Have you picked up these new habits without realising since coronavirus hit?
PUBLISHED: 19:06 21 August 2020
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People across Suffolk have been urged to assess their habits since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, with many likely to have picked up new routines both good and bad without realising.
With thousands of people across the county having been furloughed or working from home, and children having been schooled from the dining room table for much of the last five months, ordinary routines preparing for work, school and even social life have changed.
It has prompted OneLife Suffolk and Public Health Suffolk to launch a new project aimed at helping families prepare their children for the return to school in September by getting a full night’s sleep and being active.
MORE: How to help children prepare for return to school
But adults may also have picked up new habits both helpful and unhealthy which they may be unaware of. Dr Sophie Edwards, clinical health psychologist at OneLife Suffolk said now was a good time to evaluate those habits.
“In terms of habits, it felt like everything changed overnight, it felt like it was sprung upon us, and habits are really our brain’s way of saving time and energy, doing automatic things every day,” she said.
“There have been some really positive impacts while others have really struggled.”
Among the unhealthy common ones people have picked up have been going to bed later and getting up later in the mornings as the morning commute has been reduced to a walk from the kitchen to the dining table; increased screen time as people pick up their tablets or phones more; snacking more on comfort food or reduced levels of exercise with gyms having been closed.
Dr Edwards said making sure people were not working in bed was key to helping create some separation from home and work life while that was all under the same roof, and keeping bed times consistent would help ensure it was less of a problem.
She added: “Particularly for families going back to school soon it’s good to look at those sleep routines now instead of expecting children to snap back into their old routines.
“With children, it’s a good time to start cutting that [screen time] down. If you want to start a new habit you have got to make it as easy as possible, and if it is about breaking bad habits it is about putting barriers up to that.”
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However, while many will have inevitably picked up poor routines other positive ones have emerged.
OneLife said it had noticed an increase in people who have found the extra time from cancelled events or extra curricular activities good for family cohesion, particularly at mealtimes.
Others include people checking in with loved ones, neighbours and friends more frequently, appreciating their gardens and walks in the park more or dedicating more time to new hobbies or ones that have fallen by the wayside in recent years. Dr Edwards said people should also consider those positives and attempt to continue those to help with their health and wellbeing.
“A lot are unconscious, we do things without thinking about them so keeping things like food diaries, sleep diaries and exercise diaries are ways of keeping an awareness of your behaviour and starting to make changes you want to do,” she said.
“I think it is important people don’t try and change all of their habits all at one time, but focus on what is important for you and your family.
“People assume health and wellbeing is just about exercise and eating, but it is also thinking about the other impacts – the social aspect, helping out other people, reducing stress and being present in the moment are really important too.”
As pupils prepare for the return of school and more people return to their offices and workplace, Dr Edwards said easing back into the necessary routines now was a good step.
Another tip for those looking at introducing a new positive habit into their life has included linking them with existing habits. For example, someone wishing to eat more fruit may find it easier by linking it with their mid-morning coffee if that is a habit that is already ingrained.
Dr Edwards added: “People should not be too judgemental of themselves.
“We have families and people beating themselves up about eating habits like comfort eating in lockdown or doing less exercise, not being perfect with home schooling. People need to appreciate they are living in a global pandemic. There is no manual, people weren’t prepared so don’t beat yourself. You have coped as best you could.”
OneLife programmes and advice in health and wellbeing such as quitting smoking and dieting are continuing despite coronavirus.
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