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Housebound: How to cope with life under lockdown

With schools, colleges and crèches closed for the next two weeks, Tanya Sweeney has some valuable advice on dealing with the isolation and keeping the kids busy

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Create your own exercise routine at home and involve the children. Stock photo

Create your own exercise routine at home and involve the children. Stock photo

Create some work sheets for the kids so they don’t fall behind in their school work

Create some work sheets for the kids so they don’t fall behind in their school work

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Create your own exercise routine at home and involve the children. Stock photo

There's no place like home, right? Just as well, because it looks as though we will all be spending quite a bit more time there for the next while.

The country is now living la vida lockdown in a bid to curtail the spread of Covid-19. Many public spaces are off limits for the foreseeable future.

Schools, colleges and crèches also closed their doors to safeguard the health of staff and attendees. We've been advised to work from home where possible, or take meetings via Skype or on the phone.

Self-isolation is intense and tricky, whether you're a lone dweller, a couple, a family or an older person already feeling lonely. But there are certainly ways to keep life as manageable as possible when you're all working, living and playing under the same roof…

Business as usual?

The temptation is certainly there to do a 'Christmas': to wake late, go to bed later, eat whatever we choose, slob around in our bedclothes and let the rigours of the daily grind flit out the window. This goes double when you're single and pretty much accountable to no one. It's probably a good idea to keep your schedule as much on track as you can, which means everyone getting showered, fed and dressed by 8am. Okay, fine, 9am. Keep doing household chores and keep on top of life admin.

Keeping active

So the gym is off limits, your local Zumba class has been cancelled and yoga is on hold until next month. But there are several ways to stay active while indoors.

Create a home fitness routine using virtually no fitness apparatus. Squats and lunges require you working against your body weight, while you only need a chair for tricep dips. If you want to keep little ones moving, try push-ups and jumping jacks.

For planks, get into the push-up position on the floor, and have your child climb on to your back. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest you and your child's weight on your forearms. Older kids might get a kick out of a little friendly rivalry during a plank competition.

The internet will also be your friend in this regard. YouTube has tons of different fitness classes to suit all tastes, ages and levels of physical ability. MyBOD Wellness, Dailyburn or Wello are all good places to start.

Physical health

Want to boost your immune system? There are lots of easy and cost-free ways to ensure you're fighting fit. Several foods are powerful immune-system boosters: citrus foods help to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections. Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Garlic is key for good health thanks to its concentration of sulphur-containing compounds. Ginger packs a punch as an anti-inflammatory superfood. Almonds also contain Vitamin E, which is another helpful nutrient.

No amount of healthy nutrients will make you invincible from an illness as serious as coronavirus, but there's no reason why you can't strengthen your immune system. Also, if you've been putting off a healthier regime, now is as good a time as any to put some good habits into effect.

Nutrition

In theory, eating in lockdown mode could be a good thing. Now you'll have the time to try a new recipe or finally dig out that jar of Cambodian spices that your friends brought you back from holiday. If self-isolation means loads of time indoors, turn the situation around by getting some batch cooking done, or indulge in your favourite meals. If you've had to give up the pub and the cinema for the time being, this is one of the upshots of self-isolation. There's no need to panic-buy in bulk: although the main retailers are staying open, whatever groceries you need can be ordered online. Needless to say, your juice cleanse/intermittent fasting/5:2 diet can probably wait until another time.

Keeping the kids busy

Tempting though it may be to stick on Cbeebies or pull out the devices that keep little ones entertained, several weeks of Fortnite might not be a great idea. There are several activities that you can do as a family, from baking together to crafts. The internet is a treasure trove of ideas on these. Try Bakerross.ie or FreeKidscrafts.com for some boredom-busting craft ideas. Fresh air is vital, so rope in a friend and take your little ones to the park. Use this time as an opportunity to do the fun things that school, homework and after-school clubs often don't permit, from climbing trees to making tents in the living room.

If you're worried about your kids falling behind now that school's out for the rest of the month, set them some worksheets and exercises. Work while they are in 'home school' for a couple of hours. Try not to panic too much about the situation: everyone's in the same boat. Try to get the children outside, even if it's just for a short bike ride or walk. If this isn't permitted, don't stress about the lack of exercise you're all doing - there's nothing you can do about it.

Keeping your mind busy

No campus activity for the time being? There are hundreds of online classes to avail from if you fancy doing a spot of extra-curricular learning. With over 100,000 courses and 24 million students, Udemy (udemy.com) is a great way to learn anything in your own time.

If you want to upskill, the Google Digital Garage (learndigital.withgoogle.com) provides training in a number of tech disciplines for free. FutureLearn (futurelearn.com) offers online learning from some of the world's top universities.

Mental health

Psychologists say isolation has profound effects on the body and brain, and can lead to anxiety and panic attacks and increased levels of paranoia. If you feel your anxiety or depression levels might be lifting in the current climate, check in with a service like Aware (1800 80 4848) or Samaritans (116 123). Trained professionals will be on hand to talk people through managing the symptoms of loneliness, anxiety or depression.

Staying connected

Use tech and social media to link in with friends and family when you can. If you're a lone dweller, you may already be well used to solitary living. But keep an eye out for elderly neighbours who may be struggling to find essentials in the shops, or are feeling particularly vulnerable amid this pandemic.

Earlier this week, one group of neighbours in Cabra created their own WhatsApp group, according to a post on a local Facebook group's page. They're also pretty useful if you are having a low moment. If you are working from home, use a platform like Slack so everyone in your work team can stay in the loop in real time.

Maintaining a 'lockdown' state of mind

This is an extraordinary situation, almost without precedent in Ireland. No one really knows how to 'win' at this self-isolation lark. Your kids will end up watching more TV than usual and going to bed later. This is no reflection on your parenting skills. Try to relax about the situation as much as you possibly can. Lockdown isn't going to be easy, but it's not going to do you, or anyone you live with, any harm.

Irish Independent