With a global health crisis going on in the form of the Coronavirus pandemic, it can be easy to forget about our overall health and wellbeing. Because while Covid-19 has turned our lives upside down, that doesn't mean that other health concerns - diet, exercise, mental health - have disappeared.
Although you can still get GP appointments for more urgent health issues, there are little things you can do to stay on top of things from the comfort of your own home (because, let's face it, that's pretty much where we're staying for the foreseeable). That's according to Dr Shahzadi Harper, women's health specialist and founder of The Harper Clinic.
From checking your breasts to getting enough of that all-important Vitamin D, these are positive lifestyle changes that are easy to add into your daily routine - so much so that you might have started doing a few of them already.
Get some Vitamin D
While the sun is shining, ensure you get at least 15 minutes outside, advises Dr Harper. Vitamin D is a mood-boosting vitamin and helps to maintain normal bone and immune system function. "Whatever the season, I advise women take a Vitamin D supplement every day (look for a supplement that contains at least 1,000 IU, or 25mcg). Your body doesn’t hold onto stores of it, so it's a good idea to keep yourself topped up," says Dr Harper.
Work your pelvic floor
Now is the time to focus on your pelvic floor exercises, says Dr Harper. These are the muscles that stretch from your pubic bones at the front to the base of your spine, like a hammock. Bladder leakage affects over 50% of women and occurs when coughing, sneezing, laughing or jumping on a trampoline, but you can train these oft-neglected muscles, just like any other. "Next time you're watching TV or washing up, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles (this is the same feeling as if you are trying to stop yourself peeing) and hold for up to 10 seconds, then relax and repeat," continues Dr Harper. "Another way is to do short fast squeezes up to 50 each time."
Minimise emotional eating
"Emotional eating due to stress may become an issue while we are stuck at home," warns Dr Harper. "With nothing to do, boredom creeps in, and we eat more than we usually might. Manage this by finding something to do with your hands in order to keep them occupied, such as knitting, a jigsaw (find our edit of the best ones here), or catching up on ironing. Not only with these activities calm your mind, but they'll also distract you from emotional eating."
Check your breasts
Why not use this time to learn how to examine your breasts and get into the habit of doing it regularly? "Think of your breasts as a clock face," says Dr Harper. "Keeping your fingers flat and together, start at 12 and work your way around, then move into the nipple and back out into the arm pit. The shower is a great place to do this." If you need a more regular reminder to check your boobs, we love charity CoppaFeel's monthly text reminder service.
Take care of your gut
The gut is responsible for 90% of our happy neurotransmitter serotonin and 70% of our immunity, so paying it some attention is a good thing to spend your time doing. How? "Eat a varied diet, with lots of fruit and vegetables," says Dr Harper. "We're all cooking more during lockdown so take the time to plan your meals. I also advise taking probiotics, such as Yakult, Actimel, or foods like live yoghurts and kimchi. This will help boost immunity and mood."
Look after your skin
While the struggle is real when it comes to lockdown skin (flakes, begone!), now is the time to do what you can to take care of it. Dr Harper advises keeping your make-up to a minimum to allow your skin to breathe, and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.
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