In so many ways, the current restrictions on travel and contact have changed our lives beyond all recognition within just a few short weeks.
For many of us, it has meant long periods of isolation from others, with all our time spent in and around the home. For others it meant a dramatic change in working patterns – less commuting, perhaps, but more time hunched up in front of a laptop. Or it can mean no work and a seemingly endless amounts of free time, during which we need to occupy and entertain ourselves (and our young people!). And for some, including NHS and care staff and other key workers, it means more work, often under significantly greater pressure.
Whatever our situation, limitations on access to all health services, public and private, mean that taking greater responsibility for our own wellbeing is arguably more important now than at any other time in living memory. Whether it is dealing with the stress and anxiety of these changes or the illness or loss of loved ones, managing our time or managing our activities, most of us are likely to benefit from some help or guidance at some point in the coming weeks.
There is some great advice available on the NHS websites, and we have tried to signpost some of those here, but we also thought it might be helpful for our clients and patients – current and future – if we also put together a few of our favourite tips and exercises.
The following is an extract from the NHS page linked to above, which is a great place to start:
Looking after your health and wellbeing
To help yourself stay well while you’re at home:
- stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media
- try to keep yourself busy – you could try activities like cooking, reading, online learning and watching films
- do light exercise at home, or outside once a day – see NHS fitness studio: exercises you can do at home
- consider taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day if you’re indoors most of the day – this is to keep your bones and muscles healthy
Advice on mental health while you’re staying at home:
Mental health is, of course, a priority for all of us and if you feel that you would benefit from specific professional help, our counsellor / psychotherapist Debbie Waters is offering telephone consultations. Her contact details can be found here.
Exercises for specific areas
For your safety, we can only suggest general exercises here, and you should always practise them within your own comfort range. Stop or reduce your efforts if you feel that they are making things worse. If you do irritate anything, a cold pack is often the best way to calm things down – apply for 10 minutes maximum, and repeat every 2 hours, and remember to make sure that the cold pack is covered with a thin tea towel or similar: it definitely must not be applied directly to the skin.
Remember, you can always call the practice for further advice if you need it.
Upper Back, Neck and Shoulders
Lots of time spent at desks and computers, particularly if it’s not at a well-set up work station, can lead to a lot of discomfort between the shoulder blades, across the tops of the shoulders and into the neck, sometimes triggering tension-type headaches, due to the head-forward posture. This can also occur if you are spending more time than usual on devices, or reading, knitting, sewing, etc…
Try this postural sequence to help: click here (and yes, I know he’s a chiropractor…!)
Remember to take frequent breaks from these aggravating postures – you should get up and move about every 15-20 minutes ideally, even if it’s just for a few seconds.
Lower Back and Pelvis
More sitting than usual has been common for a lot of us during lockdown, but more time spent working in the garden or on projects at home may also have also been part of your life recently. Either way, lower back discomfort is a very common feature of life at present.
This exercise is a good general starter to be done once or twice a day initially, then more frequently as you get looser. Feet together and make sure you only adopt a small lean, that you can recover from easily if you feel a twinge.
Start small – it doesn’t matter if you can only move a few degrees on one side, or both, it will improve over time. Use the free hand on the opposite hip to help guide your pelvis towards the wall. Make sure the pelvis moves in a straight line towards the wall – if there is any twist, you will lose the effect.
If you find it easier, you could lean on your elbow up at shoulder height, rather than on the shoulder itself.
Also spend frequent intervals during the day just gently mobilising your back – gentle pelvic tilts backwards and forwards and side-to-side, always within comfortable range, are a great way to begin to loosen things up or relieve an ache. Or try an imaginary hula hoop!
Stay safe and keep moving!