Top tips to stay both physically and mentally healthy during England's Covid-19 lockdown

Dr Sara Kayat speaks to ITV News about how to look after your mental health

A new national Covid lockdown across England means people must stay at home unless for specific limited reasons.

The move - similar to the first UK-wide restrictions imposed in March - will once again have far-reaching implications, not least on mental health and wellbeing.

There are some key differences this time around, however, which might help ease the strain on our mental health.

Clinical psychologist Dr Catherine Huckle has urged people to remember the "basics of mental health".

These include sleep, exercise, social connections, eating well and balancing time between activities that give a sense of achievement and activities that are for fun or relaxation.

Here are some top tips and helpful advice to keep yourself healthy during this time, but do remember medical appointments are still allowed under these restrictions. NHS services, including GPs, remain open should you need to access support.


Good quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel, and NHS guidelines encourage getting enough sleep each night to stay healthy.

A regular sleeping pattern and sticking to good sleep practices will both help.

Most of us need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly, though that figure does vary.

Remember, a lack of sleep can have an impact on your physical health too - just as much as your mental health.


Playgrounds and parks will remain open during the second national lockdown, and people are free to leave their homes for exercise as many times a day as you wish.

Dr Sara Kayat, a GP, told ITV News it was important people "get outside as much as possible, to get fresh air and some sunlight on you."

If you are staying at home, you could try exercising indoors, as there's lots of free online classes - or try an easy 10-minute home workout.

Dr Laurie Santos, a psychologist and cognitive scientist, spoke to ITV News in April and encouraged healthy habits, like working out, as a powerful tools for protecting your mental health.

Research suggests that half an hour of cardio can be as powerful as a prescription of an antidepressant for managing your depression symptoms.

There are lots of options for virtual or livestream at home workouts. Credit: Les Mills

Social connections

Unlike the first lockdown, there are more relaxed rules around social interactions outside of your home.

People are allowed to leave their home with members of their own household, or on their own to meet with one person from another household - a "one plus one" rule.

So you can meet up with a friend in the park for a walk or to sit on a bench and eat a sandwich but it is against the rules to meet in homes and gardens.

Pre-school children are exempt from the "one plus one" rule, so parents with young children can still see a friend outdoors, and childcare arrangements can continue.

Support bubbles will remain in place for those eligible.

If you live alone you can meet up with people in one other household of any size and you do not have to adhere to social distancing regulations.

Zoom has increased in popularity under lockdown. Credit: PA

For other social connections there are ways to keep connected while abiding by the rules thanks to technology. 

We can stay social in virtual ways via video calls, virtual classes or quizzes and host a long distance viewing parties and movie night.

Eating well

Healthy eating goes hand in hand with exercise as one of the key parts of looking after yourself during this time.

You can still leave home to shop for food and essentials and supermarkets are putting in place measures to avoid stockpiling on the most popular items.

A varied, nutritious diet is not only a good way to stay healthy physically and mentally, but preparing a meal can become a meaningful part of your daily routine.

Unicef has compiled some easy, affordable and healthy eating tips to help you through.

Some places of worship have already implemented measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Credit: UTV

Balancing time

NHS mental health guidance encourages people to focus on the things you can control, such as how you act, who you speak to and where you get information from.

This can include trying to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the Covid outbreak too - including on social media.

Dr Kayat told ITV News "self help" activities are really important during lockdown. She advised "trying to stick to certain routines if you can as that's going to help give you a bit more structure when everything else is so uncertain".

As a part of balancing time spent at home you could focus on your favourite hobby, or start a new one.

Read, write, do crosswords or jigsaws, or try drawing and painting. Whatever it is, find something that works for you.

Churches and places of worship will remain open for private prayer during the restrictions, as well as to broadcast acts of worship.