So, the time has come and we are all being asked to socially distance ourselves and self-isolate, but what does this actually mean? And how can we deal with it while staying healthy and sane?
The British government has now asked that we stop non-essential contact with other people and avoid all unnecessary travel. In a nutshell, this is social distancing.
It basically means spending less time in public places where a lot of people are around, such as cafes, bars, restaurants and social gatherings. Avoid travel on public transport and work from home if possible.
Self-isolating means staying at home and essentially cutting yourself off from any physical contact with people other than those you live with. From now, if anyone in your household has a high temperature of 37.8’C or a persistent cough everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days.
If you need food, medication or essential items you are encouraged to ask someone else to get them for you and deliver them, leaving them outside your door.
The person with the symptoms is advised to stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened, and try to keep away from other people in the home. Easier said than done, especially if you’re a parent or carer!
If you need to self-isolate but share a home with someone, you should try to avoid using the kitchen when other people are there and eat meals separately. Clean all surfaces down with household cleaning products daily and after food preparation.
If possible, you are advised to stay at least 2m (6ft) from other people you live with and sleep alone. And keep away from vulnerable people.
If you live with someone who is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or in self-isolation because they have been in contact with someone with the disease you should wash your hands often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. (Actually, you should wash your hands thoroughly and regularly anyway!).
Don’t share towels, toiletries or other household items with other people.
Here in the UK, at the time of writing this, we are not in complete lockdown … yet, unlike many other countries but it is probably only a matter of time. And in the meantime we are being encouraged to social distance ourselves and self-isolate in the battle against the dreaded C-virus.
This is a challenging time for all but aside from the physical health and economic implications of the pandemic it is a time of mass anxiety and stress. So, it is more important than ever to stay healthy and strong, both physically and mentally.
For that reason we have written this short guide to staying healthy and sane during self-isolation.
Everyone’s mental wellbeing will be tested during extraordinary times like these but during self-isolation or lockdown (when you are ordered by the government to stay at home for a prolonged period of time) it could be easy to feel overwhelmed, anxious and even depressed.
The good news is that there are lots of things we can do to help boost mental wellbeing, including exercise, good nutrition and staying connected with people.
- Eat well and stay hydrated
Think about your diet. Spending more time at home than usual will probably mean moving less as you won’t get your usual steps in through travelling to work, doing the school run, walking around the shops, going to the gym or your usual exercise classes, and so on.
Your appetite might change if you’re less active than usual or your routine changes. Remembering to eat regularly will keep your blood sugar stable and can help to keep your mood and energy levels balanced.
Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking water regularly, as staying hydrated is important for your mental and physical health.
- Take care of your environment
If you are spending a lot of time at home, you may find it helpful to keep your environment clean and tidy. It is different for different people but staying clean and tidy can help you to feel calm and in control of your environment in a situation that is otherwise out of your control.
Cleaning your home, doing laundry regularly and looking after your personal hygiene are important ways to help stop germs spreading.
- Managing anxiety
Anxiety is a very common and normal feeling that many people cope with daily, however during times of extreme stress they may feel more anxious than ever and certain behaviours may escalate as a result.
Frequent hand washing is a common compulsive behaviour associated with anxiety and with all the advice surrounding hand washing in the media at the moment this could become difficult to manage.
If this is making you feel stressed or anxious, don’t keep re-reading the same advice and perhaps let other people know you’re struggling. For example, you could ask them not to remind you to wash your hands.
Breathing exercises can also help you to cope and feel more in control. You can find a simple breathing exercise to help deal with stress and anxiety on the NHS website. The mental health charity Mind has some relaxation tips and exercises on its website.
- Connect with people
If you are stuck at home for any length of time the chances are that at some point you will begin to feel isolated (hence the name, self-isolation!). So, keep in touch digitally with friends and family, and any social groups you are part of, whether it’s your gym group, a sports club, a parenting group, a community group, or whatever your interest.
