DR MAX THE MIND DOCTOR: Unleash your creativity and feel SMILES better

DR MAX THE MIND DOCTOR: Unleash your creativity and feel SMILES better during the coronavirus lockdown

  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

How has it been for you? A month in lockdown and with no reprieve in sight, it’s starting to feel like a life sentence, isn’t it?

One day collapses into another and I’ve forgotten what a weekend feels like anymore.

This new way of living hasn’t been easy on our emotional wellbeing — even mine.

In fact, when the lockdown was first implemented, I had a wobble. I’d spent the day at the hospital where I work, frantically discharging patients and changing service provision so we could accommodate the predicted influx of coronavirus patients.

Unleash your creativity and feel smiles better during the coronavirus lockdown, writes DR MAX THE MIND DOCTOR

On the way home, I stopped off at Tesco and suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed. I wanted it all to be over and to be able to resume normal life. But then I looked around the supermarket, and it occurred to me that everyone else would be feeling the same.

And that’s what gave me some comfort: the realisation that we really are all in this together.

Given the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in — almost 20,000 deaths and counting from the Covid-19 virus — it’s normal to feel frustrated or angry, lonely, confused, scared or anxious. Or all of the above!

Which is why it’s important to be prepared for the inevitable wobble — like my Tesco moment — to prevent it from having a more profound impact on our mental health.

That’s why I’m proud to be the ambassador for Public Health England’s Every Mind Matters campaign — backed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — which this week promoted simple steps to help people look after their mental health.

The campaign originally launched last October, but we felt there was a need for updated tips and advice.

So here are some tried-and-tested tips for coping with ongoing lockdown:

1. Physical and mental wellbeing are related, so get working out each day. There are online classes in everything from yoga to Tai chi and boxing, and numerous celebrity DVDs to inspire.

2. Prioritise sleep — early to bed and early to rise, etc.

3. Take a deep breath every now and then. Slow, measured breathing relaxes your mind and switches you off from the outside world.

It’s important to be prepared for the inevitable wobble to prevent it from having a more profound impact on our mental health

4. Stay positive! The way we think, feel and behave are all linked. Make positive thinking a habit and you’ll be better prepared to handle adversity.

5. Don’t be afraid to share your worries and seek support. We all need help sometimes. (And be there for others feeling the same way.)

6. Make the most of the extra time that working from home (WFH) gives you. Challenge your brain by learning a language, take up puzzles or tackle that classic novel you feel you must read. It will take your mind off things, while setting goals is a great way to feel a sense of achievement.

7. Create a routine. There is so much uncertainty right now and regular routines give both children and adults an increased feeling of safety and certainty. Make a plan for each day, to include time for work, meals, relaxing and exercising. Speaking of eating…

8. Stick to regular meal and bed times. When WFH, there’s also a temptation to stay in bed or work longer hours.

9. Don’t forget to plan for when you are feeling down. Call a friend, listen to music or have a candle-lit bath — whatever works for you.

10. Unleash your creativity — paint, draw, write poems, take pictures or simply colour in! You’ll discover a side of yourself that you never knew existed. 

Soldiers can help NHS win this fight

Military personnel have criticised the NHS for its ‘appalling’ handling of distributing PPE. They claimed NHS logistics were ‘knackered’ and questioned why certain key items were not being rationed.

A soldier takes a swab from a key worker at a drive-through testing station at Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey

The Army has now been called in to help get equipment to frontline service. Bring it on, I say!

A colleague working at a testing centre where the Army has been helping out says she is astonished at how they ‘just got stuff done’.

In situations like this, you realise how much time is wasted in the NHS because of bureaucracy and red tape. It brings to mind the Nike slogan ‘Just do it’.

Perhaps the NHS could do with some military know-how, discipline, efficiency and logistics expertise.

I worry about the impact of the pandemic on children’s education. It is estimated that two-thirds of pupils have failed to log into online lessons, while pupils at private schools are twice as likely to receive daily online classes as those in state schools.

I fear the poorest will fall even further behind in their studies, making it almost impossible for them to catch up — leading to even more inequality in society. Sir Michael Wilshaw, former head of Ofsted, said Year 10 and 12 students may have to repeat a year of school to catch up.

I agree — and I hope this is rolled out even further. Yes it will be costly and complicated to organise. But students must be given the best opportunities available, and if this means they have to stay on a year extra at school, then so be it.

 Why all lives must count

This lockdown is not without consequences. Just as it is saving some lives, it will end up costing others.

The NHS is urging hospitals to reconfigure surgical cancer services to create ‘Covid-free hubs’ and so minimise delays in treating cancer patients

We have already seen spikes in non-corona deaths, possibly due to victims of heart attacks or strokes not getting the treatment they need in time from an over-stretched NHS. We will see these numbers grow.

In the Mail this week, Professor Karol Sikora warned that there may be up to 50,000 extra deaths from cancer in the years to come because of diagnostic scans, treatment and surgery delayed due to the Covid-19 crisis, and the suspension of breast, cervical and bowel cancer screening programmes.

That’s why I’m pleased that the NHS is urging hospitals to reconfigure surgical cancer services to create ‘Covid-free hubs’ and so minimise delays in treating cancer patients. The aim is to reassure people with non-corona conditions that they will get treated in hospital if they need it.

Yes, the lockdown is helping avoid coronavirus deaths, but we must constantly evaluate the repercussions on other patients so that they do not become collateral damage of this pandemic.

The speed with which scientists have responded to the Covid-19 crisis is awe-inspiring. Scientists at Oxford University started trials for the first vaccine on Thursday, and will test it on about 500 volunteers by mid-May.

If that proves successful, they will give it to thousands more volunteers.

That’s astonishingly fast, considering how complex developing a vaccine is. And we didn’t even know the coronavirus existed six months ago.

We Brits are tough on ourselves and often dwell on failure. But it’s important to remember that we have a rich history and many landmark achievements in medicine and science — not least that our own Dr Edward Jenner created the first vaccine in 1796 using cowpox material to inoculate against smallpox. We gave the world vaccines and now we are leading the search for this one. For a little island, we don’t do too badly.

Dr Max Prescribes… Benefits of eating black garlic

Regular consumption of garlic is said to alleviate high blood pressure and excess cholesterol — and there are claims that it can even reduce the risk of contracting certain cancers.

So you may not be surprised to hear that I try to eat it every day. It’s certainly good for social distancing! But I’ve recently come across black garlic, created by ageing regular white garlic until the cloves turn black, soft and sticky.

It tastes surprisingly sweet and is odourless. Add it to any dish or eat the cloves on their own. It’s the perfect solution for those who don’t like the taste of garlic but still want the health benefits.


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