at Devbhumi School, Uttarakhand, India
Dr Pauldy Otermans
Chair & Principal, Otermans Institute
Lecturer (Education), Brunel University London
Deputy Chair GU, University of Cambridge
Fortunately wellbeing has become a popular topic today, including being in the news and popular media. The acceptance of not only physical but also mental wellbeing is slowly making its way into main stream society, but will still take some time to get fully integrated. Today, especially because of the lockdown and and other impact caused directly to individuals by the global COVID-19 pandemic, putting focus on your own physical and mental wellbeing has become even more important.
When stuck at home, it is easy to only move from your bed to your couch or “home office space” and then at the end of the day to go back to bed. For a lot of us who are working from home, we created our own so called “home office space”. For many of us this is definitely not as comfortable and energising as our normal office or what used to be our normal work place. In many homes, there may not be comfortable desk chairs, proper arm rests, a table that can be adjusted to the right height, big monitors and definitely not the energy and focus that we are accustomed to at our work place. For people who cannot even work for home due to their job requirements or because they have been laid off due to the pandemic, the situation is far worse. I for instance have to adjust to using my laptop with a relatively small screen on my dining table that I am currently using as my work area. In all of these situations, it is extremely important to take regular breaks and do stretching exercises. I know it is easier said than done, but none of us wants to come out of this lockdown having severe physical injuries due to a working in wrong postures, limiting mobility or feeling depressed!
Remember, sometimes the simplest things can make massive differences.
1. Make sure that you are sitting in a relaxed, mid-line posture; sitting with the spine straight and not leaning to one side or the other. Make sure your feet can touch the ground, if not place a box underneath it or a bag (be creative to create your own foot rest).
2. Get off that chair and go for a walk every 2 hours; even if it is a 10-minute walk up and down the street or hallway. Another easy tip is to walk while you talk to any colleague or friend on the phone.
3. Move your head side-to-side. Move your head gently so that your chin moves towards your left shoulder as if you look to the left. When you reach your limit, stop and return your head so that you are facing forward again. Then repeat this by moving your head gently to the right. Repeat this exercise a few times at least every few hours while working or sitting.
4. Move your head up-and-down. Move only in a vertical direction and drop your head gently so that your chin is (nearly) resting on your chest. It’s okay if your chin does not reach your chest, don’t force this. Then raise your head gently so that you are facing forward again. Repeat this exercise just like we discussed for the above exercise and you can also pair both these exercises.
5. Rotate your shoulders backwards-and-forwards. Gently rotate both shoulders backwards in small circles. Do this 10 times. Now repeat this circular movement but rotate your shoulders in a forward direction, again 10 times. You can do this atleast once every day.
6. Neck rolls are another easy but effective movement. Again, begin with your head facing straight. Roll your head slowly to one side, then roll your head back, roll your head to the other side, roll to the front so that your chin faces down a little and return your head to the start position. Do this a few times and you can also pair this with the previous exercise.
Doing these exercises a few times a day, ensures ample movement and mobility, even in a lockdown situation.
Whilst in lockdown, many people can’t play their regular sport anymore but can exercises at home. Try making this into a routine. There are tons of free YouTube videos that you can use for short, daily workouts. Once you have started, you will see that it is actually not that bad. By making this into a daily routine, it will become easier to do; it will turn into a habit. Whilst we are exercising, we often turn off our minds and literally take a break from work. Regularly exercising can increase your energy levels, it can improve your mood, it can make you happier and it can help your memory and brain's overall health. Furthermore, exercising gives your mind a break from regular activities like thinking about work and releases dopamine because of the physical activity which directly boosts your mental wellbeing.
We at Otermans Institute believe that wellbeing is not an activity but a lifestyle. It will be sensitive to ethnic, gender and cultural differences. Social connections, culture, values and meaning are important factors when it comes to one’s wellbeing. We are currently collecting data on wellbeing in India and are particularly interested in learning how the current COVID-19 lockdown is affecting ones wellbeing in a variety of factors as well as the link of wellbeing with online learning. We hope that the results of the survey – which you are welcome to take yourself – will tell us more about wellbeing in times of the pandemic and can provide direct solutions to people like you.
Food and drinks play an important role in one’s wellbeing and mental health. At home, we are more inclined to eat unhealthily or take extra snacks during the day. After all what else can we do to amuse ourselves, right? During the times when you feel like taking a snack out of the cupboard, you should instead take a glass of water. Often you are just slightly dehydrated and your mind thinks you are hungry. Moreover, drinking plenty of water, and not sugary drinks is essential. The structure of most of our lives have been disorganised in just a few weeks. So do pay attention to what you eat every day and include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Why not have a nice fruit salad for lunch? What you eat either gives you energy or drains your energy – this choice is up to you!
You can also check out one of thoudands of 'lockdown diet plans' being made and circulated around the world such as this one from India
Many people in the current COVID-19 lockdown have become full-on workaholics now that they feel like they have nothing better to do, and might pull you into their routines. Be careful with this! It is important to continue to separate your work time from your own free time even when now both might be taking place at home. Otermans Institute professionally teach this in our 'work-life balance' training sessions in colleges.
A very easy habit can help here is a daily schedule that you either prepare the night before or first thing in the morning when you wake up. These are the tasks you need to complete that day, like you normally would do at work. Do not procrastinate and don’t get caught in household chores whilst doing your work. We know it is easier said than done and we will be launching a separate online lesson on controlling procrastination in our ‘Lessons for humanity’ series. After completion of this work schedule, it is your own free time. Pick up an old hobby that you haven’t found time for lately as mentioned in our previous lesson, read some of those books from your bookshelf that have been collecting dust over the past few months or reconnect with old friends. Getting in touch with friends and family members who are currently also in lockdown but not in your home is really beneficial for your wellbeing. And with the current technology, all of this is possible so get reconnecting! As you can see, not all is gloomy because of the lockdown. Maybe doing these little things will help you come of this crisis, build habits that will maintain your wellbeing in the future and maybe all of us will come out of this phase as more connected, appreciative and gratified people.
Finally, remember it is very important to put time aside for just you. Here, no one is allowed to bother you, your phone is off and you can use this time to connect with yourself. For some people, this can include breathing exercises, meditation, yoga and other related forms of mindfulness. Even a simple silent walk in your neighbourhood, garden or terrace is gold dust.
So, feel well and use the tips shared here to keep feeling well both physically and mentally. All the best and stay safe.
Self: The following exercises are something you can start by yourself from today itself.
1. Help somebody in your house with something. Helping other people will not only increase their wellbeing, it will also increases your own.
2. Do 5 minutes of breathing exercises every day. You can try various techniques including one of our favourites at Otermans Institute; pranayam.
Family: There are several exercises you can do as a family.
1. Have at least one meal a day together as a family. During that time no one is allowed to talk about work or the COVID-19 situation. Also, no phones are allowed during the meal. Instead, talk about positive things.
2. Go for a walk together as a family three times a week that can also be on your terrace. As you increase your daily step count, your brain releases “happy” hormones that can lift your mood and that of your family.
3. In the evening or during the weekend, play a game with your family. If you do not have any old-school board games at home, you can play a lot of games with a deck of cards or use one of the many funny games on apps that are easy and free to download.
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