The huge adjustments we’ve had to make to stay at home to help limit the spread of coronavirus are necessary, but are also having a detrimental affect on our physical and mental health. Spending large amounts of time indoors, working from home, sitting for long periods and general isolation can quickly start to take their toll.
I’ve been working from home for eight years and know all about these issues and thankfully I have a few tips to share to help your time in lockdown takes less of a toll and technology is at the heart of all of them
Keep active, keep stretching
This is the single most important piece of advice I can give and everyone should be getting out for half an hour a day where possible. As soon as you cut out that morning commute, you’ll be cutting the calories you burn eat day, potentially leading to noticeable weight gain over several months. I can highly recommend removing those snacks and cookies from the house too. You’ll also be less fit, but there’s a more sinister issue, which will eventually lead to back pain. In fact, there are plenty of reports of increases in back pain already and the vast majority of these will be down to inactivity. Anyone that’s switched to working from home or is not working is particularly vulnerable.
The problem stems from your muscles and how they can shorten – especially your legs – and can become tense if you’re sitting all day and not doing much exercise. This can lead to an increased risk of back pain and back injury as well as stiffness, especially in the lower back and pelvic region – something I know all about and it can be incredibly painful and make your life miserable. Some simple stretches done every day can help to prevent it.
I found the best recourse for this was YouTube and following some simple stretches from Pilates teachers such as London-based Michelle Lane helped enormously in preventing back pain and my advice is to run through videos like hers several times a week, or even just doing ten minutes every day. Add them to your mobile device’s bookmarks or smart TV and get into the habit of doing it every morning and if you have time, the evening too. Many local instructors are doing online courses now as they can’t offer the usual group and private classes in person, so YouTube is the next best thing.
Depending on where you live, there may be lockdown rules that prevent outdoor exercise and if you live in an apartment, getting enough exercise can be difficult, especially if you have no equipment and relied on gym visits. However, there are plenty of videos on YouTube that offer fat-burning alternatives to stretching that you can do from the comfort of home so they’re worth checking out and doing regularly too.
Building muscle at home can be tricky with limited space and tools and press ups can get tiresome, plus there are lots of areas of the body that really do benefit from those gym weights. A fantastic tool that can provide some resistance and takes up very little space is a sand bag. These can be found with handles and in various weight amounts depending on your lifting ability, but they’re flexible enough to offer a compact alternative to a range of weights. You’ll want to get online as most fitness-related stores will be closed and check out Amazon, eBay and any local online fitness stores – these have proven very popular but there are some still available.
If you’ve just started working from home, then chances are your new 9-5 desk isn’t set up for long term use and can quickly make it very unpleasant to use for long periods. If you’re using a laptop and not a height-adjustable PC monitor, then you’re going to find you have a very stiff neck after just a few hours too.
If you don’t have a fully adjustable chair such as this one, you can use cushions to raise your body so your legs make right angles with your body and floor. You should also add support for your lumbar area – the small of your back, to prevent lower back pain.
I can highly recommend a laptop riser too. These can lift your laptop up so that it sits more in line with your eyes. This will reduce neck strain from tilting your head down and can improve the airflow to your laptop too, making it less likely to sit and whine all day. They’re cheap, work with all laptop sizes, readily available from popular online stores and the one above folds down so it can fit in a rucksack too.
Stay in touch
Working from home or self-isolating can take its toll mentally too. Lack of interaction with other people goes against what a lot of us are used to. It’s amazing what a quick trip to my local coffee shop for a few hours used to do for my own mental health and its something I tried to do several times a week before those shops closed recently.
If you are able to get outside for exercise, this is a great way to avoid the same four walls and feel like you’re still in touch with the outside world. Clearly, mingling and chatting with others isn’t possible, but even the odd smile or greeting can help from passers-by. If you have friends in the same situation, apps such as Strava can help keep in touch and follow each other’s walks, runs and bike rides.
Try to have daily calls with people, or even better, make use of this wonderful thing called the Internet and do video calls using Skype, Whatsapp, Zoom or Facebook. It’s important to not go too long without chatting to people, but even if you’re isolating with friends or family, it can still help to see different faces occasionally and a different dynamic to conversations. Even if you dabble in online gaming occasionally, dust off that console, headset or laptop, get online and start chatting. There are thousands of games out there that can connect you with other people too. Even if you just have a PC or laptop, check out the Steam store. There are lots of free and paid-for games that help pass the time.