10 proven ways to beat lockdown fatigue

Rhalou Allerhand, Annie Hayes
·11-min read
Photo credit: Klaus Vedfelt - Getty Images
Photo credit: Klaus Vedfelt - Getty Images

From Netdoctor

During the first lockdown the nation rallied round and performed concerts on their balconies, took up crafting with a vengeance and learned how to bake sourdough bread. But this time around in the midst of a cold winter with no clear end to COVID-19 in sight, the mood is considerably less buoyant.

If you're tempted to curl up under your duvet until spring, you are not alone. But we can and we will get through this together! The first and most important step to surviving lockdown is to look after number one. From sleep quality to stress levels, we speak to the experts about how to shake off the lockdown slump and keep your spirits up in the face of adversity:

1.Exercise exercise exercise

Feeling sluggish at the idea of being stuck at home 24/7? Working out is probably low on your to-do list right now, but regular exercise has been irrefutably proven to fight fatigue and bump up your energy levels, so lace up those trainers and power on through. ‘You may feel you’re too tired to exercise – but being active during the day actually helps you beat tiredness and improves the quality of your sleep,’ says Powell.

Under the new lockdown rules you are allowed outside to exercise once a day, and you get bonus points if you manage an outdoor workout. Research from Newcastle University found that Vitamin D is vital for boosting energy levels. ‘Being in nature boosts our health and wellbeing, so exercising outdoors – whether that’s going for a walk or a HIIT session or in your back garden – is a real wake-up for mind and body,’ says Clarke.

According to the NHS guidelines, adults should aim to do some type of physical activity every single day to stay healthy. But you don't need to be a gym bunny or run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise. Try one of the following to get started:

✔️ Go for a daily walk

Evidence shows that simply walking for just half an hour five days a week is enough to protect your health, so schedule in some time to head outside and reap the benefits.

✔️ Try yoga at home

Studies have shown that just 15 minutes of yoga a day can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, which in turn can improve your overall health and boost your mood, so sign up to an online yoga class. Alternatively, Pilates comes with a host of mind-body benefits.

✔️ Count your steps

Ordinarily counting your steps can be a bit soul destroying, but during lockdown this simple technique can work wonders for your motivation and is a great way to ensure you keep moving. Invest in a pedometer or a smart watch and set a daily target of 10,000 steps, as advised by the NHS.

✔️ Take up running

Running comes with a host of health benefits including improved cardiovascular health and increased metabolism. If you need help getting started, try our beginner’s running plan combining intervals of walking and jogging to help you build up to 30 minutes of continuous running.

✔️ Join Joe Wicks

Joe Wicks is back airing free PE sessions on his Youtube channel at 9am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday so you've got no excuses to get moving!

✔️ Take a chilly dip

Sadly swimming pools are closed during lockdown but if you're lucky enough to live by the sea, cold winter swimming is great for stress reduction, increased metabolism and can even boost your immune system, so be brave and leap into the unknown.

2. Create a strict routine

Life might be starting to feel like Groundhog Day, but humans are creatures of habit and we respond well to routine, so create a life plan and stick to it. If you know exactly what you should be doing and when, you will find it easier to coast through lockdown. Try this:

• Get up and get dressed

Resist the urge to slob about in your PJs and make sure you get up and get dressed at the same time every day. Fresh clothes and a clean face are energising and will help you embrace the day.

• Create a workspace

Don't work on your bed unless you absolutely have to. Create a workspace in another room or a corner facing away from your bed to break sleepy associations and distinguish between rest time and the working day.

• Meal plan

Planning your weekly menu makes supermarket shopping more efficient, helps to reduce food waste and encourages healthy eating. Creating more extravagant meals for the weekend can also be fun and helps to make the monotony of lockdown that little bit easier to bear.

• Schedule your day

From your daily workout to lunch, meetings, mealtimes and rest, during lockdown it's more important than ever to stick to your routine. A clear agenda removes the space for lethargy and creates clear and concise goals, so schedule your time and stick to it.

3. Top up your Vitamin D stores

Nicknamed the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced when sunlight is absorbed by the skin and it's an essential building block for growth, development and your general health.

Recent research published by the University of Cantabria found that 82.2 per cent of 216 coronavirus patients were deficient in Vitamin D. Opinion is divided on the efficacy of taking vitamin D as a supplement to prevent or treat COVID-19 and more research is needed, but ensuring your vitamin D levels are topped up irrespective of the pandemic is a good idea.

During the summer months most people can get all the vitamin D they need through sunlight and a balanced diet. But during the winter everyone (including children over the age of four and pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D. If you're not sure, ask your GP or pharmacist for advice.

⚠️ Do not take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as excessive amounts could be harmful.

4. Go easy on the refined carbs

Following a reclusive Christmas with nothing to do but snack in front of the telly, your eating habits are likely to have changed since the first lockdown. What you eat plays a big role in daytime drowsiness and energy levels, so now is a good time to take stock of your carb intake.

Refined carbohydrates found in white rice, pasta and bread, potatoes, cereals, biscuits and cakes tend to be quickly absorbed, Clarke explains, and the effect they have on your hormones may cause you to feel drowsy. ‘While these can be great store cupboard staples and easy to make into a quick meal, choose a wholegrain version and always try to include some protein in the mix,’ says Jane Clark, dietician and founder of Nourish,. ‘It doesn’t need to be animal protein. A delicious trick I use is to add chickpeas to a tomato pasta sauce.’

