So, COVID-19 has officially hit our shores, and you’re now in self-isolation. Cool! The ol’ NBN is running like a dream, you’ve stockpiled 21,576 rolls of toilet paper, a couple of kilos of hand sanitiser, and enough pasta to feed a small country. Now what?
Well, being stuck within the confines of your home is not so easy. Not only can it have a massive impact on your physical health, but self-isolation and social distancing can also have a profound effect on your psychological health and overall wellness.
To help make sure you have the right resources on hand to stay healthy, we’ve asked the experts for their top tips on how to get both your mind and body on the right track.
#1 / Focus on your mental health
One of the most important things to do during this coronavirus pandemic is to make your mental health and wellbeing a priority. Meditation instructor and founder of Soul Alive, Luke McLeod says, “When you're by yourself and are limited to where and what you can do, your thoughts begin to race; and when they're not kept in-check, they can fester into feelings of anxiety and paranoia. That's why the term 'cabin fever' is often used when you're inside for too long.”
Wondering what you can do to help manage the challenges associated with social distancing and self-isolation? Well, if you haven’t tried meditation before, McLeod says there couldn’t be a better time to give it a go. Just 20 minutes of meditation can give your brain and body the chance to shut off the fight-or-flight chemistry, and it activates neuro-transmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, which allow the body to rest, relax and repair.
New to meditation and need a hand getting started? There are plenty of meditation apps that make it easy to get into the groove, like Soul Alive, Calm or Headspace. You can also check out our article on meditation tips for beginners.
“If you are experiencing intense anxiety or worry, I would recommend releasing the physical tension by either doing some type of physical exercise first - whether that may be some yoga, stretching, deep breathing or weights workout – then try some meditation after,” McLeod advises.
If you’re still struggling with stress, McLeod says keeping a journal is another great idea. “Regularly writing down what you're grateful for is a wonderful exercise as it pulls your mind out of worrying 'what if' to being thankful for 'what is’,” he explains.
#2 / Keep your body moving
When you’re cooped up in self-isolation and working from home, it’s important to stay active. “Moving our bodies is paramount for maintaining good physical and mental health,” says Sam Wood, personal trainer and founder of 28 by Sam Wood. “Regular exercise is required for good health (immunity included), but it is also hugely beneficial for our mental health. Exercise gets our endorphins flowing, boosts our energy, improves our mood and has been shown to have a positive effect on productivity.”
Wondering how you can continue exercising when you have minimal equipment at home? Use your body! “It’s a common misconception that you need lots of equipment to workout at home,” says Wood. “In just 20 minutes you can do a full-body workout that will work just about every muscle in the body, get your heart rate up, activate your core and improve your posture. In fact, body weight exercises are often the best.”
Want to know where to start? “Some of my favourite body weight exercises include squats, push-ups, planks, lunges, glute bridges, burpees - the list goes on. The best part? You don’t need equipment, a lot of time or a lot of space,” says Wood. If you’re looking for a bit of guidance, there are a ton of helpful apps with at-home workouts for every fitness level, like 28 by Sam Wood.
Finding motivation to break a sweat at home can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be a drag. Try to keep up a normal daily routine by making a new music playlist, working out with your partner or roommate, or trying something completely new. “You should aim to move your body in some way every single day. That doesn’t mean you need to smash out an intense workout every single day, but I would aim for three workouts per week that challenge you. Try to move your body in some way on the other days, whether it’s a big stretch session, yoga or Pilates,” says Wood.
Above all, Wood says to give your workouts a sense of purpose. “In my opinion, the best way to stay motivated is to have a strong ‘why’. Write down ‘why’ it is important for you to have a training regimen, or to get out of bed and do your workout. Your ‘why’ might be being a good role model for your children, to help minimise back pain, to support your immune system, or for your mental wellbeing. Your ‘why’ needs to be personal to you and when motivation starts to slip, remind yourself of it.”
#3 / Boost your immune system
While eating mounds of veggies may not stave off coronavirus, it can help boost your immune system. “Eat your greens...and reds, oranges and blues!” says Nutritional Director Rick Hay from Healthista. “Dark and colourful fruits and vegetables are loaded with immune-boosting phytochemicals. If your plate looks like the colours of the rainbow, you are doing it right. It’s the best thing you can do to help with immunity.” Hay recommends loading up your meals with foods like “kale, spinach, broccoli, avocados, tomatoes, capsicum, strawberries, carrots, sweet potatoes, oranges, blueberries, beetroot and blackberries” to ensure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.
Stock up on probiotics
“Probiotics are the so-called ‘good bacteria’ found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, miso or tempeh,” says Hays. “Eating these foods promotes the natural balance of healthy bacteria in your gut and can stimulate the production of immune-fighting chemicals from cells found in the digestive tract.”
Cut back on sugar
We hate to say it, but you may need to trade in that chocolate for an apple and stay away from eating too many sugary treats. “Too much sugar may negatively affect white blood cells’ ability to fight off foreign invaders. Eating excessive amounts of sugar (yes, a whole pack of biscuits is excessive) may temporarily dampen down your immune system’s ability to respond to intruders. If you eat sugary treats several times a day (sugary cereal in the morning, dessert for lunch, cake in the afternoon, etc), your immune system is constantly challenged,” explains Hay.
Take vitamin D
Because many of us are stuck inside, we’ll be getting less exposure to sunlight, which means a lack of vitamin D. “Vitamin D is produced in the body during exposure to sunlight and it is vital for our immune system to work optimally. It is a key vitamin for immune health and will become more important as we go into winter,” says Hay. If getting outside isn’t possible on a daily basis, try vitamin D supplements that can increase your body’s disease-fighting abilities.
Limit alcohol consumption
Stay hydrated and try to limit alcohol consumption – because dehydration and excessive alcohol won’t do your immune system any favours. “Alcohol depresses the immune system and compromises liver function. The heaviest of drinkers are generally more prone to infections and dehydration,” Hay says. But that’s not to say you can’t enjoy a wine at dinner – just don’t get too crazy too often. In fact, Hay notes, “A glass of red wine with dinner may help to reduce stress levels, so this isn’t such a bad thing.”
“Smoking is never helpful, but in times like this, be mindful and stay away from cigarettes. The tiny hairs inside of the nasal passages function as a barrier - it’s their job to whisk away intruders (microscopic material) and prevent them from entering the bloodstream. Smoking damages these hairs, compromises breathing, and produces more virus-trapping mucus,” explains Hay.
Want more tips on how to boost your immunity? Check out foods that’ll keep your gut in tip top condition.
Main image credit: @stephclairesmith
Erin Docherty is a Beauty Writer for BEAUTYcrew, Beauty Editor for Women's Health magazine and a Grooming Writer for Men's Health magazine. She has a keen interest in cosmeceutical skin care and is currently working on minimising her 9-step skin care routine – because ain’t nobody got time for that. When she’s not writing about the latest beauty news, or applying copious amounts of serum, you can find her spending all her money in Sephora.