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Pandemics and the vital role of self care

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Care and support, Communities, coronavirus, Public health
A man and his mother sitting on a park bench
As the UK’s coronavirus lockdown continues to ease, it remains just as important to protect ourselves and others from the risk of infection. More broadly, we should be doing all we can to maintain and sustain our physical and mental wellbeing.

Guarding against complacency

Self care is at the heart of how individuals, organisations and communities are responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The advice to ‘stay home, save the NHS and save lives’ has been a powerful message, which also represents an opportunity for us all to embrace the notion of self care, not just for the duration of this pandemic, but beyond.

Simple advice, including effective hand washing, staying at home and socially distancing have undoubtedly helped to suppress the virus, empower communities and improve the environment around us.

However, an unintended side effect has meant some people have not been seeking help and advice early enough for other health issues. Self care does not mean no care!

That said, we have seen widespread positive behaviour change…

Cigarette butts to signify giving up smoking
300,000 smokers in the UK may have quit during the outbreak, according to research by Imperial College London and Action on Smoking and Health.

A new, healthier reality?

  • Exercise: people have had more time to get fit, whether it is through daily routines with Joe Wicks, the nation’s favourite PE teacher, installing home gyms, or exercising outdoors.
  • Nutrition: diets have improved thanks to fast food outlets and takeaways being less accessible. Celebrity chefs, including Jamie Oliver and Tom Kerridge, have stepped in to support the nation in cooking simple, healthy meals.
  • Smoking: An amazing 300,000 smokers in the UK may have quit during the outbreak, according to research by Imperial College London and Action on Smoking and Health. Smoking lowers immunity levels, a possible incentivising factor for both smokers and non-smokers considering what else they can do to protect themselves.
  • Family time: the health benefits of spending quality time with our family members, including our pets, should not be discounted either, as illustrated by the dachshund who broke his tail through excessive wagging because he was so pleased to have his family at home.

Our hope is that some of these healthy behaviours will be adopted longer term to help stave off the effects of a potential second wave. As we move into the winter, the public may need more encouragement and support to maintain this practice.

Self Care Week 2020A potentially life changing week

Which is why the Self Care Forum is urging people-facing organisations to get involved in Self Care Week.  Held from 16 – 22 November with the theme “Live Self Care for Life,” its timing will be perfect to reignite enthusiasm for our principles.

As well as reiterating messages around hand hygiene and social distancing, it will be an ideal time to communicate our core messages promoting healthy eating, vitamin supplements, regular exercise and maintaining social connections to boost mental and physical wellbeing. Emphasizing all this in the context of a pandemic situation will makes this week of awareness-raising more critical than ever.

Reminding people not to delay seeking help if they have physical and mental health concerns will also remain front and centre. Early intervention is part of self caring. Primary care has made considerable steps in improving online and remote consultations for people and we mustn’t forget the essential role pharmacists play who remain a vital resource in our communities.

Last year, over one thousand organisations got involved in Self Care Week 2019. With so many voices promoting and encouraging our ethos, messages are elevated and strengthened, extending their reach and engagement.

For help getting started in your home, organisation or community, resources are available on our website.

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be with us for quite some time to come, so it is imperative for individuals and society to be able to manage this new reality and mitigate risks as best they can.

The lockdown has influenced the personal and professional behaviours of all of us. The adoption of a self care way of life should be another thing we all have in common – the pursuit of longer, healthier, happier lives.

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