This article is the first of two parts in our self-care guide if you are living alone and on your own during winter lockdowns and restrictions. Part 1 focuses on physical health, while part two covers self-care tips for our mental health.
As winter fast approaches, there is a dark cloud lingering in the air. The mood of things letting us think things may back to normal by Christmas is dampened with the ever-growing realisation that we might be going back into lockdown and with many of us already living under high-level tiered restrictions. The prospect of what lies ahead is not just any lockdown, but winter lockdowns. It may be especially challenging when you are living alone.
Many people who I’ve spoken to about the possibility of a national winter lockdown have similar thoughts. That this time is going to be far worse than earlier in the year. That isolation within our own homes during dark, cold evenings could peak anxiety, hijacking Christmas plans. It seems the seasons have had more of an impact on people’s resilience to weathering a national lockdown than we may have realised.
This two-part guide will be looking at ways to support the Solo Living Community through winter lockdowns and restrictions. A self-help guide, split into two key areas; first physical health and then mental health in Part 2.
We find ourselves back where we were at the beginning of the year with anxiety levels moving day-to-day with changing information and guidance. What we have on our side is some time to prepare and some idea of what to expect.
Across the country, various lockdowns measures restricting our fondly held and accustomed freedoms are already affecting our physical and mental health. Many people living alone thrived through the first lockdown, but can we be so sure the same will happen through the winter pandemic?
It can be easy to overlook the importance of our physical health, particularly when you’re living alone and working from home for that matter. Without giving it a second thought, it’s all too easy to put off exercise when there’s no-one else around to remind you or help you stay motivated. Focusing on work tasks can provide a distraction and blur the boundaries of our day.
Keeping our bodies in optimal health has a direct impact on many other areas of our lives, such as the ability to focus, our motivation, sleep hygiene and our mental health. There are ways we can take steps to look after our physical health when living alone and have to stay put during a lockdown.
Our recommendations are just that – you don’t have to take on board all, or any of them. I would say pick one or two ideas from both the physical and mental health sections to help get started on creating your personalised self-help guide.
It seems like a silly thing to say, but keeping up with exercise will be one of the most essential elements of self-care during life under restrictions and should we go back to a national lockdown. The spring encouraged many people to think about how they might take advantage of the daily exercise guideline, taking up running, long local walks or gardening in the late afternoon sun.
However, very few of us are filled with joy at the thought of running in the drizzly winter night or spending time in the garden on a frosty morning. Nonetheless, whether we’re in lockdown in sunny spring or icy winter, it’s still vital for us to keep moving.
NHS guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moving time during the week and limiting time spent sitting down to 2 hours per day. Weather permitting continue to get outside for runs, walks or bike rides. Think about what exercise you might be able to do indoors when the nights draw in and the temperature drops. Here are a few ideas:
- Sign up to an online fitness class.
- Set up a fitness challenge with friends.
- Follow a YouTube yoga channel such as Yoga with Adriene.
- Do something as simple as making sure you get up, move around and even do some housework every couple of hours.
Food & Alcohol
During the last lockdown, a study found that over 21% of people who drink alcohol reported an increase in their alcohol consumption. With no need to get up for work the next day and a common form of coping with increased stress – it might be easy not to realise when your alcohol intake is creeping up. No-one has to go t-total unless that’s something you would like to do but pencilling in at least two alcohol-free days per week will help ensure you’re not putting too much pressure on your liver.
Diet & Nutrition
Staying healthy is going to be one of the most significant protective factors to help get through restrictions and another lockdown. With time on our hands because of furlough or working from home, it can be easy to slip into eating more, less or increasing unhealthy foods like takeaways or snacks. Not only does poor nutrition lead to weight fluctuations, but it can also affect our bodies immune system and risk of developing lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Here are some ways to maintain a healthy balanced diet:
- Find new recipes to try out.
- Pre-make snacks or meals if you know you’re unlikely to cook every day.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Take a free online course about food and nutrition to develop your knowledge of the benefits of having a healthy lifestyle.
The advantages of a good night’s sleep often underestimated hold some powerful benefits. The Sleep Foundation highlights that sleep not only allows the mind and the body to recharge and recover, but it also helps to keep illness at bay. The Sleep Foundation also provides useful information about why sleep is so important as part of a healthy lifestyle. Some tips on keeping a good sleep routine:
- Try to go to bed at the same time each night and get up around the same time in the morning.
- Aim to give yourself 7- 9 hours of sleep a night.
- Avoid late-night box-set binges.
Finding ways to keep yourself physically active and healthy will go a long way to reduce some of the negative impacts of local restrictions, and another lockdown can bring. Not only will it help to keep yourself busy, but it will reduce opportunities to become overwhelmed with what’s going on in the world.
This article is the first of two parts in our self-care guide if you are living alone and on your own during winter lockdowns and restrictions. Part 1 focuses on Physical Health, while Part 2 covers self-care tips for mental health.