Make plans to video chat with people or groups you’d normally see in person, and call family and friends regularly. With the likes of Skype, Zoom and Facetime, these days there really is no excuse not to see people while talking to them.
Even if you are not usually a fan of social media, now might be a good time to get on it and get involved to some extent – choose the groups you wish to be part of, whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or another platform of choice.
Connect with others in similar situations. There are lots of Coronavirus community groups springing up at the moment and these could become important informal support networks. If you live alone, don’t be afraid to ask your help if you need supplies delivered. And if you are healthy, make sure you look out for your neighbours and friends.
- Create routine
Having a daily routine can help us to feel in control of our lives, even when it feels like the world is going into freefall. Routine helps us to cope with change, to form healthy habits and reduce stress levels.
Either follow your usual routine as much as possible – the time you get up, the time you eat lunch, the time you go to bed – or take the opportunity to create a new routine. Plan how you are going to use your time and write this down if it helps.
If you are worried that you are going to have a lot of spare time on your hands try planning different activities on different days or use the time to start learning or doing something new (something you can do at home, of course).
If you live with other people, plan a household routine and try to respect each other’s privacy and space.
- Keep active
Keeping active is one of the most important things for positive mental wellbeing. Build physical activity into your daily routine, using the resources you have around you. This could be something as simple as cleaning your home, dancing to music, going up and down the stairs or following a workout online.
If you’ve been sitting down for long periods of time, working or watching TV, make sure you get up and move around regularly. If you have a garden, get outside in the fresh air and walk around, stretch or do some exercises. Fresh air and sunlight will help a lot.
If you don’t have a garden, open the windows and let fresh air and light into your home.
- Keep busy, don’t get bored!
We already mentioned having a routine in place and this could help you to keep busy. Boredom may result in poor habits and negative mental health so avoid it at all costs!
If you cannot work from home but are healthy you could use your time to have a clear out or a really deep clean of your home. Get those chores done that have been on your list for a while but you were always too busy to get done.
If you have a garden and the weather is good, get outside and do some gardening.
You could also have a digital clear out. Tidy up your computer or tablet by deleting any old files and apps you don’t use, upgrade your software, update all your passwords or clear out your inboxes.
Use the time to get in touch with people you’ve been meaning to for a while or reconnect with old friends through social media. Do any admin tasks that you haven’t got around to, for example changing your energy provider.
Be creative. Channel your inner artist and do some arts and crafts, such as drawing, painting, collage, sewing, craft kits or upcycling. If you’ve got kids at home, these are some perfect activities to get them involved with too.
- Find ways to relax
If you’re feeling anxious about having to self-isolate and stressed about the impending doom you feel about the whole situation, make sure you find ways to relax.
Try some mindfulness techniques. There are lots of mindfulness apps available and information online about how to become more mindful but in a nutshell it means taking notice of the present moment, while calmly acknowledging your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is used as a calming technique and can be very useful when you’re feeling anxious.
Do some yoga or meditation – again there are lots of meditation apps available and plenty of yoga workouts available on YouTube and online, if you don’t already know some yoga poses.
Physical health and fitness
Staying at home for a prolonged period of time is going to be hard if you are someone who enjoys keeping fit and being active and yet it is now more important than ever to stay physically fit.
Staying active has been scientifically proven to benefit your mood and overall wellbeing, and being fit helps to boost your immune system, according to Prof Arne Akbar, the president of the British Society for Immunology and a professor at University College, London.
In a recent article in The Guardian on how to boost your immune system to avoid colds and coronavirus Akbar says: “White blood cells can be quite sedentary. Exercise mobilises them by increasing your blood flow, so they can do their surveillance jobs and seek and destroy in other parts of the body.”
The NHS says adults should be physically active in some way every day, and do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (hiking, gardening, cycling) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (running, swimming fast, an aerobics class).
Exercise also reduces stress, and less stress means a better immune system. Stress hormones such as cortisol can compromise immune function.
So, while you might not be able to stick to your usual routine of going to the gym, or yoga, or swimming, getting out with your walking group or whatever your hobby, you can create a new routine for exercising at home.
