Selfcare in the time of a pandemic

Lockdown Lessons | Prof Renata Schoeman

Globally, we’ve had to acclimatise to the new concept of lockdown in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus and in South Africa, we’ve exceeded 100 days of lockdown.  Although many have suddenly experienced the “freedom” of working from home, it has also brought significant challenges such as balancing work and home life.  The demands from the children, worrying about your health and those of loved ones, financial anxiety.  Physical distancing, the wearing of the “dreaded” masks and social isolation have been very taxing. Which is why selfcare in the time of a pandemic is more important than usual!

What is the impact of the lockdown on the emotional and physical health of retirees? 

We know that those above the age of 60 are more vulnerable to contract Covid-19. During your silver years, you are more likely to suffer from physical illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiac disease.  Some medications prescribed to assist with these conditions, could possibly reduce your immunity.  Physical distancing is therefore vital for this high-risk age group, which unfortunately means no physical contact with your children, grandchildren, and friends.

Due to the rules laid down by the government, it is also highly likely that you are not maintaining your exercise regime at present: no Pilates or yoga classes, aquarobics, or gyms can be accessed, and few of us have the motivation to exercise in isolation.  Wearing a mask during exercise is also challenging, but necessary.  Add the nightmare of your spectacles fogging up and it becomes quite an ordeal! 

Social isolation is an adverse consequence of physical distancing.  While physical distancing is so important for your physical safety, it comes with a huge emotional price.  Retirees are prone to social isolation, and are often not as equipped to use electronic platforms for communication, although I am very impressed how my mom is using Zoom for everything from trustee meetings, talking to the grandchildren abroad, to attending the bird club meetings! 

If your lifeline is your book club friends, the quilters’ guild, and your weekly tea-outings with your daughter, then the lockdown may be specifically hard for you.  Symptoms of anxiety and depression may appear, and grief may resurface. Loneliness may become a reality. However, many grandparents have also suddenly become the care givers of grandchildren, as their parents had to return to work while schools are still closed. 

Exercise in any shape or form is great for selfcare!
Healthy food should be a priority for sustained wellbeing.

What can you do to survive lockdown and maintain your emotional and physical well-being to ensure selfcare in the time of a pandemic?

  • Keep to your daily routine. Get up and be ready for the day. Don’t lounge around in your pajamas. Plan your day, make a to-do-list, and at the end of the day, reflect on what you have seen, experienced, and accomplished. Practice gratitude.
  • Stay “in the loop”. Take initiative and create WhatsApp groups for your friends and clubs. Stay connected. Schedule video calls. Check in with people you know who are alone and possibly even more lonely than usual.
  • Maintain your selfcare routine – think SEEDSS of selfcare.
      • SLEEP. Maintain your regular sleeping pattern. Avoid daytime naps as it reduces the quality and quantity of your night-time sleep
      • EXERCISE. The ideal is exercising for at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes. Walking is one of the most effective exercises. Remember to add some resistance training and regular stretching to maintain flexibility.
      • EDUCATE. Keep your brain active. You will have more time at hand to read, try a new knitting pattern, do an online course, play Sodoku and build puzzles. Travel from your sofa – watch travel programmes and immerse yourself in learning about new places and things.
      • DIET. Although you should limit your outings to shops, try to keep your diet fresh and wholesome. Shop online or ask your children or neighbours help you with shopping and delivering. Do not fall into the trap of only eating sandwiches
      • SOCIALISE. Yes, socialise! Although physical distancing is required, try not socially isolate yourself. Be creative. Use technology for virtual ‘kuiers’.
      • SPIRITUALITY. This could include “attending” organised religious activities such as online church broadcasts or the practice of mindfulness and gratitude.
About the author
Prof Renata Schoeman

Prof Renata Schoeman (MBChB, MSocSc, MMed, FC Psych, PhD, MBA) has been in full-time private practice since 2008. She practises as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) and has special interests in cognition (i.e. disorders affecting attention, concentration, learning and memory – such as ADHD and dementia), eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and obesity), mood disorders and anxiety disorders.


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