The stringent lockdown measures have placed an unprecedented stress on our public services - stretching hospitals, emergency services and key worker industries alike.
The stresses have also been felt by us, at home. Whether we're shielding, working from home or looking after children, it's clear that staying healthy has never been more important.
We asked experts in their fields from around the East for their tips on how to stay healthy during lockdown.
Mental HealthWe asked Mark Gatland, lead counsellor at Good Mental Health counselling in Cambridge how we can look after our mental health at this time.
How important is it to be vigilant in monitoring our mental health during lockdown?
Mental health issues can creep up on us and they are always harder to deal with once they get going. Check in with yourself daily as to how you’re feeling. Are things getting worse and if so what can you do to try and improve the situation? Nobody is immune to struggling in a situation like this so it is very important to be vigilant of our own mental health and those around us. Often just checking how people are can be enough to help them greatly if they are dealing with low levels of anxiety or depression.
What kinds of things might people be experiencing at this time?
An increase in anxiety is completely natural when faced with any health fears. The mind is aware of potential danger and so triggers a fight or flight response. This leads to a heightened sense of awareness that can be interpreted as being “on edge” all of the time. Typical anxiety symptoms are: increased heart rate, difficulty controlling breathing, light-headedness, sweating, trembling and tiredness.
How can people make sure they stay mentally healthy?
Do your best to avoid the constant coverage, anything important will be repeated numerous times so you can catch up with events in one go. Keep in touch with people, isolation is one of the worse things for people’s mental health so it is very important to keep up relationships and stay in contact. Make full use of modern forms of communication and try and do it daily. Where you can, try and keep to a routine and build exercise in to it as this greatly improves mental health.
Where can people seek help if they need it?
Counselling services like ours are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week which is important because the night time is often when symptoms can be worse. Mental health charities are all increasing their capacity and are readily available. If things get really bad then contact your GP and they will be able to put you in touch with the crisis team. Failing all else The Samaritans are always available if you are in need of urgent help.
Physical healthWe asked John Brewer, Visiting Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Suffolk how we can stay physically fit during lockdown.
Watch the interview below
General healthWe asked Dr Emma Tiffin, Peterborough GP, how we can look after our general health during the lockdown.
How can people monitor their health at home?
It can be helpful to monitor your diet, exercise and how you feel mentally in order to help you look after your health as best possible. I suggest keeping a daily diary so that you become familiar with your personal patterns, recognise any changes and focus on having a healthy lifestyle as best possible. There are also self assessment tools and apps that can help you to do this and are available for free via the NHS Apps Library (www.nhs.uk)
When should we be approaching GP or other health services?
When you are worried about a health symptom and/ or do not feel able to self-manage it is the right thing to do to contact your GP surgery. If it is an immediate emergency (such as acute chest pain) it is best to dial 999.
How important is it that people still come forward for help if they're really worried?
It is really important. We do not want people worrying (which in itself has a negative effect on health) and it is often easy for us to reassure with some short advice if it is clear that there is no serious problem. Even more importantly we do not want to miss (or delay diagnosis of) conditions that could be serious or even life threatening, for example cancer.
Have you noticed a drop in the number of people coming forward?
Yes (and this is confirmed by national data) , although in my surgery it does feel as though more people are starting to contact us with non-covid type symptoms.
What's your message for patients during lockdown?
Eat healthily (check out the NHS Eatwell Guide), exercise regularly (NHS fitness studio has great advice) and stay connected to friends, family and your local community.