Staying healthy in lockdown: a GP’s top 10 tips

Dr Paula Falconer
GP and menopause Doctor at Bupa
28 October 2020
Next review due October 2023

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted all of us this year, and local lockdowns seem set to continue the disruption as we move into winter. If you live in a place where restrictions have tightened, it’s important to make sure you look after your health and wellbeing. Here are my top 10 tips for staying healthy during a lockdown.

1. Follow a routine

If you’re put into a stricter lockdown, it’s important to create a routine to give your day structure.

  • Try to get up and go to bed at the same time every day, aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
  • If you’re working from home, make sure you schedule in lunch breaks, and time to move and stretch.
  • Make time for exercise. This can include activities like lifting weights, an online dance class or a long walk.

2. Eat well

Try to prepare nutritious meals if you can. Eating well is good for both your physical and mental health.

  • Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to make sure you’re getting a range of vitamins and minerals. Fresh, frozen, dried and tinned options all count.
  • Have regular meals and stick to healthy snack options such as fruit, or a small handful of unsalted nuts and seeds.
  • Consider taking a daily supplement of vitamin D (10 micrograms), especially during the winter. This is particularly important if you aren’t exposed to much sunlight, are over 65 or have dark skin.

3. Keep hydrated

Drinking enough fluids helps your body function properly. The Eatwell Guide recommends you have six to eight glasses of fluid a day, but drink a bit more if you’re exercising.

4. Avoid excess

It can be easy to form unhealthy habits as a way of coping. While these might feel like they’re helping you deal with the situation, they often make you feel worse in the long term.

  • Try cutting down on how much caffeine you drink. Having too much caffeine, or having it later in the day, can affect how well you sleep. It may also cause you to feel irritable and add to any feelings of anxiety.
  • While it might be tempting, don’t turn to alcohol, smoking or other recreational drugs as coping strategies for stress. They will only make things worse.

5. Take time to switch off

While it’s important to stay informed, try not to constantly refresh the news if you find it makes you feel anxious, angry or stressed.

You might also find it helpful to spend some time away from social media. This might be especially true if you’re in a local lockdown, but many of your friends aren’t.

Taking some slow deep breaths can help reduce anxiety levels and help you reset. Try breathing in for four counts, hold your breath for four counts and breathe out for five counts.

6. Spend time in nature

Take time to be in nature if you can. If you can go outside, then try going for a walk or run in a green space. If you can’t leave your house, just looking out of your window can help. Take five minutes to notice five different aspects of nature such as:

  • looking at your house plants
  • observing the cloud patterns in the sky
  • listening to birds singing or the sound of rainfall outside
  • feeling the cool air against your skin
  • smelling the scent of some flowers or herbs

7. Maintain relationships

Many of us have been apart from some of our loved ones for a long time now. This can be very difficult and upsetting. Try to keep in regular contact using phone or video calls if you can. Writing letters or sending cards might also be a nice change if you’re feeling tired of video calls.

Being at home with family or flatmates may also be challenging at times. Try to talk to and respect each other if issues come up. Try to enjoy spending more time with those you live with if you can.

If you know people who live alone, especially the elderly or those who are vulnerable, keep in touch with them as best you can.

8. Protect your children

Changing rules and routines can be confusing for children. Try to be a positive role model to help them learn how to manage in uncertain times.

  • Play regularly, get them exercising, bake, draw and paint, play instruments and sing – these activities are good for adults too!
  • Try getting children to write down things they’re grateful for, or things that have made them feel proud or happy recently.
  • Make time to ask your children how they’re feeling. Keeping channels of communication open is so important for children to know that they can come to you if they’re feeling down or scared.

9. Be kind

It’s natural to feel a whole range of feelings during times of uncertainty and change. Some days will be better than others. This is a time to be kind to yourself and to those around you. Be patient with yourself and your loved ones.

10. Seek support

For many people, the idea of going into a stricter lockdown may feel overwhelming. You might feel sad, anxious, stressed or angry. How you feel might also change as time goes on. If you’re struggling, make sure you reach out to somebody and talk about how you’re feeling. This could be a loved one, your GP, your employer or a mental health organisation.

The following charities can offer support:

Dr Paula Falconer
Dr Paula Falconer
GP and menopause Doctor at Bupa

    • Local COVID alert levels: what you need to know. Department of Health and Social Care., updated 12 October 2020
    • Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, et al. Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: a joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep 2015; 38(6):843–44. doi:10.5665/sleep.4716
    • UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines. Department of Health and Social Care., published 7 September 2019
    • Food and mood: food fact sheet. British Dietetic Association., published August 2017
    • Healthy eating: food fact sheet. British Dietetic Association., published August 2016
    • Healthy snacks: food fact sheet. British Dietetic Association., published September 2018
    • Vitamin D: food fact sheet. British Dietetic Association., published August 2019
    • Vitamin D: supplement use in specific population groups. Public health guideline [PH56]. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence., updated 30 August 2017
    • The importance of hydration. British Dietetic Association., published 19 August 2019
    • Caffeine. European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)., accessed 21 October 2020
    • Coronavirus: alcohol and mental health. Drink Aware., accessed 21 October 2020
    • Results of YouGov survey into addiction in lockdown. Action on Addiction., accessed 21 October 2020
    • Coronavirus and your wellbeing. Mind., updated 2 September 2020
    • Relaxation. Mind., published in October 2017
    • Nature and mental health. Mind., published in May 2018
    • Guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Public Health England., updated 16 October 2020
    • Supporting your child during the transition out of lockdown. Young Minds., accessed 21 October 2020

About our health information

At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. This is because we believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and wellbeing.

Our information has been awarded the PIF TICK for trustworthy health information. It also follows the principles of the The Information Standard.

The Patient Information Forum tick

Learn more about our editorial team and principles >

Did you find our advice helpful?

We’d love to hear what you think. Our short survey takes just a few minutes to complete and helps us to keep improving our healthy lifestyle articles.