Staying entertained and active in the home
The social distancing policies put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, including the recommendation that all Australians should stay home unless for essential outings, mean that most of us are going to be spending most, if not all of our time at home.
The prospect of staying at home for any prolonged period of time can seem overwhelming and a little scary, especially if you’re someone who enjoys being outdoors and socially active.
To help get through this (temporary) time, it’s important for us to find a new normal. Preferably that’s one that doesn’t include binge watching the latest Netflix series on the couch with a drink in hand, day-in-day-out.
Here are some tips to help you adjust to home isolation, and stay healthy and well, including by limiting our alcohol use.
Limit alcohol intake.
Alcohol can weaken our immune system 23 so to help stay healthy and well, it’s important to drink at low-risk levels.
Health experts recommend healthy men and women drink no more than two standard drinks on any day to remain at low-risk of alcohol-related disease over the lifetime.1
Not sure what a standard drink looks like? Try our Standard Drink tool.
Reducing your drinking will not only help to keep you healthy and safe now, you'll also reduce your risk of cancers and other chronic diseases later.1 You'll also be helping to prevent extra burden on already-stretched health services.
Ways to stay entertained and active in the home
Structure your day.
It is be beneficial to plan out your days to restore a sense of purpose and normality to life.
While you might not be able to stick to your normal routine, such as meeting friends for coffee and doing your usual physical activities, you can create a new routine at home with structure that includes alternative ways to keep active. As tempting as it may be to stay in bed in your PJs, in the long run this is bound to have a detrimental effect on both your physical and mental health.
Try setting yourself a daily routine, such as getting up at the same time each day, doing a workout first thing, taking a shower and sitting down to enjoy breakfast and a coffee. From here, make a plan – schedule tasks such as cooking and laundry, complete any work within structured working hours, and be sure to include activities you enjoy to help you stick to your routine.
Something you might also want to look out for is how changes in your regular routine could impact on your drinking behaviours. Structuring your day with purposeful activities can help you to prevent more regular or heavier drinking creeping into your routine. Making a daily plan provides a good opportunity to schedule those alcohol-free days.
Working from home.
With the social distancing recommendations, many of us are now working from home. As most of us have probably experienced by now, this can bring a whole new set of challenges.
Here are a few simple and practical tips to help you overcome them:
- Change out of your pyjamas each morning. You may not need to dress as formally as you used to, but ditching the PJs can help get you in the right headspace to start your day.
- Set up a dedicated workspace. Ideally, one that has adequate lighting, comfortable seating, and is situated away from noise or other distractions. If it’s possible, consider setting up your workspace somewhere near a window for fresh air and a nice view.
- Set a schedule. Give yourself clearly defined working hours, as this will help maintain a boundary between work and home life, minimise the possibility of work intruding into your family time, and help you switch off from work at the end of the day. It’s important to take regular breaks, just like you normally would, to move away from your computer and sit less!
- Limit distractions. Being at home means it’s easy to be distracted by other people or tasks such as household chores. Instead, schedule set times when you can take a break to do these things.
- Keep in touch. Maintain regular contact with your manager or colleagues (via phone or video call) to ensure you are each aware of workloads and timelines. Tip: changing out of your PJs might be particularly important if you’re video calling your boss.
- Avoid drinking during the day. Just because you’re not sitting at your desk in the office, doesn’t mean you should start drinking while you’re on the clock. Every additional drink increases your risk of harm, so if you’re going to have a drink, wait until you’ve clocked off.
- Change up your after work routine. Working from home might be a good opportunity to change up your normal after work routine. Start putting the kettle on when you finish up with work, instead of going straight to the fridge. Alternatively, get some fresh air and go for a quick walk when you log off.
Keep physically active.
Australia’s Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults (18-64 years) recommended that adults find thirty at least five days a week.4This means building up at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week.
Any activity is better than none. When you exercise your brain releases feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins. Exercise can also help us keep maintain our immune system5, be less susceptible to infections and better able to recover from them.
Ways to exercise at home:
- Get online. Jump onto YouTube or join one of the many free or for-fee subscription exercise programs to find a home workout that best suits your fitness needs.
- Fancy yoga? Whether you have a stretch on your bedroom floor when you wake up or set aside half an hour every day to do a guided yoga routine, stretching or yoga style movements can help avoid stiff joints and maintain good blood circulation. Jump onto YouTube and you’ll find what you’re looking for.
- Try bodyweight exercises. Think squats, lunges, calf raises, push-ups, sit-ups and planks. If you’ve got stairs in the house, make them your new best friend.
- Join the LiveLighter Move More April challenge. To get started, click here.
