Stuck indoors? Different routine? Using your body differently? Here are 7 tips to look after your body during lockdown...
For most of us, our daily activities have changed. Whether you’re now working from home or spending more time on the sofa or deck chair, it’s important to look out for your posture.
If you’re working from home, make sure your desk setup is as near as you can get it to the guidance from HSE. This means having your desk and chair heights so that your feet are flat on the floor, the top of your screen is at eye level, your elbows are at 90 degrees, your legs are in front of you, and the backs of your thighs aren’t under too much pressure against the chair. It's not always that easy to achieve outside of an office context. For those with a dining table or existing desk, this might not be too tricky. For those who don’t, there are some very creative ideas out there involving regular household items, such as ironing boards as height-adjustable desks. Check out some of these ideas here.
If you’re spending more time on the sofa/in a deck chair, be aware of your posture – ideally, your spine will be in alignment as if you were sitting straight. This means your head is not tilted forwards, or backwards. If you’re spending a lot of time sitting, especially if this is not something your body is used to, you may find that some muscles, such as your hip flexors, become tight – they can shorten over time. The best way to combat this is through gentle exercise and stretching (see tip 2 below) and taking frequent breaks up and out of the chair (even if to make yet another cup of tea!).
This is key! Especially for those of us who are otherwise sedentary, whether through working from home, being made furlough, or due to usual activities and outings being cancelled. If we don’t use the strength built up in our muscles, we will lose it. Also, if we don’t use the length we’ve told our muscles we need, we will lose that too. Movement and gentle stretching is a great way to avoid reduced flexibility, restricted movement and the pain that can sometimes result. Ideally you’ll be moving multiple parts of your body, gently and evenly, so activities such as yoga, walking and dancing can be great for this.
If you suddenly finding yourself drawn to activities you don’t normally do, or certainly not this often, make sure your body is prepared! If you’re working out more, make sure you warm up first – if you can, get some guidance from a personal trainer (many are working remotely right now, and why not support local small businesses?) If you’re caught up in the wave of DIY happening about the country in this lovely weather we’re having, make sure you’re lifting/carrying those items out of the garage properly (see here for NHS guidance ), and if you’re painting, sanding, sawing or gardening, make sure you’re in a good, comfortable, symmetrical, stable position for any repetitive tasks, both to save soft tissue injury, or repetitive strain. And take regular breaks! (Why not use it to rehydrate while you’re at it!)
Many people are not just spending more time with their children, but are at home with them more. This can mean lots of playing on the floor, lots of carrying a baby/toddler around whilst try to get things done. Playing on the floor is probably good for you – not only is it physically grounding in these unsettling times, but it also gets you into positions which, whilst not fitting with most ‘tasks’ valued by our society, are very natural – squatting low on the floor, sitting with legs out in front of us etc.
Things to watch out for are – kneeling for long periods of time on hard surfaces, or even carpet if you’re not used to it. If you need to do this, consider using a pillow, yoga mat or garden kneeler. If you can, use other positions, such as sitting or squatting. Carrying a baby/toddler more than usual, especially on one side, and/or dipping the opposite hip out – over time, this can create muscle imbalance, and can put strain on one side of the body. Whilst carrying is not something that can, or necessarily should be avoided, try to be aware of your posture and whether you’re favouring one side of your body more.
Prevent injury - and nurse it if it occurs
At a time when NHS resources are stretched, and face to face appointments are nigh on impossible, it’s a bad time to acquire an injury. If you’re working out, warm up first. Try to resist the urge to start up a new sport that carries the risk of injury, such as weights or boxing. If you do happen to develop the first signs of an injury (swelling, discomfort, heat, pain), be sure to nurse it. Keep calm and carry on does not apply here! Seek advice as you would normally, through remote means, and rest! Making it worse could mean it lasts longer, becomes a bigger problem, creates lasting damage, and restrict what you can do even further during lockdown.
The tissues in our bodies need fluids for so many different reasons, from our immune and digestive systems’ functions to natural healing and repair. Our hydration can be affected by exercise, medication, alcohol/substance use, caffeine, the food we eat, illness/injury, exposure to sun, to name but a few. It’s important to make sure you drink enough water / herbal tea to balance the other factors. Dehydration has all sorts of symptoms, including the more immediately obvious; concentration difficulties, tiredness and dizziness. Be aware there are more subtle changes which occur and can impact the functions mentioned above.
We're all trying to be brave during this time and not be a burden to health services. However if you are suffering, whether physically or psychologically, please do seek help. Some agencies are giving support over the phone and by video call. Obviously anything that can be treated at home or with pharmacy consultation is best done that way, but If you are in significant pain, injure yourself, develop unexplained symptoms, please call for advice. For mental health concerns, many charities are still operating remotely and can be contacted for information and guidance. Remember * Most GP surgeries are open for phone appointments * 111 is always available for medical queries * 999 is always available for emergencies.
Author - Zoe Copeland, MFHT
With a background in education, sports coaching and mental health, Zoe began to explore more holistic avenues of helping people with a particular focus on where the mind and body meet. Zoe began her bodywork training in Sports Massage and has since studied other massage theories and techniques, as well as Reiki, to provide a holistic approach to each treatment. With specific training in women's health, trauma and scars, she has developed an intuitive practice which leaves you feeling a positive change in your body and mind after every appointment.