27 October is World Occupational Therapy Day. Occupational therapists support us to recover, improve our wellbeing, and grow in ourselves by enhancing how we engage in meaningful activities everyday. To mark the day and celebrate occupational therapists, Méabh de Faoite of our Occupational Therapy Department shares some advice on minding our wellbeing during this winter’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Adapting to challenges
You may feel like the arrival of COVID-19 has pushed your mental and physical health to their limits this year. With the approaching winter months and transition to further restrictions, you may be feeling more concerned, stressed and anxious than usual. Thoughts like “how will I get through this again?” are filling our minds daily.
Adapting to challenges
You are not alone. Take a moment, take a deep breath and say, “this too shall pass”.
Occupational therapists are health professionals who support the health and wellbeing of people at all life stages. We have a broad understanding of the word “occupation”, using it to describe everything that people need to do (like looking after themselves), want to do (like hobbies) or are expected to do (like going to work or college).
Occupational therapists have great insight into mental health and the impact that environmental challenges can have on one’s daily life. We recognise that, since the arrival of coronavirus, many of us have lost our usual routines and opportunities to engage in activities that previously helped us to manage our mental health and wellbeing.
For now, we must adapt some of our occupations to fit with current COVID-19 guidelines. Don’t lose faith; it can be done.
Nurturing ourselves through these times
The guide below will provide you with some practical tips and advice on how to maintain wellbeing at this time.
Stay in touch
It may feel like you have nothing new to talk about, but staying connected with friends, family or neighbours is very important to help fight the feelings of loneliness and isolation. You can connect via phone, video, or even a quick chat at your window with whoever delivers your post! Every interaction counts, no matter how short. One idea might be to organise some regular coffee mornings with friends via video call.
Maintain a routine
Getting up and dressed can be very positive for our mindset and mood, especially on those days you will not be leaving the house. Focus on productive activities and achievable tasks that can be done at home, such as housework, decluttering or gardening. It is helpful to keep to regular meal and snack times and eating food that meets your nutritional requirements.
Practice a sleep routine
We are all aware how important sleep is for our health. Your sleep could be affected right now due to high levels of anxiety. Maintaining a sleep routine can be helpful; going to bed and waking at the same time each day can regulate our sleep/wake cycle. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, tune out of devices an hour before bedtime. Try having a hot drink (not caffeinated), take a warm bath, listen to relaxing music, or do something that helps you to wind down.
Make time for leisure
It’s important to make sure we still pursue those things that can recharge us and bring pleasure. Our hobbies and interests might look a little different right now, but there are lots of opportunities to participate in enjoyable activities. Have a look for things already in your home or reconnect with previous interests.
Look after your physical health
Exercise is very important for maintaining physical and mental health. You may have a preferred exercise but why not try something new too? YouTube offers a variety of different exercise videos, including yoga for all levels. If you can do so, try to take a walk every day in daylight. Work within your abilities; any physical movement is better than none.
Create self-nurturing moments
Life is full of different sensations so why not create daily sensory experiences which are calming and relaxing? This could be using a nice scented shower gel when taking a shower or making time to relax in bubble bath. It could be creating a comfort space in either your bedroom or living room with soft textured blankets, cushions, lighting and/or music that is calming. Tune into yourself and identify what sensory experiences do you find help you to relax.
Practicing regular progressive muscular relaxation (PMR) is very calming and assists greatly with alleviating stress. Consider accessing a PMR recording on YouTube to help you take a moment of calm, to relax the mind and body.
Nurture with nature
Spending time in green spaces can reduce stress and help us feel happier and healthier. If you have access to parks, gardens or nice scenery, try to visit them. If not, there are other ways. Parks and zoos around the world are closed to the public but some offer the opportunity to observe wildlife via live stream. Start paying attention to the wildlife around you and to birds in the garden. Maybe leave some birdfeed out to ensure you get a visit from some feathered friends.
Stay informed, but set limits
Stay informed, but set limits for news and social media. Consider setting specific times each day to check in with the news or media updates. It is important to use trustworthy and reliable sources of information, for example the Health Service Executive, World Health Organisation. or national broadcasters such as RTÉ.
Focusing on what we can control
Living with COVID-19 restrictions is a struggle right now, but it is important not to allow it to overwhelm you; focus on things you can control.
Focusing on what we can control
Remember to nurture and acknowledge your own ability to manage this challenging time, because this too shall pass.