The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most unprecedented public health crises in recent memory. It far eclipses the avian and swine flu pandemics of previous years. Indeed, not since World War 2 have we had to make such broad and sweeping changes to our way of life to protect the greater good than we have under this current pandemic. Our healthcare system is bucking under the strain with healthcare workers all over the world taking to social media to let us know the reality on the ground. Even as people protest in the streets for the ability to get a haircut or eat a cheeseburger in a restaurant again, our nurses are launching their own counter protests to highlight that the significance of the pandemic far eclipses their personal convenience.
In order to decrease the strain on our heroic healthcare workers, we all need to do our part to safeguard our own health and reduce the strain on overtaxed doctors and nurses. We owe it to them, and we owe it to ourselves and our families. Fortunately, even while under lockdown, we have the means at our disposal to take control of our health.
Here are some ways in which you can keep the whole family healthy under lockdown…
Handwashing. It’s always been important, and it’s even more important now!
Believe the hype! While others are still stocking up on hand sanitizer (and wasting a fortune in the process) you can relax safe in the knowledge that you’re protecting your whole family with something as affordable and quotidian as soap.
Viral cells have a wall of fats called lipids. As anyone who’s used washing up liquid to clean greasy plates can tell you, soap does a great job of breaking down these lipids. As such, when we wash our hands properly with soap, it literally tears viruses apart. That goes for other viruses as well as COVID-19. Which is why hand washing is so important not just when you come home from outdoors but after going to the bathroom, petting the dog and before handling any food.
Power up with plants
Your kitchen could be your greatest ally in keeping yourself and your family healthy. Especially if you use this as an opportunity to forego the sugary, fatty and salty processed foods which have (let’s be honest) formed a significant proportion of our diet in our hectic and stressful lives.
One good thing about the lockdown is that it has made unhealthy foods much harder to come by and got us buying in more affordable and long lasting wholefoods including veggies, fruits, grains and pulses. We’re cooking more from scratch and thinking a little harder about what we’re eating.
Studies show that eating more plants and less of everything else won’t just be flattering for our waistlines, it can also be highly effective for our health. Plant foods are full of fiber, proteins and amino acids, vitamins, minerals and immune-boosting phytochemicals. So make sure that your lockdown diet consists mostly of plants and (unless you’re already vegan) uses meat, seafood, eggs and dairy products sparingly.
Plants don’t just do good in the kitchen, either. Strategically positioned house plants can give us our daily dose of nature while under lockdown. Houseplants don’t just make your home look beautiful, they’ve been found to have a positive impact on stress levels, concentration, productivity and relaxation. So they’re the perfect friends to have around whether you’re working or relaxing at home.
Make sure you have an outlet for stress relief
Speaking of stress, it’s likely that you’re experiencing more than your fair share of it at the moment. When we’re sharing a relatively small space like the average home with our partners and our kids, it can only exacerbate our stress levels. Which is why it’s perfectly healthy to want to enact some boundaries in the home. Everyone needs their own personal space. What’s more, everyone needs to have a mechanism by which they can let off steam. All our stress can accumulate throughout the day. As the weeks roll by, it can reach dangerous levels. It can cause us to become irritable and create friction between ourselves and the people we love the most. As such, everyone in the household needs to ensure that they have a healthy outlet for their stress.
This might come in the form of exercise (more on that later), relaxing in the garden for a little while, listening to music, playing video games, taking a long hot bath or having some snuggles with your pets.
There are no right or wrong answers. However, it’s advisable to resist the urge to rely on alcohol or smoking to relieve stress. This inevitably creates way more problems than it solves.
Maintaining a clean and tidy home… It’s not just for appearance’s sake!
We’re all spending most of our days at home. And this means that, with the whole family under one roof, the home isn’t likely to stay clean and tidy for very long unless everyone in the household does their part. A home that is clean, tidy and free of clutter benefits your mental health. Dirt, dust, stains and clutter prevent us from being able to feel relaxed at home. They can exacerbate our stress levels and make us feel that there’s nowhere in the house where we can truly relax. Over time that can add to the feeling of cabin fever which many of us are experiencing under lockdown. You may be surprised at the transformative effect something as simple as tidying the living room and ridding it of clutter can have.
Still, while the appearance of your home can be a factor in your health and wellbeing, it’s by no means the only reason why you owe it to yourself to keep the home clean and tidy. Leaving areas like the kitchen or the bathroom unclean for long periods of time can lead to the proliferation of harmful bacteria like listeria, salmonella and e coli. As well as keeping the kitchen clean, thoroughly washing your food and your hands prior to cooking are essential. As is ensuring that foods (especially animal based foods like meat, eggs and dairy) are thoroughly cooked. The kitchen can also be a place where poisonous carbon monoxide, which occurs when anything burns, can accumulate. So make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector installed in yours.
The kitchen isn’t the only place in which we need to be particularly vigilant. The bathroom can also be home to harmful bacteria as well as potentially harmful black mold. Which is why it’s important to stay vigilant when cleaning and invest in proper ventilation in the bathroom.
Something feels wrong? Could it have been something you ate?
We’re all making huge sweeping changes to our lifestyles. With the products and brands we’ve come to rely on less readily available than they were before, many of us are trying out new and more accessible products. We’re also getting a lot more adventurous in the kitchen, challenging ourselves to learn more recipes and develop a broader repertoire of healthy, nutritious and delicious dishes.
This is a good thing, however, it can open up the possibility of health problems caused by previously undiagnosed allergies or sensitivities to certain foods. If you or any member of your family experience symptoms that can’t be explained it may be worth checking out this link on How to get an allergy test. Symptoms of food allergies may include (but are not necessarily limited to);
- Rashes or hives
- Digestive discomfort or bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Low blood pressure / Feeling weak or lightheaded
- Tingling, itching or swelling of the mouth and throat
By all means try new things, but make sure you act quickly and get tested if anyone in your household displays signs of allergies. This will allow you to make strategic changes to the recipes and ingredients you use, reducing the risk of anaphylaxis resulting in the need for medical care.
No gym doesn’t mean no exercise
Finally… Exercise is one of the clearest pathways to good health and general wellbeing there is. But if you’re accustomed only to working out in the gym, you may need to make some creative changes to your workout regimen. This may be challenging when you’re sharing the home with your whole family and / or battling for free space. Nonetheless, exercise doesn’t just keep you fit and healthy, it can boost your mood and increase your chances of enjoying healthy and natural sleep patterns (and sleep is an incredibly important part of managing your overall health).
There are a wide range of whole body workouts which require no weights or other equipment. All you need is a modest space like a spare bedroom in which to work out. If you don’t have such a space available, working out in your back garden can give you the combined benefits of exercise and nature.
Going for a jog, run, brisk walk or bike ride can also allow you to enjoy a mood boosting endorphin hit while also getting you some much needed access to fresh air and natural light. Just be sure to steer clear of others.