Just a few weeks ago most of us were out at work, commuting, working in an office, going for lunch and all the usual things that daily life brings. Just a few weeks later and quite suddenly, many of us are working from home, furloughed or have lost their jobs completely.
Of course key workers are still carrying out their daily jobs whether you are a nurse, doctor, care home worker, delivery driver, shop worker or refuse collector.
Whether you are at home or out at work, both can have a negative impact on our mental health. The final part of my article will list some ways in which you can help to keep your mind and body healthy and the first positive thing I will say is that this will not last forever, it will be over soon. There will be an end even if we cannot see it right now.
Suddenly being at home, especially if you live alone, can become very lonely. Many people are suffering with anxiety because of the unknown. They don’t know when they can see their loved ones again, if their loved ones are going to catch the virus, whether they will catch the virus themselves, they may have been furloughed or lost their jobs completely and are worried how they are going to pay their bills and support their family. The economy is of course going take a massive hit and we also have the worry of recession and that there may not be many jobs to go back to. If you are now not working, you will probably be suffering with boredom as well. We have been very fortunate with the lockdown in the UK in so far as we are allowed out for an hours exercise per day. Other countries are not allowed to do this. You can argue that we should also not be allowed to do this but as long as people are trying their very best to abide by the social distancing measures, I think it is starting to work well. It is so important for our mental health.
At the beginning there were still lots of people in the park and on beaches in clusters. I believe this has really started to decrease now. The more people do not listen and use common sense, then the more chance there is that we will have a total lockdown. We do need to take into account that many people live in flats and do not have a garden. It’s important that they are able to get out into nature and get some fresh air. But they should be exercising, otherwise everybody will be lying on the grass in the sun and social distancing will not happen. Fields and parks are much more quiet now so it seems people are starting to listen. Either that or they are scared of the police!
It is quite hard to stay 2 metres apart even on bikes and running. People cycle through the park on their bikes and if it is a beautiful sunny day (which recently it has been) there are loads of people doing that so it is very difficult. It’s the same with running, even on the roads. I run and I go to the other side of the pavement, cross the road or run in the road to avoid people but I cannot promise this is always 2 metres apart, sometimes it just isn’t possible if the pavement is really narrow. I had three people in front of me the other day walking along taking up the whole pavement so I ran in the road, but I cannot run 2 metres in the road unless the road is quiet. I might get run over!
Now to the opposite of working from home or being at home bored is the people who are key workers and have to go to work because their jobs are essential to keep us alive and well.
These workers are not suffering with boredom but have the stress and anxiety of dealing with people all the time and potentially catching the virus. The nurses are having to work in protective clothing and masks which are very hot and claustrophobic. In critical care there is usually one nurse to one patient, now there is one nurse to six patients. They are witnessing people suffering and dying on a daily basis on a much larger scale that they are used to.
Now for some positives. What can we do to help ourselves?
Key workers and people working on the front line:
Time out for you – When you are on your days off if you can I would try and take a little time out for you. You will of course want to do the above things and spend time with your family but I believe you need a bit of space and peace to quieten your mind and de-stress. The weather is great so sit in the garden, close your eyes or read a book about something that isn’t too depressing! Meditate in silence or with some soothing sounds.
Talk to somebody – I believe that if you are a nurse there are people you can talk to to discuss your emotions and feelings. You may be acting differently or taking out your frustrations on your loved ones and talking to somebody will help you to see that is normal considering what you are dealing with and may suggest ways to cope and deal with things a bit better.
Avoid social media – Avoid spending too much time on social media. People posting about the government and getting into negative online discussions only adds to your stress and anxieties.
Exercise – Do some exercise and spend time with your family. Try to have a bit of fun and laughter.
Be positive – Write down something positive that has happened today. What have you done that is positive today?
Forget tomorrow, concentrate on today and remember this won’t last forever.
With special thanks to all key workers out there and NHS staff working on the front line.
People that are working from home or are at home and not working:
Exercise – Get a routine that involves some daily exercise. My routine involves doing a keep fit DVD three times a week and going for a run two times a week. I have quite a few DVDs so I change them up. There are also online exercise classes, some paid, some are free. I also change my running route. Sometimes at the weekend I go for a bike ride. We have a cycle path where I live that goes all the way up to London (we are not going as far as that as we are only allowed out for an hour). There are no cars on the Thames Cycle path so it is lovely.
Walk – If you don’t like running or are not able to run then go for a walk. Go to the local park or through the woods. You may see some people even if it is from afar. Take note of the nature around you and what different animals you see, take some photos and share them. All these things make people smile and feel positive.
