’s very hard to distinguish between genuine data and fake news. To avoid undue confusion or added stress and anxiety, it is important that you use the correct websites to receive up to date and accurate information on Coronavirus, such as gov.uk or nhs.uk.
Looking After your Physical Health.
For the vast majority of us, Coronavirus is not deadly- it’s just extremely unpleasant. However, for an unfortunate percentage of the population, this virus is devastating. It has caused undeniable pain amongst it’s victims and their families in what is objectively a very short span of time. Personally, I know people who have lost loved ones from Covid-19 and I know even more of those who are classified as extremely ‘high risk’ if they were to contract it. My fiancé, for example, is severely asthmatic and has been hospitalised from Pneumonia within the last 2 years. Given the raspatory nature of the virus, he would be at genuine risk of losing his life if he were to become infected.
One misconception I must address though is the use of rubber gloves. If you want to take the precaution of using disposable gloves you must do just that- dispose of them! You wouldn’t cut raw chicken at home wearing rubber gloves and then continue to wear those same gloves throughout the rest of the day as you’d be spreading bacteria all throughout your home! Instead you’d remove and dispose of them as soon as your food prep was complete. Similarly, do you think our healthcare workers wear the same gloves for each patient or do they dispose of them after each individual medical task that could possible cause cross contamination?
If you put on rubber gloves to head to the shops, handle the food that you place into your basket\trolley and then continue to wear the gloves when you pay at the checkout then you are blatantly spreading these germs onto your wallet, your bag, your clothes, your mask, your keys and your phone! A far better precaution, in place of gloves, would be to have anti bacterial wipes handy in your home, minimise what you handle outside of your home, wash your hands when you return home and disinfect what you have touched on your person as best you can with antibac wipes.
Personally, I do not want to risk spreading the illness to him or any other vulnerable individual. This is why I am respecting social distancing. It can affect anyone. Even if we are not personally susceptible to the fatal consequences, we almost certainly know someone who is. The government advise we should only leave the house for one of four reasons;
· Shopping for basic necessities (for example food and medicine)
· One form of exercise a day (or example a run, walk, or cycle- alone or with members of your household)
· A medical need, including to provide care/help a vulnerable person.
· Travelling to and from work (only when absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home)
However, even when doing these activities, you should be making efforts to minimise time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are two metres apart from anyone outside of your household at all times- it only takes a second to transfer a virus!
With this is mind, you might need to get creative with how you keep active in your house. Ideally we would all use this time to try something new. Or perhaps implement a new regime to build into our daily routine.
Here are some suggestions…
Andrew Lloyd Webber, the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House and Broadway HQ are releasing full recordings of various stage shows and popular musical concerts to stream for FREE!
If musicals aren’t your thing then there are some great Instagram pages and links that are committing to live workouts and yoga classes. For example;
@bodyinmindyoga @barrysuk @digmefitness
Why not spend some time improving your culinary and baking skills with;
@janespatisserie @breadaheadbakery @jamieoliver @buzzfeedtasty
You could even get crafty with the help of;
If you want to make good practical use of your time, have a think about all of those household jobs you put off, and actually do them! Check out Marie Kondo on Netflix.
If you have a thirst for knowledge then there are plenty of online theses and articles to possibly captivate your interest. There are online language services such as ………. And plenty of educational YouTube channels and forums that engage in a range of conversations from sexuality to the intricacies of deep space. Personally I am reading plenty of philosophy books I’ve accrued over the last few years and I am even delving back into my old Politics and History A Level text books!
Monthly challenges and harmless chain mail have also rocketed on social media in the recent weeks to curve boredom during this time. Action for Happiness have released their own rendition in the form of a 'coping calendar' which encourages individuals to complete a different form of self care each day of the month. I highly recommend this activity to anyone who is struggling with isolation as it is a considerate way to care for yourself without becoming overwhelmed as it only requires you to focus your energy into 1 act of kindness each day.
I truly hope that this information is of some use. Nothing lasts forever; this is just a chapter, not the whole story.
COURAGE --- A xxx
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