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At a time when people all over the world are really anxious and suffering both physically and mentally, it is even more important to recognise the need to look after ourselves and our families.

Now is the time to start.

Just little positive steps.

Nothing too demanding.

Achievable goals.

So, what can you actively do if you are still well, but social distancing/self- isolating and your whole timetable has changed – particularly as the schools are now closed.

It may seem obvious, but the first step is to keep a positive mindset that this situation will improve and eventually end. Try to focus on different topics each day that don’t involve discussions about the coronavirus – perhaps also limiting the number of times you check your various news feeds during the day.

For families, a great way to improve overall mental health generally is by showing ‘gratitude’. It is so simple. Encourage everyone in the household to think of one (or more!) thing each day that they are grateful for. It can be little things such as’ I am grateful for a good night’s sleep’ or ‘a lovely hot shower’ or larger things such as ‘I am grateful for such a supportive family’ and so on. There are then a variety of options:

  1. Tell each other what they are over breakfast/lunch/supper
  2. Keep a notebook for everyone to write down their thoughts
  3. Create a ‘gratitude jar’ – provide a jar/bowl/cardboard box (anything really) paper/post-it notes and a pen. Write the thoughts down and pop them in the ‘gratitude jar’. Agree to read them out and a later date – maybe when this pandemic is over.

Establish a working timetable for everyone in the household and agree on times for breaks and relaxing (phones/computer games/television!).

Eat together. If your family is self-isolating then it might be a rare opportunity to actually have meals together and even encouraging cooking/preparing the meal together.

Exercise. Even if you can’t go outside or don’t have access to a garden/outside space, staying active inside is still quite easy. There are of course plenty of exercise dvd’s in just about everything from yoga/pilates to aerobics and Pelaton/studio cycling. It might be more fun though to set up your own circuits inside.

You probably only need about 5 ‘exercise stations’ to get your heart rate pumping! The basic idea is to time each ‘station’ for 30 seconds (or 1 minute if you are fitter!) doing each exercise for the full time, then take a 1 minute to rest before moving on to the next ‘station’. Everyone can join in at the same time and it can be lots of fun – especially if there is some good music too to keep you moving! Here are some ideas for the ‘stations’:

  1. Stairs or steps: walk or run up and down the stairs or step up and down (if you are new to exercise or need to be careful then marching on the spot is good)
  2. Sit-ups: if you have an exercise mat, great, otherwise a towel or rug will do. Lay down, knees bent, feet on floor. Place hands behind your head, engage your tummy muscles and pulse up and down for the allotted time. Be careful not to put strain your neck – you need to use your tummy muscles not your neck muscles to lift!
  3. Skipping: hopefully, if you have children you might have a skipping rope. This is a high energy workout and will really make you puff! If you don’t have a rope, just skip up and down your hallway/suitable space and I challenge you not to laugh (or at least smile!).
  4. Star Jumps: these can be done anywhere with enough space not to hit your hands on a wall!
  5. Weights: if you have a set of light hand weights then great, otherwise go to the store cupboard and select a couple of tin cans or something similar. You can do bicep curls or straight arm raises to the front and sides to keep your arm muscles firm!

Make up some exercise stations of your own and make sure someone is the timekeeper and no cheating!

Read: with and to younger children and by yourself – what a golden opportunity to read when you don’t usually have the time.

Reconnect: with each other, family and friends. By phone, email, Skype, FaceTime even dare I say it, by letter!

Games: some families are quite into games, but may not always manage to make time for them. There are some that have great educational value without children even realising it! Old classics such as Monopoly (good for counting, reading, managing money!), Scrabble (spelling and vocabulary), Trivial Pursuit (general knowledge) or newer ones – have you tried Bananagrams yet? Looks good in a bright yellow banana shaped cloth bag for starters. This is a speedy version of a Scrabble type word game, but is much easier for younger children too. Buy it on line and I bet you will be hooked (I was!). Card games, puzzles and crafts, the list is endless really!

With a little bit of planning, a period of enforced time at home will hopefully be easier.

Stay well, stay safe and look after each other.

March 21, 2020

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