Something new – Try something new. Have you every baked a cake before? No? Then give it a go. Google some cooking recipes, have a go, even if you don’t usually like cooking. Get inspired.
Gardening – Dig over the garden and plant some vegetables or flowers. The weather has been lovely so there is no excuse not to do some gardening right now!
Read – Get a good book and sit in the garden or balcony if you are in a flat, or perhaps just go and put your chair out the front and have a little read in the sun.
New venture – Think of ways you could possibly make some money when this is over. A new business idea. Are you good at writing? Perhaps you could start writing a novel or if that is a bit too much of an ask, start a blog, something as simple about how you are coping during this pandemic, others might comment with some inspiration.
Help others – Can you assist in the bigger picture of this pandemic? Think of ways where we can help the elderly and homeless more.
Community – Everyone is going through this together, but some people may be finding this tougher than others due to personal circumstances or because they are classed as “high risk” and are therefore unable to leave their house. If you are able to, consider putting a note through your neighbours door including your name and number, offering to get their groceries or pick up a prescription. Alternatively, the app, Nextdoor, is a private social network through which you can find out what’s happening in your community and you could offer your services here.
Decorate – Decorate that hallway or front room that hasn’t been painted for years. Perhaps you have got some gloss in the shed, I did! I got my sons glossing my hallway, I couldn’t believe how yellow it was before! However, paint is not an essential item. Perhaps next time you need some sanitary items or detergent pop to Wilkos and get some paint as well.
Meditate – Meditate for 5 or 10 minutes each day. You don’t necessarily have to sit on the floor with your legs crossed and arms outstretched humming, there are many ways to meditate as long as you are quietening your mind.
Be in the moment – Try to stop worrying about what might happen and concentrate on the here and now and the good things and people that you have around you. Meditation will help you with that.
Sports games – Do you have a dartboard or other sporting equipment at your home? We have table tennis, darts and a pool table in the garage, although the pool table is a bit unusable as there isn’t much room around it. If you don’t have this space, then improvise. Order an extendable table tennis net from Amazon. Use the table in your kitchen. Order a dartboard, you can fill the holes in after this has all finished ha ha!
Talk virtually – Also talk to your friends and family virtually. This really helps as you feel like you have seen them and it makes them feel better too. I often face time my mum. On Sundays we still do our crossword virtually! She takes a picture of the crossword, my partner and I print it out and then we fill it in together over face time.
My friend has created a virtual pub and quite a few of us join the meeting every Friday. We all have our favourite tipple in hand, we have discussions and laughs. We even got our disco lights on the other week and were dancing about to tunes. We actually see each other more this way than we did before ha ha!
- Zoom – Up to 100 people can video conference at one time
- House party – Up to 8 people can video conference at one time, as well as playing games and trivia against each other
- FaceTime – If you have an IPhone, this will automatically be on your phone and up to 18 people can dial in at one time
Online games – You can play card games and board games online. This could be a good idea especially if you live alone, but please only do it if they are free, you don’t want to get into paying for things like this and then getting addicted and in debt!
Learn to touch type – Everything is done on computers these days, at work and at home. So it makes sense to acquire fast and accurate typing. Type pages of a book or newspaper articles. Complete online typing tests. Practice typing sentences that use all of the letters on the keyboard. Try ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.’
Go outside – If you have young children, this time can be particularly difficult but luckily the weather has been great and many kids have been in the garden or in a paddling pool. Take them for a daily bike ride or little jog. A walk in the woods taking photos of nature and writing things down on a clipboard or something.
Things to do – Board games and card games with the children, painting and making things. Many people have been chalking their driveways with rainbows or colouring in the brickwork. Ask dad to help make a birdhouse!
Music – Get the children making music. Even if you do not have any instruments in your house, improvise. Make some sounds with different size empty bottles. Fill jars with different levels of water and tap with a stick to hear the different sounds. https://www.littlebinsforlittlehands.com
Cooking – Get the children cooking.
Website for recipes – https://www.thelondoner.me/featured/recipes
Family meal recipes – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/family-meal
Recipes to cook with your kids – https://tasty.co/article/melissaharrison/cooking-with-kids
Baking – Get the children baking.
Banana bread – https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/best-banana-bread-recipe/
Victoria sponge – https://realfood.tesco.com/recipes/victoria-sponge-cake.html
Online exercise – Online family exercise classes like Joe Wicks, amazing. I’m sure there are many others.