Try an at-home workout – there are lots online, some better than others but there is something to suit everyone! If you are lucky enough to be a Performance Project member you will receive our home workouts that have been created with the same high standards and similar in style to our in-house programming, so look out for those.
There will be bodyweight workouts for those of you without any equipment at home and variations with weights and other equipment for those of you who have it, or who fancy buying some to see you through until you can return to the gym.
If you don’t want to workout at home just keep moving and being as active as possible. Walk or run up and down the stairs, or even just march on the spot! Get the family involved and use this enforced time together as quality time for exercise.
There are some great workouts for kids on YouTube so it can be fun for all the family to join in!
Nutrition plays a huge role in both physical and mental health. It would be easy to let your usual diet go to pot and start comfort eating during such a strange time, however it is more important than ever to eat healthily.
Eating healthily helps to boost our immune systems so plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and a balanced diet is essential. If you cannot leave the house to get fresh food because you are feeling unwell, ask someone to get supplies for you. Otherwise, dried, tinned and frozen fruit and vegetables can be just as good for you.
Your appetite might change if you are less active or you might find you are eating more while in isolation, due to boredom or stress. If you are watching your weight or tracking your calories for any reason, it will be important to be aware of the changes in your activity levels.
Your steps will most likely be lower if you are self-isolating so you might want to make some changes to your daily calorie intake.
Are you prepared for social isolation?
We’ve made a quick checklist that you can use to make sure you’re prepared and ready to batten down the hatches and go into self-isolation.
- Food: have you stocked up and/ or do you have a way to get food delivered?
- Medication: do you have enough medication (such as paracetamol or any regular medication that you take), or a way to get more if you need it?
- Health: can you reorganise any planned operations or treatments?
- Commitments: can someone else help you look after your children or any dependents if you get really ill? Is there someone who will walk your dog?
- Cleaning: are your cleaning supplies stocked up? Do you have enough soap?
- Work: can you work from home? If not, what are your rights to payment or benefits?
- Money: can you budget for any higher household bills or expenses? Will you save money from lower transport costs and other cancelled activities or social events that you could spend elsewhere?
- Connectivity: have you checked the contact details of the people you see regularly, such as their phone numbers, email addresses, social media handles? Have you joined some hobby or support groups?
- Routine: can you create a routine or timetable for yourself? If you live with other people, should you create a household schedule? Do you need to agree how the household will run with everyone at home all day?
- Exercise: is there any physical activity you can do inside your home, such as going up and down the stairs, home workouts, yoga, gardening, cleaning, dancing and so on?
- Nature: have you thought how you could access nature? If you don’t have a garden, could you get some seeds and planting equipment, houseplants or living herbs?
- Entertainment: have you thought about things to do, books to read or TV shows to watch? You could ask friends for recommendations. Have you got materials so you can do something creative, such as paper and colouring pencils?
- Relaxation: have you planned ways to relax and spend your time? Have you thought about coping techniques for feelings of anxiety or stress?
We hope everyone stays well during this extraordinary time and if anyone has any questions about how to stay healthy and active please feel free to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will respond to all emails as quickly as possible as our entire team continues to work tirelessly to provide workouts, information, advice and support for all our members and any members of the local community that need us.
Our mission is to help people stay fit, healthy and strong to enjoy their favorite things in life for as long as possible, and that mission continues. Together we believe we’ll get through this crisis.
If you are a PP member you will be receiving your home workouts shortly and we’ll stay connected through our Facebook members group. We look forward to opening our doors again soon and welcoming you all back. In the meantime, stay safe, stay strong!
At PP we believe in spreading good information that is backed by science. Just as we have high standards for training and nutrition, we feel it is super important to be well educated when it comes to all things, especially a world pandemic. So, here are some useful links to bust some myths and provide some science-backed information and advice on the C-word situation.
Gold standard research and evidence:
World Health Organisation (WHO)
WHO Myth Busters