How is your health as the Coronavirus crisis continues? While, without question, the priority right now is to stay safe and minimise your risk of contracting Covid19, the pandemic is having far-reaching implications on all aspects of our wellbeing.
With a strict lockdown continuing in three out of the four home nations and health professionals braced for a second wave of Covid19 admissions, it’s becoming clear that we’ll be living under the shadow of the virus for many months to come. So what does this mean for our general fitness and frame of mind?
Physio, chiropractic and other treatments
Lockdown has had a significant impact on services such as physiotherapy, chiropractic and podiatry, with face to face appointments and treatments stopping. The easing of restrictions in England this month has signalled a reopening of some healthcare pathways but, according to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), it in no way marks a return to ‘business as usual.’
At the same time, more of us are using lockdown to workout at home or take up activities such as running and jogging. While these activities are excellent for our physical and mental health, they unfortunately bring a greater risk of injury! Many practitioners and patients have adapted to virtual consultations, with assessments and triage, online exercises and fitness diaries all available to help customers look after existing injuries and, ideally, avoid picking up new niggles in the first place.
Many hospital appointments and routine surgeries have been cancelled, although it is hoped that urgent healthcare services - including cancer and stroke treatment - will return to normal levels in the near future. NHS chiefs are also urging patients not to stay away from A&E departments or to contact their GP surgery if they need advice or treatment, while parents of babies and young children are being encouraged to attend routine inoculations and other medical appointments when called, with strict safety measures being put in place at hospitals and health centres.
Routine visits to the dentist or optician are off the cards for now, but you can still access emergency dental and optical care during Coronavirus at urgent treatment hubs and your local eye hospital. If you think you need treatment without delay, contact your dentist or optician as a first port of call and they will be able to direct you to the right place.
Fitness and exercise
There is understandable confusion around how much daily exercise we can take, with the UK, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland governments all taking a different approach.
In Wales and Scotland, people can now exercise more than once a day but must remain close to their homes - ruling out driving to a beauty spot - and only with members of their household. In Northern Ireland, sport and activities in which a distance of two metres can be achieved - including watersports, golf, tennis and angling - are now back on the cards, in addition to walking, running and cycling, although all exercise other than golf must take place within 5km of home.
In England, the rules have been relaxed to allow people to drive to take exercise - leading to fears in Wales and Scotland that England residents will flock to countryside areas and national parks over their borders, putting local people and services at risk.
While many people are enjoying the slower pace of life and the extra time for hobbies and activities that lockdown has brought, there are real fears that the restrictions will result in a mental health pandemic and even an increase in suicides.
From feeling a bit low and fragile, to experiencing anxiety, panic attacks and thoughts of self harm or suicide, we’re all going through lockdown differently. Help and support is, however, available for all scenarios and age groups. Through the Coronavirus Mental Health Response Fund, local organisations can access grants to help deliver local services, while leading charity Mind is a great signposting resource for support in your area.
If you’re concerned about your alcohol intake or are worried that someone you love is drinking too much, Alcohol Change UK has a special Coronavirus and drinking hub full of information and guidance. And if you’re experiencing increased loneliness as a result of isolating or shielding, the Royal Voluntary Service has organised a dedicated band of volunteers to provide companionship phone calls, as well as help with shopping and prescription collections.
Most of our partner health insurers also provide virtual counselling, 24/7 helplines and smartphone health apps for all members of a policyholder’s family, including teenagers and undergraduates who may be worried about their future prospects. If you’re worried about someone in your household, read our article on spotting the signs of anxiety and depression, which also has good advice on boosting your own wellbeing if you’re struggling to find your usual breathing space away from other family members during this time.