At some stage in the next weeks to months, it is likely that some or all of us will be confined to home as part of the management of the COVID-19 outbreak. This is likely to be a very stressful time for everyone, and it is important to try to stay both physically and mentally healthy.
While at home, you should wash your hands after sneezing, coughing, going to the bathroom, or before cooking or preparing food. You should still monitor for symptoms: a fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, body aches, sore throat, headache and runny nose, muscle pain or diarrhoea. If you develop symptoms, call your doctor or the COVID-19 Hotline on 1800 020 080.
If you are unwell, separate yourself from the other people in your home. Avoid sharing household items, wear a surgical mask when you are in the same room as someone else or are using communal spaces and use a separate bathroom if possible. If someone else is unwell in the house, they should keep to their own room. One adult should care for that person, maintaining 1.5m distance from them if possible.
Sleep is incredibly important for immune function, anxiety, depression, memory and cognitive function. We also tend to get a bit sleep-deprived with our normal lives. Take the time to catch up, it will do you good.
Exercise is one of the best tools to combat stress. It also boosts your mood and your immunity, and makes you sleep better. If confined to home, try to think of ways to do a workout:
• Going up and down the stairs
• Squats, pushups and situps in the living room
• Getting a yoga, Tai Chi or (cue 1980’s music) aerobics video instruction via YouTube,
• Setting up the bike on a trainer
• Get creative with friends, have competitions and challenges (e.g., who can do the most sit ups in a minute, best dance moves to a certain song – cue 1980s music again!)
Whenever you are starting a new exercise program, it’s important not to go too hard too soon. Overusing muscles, joints or tendons can make them sore, and then you won’t be able to continue with the good plans you had. The same goes when you return to your normal activities after some time off – start at about 50% of what you think you should do, see how you pull up and next time go a bit harder.
Keep in touch with family and friends via social media, email or the phone. Facetime, WhatsApp and Skype all work really well. It’s not the same as being face-to-face, but maintaining those social links is vital for managing stress levels, both for you and for those on the other end of the phone. Have a coffee and a chat with a friend over the phone.
Taking care of aging relatives will involve keeping away from them for a while – those over 70 are at a much higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19, so it is safer for them if you use the technology. Now is the time to teach them how to use it properly.
Try to maintain a normal daily routine. Try to wake up at a normal time and do some jobs around the house (this is a great time to get to the tidying up!) which helps your mood by giving a sense of achievement. Enjoy family meals together, reconnect with the idea of reading a book. Do your indoor exercise routine, and have a nap.
Eat well. Even with the panic buying of pasta, rice and minced meat, there are plenty of fresh fruit and veges available. Fresh food is not only better for you than pre-packaged meals, it tends to be cheaper. There are always recipes to be found on line, ranging from simple to Heston Blumenthal-level. Be sensible with how much you eat, and be even more sensible about how much you drink – getting sloshed is bad for your sleep, mood, immunity, stress and relationships. It also costs money, which for the next few months may be tight.
Try not to read too much about the whole COVID-19 situation. It’s a normal human process to pick up on other’s distress and emotions (emotions are also contagious!), so make sure you monitor the impact things like the news and visiting the supermarket is having on you, and put in healthy boundaries and limits (e.g. at dinner you don’t talk about COVID-19). It will take time for all of this to work through, it will be disruptive and stressful, but getting overloaded with information won’t make it any easier. Try to stick to reliable sources of information, like the TV news or major newspapers online, or The Health Department online.
its normal and okay to be worried about what’s going on in the world at the moment. However, letting your worries snowball and focusing on the worst-case scenario is neither helpful or good for your mental and physical health. Try to focus on what is in your control.
Practise (or learn) mindfulness and bring yourself back to the moment.
Try to do good things for other people, like neighbours who may be isolated. Not only is this good for them, but it makes you feel good too. Reflect on gratitude (which is not always easy), for example for living in the country we do, having most of our food supplies come from within our country, and a good health care system. This will run its course, and most of us will be fine. Being kind to yourself and others is key, we are all in this together and will get through it together.