- Get innovative. Fill a water bottle or milk carton with water and do some light weights. Play your favourite songs and work up a sweat dancing.
If structured exercise isn’t up your alley, there are a range of odd jobs around the house you can do that can contribute to you finding 30. Things like catching up on the gardening, cleaning the home, dancing to music and spending more time doing activities with the kids or pets.
While it’s been recommended we stay at home, the importance of getting outside for regular activity has been acknowledged. If you’re someone who goes on regular walks or does other outdoor exercise, continue to do this to find 30 – just make sure you’re following the social distancing policies. Getting outside for a short period is important to help maintain both our physical and mental health.
Tips for your mental health and wellbeing
Keep mentally active.
It’s just as important to stay mentally active as it is to stay physically active.
Remember playing Scrabble as a child? Or chess? Or even endless games of Uno or Monopoly? Games like these are not only fun for all the family; they’re a great way to keep mentally active.
Keep your brain active by trying a puzzle, reading a book, listening to a podcast or researching a new culture you’ve always wanted to know more about.
But if you want to take on something more, you could pick up a new skill or try something new. It’s never too late to learn a language, how to knit or play an instrument.
Eat well and stay hydrated.
Just as binge-watching isn’t such a good idea, binge eating is definitely not a good idea.
It’s important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet to support our immunity, health and wellbeing.
Do your best to have a variety of foods on hand from each of the five main food groups and remember to keep up your water intake, aiming for 2.5 litres each day.
Not much of a cook? Maybe it’s time to get into the kitchen. Whether you’re a solo cook or have some helpers, this is a great way to get creative, try new foods and spend some time focussing on the task at hand.
For top tips about leading a healthy lifestyle and recipe ideas, visit LiveLighter.
Take time to do things you enjoy.
While we need to stay physically and mentally active, we also need to make time for ourselves and do the things we enjoy.
If this means a movie marathon, then so be it. If that means running a bath or making yourself a cuppa and starting a new book, do that too. Self-isolation might also allow you to catch up on any lost sleep.
It’s important to get some fresh air – spend some time outside in the backyard, do some gardening or go for a short walk to find 30. Getting outside for a short period is important to help maintain both our physical and mental health.
During times of anxiety, it can be useful to practice breathwork or meditation to help manage your headspace.
The social distancing policies are making it more difficult for us to stay connected. However, it’s more important than ever that we do.
Make plans to chat with people who you would normally see in person, whether that be a phone or video call. Use this as an opportunity to reach out to those who you often see less of or haven’t spoken to in a while.
If you’re having a virtual party to stay connected, consider choosing a non-alcoholic option or making every second drink a non-alcoholic drink.
It’s also really important to stay in regular contact with older family members during this time. To help them stay healthy and well, we should be encouraging those over 65 years with underlying health conditions and those over 70 years to stay at home. We can show our gratitude and affection for them in other ways that don’t involve face-to-face contact, such as dropping around home cooked meals and treats or collecting and dropping off any required medications.
Maybe text someone some kind words to boost their day – we are sure it will boost yours too.
If you’re feeling worried or anxious.
These uncertain times are affecting everyone all over the world over. Now, more than ever, it is important to manage your mental health and wellbeing, particularly if you are feeling worried or anxious.
Avoid using alcohol to help cope with your emotions. While it might be tempting to reach for a drink to relax or help cope with stress, alcohol is a depressant drug that can cause anxiety and increase stress. Alcohol can negatively affect thoughts, feelings and actions, and contribute to the development of, or worsen, existing mental health issues over time.
If the COVID-19 outbreak is causing you particular stress or anxiety, or if you are beginning to feel overwhelmed, talk to someone you trust, such as your GP, a health worker, social worker, or call a mental health support line.
If you or someone you know might need help in relation to alcohol or other drug use, please speak to your GP or a health care professional.
Alternatively, the Alcohol and Drug Support Line is a confidential, non-judgemental telephone counselling, information, support and referral service.
The service is free of charge and available 24/7 by calling (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024 (toll-free for country callers) or emailing email@example.com
Live Chat is also free of charge and available for Western Australian residents and is operated:
- Monday to Friday 7.30am -9pm
- Saturday 9am- 7pm
- Sunday 11am - 6pm
You can access the Live Chat here.
National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra, ACT.
Retrieved from: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/national-cabinet-statement
Sarkar, D., Jung, K., & Wang, J. (2015). Alcohol and the immune system. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 37(2),153-155.
Retrieved from: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/active-living/get-active.
Nieman, D., & Wentz, L. (2019). The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 8,201-217
Page last updated: 27 May 2020