27 March 2020 at 16:40
Staying healthy during lockdown
We are entering a new way of living that few, if any, of us have experienced before, with many countries facing closure of all leisure activities and a nationwide lockdown in the effort to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, Covid 19.
For some, ‘lockdown’ feels fine – we get a chance to complete arts and craft projects, learn new skills, tidy the garden, and have no social pressures to conform to. To others, lockdown is more challenging. Staying at home all day can take a toll on both mental and physical health. To protect ourselves, and keep as healthy as possible, we can apply the following principles of naturopathic living:
Take this opportunity to cook more of your meals from scratch, and avoid temptation to rely on processed foods. Most people have stocked up on basics like flour, pulses and grains, so now is the time to try new cooking techniques and learn how to use a variety of healthful herbs and spices. To ensure a good level of fresh foods when supermarkets trips are limited, you could invest in a dehydrator which gently removes the moisture from fruit and veg to increase shelf life while retaining nutrient content. Another method is to puree and freeze fruit or homemade vegetable soups. If you are not able to cook for yourself, there are some companies who deliver nutritious, home cooked frozen meals to your door, or ask a neighbour or relative if they can cook some extra portions and deliver them to you.
There are some great benefits to exposure to natural daylight. As well as boosting mood via serotonin production, daylight also helps the body to manufacture Vitamin D which has been linked to a healthy immune system. Natural light helps set the body clock, promoting good sleep in these times of disruption. There is also good evidence for the impact of natural light on mental health, skin conditions and general energy levels. If you have a garden try to get out as often as possible, and - provided that no-one in your household has symptoms - make sure that you go out for the allowed exercise each day. The benefits of natural daylight can be gained even on a cloudy day, so aim to get outside even if the weather is dull.
There are plenty of ways to exercise when your gym is closed and your dance classes have been cancelled. Building more activity into everyday life is really important when you are staying indoors, so look for opportunities around you to increase movement. If you are allowed out, then walking or jogging is ideal. If not, wear an activity tracker to see how many steps you take each day around the house and challenge yourself to increase a little each day. If you are working from home remember to take breaks to move around and stretch, perhaps going up and down the stairs a couple of times. You can set a reminder on your PC or phone to get up and move every 30 minutes. Muscle conditioning is useful too, so if you have wrist weights or resistance bands, now is the time to dig them out from the back of the cupboard.
Rest and relaxation
It might feel hard to relax given the uncertainty we face, but it is extremely important for both physical and mental health. If you are working from home remember to separate your work from your own time – set boundaries and don’t let work creep into your personal time. Lack of sleep can cause metabolic changes such as insulin resistance and weight gain, as well as decreased energy, memory and concentration, so ensure you take time to switch off fully before bedtime. Choose anything that appeals to you – from aromatherapy candles to audiobooks to meditation and mindfulness – and schedule time for guilt-free relaxation every day.
Happiness and enjoyment of life
Emotions are an integral part of holistic wellness and numerous scientific studies have linked positive emotions such as happiness with better overall health and wellbeing. Researchers have found many physical benefits to happiness including boosting the immune system, reducing stress hormones, reducing blood pressure and reducing perception of pain. Happiness can be achieved by maintaining a sense of purpose – for example, by doing good for others. Now is a wonderful time to sign up to community groups and offer to do favours for neighbours and strangers who need support during isolation. Another pathway to happiness is full engagement in an activity – i.e. the satisfaction which comes from total immersion, absorption and concentration. Engaging in creative arts activities or mindfulness are great ways to achieve this,
Much of the above we already know, but all too often we make excuses that we don’t have enough time . Now is your golden opportunity to work new improved habits into your day, so take time now to make a contract with yourself – write down one or two things that you intend to do from each of the five categories above, sign the piece of paper, and commit to taking the best possible care of yourself at this unusual time.