HEALTH AFTER LOCKDOWN: An Opportunity To Change
While those weeks of lockdown are, hopefully, forever behind us there are some things we may now reflect upon in how we lead our lives in the future.
Most of us were thrown into a sudden stage of “go slow” in March and it was pretty alien to most people.
Confined to home and a 2km limit that gradually extended, what did we learn?
For me as a healthcare professional, there were some interesting revelations. It is very likely that our busy, BUSY and stressful lifestyles have been affecting health without us really thinking about it.
A study from University Hospital Limerick showed a clear reduction in the incidence of preterm labour among pregnant women during lockdown- this statistic is now being replicated in other countries. The number of premature babies born went down. Were women less stressed? Were their lifestyles healthier? We will probably never really know why this happened.
Anecdotal evidence among my own patients showed that my pregnant diabetic patients had significant improvements in health. These women say they were after slowing down, had time to cook healthy food and exercise. No more rushing, eating erratically and collapsing on the sofa after work in the evening.
Because of lockdown fertility services were shut down. Amazingly some of our couples were pregnant after the restrictions were lifted when we rang them to start treatment.
It makes one wonder what we should be doing in our future lives to try and replicate these facts.
We know people still have to work and earn a living. But many people are now saying that they will never again get back on the hamster wheel of “Pre-Covid”. Yet we could all slip back.
And for many people it has been an exceedingly stressful and difficult time. Can we change our lifestyles, even marginally?
Being stressed on a constant basis impacts our health hugely. Constantly high cortisol (the stress hormone) affects our blood sugars, our blood pressure, our physical and mental health. It hugely affects fertility.
Finding balance in our lives is important. Find a small amount of time every day as “me time”.
Technology allowed people to do online classes such as Yoga or mindfulness. People learned to walk the dog, spend time with their families and incorporate exercises such as walking / running / cycling into their lives. We learned that the Irish weather shouldn’t stop that.
We need to continue this “Me Time” going forward.
Sleep and Work Life Balance
Getting adequate sleep is extremely important for everyone. It is when our bodies repair themselves.
Again, modifying our lives is necessary. No “pings” of notifications or emails at midnight is vital. Limiting screen time and coffee or other stimulants is necessary.
Pacing ourselves is important. Talking to people who have returned to work recently I think we know this. No matter what their profession, people feel they are providing a better quality service to clients because things are less rushed.
Working from Home: The Good and The Bad
There were many people who were allowed to work from home as lockdown started; it was perceived as a temporary measure. Working from home takes some discipline and does not suit everybody or every job.
If this is something you plan to continue, make sure you can structure it into your day / week.
It is crucial to ensure your workstation is safe and appropriate. We met many people working off kitchen tables etc. who developed soft tissue problems. There are a number of physiotherapists in our County who specialise in ergonomic assessments, then ensuring you are supplied with the correct work station is important. Employers have been amazed at how productive people have been while working from home.
But there is a sociable aspect to work- meeting people for coffee, catching up on news and networking These are also important and ZOOM meetings do not cut it. So getting out and about might mean looking at splitting your week between home and your workplace.
Changes in How We Now Deliver Healthcare
In an effort to make our hospitals and clinics safer during COVID most non-urgent procedures and appointments were postponed.
Now that this phase has passed it is important that people touch base with their doctors to ensure a medical condition is not allowed to worsen.
COVID has catapulted the concept of “Virtual Consultations” into healthcare. At The Scotia Clinic we had a trial of new software, T-PRO, to carry out as many consultations as possible that were suitable. Our biggest impasse was the poor broadband in Kerry. However, it is here to stay. We can carry our assessments face to face and put a care plan in place.
We have been delighted to see how interested people are in now attending, virtually or otherwise, for health checks since lockdown. This period of reflection has seen an increase in people attending for checks on all aspects of their health.
Who needs a heath check? It is often good to look back on the health of your parents to see if there is a condition such as osteoporosis, diabetes or a hereditary condition. Putting a health plan in place sooner rather than later is a great idea.
My Take Home Message is that if some good will come out of the last few months it is that we know that we should make some sustainable changes to our lives to improve our health.
Our life expectancy in Ireland is now 84 years for women and 80 years for men. So let’s make these healthy years!!!!