Eating and drinking too close to bedtime can also play havoc with your sleep, so it’s best to avoid any late-night meals, adds Dr Luke Powles, associate clinical director for Bupa Health Clinics.

5. Watch your caffeine intake

Many of us swear by a cup of tea or coffee to start the morning, but if you’re relying on caffeine to get through the day, it could be causing the opposite intended effect, instead resulting in lockdown fatigue.

‘Too much caffeine, whether it’s from coffee, tea or that added to energy drinks, can increase levels of anxiety, agitation and restlessness, and impact on sleep, leaving you both wired and tired,’ says Clarke.

Rather than going cold turkey, decrease consumption gradually. You could try swapping your afternoon cup of coffee with a decaf brew, or switch from full-strength teas to herbal varieties.

Photo credit: South_agency - Getty Images
Photo credit: South_agency - Getty Images

6. Check your stress levels

Feeling stressed? If you're juggling the role of parent, teacher and employee simultaneously, you’re worried about a vulnerable family member, or you're simply fed up of COVID-19 (who isn't?) then it's no surprise that your stress levels may be on the rise.

During these testing times it’s normal to feel emotionally exhausted. Stress and anxiety can play havoc with your energy levels. By adopting relaxation strategies such as breathwork or mindfulness meditation, you can reduce the time spent in these states during the day, which can help you feel less drained overall. Try the following stress-busting relaxation techniques:

  • Meditate: Daily relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation can have a huge impact on your wellbeing, relationships, sleep, focus and productivity.

  • Stay connected: Make plans to speak to friends and family every single day. Just 10 minutes on the phone could help you deal with a life stressor and boost your mood.

  • Switch off: Avoid the news and skip social media for at least two hours before bed, otherwise your brain will still be processing the (currently often bad) news when you try to go to sleep.

  • Write it down: Putting pen to paper and writing down your worries can help you make sense of your feelings, release tension and organise your mind. Journaling can also benefit your memory and inspire creativity too.

  • Take some me-time: It sounds counterproductive when you're already stuck at home, but give yourself some time alone to have a rest. Scheduling just 20 minutes a day to paint your toes, read a magazine, take a bath or simply relax can give your brain the rest it needs from the fast paced and stimulus-driven world we live in.

7. Eat plenty of healthy food

You may be less active during lockdown, but you’re still burning calories – most people require a minimum of 1,200 per day so your body can carry out its normal functions effectively, so go easy on the New Year diets and make sure you eat properly. ‘Being undernourished means your body doesn’t get the fuel or the vitamins and minerals you need to maintain your energy and support your immune system’, explains Clarke.

Plus, skipping meals causes your blood sugar levels to fluctuate – and this may also disrupt your sleep. ‘Try to eat regular meals throughout the day,’ she adds. ‘A starchy evening meal, containing rice, pasta, potatoes or bread, can promote a good night’s sleep.’

8. Don't forget to drink water

Keeping well hydrated is crucial for maintaining your energy levels. Common symptoms of dehydration include thirst, fatigue, dizziness and headaches. ‘Constipation is another side effect of low fluid levels, which can leave us feeling uncomfortably bloated and sluggish,’ says Clarke.

Aim to drink at least 1.5 litres – and ideally 2 litres – of fluids per day. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink, as you may already be low in fluids by this point. Instead, sip on herbal teas, squash and diluted juice throughout the day.

‘Going to bed even mildly dehydrated can disrupt your sleep,’ adds Powles. ‘Dehydration causes your mouth and nasal passages to become dry, setting you up for sleep-disruptive snoring and a parched throat in the morning. Focus on drinking plenty of non-caffeinated fluids regularly throughout the day.’

9. Get busy

From fitness classes to work meetings and shopping errands, our days were previously filled with a variety of commitments which kept us busy, but added structure to our day too. During lockdown, if the days feel repetitive and begin to blur into one it’s easy to feel sleepy and unmotivated. Instead, pick up a new book, learn a new recipe, up-cycle your furniture or simply call a friend. Fill in your spare time and you’ll feel more energised for it.

❤️ Remember regular video calls with friends or family are the next best thing to seeing them in real life and as well as making you feel more connected, they can be a lifeline for vulnerable people.

10. Perfect your sleep routine

The nation is entering into a sedentary phase, but with plenty to worry about in the small hours, it's no great surprise that many of us are struggling to get a good night's kip. When your sleep pattern is disordered, your restorative deep sleep and REM sleep suffers, which is essential for waking up feeling refreshed and energised.

‘If it takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep after getting into bed, you regularly wake up more than once per night, or you find yourself staying awake for more than 20 minutes after waking up in the night, you may be experiencing poor quality sleep,’ says Powles.

A change of routine can affect your circadian rhythm, also known as your ‘sleep wake cycle’, which controls the hormones that make you feel alert during the day and sleepy at night. Getting less daylight than usual can affect your cycle, leading to lockdown fatigue.

‘Eating well and establishing a relaxing routine around bedtime can help,’ says Clarke. ‘I love a mug of lavender milk – lavender is renowned for its soporific qualities, and warm milk is instantly comforting.’ Getting up at the same time every day can also help you sleep (and feel) better in the long term.

‘Ensure your sleeping environment is dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature,’ adds Powles. ‘While it’s all too tempting to scroll through social media or watch TV in bed, the light from these devices can suppress your sleep hormone melatonin, which disrupts your sleep. Aim to switch off your devices an hour before bed.’

Last updated: 06-01-2021

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