Keeping the body and mind well in self-isolation

Your daily routine has been forced to change during the lockdown and it has never been more important to focus on your physical and mental health.

Man doing exercise at home

Research suggests that people with heart disease may develop more severe symptoms and complications if they get Covid-19 (coronavirus). Those living with heart conditions and high blood pressure, need to be careful and look after themselves during this unsettling time.

As the country moves to Alert Level 3 lockdown, you may be juggling family commitments and working from home. There may be uncertainty for how long this will be for and concerns about how you will manage. With increasing levels of anxiety, it is important to keep on top of these feelings and to work on supporting your overall wellbeing in self-isolation.

How can I adjust to this new routine of working from home?

Keeping a routine is one of the most important things to do during self-isolation. Some things you can do include:

  • Setting yourself work hours that fit around your family or sticking to your regular office hours at home.
     
  • Booking breaks into your work calendar to go into another room for a drink or snack.
     
  • Book in your lunchbreak and sit down to eat away from your home working space. Where possible, spend this time with anyone else you are also self-isolating with for some social contact.
     
  • Book in time to exercise during the day. You may prefer to exercise in the morning or evening so choose a time that suits you. Spend at least 30 minutes outside for a walk, run or bike-ride, while keeping the appropriate social distance of at least two metres from others.
     
  • If you are having difficulties concentrating on your work, book in a video call with colleagues or your manager. It is likely others will be feeling the same during this time. 
     
  • Keep yourself out of the kitchen when you are feeling worried. The worries can cause procrastination from work and increase the amount you are snacking during the day.

Woman exercising outside

How do I stay healthy whilst spending all my time at home?

Nutrition is one way to keep yourself healthy while at home. However, many parts of your lifestyle are connected and focusing on improving each part can help your physical and mental health in the coming weeks.

Move your body

Exercise reduces levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and regular exercise is even more important now you find yourself in self-isolation. Aim to get outside to move your body every day, even a walk around the block will help both your body and your headspace. The movement, fresh air and sunshine helps both your physical and mental health.

If you are stuck inside due to rain, then look for an online exercise class. Most gyms and fitness studios have taken their classes online at this time to help you continue your regular routine.

When you move your body your heart pumps your white blood cells, your immune defence, to all parts of the body which gives them a chance to do their job and scan the whole body for anything foreign.

Avoid over-exercising or exercising at a high intensity too often, as this can weaken your immune system. If you have a heart condition, it is important to follow the guidance of your doctor and exercise recommendations from the Heart Foundation.

Sleep, sleep, sleep

Poor sleep is linked to an increased risk of heart disease which is reason enough to aim for 7-8 hours’ sleep a night. You also have a type of white blood cell called T-cells and research has shown that not getting proper sleep prevents your T-cells from being able to fight infection.

Sleep helps the body rest, restore and recover. Stress and anxiety can cause sleep problems but there are some simple steps you can take to help improve the quality of your sleep. Focusing on eating a well-balanced diet and daily exercise can also help.

Reducing stress and anxiety

There is no arguing that the uncertainty we find ourselves living in right now can cause more stress and anxiety than usual. At the same time, it’s even more important to manage your stress levels during this time. Stress causes the hormone, cortisol, to be released which affects every cell in the body, increases inflammation and can weaken your immune system.

Managing your mental wellbeing can help reduce the impact that stress and anxiety has on other parts of your life. Staying connected could feel more difficult now you are self-isolating, so the need to keep talking to your family and friends about how you are feeling is important.

Tips to help reduce your stress and anxiety:

  • Write down your daily routine to give the day some structure and purpose.
     
  • Include some form of exercise daily, whether that be a walk around the block or an at-home workout online.
     
  • Make time to talk with family and friends every day, they will be going through their own adjustments during this time. Even better if you can manage a video call. 
     
  • Focus on maintaining a consistent sleep routine to keep a regular bedtime and wake-up time each day.

Quit smoking

Smoking puts your body at an increased risk of developing both viral and bacterial infections. By smoking you are already challenging your lungs and COVID-19 is a respiratory disease meaning it affects the health of your lungs. It is recommended to quit smoking for your heart health as well as to protect your immune system. 

Reduce your alcohol intake

A glass of wine or two might commonly be used to help manage feelings of stress, but alcohol can weaken your immune system. In times like these, it is recommended to reduce your alcohol intake and opt for sleep, exercise and healthy food to combat stress and anxiety. 

Keep your home environment clean

The Ministry of Health guidance includes:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

  • Using a tissue to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze

As well as keeping yourself clean, give your work and home life a clean as well. Focus on cleaning the surfaces that you touch a lot such as doorknobs, desks, keyboards, mobile phones, your kitchen and bathroom.

Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19.

Getting a flu jab during lockdownCovid-19 and heart medication
Nickie Hursthouse, NZRD

Nickie Hursthouse, NZRD

National Nutrition Advisor

As a Registered Dietitian, I know that food gives us so much more than just nutrients. I am driven to simplify nutrition messages, educate on all aspects of food and support Kiwis to develop a love of food that helps them stay healthy throughout their life.

References:

  • Dimitrov S, Lange T, Gouttefangeas C, et al. Gαs-coupled receptor signalling, and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells. J Exp Med. 2019;216 (3):517–526.
  • Hernandez CP, Morrow K, Velasco C, et al. Effects of cigarette smoke extract on primary activated T cells. Cell Immunol. 2013;282(1):38–43.