March 27, 2020 | Life with MS, Support, Uncategorised
It’s day two of the lockdown, and most people are still trying to figure out what the next four weeks will look like. Plus, we are experiencing a whole range of emotions. Many of us are likely experiencing anxiety, for fear of catching coronavirus (COVID-19). Some are settling in, happy for the excuse to binge-watch Netflix or catch up on DIY projects around the home. Many of us feel daunted by the sadness of social isolation, the pressure of finances, and concern for friends and family. Add a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis to the mix and these concerns may feel amplified.
Whatever emotions you are feeling, these are entirely natural responses. The next few weeks aren’t going to be easy, but there are steps we can take to make it easier. These first few days are important because they can set the tone for what comes next. Here are seven steps that you can decide to take right now, setting you up for wellness during the lockdown:
Unfortunately, many of the things that cause us stress or anxiety are outside our control. As much as it would be great, you can’t control coronavirus and who contracts it, the world economy, or other people’s responses. Many of us can’t even stop those natural and automatic responses of fear and anxiety.
However, you can control what you do and how you think.
When going into self-isolation or lockdown, choose to focus on behaviours and actions that truly matter to you — things you can control. For example, if you enjoy cooking, decide to eat healthily every night. If exercise is important to you, commit to exercising every day, whatever your level. If staying in touch with your community brings you joy, then decide to talk to someone each day, no matter what. Turn these into habits as these are actions that you can control, and that will bring meaning to your day.
It’s easy to get caught in the confusing crossfire of facts and misinformation. Scrolling through social media, we come across so many opinions and unhelpful rumours. Misinformation leaves many of us feeling stressed and anxious: avoid it at all costs.
For this reason, we recommend that you look for information only from authoritative sources. As the World Health Organization says, “facts can help to minimize fears”. You can use the following sources to check the facts and weed out the rumours:
Consider limiting the time you spend watching, reading or listening to the news. Next time you check the news, pay attention to how it makes you feel. While it’s wise to keep tabs on the situation, we recommend that you pick one trustworthy news-source (e.g. One News or Radio New Zealand) and check the news once per day. Avoid doing this late in the evening, especially if the news is likely to cause you to feel anxious. Choose instead to do it earlier in the day and consider doing a breathing exercise afterwards.
Stuck at home, many of us find it tempting to relax our regular routine and give in to unhealthy behaviours. Sleep and eating are often the first to go out of the window — it’s so easy to watch just one more episode of your cliff-hanger Netflix series! However, during the lockdown, it is vital that you stay as healthy as possible through healthful eating and sleeping choices.
Regular exercise, adequate sleep and wholesome food also have the added benefit of boosting your immune system. Combining these habits with no smoking, can have a significant, positive impact on the progression of Multiple Sclerosis and your lifespan. Drink lots of water, consider including daily mindfulness exercises and intentionally engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.
You mustn’t let the lockdown derail your healthy habits. If you don’t currently incorporate healthy habits into daily routine, choose one habit or practice and commit to achieving it each day. Read about healthy behaviours for people with Multiple Sclerosis, and here are some articles on habit formation.
Write up a schedule that you can follow each day and set some goals toward which you can work. Dr Sarita Robinson writes: “it is important to maintain a structure to your day. Having a set schedule for meal times and a set bedtime can help you to stay on track.” Make sure that you also include time outside and exercise. Here are some questions that will help you structure your lockdown days in a way that incorporates healthy habits.
Set aside time to exercise and, if possible, get outside. Not only does exercise boosts your sense of wellbeing, but it also supports your continued mobility and gives you that much-needed dose of vitamin D. Additionally, getting outdoors into a green space has many physical benefits that are helpful for people with Multiple Sclerosis. Here are some exercises you can do at home.
Include periods of rest in your schedule. Use this time for mindfulness or other restorative practices. These activities can help you to relax and have a positive impact on your wellbeing. Here are some resources to support your rest-periods:
Maintaining connections to supportive communities is hugely important during self-isolation and lockdown, but it will require some intentionality. The Mental Health Foundation believes community is key, saying “we will get through this if we work together”.
Connect with others deliberately. It’s easy to like a person’s post and make a comment, but we need more meaningful connections to keep healthy. Here are some ways that you can do this:
Helping others is another excellent way to feel connected. Call your neighbour or other people in your community who may need some extra assistance.
During times of stress, it’s wise to pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Remember to keep things in perspective. It’s ok to feel worried or sad at times like this.
Don’t be afraid to tell others how you are feeling. If you would like to talk to a trained counsellor, you can free call or text 1737 at any time – it’s free and confidential. Click here for more information. Alternatively, you can also get in touch with your regional fieldworker. Fieldworkers are an amazing resource and support, particularly for any issues relating to Multiple Sclerosis.
Feature photo by Tina Dawson on Unsplash