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How to cope with self-isolation due to coronavirus

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Now that the anti-coronavirus measures have been extended, the novelty and fun of self-isolation is starting to wear off for many of us. And no wonder, because being confined to your home with your family or housemates can be challenging. Chances are you’re annoyed and frustrated with everyone, too stressed to concentrate on your work and tempted to spend the entire day snacking or watching TV. This strategy will do your relationship – and waistline – no favours. The good news is there are alternative ways of coping with life in lockdown. Here are some tips for staying fit, productive, healthy and happy while we wait for the coronavirus pandemic to come to an end.

Establish a routine

Normally, our work week is compartmentalised into workdays and weekends. Now that most of us are self-isolating in our own homes, normality and daily routines have gone out the window. You don’t need to be at your desk by 8.30 a.m. which means there’s little reason to get dressed at all, let alone get dressed up. Nevertheless, it’s important to stick to some sort of a daily routine. A daily routine is key to a productive and successful day. A good and predictable daily routine is also important for children. Here are some helpful tips for establishing a routine.

  • Set your alarm clock at the usual time during weekdays. Get out of bed, get dressed and have breakfast.
  • Structure your day, selecting different activities for each part of the day. For example, reserve the morning for work activities and the afternoon for craft activities, household chores or sports. Make a schedule and ask everyone to stick to it.
  • Go to bed at normal times during weekdays. This is not a vacation!

Try to stick to your normal weekend routine, too. It’s OK to sleep in, have a big breakfast and relax. Leisure time is important, particularly in stressful periods. And by bringing back some normalcy back into your weekly routine, you avoid losing sense of time as the days blur into each other.

Be a professional working from home

Working from home for a limited time can be enjoyable. But if you are forced to work from home for weeks on end, it’s a different story altogether. Especially with a telecommuting partner and with children at home due to school closures. Here are some tips to work from home successfully during lockdown.

  • Try to find a functional place in your home where you can work undisturbed. The attic, a spare room or, for lack of a better place, a table and chair in the hallway. Creating a physical boundary between your work and your private life will allow you to focus better.
  • Does your partner work from home too, and do you have children who need to be kept entertained and educated? Alternate shifts with your partner. Shifts with your partner working in the morning, you in the afternoon and, if necessary, both of you doing an hour’s work after the children have gone to bed, can make working remotely easier.
  • Minimise distractions. Switch off radio and TV during working hours. Make sure your table or kitchen counter is clutter free. This will allow you to focus better on your work and be more productive.
  • The fact is you probably will be less productive at home than at the office. Accept it and adjust your work schedule accordingly. For example, don’t put six activities on today’s to-do list, but three. Try to achieve those, so anything on top of that is a bonus. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration.

Eat healthily while in lockdown

Specific situations can trigger unhealthy eating habits. For example, people who are on vacation and in a new environment may feel the need to eat a bit more than usual. Some people find comfort in eating unhealthy food. It’s their way of coping with emotions such as stress, fear or boredom. This is understandable, but not the best course of action. It is important to keep your immune system strong, especially in these uncertain times. This way, you’ll be better protected and better able to fight off the virus. Here are some tips that will keep you fit and healthy, also in these coronavirus-affected times.

  • Make set meal times. Try to stick to your normal routine of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, and set aside times for healthy snacks. This will help to avoid unnecessary snacking in between meals.
  • Make sure your diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables. Fresh fruit and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, trace elements and essential nutrients to keep your immune system strong.
  • Do not stock up on too much food. You don’t need to rush to the supermarket to hoard food supplies. In fact, stuffing your pantry with cake and crisps will only make it more difficult to resist the temptation to overeat.
  • Steer clear of ready-made meals. Ready-made meals contain too much salt, too much sugar and too much fat. Rustling up home-cooked meals using fresh ingredients is always a better option. And it will keep you busy, too. Having no time to cook is no longer an excuse during lockdown.

