The period we are living in, because of COVID-19, can be a source of stress for several factors, fear for oneself and others, the difficulty getting used to change and living according to the restrictive measures put in place by the Government, the need to share home spaces with more people with different needs and times or for those who live alone, the lack of social relationships.

As Professor Daniela Lucini, Head of the Exercise Medicine and Functional Pathologies Section of Humanitas and Director of the School of Sports Medicine and Physical Exercise at the University of Milan explains: “We need to distinguish the stress linked to a condition over which I have no control (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) and which worries me, from the stress caused by the feeling of having so many things to do or having to do them differently.

In general, stress affects health in two ways, with the onset of symptoms such as; insomnia, tiredness, fatigue, tachycardia and inducing a change in our behaviour and therefore in our lifestyle. It is therefore good to act on two fronts: safeguarding one’s health and that of others and adopting small healthy habits that can make a difference to our health”.

Avoid getting sick and protect others

“First of all, it should be stressed that it is normal to feel anxiety, fear and bewilderment about the COVID-19 emergency, the opposite would be worrying. Anxiety and uncertainty, however, should not guide our behaviour, leading us to make unfounded choices, such as running to the supermarket. Instead, where we can, we must regain control of the situation and put everything in place when possible, both to avoid getting sick and to protect others. Stay at home for real, wash our hands properly, disinfect the surfaces we come into contact with, such as the phone, the computer, the mouse.” continues Professor Lucini.

Proceed with small objectives

“To contain stress related to things to do or changes in routine, it is essential to organize and not give in to panic or discomfort. I suggest, for example, to make a daily list of things to do, including work, having in mind the objectives and necessary steps of each day are of great help, also to avoid falling into the temptation to procrastinate”.

A healthy lifestyle

“The need to stay at home and the changes imposed on our lifestyle could lead to its deterioration, instead, we must strive to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle as far as possible. Staying at home can and should become an opportunity to improve without falling into the temptation of letting oneself go lazy on the couch, eating wildly, smoking and not engaging in any exercise”.

The importance of exercise

“Exercise is important for physical well-being (it strengthens the cardiovascular system, counteracts obesity, promotes bone renewal) and mental health (with exercise the body releases several neurotransmitters, such as endorphins also called wellness hormones) and is therefore particularly effective in combating stress.

In general, those who do not exercise complain about lack of time. At the moment, however, those who are at home and usually go to work have the time they usually spend traveling and part of that time can be spent doing exercise. It is possible, for those who have them at home, to exercise with exercise bikes, treadmills or elliptical exercise machines, do body weight exercises, continue with the exercises that were performed during the sports courses that you may have enrolled in, consult online programs or apps that offer simple exercises within your reach. It takes just 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise (walking, exercise bike, treadmill or elliptical exercise, etc.) at moderate intensity to improve your health. The important thing is not to overdo it and use appropriate clothing and footwear at home to avoid getting hurt”.

Organise yourself to eat well and in a balanced way

“Being at home means having the possibility to choose what to eat, but it also implies the need to cook and therefore it is important to organize oneself.”

First of all, because at home we have everything at hand, it is good to eat at set times and avoid temptations while working or studying. I suggest establishing good habits, taking advantage of being at home. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon we can take a break with fresh fruit, a juice, a milkshake or a yoghurt.

As far as lunch and dinner are concerned, the key word is planning. We make a weekly plan of what we will eat, this will allow us not to improvise and therefore not to fall into the risk of eating badly or in an unvarying way and to do the shopping once, thus limiting the expenses”.

Let’s aim at good habits

“The COVID-19 pandemic certainly represents a challenge for each of us and requires us to rethink the times, spaces and priorities of our lives. Staying at home for a long time may not be easy, but it can also represent a precious opportunity to take care of our lifestyle, introducing some changes that over time will become a good habit”, concluded Professor Lucini.