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The global disruption from COVID-19 has certainly had a daily impact on the students, teachers and communities in the Middle East region. Whilst lockdown restrictions may be easing the return to normality will undoubtedly be a slow and gradual process. Looking after our health, both mentally and physically, has always been of paramount importance but more so now than ever. Despite the limitations, there are plenty of things we can all do to ensure we stay safe and don’t neglect our wellbeing.

Kate Jones, GESS Award winner, best-selling author and teacher in Abu Dhabi and James Goddard Olympic swimmer and Commonwealth champion have collaborated to recommend some simple strategies for looking after yourself, and your children/students, during this period of lockdown limitations. Both Kate and James work closely with students and educators around the world so they know first hand the significance of promoting and supporting general wellbeing. Here are their combined top tips to consider during lockdown when it comes to health:

Educate yourself

Now is the perfect time to find out more about different techniques that will help you and others feel and look healthy. It’s never been easier to find out about health with a wealth of information at our fingertips online but this information can often be overwhelming and even contradictory! A great source of information is the podcast that you can subscribe and listen to for free called Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chaterjee. This podcast contains a vast range of episodes where Dr Chaterjee interviews leading experts and specialists in different fields including a conversation with Matthew Walker author of Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams, plus many more interesting and informative guests all focusing on health. Dr Chaterjee has also published his own books including, Feel Better in 5: Your Daily Plan to Feel Great For Life, where he suggests five-minute strategies guaranteed to have a positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Knowledge is power and knowing how to stay healthy is the knowledge that everyone should be equipped with, as it really does have the power to transform your life. 

Try something new, different and exciting!

In the Middle East, it has been heating up for a while now. James is currently based in Stockport, Manchester in the United Kingdom so he can enjoy the benefits of the warmer weather to exercise outside. This is great but not as easy to do for Kate and the rest of us in the desert heat! Whilst there are times of the day/evening that make it easier to exercise outside now is the time to be creative at home! If you have gym equipment, that’s fantastic but what if you don’t? Do you live on a high floor – could you take the stairs instead of the lift? Don’t have weights but do you have the large water bottles, try those! James advocates mixing up workouts. If you do the same run three times a week your body will get used to it really quickly and you won’t see much adaptation in your muscle. Also, if you are new to running check out the Couch to 5K app and podcast, a fantastic method of transforming anyone into a confident runner! Mix it up with cardio, bodyweight exercises, core workouts, stretches and mobility. You have to trick your body with the different exercises to see and feel those noticeable changes and gains. Be consistent. Be patient.

Routines, routines, routines

Every teacher knows the importance of clear classroom routines and anyone that has competed in sport will tell you that being disciplined to follow clear routines is absolutely essential towards achieving success. Distance learning has interrupted routines and created new sleeping habits and patterns. You may have already established poor routines, eating at later times and Netflix binging have become the new normal for some. It’s important not to be hard on ourselves but perhaps reflect and review our routines. Is there any routine in your life? Do you sleep and wake at specific times or does it vary? Are you eating and drinking consistently and healthily? As the lockdown limitations are still in place we need to adapt and create new routines to promote a healthy lifestyle. Remember to focus on what matters; health. Priya Mitchell School Counsellor and Safeguarding Lead at The British School Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi has said that “Self-care is even more important during COVID. Be like a plant; get your sunshine, water, air and nutrients and don’t forget the exercise to keep those endorphins high”.

Monitor screen time

This might appear to be an obvious piece of advice but it is something to be very mindful of for yourself and those around you. According to a recent Unicef report, there have been about 3 billion people in lockdown around the world and almost 90% of the student population cut off from school with a large majority resorting to online learning. Remote online learning is currently taking place across the Middle East with schools aiming to return in September, depending on the situation but with this, in mind, it is essential to be monitoring screen time. It’s vital to stay connected with friends and family, technology can help us with that. It’s important to keep up to date with current affairs but be aware there is a lot of negative news that can unexpectedly have a negative impact on your general mood and wellbeing. Building regular screen time breaks could become part of your newly established routine. There are apps and software that can monitor and even limit your screen time if you are struggling with self-discipline. When you are being creative at home try to attempt things to do that don’t require technology!

Top tip from Kate: Whilst the idea of learning a new language and baking beautiful bread during lockdown sounds appealing it’s important to prioritise and just keep it simple. Make time for you, others and your health.

Top tip from James: Write out a workout session or have one planned. I find if I’m just making something up on the spot I’m a lot less motivated. If it’s written down it’s a lot easier to get through and you have a concrete session to stick to.

You can follow Kate on Twitter @87history and James @JamesGoddard83