Want to cook but no inspiration? There are literally hundreds of websites where you can find healthy recipes online. Tip: make a different recipe from around the world each day. Greek chicken skewers with a tzatziki yoghurt dip, South African boboti, Russian beetroot soup… There may be a travel ban, but you can still take a trip with the meals you prepare in your own kitchen.

Exercise during lockdown

Now that gyms are closed and movement outside is limited, it can be tempting to stop exercising altogether. Don’t give in to that feeling! Exercise keeps the body healthy and strong, your weight down and helps you sleep better. Easier said than done? Don’t be discouraged.

  • There are plenty of ways you can exercise in and around your home. The gym may be closed, but your staircase is open 24/7! Did you know that you only have to walk up the stairs for 10 minutes to burn 100 calories? Gardening, DIY jobs and cleaning are other ways to keep fit while in self-isolation. So, roll up those sleeves and get to work!
  • Transform your living room into a gym. It’s simpler than you think. Just dust off that old yoga mat from your closet and move a few chairs. Check online for workout ideas and videos, you’ll find tons of information. There is something for everyone, from yoga to cardio workouts – and the kids can even join in.
  • Would you rather be active outdoors? Then get up early and go walking or running. In the early hours of the morning, the streets are virtually empty. It’s also the best time to enjoy the silence and nature. But be sure to stay in if you have a cold.

Do you find it difficult to eat healthily and keep up an exercise routine? Focus on the future. When lockdown is over, you’ll be able to visit terraces, the beach or go shopping in the city. Of course, you want to be fit, slim, and healthy when this day comes!

Sex and quarantine: more often or not at all?

Self-isolating at home with your partner can give your sex life a boost. You may find yourself with more time on your hands, and there are only so many TV shows to binge watch. Sex is also a great way to have fun and stop you from getting bored! Couples in lockdown should, however, make sure they have enough contraception on hand, unless they want to have a ‘lockdown baby’ in nine months’ time. Bear in mind that pharmacies and chemists may have limited access to contraceptive supplies!

Unfortunately, there are also couples that have difficulty staying connected during lockdown. The constant presence of children, irritability and anxiety can put a damper on your love life. Factors such as stress and insecurity are also known to temporarily impair men’s ability to get an erection. The increased time spent together during lockdown doesn’t necessarily lead to more sex for everyone.

If two halves of a couple live in separate households, they won’t be able to see each other as a result of social-distancing rules to combat the spread of the coronavirus – let alone have sex. This is also true for healthcare workers who are exposed to coronavirus patients. They have to steer clear of sex to protect their partner from potential infection and often sleep in separate bedrooms. Hugs and kisses are off limits to avoid transmitting the coronavirus to their families.

Intimacy and sexuality are important in a relationship. So even though sexual intercourse may decrease during the next few weeks, other forms of expressing your love for each other continue to be options. Send each other sweet text messages, e-mails or handwritten cards. Be open about your feelings and support each other. Hopefully in a few weeks, the situation will have changed and you’ll be able to be intimate ‘in the normal way’ again.

Mental health during lockdown

Lockdown or self-isolation can be hard on our emotional and mental well-being. It may even lead to feelings of fear, loneliness and despair. You can do a lot to prevent this by getting into a routine, eating healthily, exercising and making sure you get enough sleep. Here are some tips to keep you mentally healthy throughout this challenging time.

  • Stay positive and focus on the near future: in a few weeks, everything will be different!
  • Get enough natural light. Spend time outdoors, if you can. Even if it’s sitting in the sun on your balcony for 15 minutes. Exposure to natural light during the day is strongly linked to mood and mental health.
  • Try to stay connected. You cannot visit your friends and family, but you can keep in touch by telephone, e-mail or social media.
  • Limit watching the news. Excessively following the news and social media on the topic of the coronavirus will make you more anxious and insecure.

Children and coronavirus

Last but not least, talk to children about the coronavirus situation. Children can feel insecure or anxious, or even blame themselves for things over which they have no control. Try to explain the situation at an age-appropriate level. Be honest but keep it short and positive. You can find good tips online about how to talk to children about coronavirus.

Remember to take care of yourself and each other. We will get through this together!

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