Routine – I appreciate you are probably running out of ideas but if you do a certain thing each day, but make it become a routine i.e Monday morning bike ride, arts and craft in afternoon, Tuesday morning exercise with Joe Wicks T, then cooking, after lunch walk in the woods. Do this each week, it may help. Sticking to the routine even on the days you don’t feel like it is important. Consistency is key.
There are also a host of other educational activities you can do online:
Live safari – Have you always wanted to go on safari? Well, now you can, every single day! Beyond Travel are streaming (in real time) twice-daily, three-hour long game drives from Ngala Private Game Reserve and Djuma Private Game Reserve in South Africa. You can view the safaris between 8am-11am and 5.30pm-8.30pm UK time – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq8oWxMYECKiPWAtvr9u1eg
Lapland: Aurora Photography are virtually taking us to the Ice hotel in Lapland. Their 360-degree videos allow viewers to meet local huskies and go dog sledding and even join a Northern Lights hunt! https://lightsoverlapland.com/virtual-aurora-tours/
Yosemite: Take some time out to virtually explore one of America’s most famous and impressive National Parks, Yosemite. https://www.virtualyosemite.org/virtual-tour/#node27
Panic room – If you enjoy “Escape rooms” and similar activities, Panic room have set up a virtual Escape room experience, where you can even play against other households. Online experiences start from £10 – https://thepanicroom.net/
Theatre Shows – Andrew Lloyd Webber is streaming his musicals for free online each week, available for up to 48 hours. This weekends show is Phantom of the Opera – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdmPjhKMaXNNeCr1FjuMvag.
The National Theatre has set up a programme of plays to watch for free at 7pm every Thursday on their YouTube channel. Each show will be available for the following seven days until the next play is screened. So far they’ve screened One Man, Two Guvnors (which was watched by 2.5 million people) and Jane Eyre. This weeks play is Treasure Island – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUDq1XzCY0NIOYVJvEMQjqw
The Shakespeare’s Globe is releasing 6 productions on its Globe Player service for free, to help combat boredom during the Coronavirus lockdown. The shows are Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale, The Two Noble Kinsmen and The Merry Wives of Windsor (2019) – https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/watch/
Online schooling – Also online schooling starts again this week so they will have some work to do!
If they don’t have a lot of work given to them on certain days, you could try these ideas:
History: As you aren’t able to visit museums in real life at the moment, these links are the next best thing! Children (and adults!) are able to read all the museums info as well as take virtual tours around the museums.
- British Museum, London – https://britishmuseum.withgoogle.com/
- Louvre Museum Paris – https://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne
- Museum Of London Docklands – https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/about-us/business-services/venue-hire/museum-london-docklands/virtual-tour
- National Gallery, London – https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/visiting/virtual-tours
- Natural History Museum, London – https://artsandculture.google.com/streetview/the-natural-history-museum-hintze-hall/yQHjHCmSOMKyhQ
- Tate Britain, London – https://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain/display/walk-through-british-art
- The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, United States – https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-j-paul-getty-museum
- The Museum of Flight – https://museumofflight.org/Explore-The-Museum/Virtual-Museum-Online
- Virginia Living Museum – https://thevlm.org/visit/about-us/covid-19-update/natural-education/
- Women’s History Museum, Virginia, USA – https://www.womenshistory.org/womens-history/online-exhibits
Geography/travel: Don’t let the fact we can’t travel at the moment stop your children seeing the world – pretend you’re there using these virtual tours of famous tourist hotspots from around the world!
- Buckingham Palace, London – https://www.royal.uk/virtual-tours-buckingham-palace
- Colosseum, Rome – https://tinyurl.com/thrprzf
- Machu Picchu – https://www.youvisit.com/tour/machupicchu?pl=f
- Northern Lights – https://explore.org/livecams/aurora-borealis-northern-lights/northern-lights-cam
- Pyramids – https://www.tripsavvy.com/virtual-field-trip-pyramids-1259200
- Stonehenge – https://tinyurl.com/wz3xgz7
- Street Art with Google – https://streetart.withgoogle.com/en/
- Taj Mahal, Agra, India – https://tinyurl.com/qpz7vmt
- The Great Wall Of China – https://www.thechinaguide.com/destination/great-wall-of-china
- Tour of Rome, Italy – https://tinyurl.com/s5vlzbc
- NASA, Langley Research Centre – https://oh.larc.nasa.gov/oh/
Good luck everybody, be kind, stay home and stay safe.