How to emerge from lockdown a stronger person?
As I am writing this, most of us are in our 4th week of home isolation. Whilst Australia has made significant progress in suppressing infection rates, according to the latest announcements from Scott Morrison, we are still looking at Stage 3 COVID-19 restrictions continuing for at least the next 4 weeks, possibly till June 2020.
This makes me fret somewhat as the first 4 weeks of home isolation was a mixture of novelty, then solidarity, then reality. With the next 4 weeks, I am keen to not let it slip to monotony and anxiety. Therefore in an attempt to rally mines and everyone else’s willpower to keep going strong, I have devised a list of 7 important things that must be attended to everyday.
My question to you is: Have you ECSSELD today?
1. Have you EATEN well today?
Nutritional experts recommend eating 3 main meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and 1-3 snacks in between, per day. The aim is to not go without food for more than 5 hours, as that can lead us to feeling ravenous, and therefore at risk of reaching out for the fast food and high calorie treats.
Instead plan some quick meals that are easy to prepare, ensuring our meals contain servings of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and probiotics. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Try to limit any intake of high calorie snacks such as biscuits, cakes and sugary drinks. Instead opt for plant-based yoghurts and yoghurt smoothies which contain probiotics (good bacteria) that are beneficial to good gut health and therefore essential for a strong immune system.
2. Have you CONNECTED today?
We are all wired to connect. Social disconnection or isolation causes us pain and we instinctively do what we can to avoid or stop the pain. Neurologists and psychologists have provided ample evidence that points to a spectrum of mental health issues when we are socially and physically cut off for periods of time. They looked at extreme cases of solitary confinement in prisoners and found mental health problems such as hypersensitivity to external stimuli, hallucinations, anxiety, panic attacks, memory deficiencies, concentration issues, paranoia and impulse control.
Whilst most of us are not in this extreme form of isolation, we need to spend some time in the day connecting with people for our wellbeing. Whether that’s spending 15 minutes talking face-to-face or virtually with our family, friends, neighbours or the person we pass in the park. We are not only doing ourselves a favour but we are also selflessly validating the existence of another.
3. Have you SLEPT today?
The quality of sleep directly affects our mental and physical health. Lack of sleeping hours affect our productivity, emotional balance, brain and heart health, immune system, vitality and even weight. When we skimp on sleep, we are heading for a physical and mental breakdown.
According to the National Institute of Health, sleep requirements vary from person to person. Most healthy adults sleep between 7 to 9 hours per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more, between 9 to 11 hours per night.
To get the necessary sleep:
Rule out any medical issues for sleep problems, such as side-effects from medications.
Avoid eating heavy meals and drinking lots of fluids close to bedtime.
Get help with stress management if the stress of work, family or school keep us awake at night.
Close all screens, avoid stressful conversations and wind down 30 minutes before bedtime, such as taking a warm bath, reading by a dim light, or practising relaxation techniques.
Postpone worrying by writing the worry down on paper and leaving it for tomorrow’s to-do tasks.
4. Have you caught any SUNSHINE today?
Whilst there is no evidence that sunlight can kill the COVID-19 virus, there is abundant evidence to show that 15 minutes of skin exposure to the midday sun, without sunscreen, can elevate mood, improve sleep, boost the immune system and lower blood pressure. However it is important to limit sun exposure to 15 minutes. Any more, then sunscreen needs to be applied to reduce the risks of skin cancer and premature ageing.
5. Have you EXERCISED today?
We are lucky that in Australia, Stage 3 restrictions still allow us to get outside for exercise. We should take advantage of the fresh air, quieter streetscape and the radiant bursts of autumn colours to run, walk, cycle, do yoga, or conduct body-weight training. If the outdoors is not possible, then exercise can involve doing weight training indoors or following guided exercise programs on Youtube or through a fitness instructor or physiotherapist.
For most healthy adults, the Department of Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. This suggests that we can spread this out through the week, which is 25 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 11 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per day. This is easily do-able and can be a fun way if we’re exercising with family, house mates or with our dog.
6. Have you LAUGHED today?
Laughter is one of humanity’s natural medicines. It protects the heart, relieves stress and improves optimism, self-esteem and depression. From a psychological perspective, Prof. Bernard Saper for Psychiatric Quarterly suggests that the ability to maintain a sense of humour and the ability to laugh, can act as positive coping mechanisms to help a person get through difficult times. Laughing with others is as much an expression of fun as it is a message of good will to others.
Therefore share those funny memes, pictures, stories and videos to friends, family, neighbours, as a great way to connect and boost our wellbeing.
7. Have you DONE something purposeful today?
We’re not talking about starting a new business or rallying an activist cause. During these times of home isolation, it is important to be kind to ourselves and focus on what needs to be done in the immediate and near future. Whether that is networking for job opportunities, supporting our children through on-line learning, maintaining a functioning home, cooking for everyone and our self, getting our finances in order, or even learning a song. The feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day is priceless and is just one step to realising how valuable our contributions are.