We got through lockdown No.1, but now it's back for a sequel and with the dark nights and cold weather it helps to have a good strategy to keep yourself from going stir crazy!
From Thursday 5th November the whole of the UK will go back on lockdown for at least four weeks. If, as during the first lockdown, the weather was on our side, with the nice warm sunny spring days leading into a gorgeous summer, it might be tolerable, but it won't be the same this time. With the clocks changing, shortening the day and the amount of sunlight we get, added to the number of dark, gloomy rainy days, it's going to be harder to keep positive and not be overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and stress.
There's no need to despair though: we know how it works now, and this knowledge will make it easier to get through it (or will it?). To help you stay positive here's a helpful guide to surviving Lockdown #2.
NHS services which include GPs, dentists, mental health services, opticians and physiotherapists will be open during the lockdown period. However, the government has given priority to key workers, so booking appointments might prove difficult. But don't panic: if you have a problem call your doctor or dentist, they will still be able to see you or advise you over the phone.
With all the gyms closing on 5th November, organised sports (football, rugby etc.) being banned, and darker and colder days, this winter lockdown gives us one more excuse for ditching the exercise; or does it?
The government hasn't limited outdoor exercise to once a day, like last time, nor limited it to members from your own household; on the contrary, you can exercise with a member from another household (still maintaining a safe distance). This means that you can contact a friend or, even a personal trainer, and exercise together boosting your motivation.
As shown by a study from Michigan State University, exercising with a friend can motivate you to work harder and longer than when working out alone, boosting fitness results. The same results were also found in those who exercised with a virtual partner.
Exercising together has many benefits, including regular social and emotional contact that's key to our health.
The cold weather might put you off exercising outdoors, however, it can boost your efforts: keeping your body temperature regulated and blood pumping it's more challenging, meaning that you need to work harder to stay warm. We tend to burn more calories when we exercise in the cold, and it boosts endurance.
It is good, though, to alternate high intensity workouts with low intensity, such as yoga and walking in nature for the sake of your mental health.
Remember, back in March, the ridiculous panic-buying of, for some peculiar reason, toilet paper, flour and pasta and the despair of those key workers who couldn't get to the shops because they were busy saving lives and keeping things going, finding empty shelves in the supermarkets.
This time around let's try to avoid doing the same thing and make plans to eat well instead.
To preserve your food for longer, why not invest in some glass storage jars? They will help reduce the exposure to air that can lead to food going bad. Also, stock up on frozen veggies and fruits: they have the same nutritional properties as fresh ones.
Working from home means that there's a lot more temptation to wander into the kitchen for a snack, or to order more take-aways. Eating at your desk or in front of the telly can increase your consumption of food containing high sugar and fats, try to take a proper break and make an occasion of it.
A tip to avoid snacking is not to work in the kitchen if possible. The sight of the fridge may easily tempt you to snack on that left-over pizza you ordered last night.
WFH can also mean for some people that they don't have regular lunch breaks anymore, or they may lose track of time and miss meals. A good way to ensure you don't skip lunch is to prepare a meal the night before, or cook more for dinner; the food can then be stored in the fridge and consumed the day after for lunch.
Eating well can benefit your mental health during lockdown; getting plenty of fibre can prevent energy crashes.
Foods to include in your lockdown-diet are:
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, take deep breaths and try to calm yourself down. Challenge negative thoughts and try to think positively.
Don't panic; don't try to get everything done, or meet up with everyone before the nation goes on lockdown.
Exercise everyday: include 20 minutes of different intensity workout in your daily routine to boost your mood.
Start a journal: at the end of each day jot down any bad feelings you've experienced during the day as well as what you're grateful for.
Don't fall down the scrolling hole: scrolling on social media in search of bad news is not good for your mental health. When planning to read the news, try to stick with sources that are trustworthy.
Get yourself a Weighted Blanket: the benefits of applying pressure on your body is the production of helpful hormones leading to the reduction of stress and anxiety which Lockdown #2 could cause. A weighted blanket acts as a balance: on the one side it increases serotonin and melatonin, two hormones that improve our mood and sleep. On the other side it lowers the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Maintain social contacts: on a daily basis, try and reach out to people that matter to you, this will help boost levels of oxytocin.
Go out more: get your daily dose of vitamin D; and because the days are shorter we advise you also get yourself some vitamin D supplements.
Before moving your office into your home for the second time, think about the setup: your laptop should be elevated, and get yourself a chair that improves your posture. Perching on a kitchen chair and slouching in front of the computer is not going to do any good to your spine. Think about putting your desk in front of a window to get as much sunlight as possible, and for when it gets dark consider investing in a SAD lamp to maintain your energy levels.
To keep your energy up during the day, try to exercise in the morning before starting work.
It's also a good thing to get yourself a weighted blanket. Many people find it hard to unwind after work due to stressful deadlines; snuggling under a weighted blanket with a good book and a warm cup of tea can help you switch off and relax better.
The cold weather may mean higher heating bills. If you're scared this might happen to you, ask your company whether they are able to cover some of the costs.
And to keep you from Zoom call overload, find out whether your company has introduced "think-time" which bans calls during certain times. If not, then discuss your boundaries with them.
Another way to help you get through the month is by getting yourself some online subscriptions and planning what you're going to watch.
Some platforms such as Netflix and Amazon offer a 30-day free trial, providing you with a wide range of TV series and movies. Did somebody say Netflix and chill?
Be careful though because too much TV is not good for your health (plus it will leave you with nothing else to watch). A good book is what you might need to give yourself a break from the screen. Search online for reviews and make a list of all the books that you plan to read during this month.
It's easy to spend all your time looking for something to watch rather than watching, just because of the amount of entertainment available. For this reason we would like to suggest some things that we enjoyed:
So get cosy under one of our weighted blankets and enjoy your evenings.
Supermarkets and essential shops will remain open with the guarantee of no issues around the availability of foods and other essential goods. This means that there is no need to panic buy. On the contrary, you should focus your attention on non-essential products that are hard to find online.
With Black Friday and Christmas around the corner, this is one of the busiest times for retailers. Support your local shops by purchasing their products online, some may even offer you an online tour of their shop.
Take advantage of this time to buy a board game to animate your family evenings; books and some festive decorations.
Given the restrictions and the cold weather it will be hard to invite your friends over or meet them at the park, so this is an opportunity to improve the time you spend inside by getting yourself a weighted blanket and curling up on the sofa.
If you're a parent, before going on lockdown, you should provide your children with an age-appropriate explanation of what is going to happen. Try to address their questions in the best way possible, to avoid making them feel anxious; also remind them how well they coped during the first lockdown.
Unlike the first lockdown, this time schools will stay open (or at least for now), so their routine will not be entirely disrupted. Listen to and validate their feelings.
Playgrounds will stay open and exercising outdoor will be permitted, so it's a good opportunity to get your children out as much as possible. Also many childcare services will remain open to help parents. The home atmosphere can also impact how children will experience the next few weeks: bake together: get some books and enjoy a cosy afternoon indoors (perhaps by sharing a weighted blanket).