Suzanne Leyden from The WellNow Co. shares her eight tips for adapting to living in Level 5 in a healthy way.

The whole experience of the first lockdown in March and the lockdown we are experiencing now is incomparable. Maybe it's just me, but it seems that we have adapted to life in a pandemic well after seven months.

What is refreshing is that there is no panic in the air this time around; no toilet rolls sold out and shelves in shops are fully stocked; mask-wearing has, for the most part, been accepted as part of daily interactions; working from home has become routine for many.

It's business as usual. Though we know, of course, it's not.

Lockdown v Level 5
If it’s not business as usual, what are we grappling with? Loss of freedom. Loss of connection. Loss of income, for many. These are all difficult, real situations to deal with in their own right and must be acknowledged. However, I want to focus on the positives and how we can successfully navigate through this second lockdown keeping ourselves intact.

Common Themes
Anecdotally, in the first lockdown people tended to respond in two ways: Either they released their inner-over-achiever - learning a new language, exercising to point of discovering new muscle formations they didn’t know were in them - or by curling up and comfort-food eating, baking various types of banana bread and carrot cake. And I think both were achieved while binge-watching Netflix.

This time around, balance seems to be key. There could be an element of fatigue that’s underlying this. Or simply acceptance that we are going through an experience and each day is a day closer to the end of the pandemic. Or a reluctance to add to their already amounting 'Lockdown Lard’.

Whatever it is, now is an opportunity for true self-care that we don’t know we’ll ever have again. We are being gifted with a chance to evaluate our lives and how we can care better for ourselves physically and emotionally. We are getting time to form new habits and hopefully keep them into the future for improved health and a longer more mobile life. 

Tips to get through
Breaking down the top areas I focus on with clients, here are some tips to get you through lockdown in one piece. They are not intended to induce stress or guilt, so just pick and choose as many or as few as you’d like to take on over the coming weeks. Here goes:

1. Healthy eating
This doesn’t mean getting obscure ingredients from far-flung corners of the earth. Get simple. Try to include as much variety of fruit and veg into your weekly meals. Eat when you’re hungry. By eating balanced food slowly and with consideration, it can affect your appetite and prevent you from over-eating. Also, don’t buy too much junk food ‘for the kids’ because you will eat it!

2. Take breaks
Working from home allows a level of comfort that can contribute to forgetting to take breaks. Set a reminder to get up for a stretch every 20 minutes. 

3. Connection
Staying connected with people is critical. I have found great fun in texting old friends out of the blue to say "hi". The chance meetings are the connections I really miss. Bumping into random old friends while out for a walk, or in the shops. It is not just a joy for them to receive a text out of the blue making them feel remembered and loved, but for you, it’s a sense of fun and friendship and a glimpse into the past too. A free dose of hope.

4. Nature
Connection with nature has been forced upon us and it’s so good for the soul. We are reminded of how lucky we are to have nature's garden all around us to enjoy. Even if it’s a short walk in a park, being immersed in nature grounds us and helps reduce our stress levels. 

5. Quality sleep
The quality and duration of our sleep is critical to our overall health. Poor sleep can contribute to hormone imbalance which can lead to poor nutrition choices, and all sorts of chronic health conditions in the longer term. If your Schitt’s Creek viewing is taking you past your bedtime, agree to a hard stop knowing that the Rose family, and Netflix, are going nowhere and can be picked up again the next evening. Get your sleep!

6. Mindset
Everybody’s circumstances in this pandemic are unique and complex. Undoubtedly, there are people suffering more than others. For those having a difficult time, there are organisations and people that can help*.

For others, struggling with so much uncertainty and change and the impact this is having on their lives, we can look at mindset. Examine what opportunities may now exist and consider how to utilize these. There is clearly a large scope for this, and we’ve seen businesses pivot overnight and have incredible success.

On a personal level, maybe you have time to exercise more than you have in years. And by exercising more you realize the positive impact on your mental health. This could become a non-negotiable change in your daily habits for the future. I’m not suggesting you all need to get out and run a marathon, but merely looking at what positive things have come about, being grateful for them and embracing this.

7.  Exercise
So, I did just say I’m not expecting you to run a marathon, and now I’m talking exercise. But regular, simple, light exercise has so many short and long-term health benefits. It has an ability to positively impact your mood and outlook which is something we all need help with, especially on the tougher days which we all experience. Incorporating a walk in a local park can mean ticking off a number of these points.

8.  Breathing
Breathing exercises can have an almost instant positive impact on our state and I recommend them to clients, but I also have taught them to my kids. It can help with just switching off at the end of the day or bringing you down from a stressful situation.

Practiced regularly can have a balancing effect on your mood. ‘Box breathing’ is one I find easiest. Get comfortable (closing your eyes and being seated is best, but not essential) and make a mental note of how you’re feeling. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, breathe out for the count of 4 and hold for the count of 4. Continue this rhythm at least 4 times, increase depending on how you feel. Notice how you feel when you stop.

*Helplines are available here.

Remember, if you live alone - you can form a support bubble with another household.