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

Lead Physician at Bupa
06 April 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) presents us all with many challenges as we adjust to a big period of change and uncertainty. Staying at home is the most important thing we can all do right now. And while we all do our bit, it’s vital that we maintain good routines to look after our physical and mental health.

Here are my top 10 tips for staying well during the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Follow a routine

When you’re at home, whether you are working or not, it’s important to create a routine.

  • Try to get up and go to bed at the same time every day, aiming for 7–9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Schedule in lunch breaks, movement breaks, and time for relaxation.

2. Build exercise into every day

Now is the time for the home workout! Exercise helps to manage anxiety and stress levels.

  • Try online videos like HIIT, yoga, Pilates or Barre.
  • Dust down that exercise bike in your garage or the treadmill that is currently serving as a clothes horse.
  • Try some squats, lunges or planks when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil.
  • If you have a garden or patio, get moving outside.
  • Get up at least once an hour to move.

3. Eat for your immune system and mood

Try not to turn to or rely on comfort and convenience foods – there are likely to be lots of ingredients in your cupboards to help create nutritious meals.

  • 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 options such as fruit, a small handful of unsalted nuts and seeds for snacking.
  • Take a daily supplement of Vitamin D (10 micrograms). This is usually recommended in the winter months but as we are all indoors more, consider taking this for the next few months too.

4. Keep hydrated

Getting enough fluids helps your body function properly. The Eatwell Guide recommends you have 6–8 glasses of fluid a day. But drink a bit more if you’re exercising.

5. Avoid excess

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 feelings of anxiety.

  • You may want to try cutting down on how much caffeine you drink, perhaps going caffeine free after lunch time.
  • 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.

6. Slow down

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

Focus on the present moment and think about what you’re grateful for.

7. Spend time in nature

Take time to be in nature – if you can, go outside, or look out your window. Take five minutes to notice five different aspects of nature. For example, you could:

  • look at your house plants
  • observe the cloud patterns in the sky
  • listen to birds singing or the sound of rainfall outside
  • feel the warmth of the sun shining onto your skin
  • smell the scent of your house plants or herbs on the windowsill

8. Stay connected

There are still lots of ways you can stay connected with your loved ones. Call them regularly, using video call where possible.

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

If you know people who live alone, especially the elderly or those who are vulnerable, keep in touch with them by giving them a call.

9. Protect our children

Our little people need adults to be positive role models to help them learn how to manage in uncertain times.

  • Play regularly, get them exercising, draw and paint, play instruments and sing – these activities are good for adults too!
  • Take some time to ask your children how they are feeling. Keeping channels of communication open is so important for children to know that they can come to you if they are feeling down or scared.

10. Be kind to yourself

It’s natural to feel a whole range of feelings during such a time of uncertainty and change. Some days will be better than others. This is a time to be kind to yourself and to others.

Be patient with yourself and hang in there.

Dr Paula Falconer
Lead Physician at Bupa

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