Chats in the Zoom office this week, inspired by Kellie Anderson’s blog on personal prevention strategies sparked sharing of our own little changes we might have made for the better against all the strange WFH/Lockdown/Covid odds.

Annie S. Anderson, SCPN Co-director

It started with the lockdown garage clear out where we discovered our mothers’ old tea sets. Memories of teacups and saucers from our childhood homes which were saved in glass cabinets and taken out only for special visitors (e.g. the minister or visiting aunts from Canada). 

I said, “Why are we keeping these if we don’t use them ?” … and so, we started a new ritual of afternoon tea.  At 4pm we walk away from our keyboards and congregate round the table for our special cup of Earl Grey  and a nibble. Yes, a small afternoon snack gets consumed … often bread and jam, sometimes gingerbread, sometimes oatcakes, sometimes nothing. The most important thing is not what we consume but the pleasure of the break, taken away from our desks and a chance for reflecting on the hours still to work. 

In the office it was a mug of tea, no stopping, no time to think. Making break time matter is new to me – but fast becoming a habit for mind and body.

Meanwhile a new topic of conversation became the back and neck aches and how-to best cope with working on kitchen chairs. My self-help guides suggest exercise stretches, Pilates routines and all the essential stretching that I loathe, but know is good for me. Ten weeks of a 20-minute stretch and move regimen first thing in the morning has done the trick… and what a wonderful way to finish waking up prior to that short sharp bike ride. My commuting time has gone but my stretching time will stay.

Bob Steele, SCPN Co-Director

The habit that I have developed, and which I hope will persist, is daily exercise on my bicycle.  Before lockdown I was a very intermittent and fair-weather cyclist, but, in the early stages of the pandemic, daily cycle rides became a major feature of the day.  Our surrounding countryside and roads lend themselves to cycling and it was a welcome (and legal) release from being cooped up.  My daily distance started at about 5km, but has crept up so that now I would expect to do between 20/30km every day.  Although I still do not relish cycling in the rain, it is rare for there not to be a dry interval long enough to accommodate a decent trip, and owing to the flexible nature of most of my work, I can usually down tools and head out when the clouds part.  Before Covid, the shortening days were a real problem, as it was usually too dark to go out by the time I arrived home.  Now my working day is much more flexible, allowing me to go for a cycle and catch up with work in the evening.

Our weekend trips, on which we tend to go together, tend to be a lot longer, and we took the plunge of buying electric bikes (pedal assist) to extend our range.  However, at the same time I had my push-bike serviced, and it rides so well now that I never use the electric bike for my routine daily excursions.  For the marathons, however, the electric power is wonderful and we have had a lot of fun.  

So, when things become more normal, I hope that I shall be able to maintain this habit, and, given that our working pattern has probably changed permanently, I can see no reason why not!

Dr Suzanne Zaremba, Lecturer in Nutrition, University of Dundee

Working from home means that I can gain valuable hours that otherwise would be spent commuting. Since the start of lockdown, I have found an enjoyable way to fit in a short burst of exercise before the start of my working day. Before I fire up my laptop in the morning, I cycle for 15-20 minutes on my spin bike – this is my new normal way of ‘commuting’ to work. I’m mindful that hours can whizz by whilst sat in front of the screen, so knowing I’ve cycled 5k before 9am helps me on my way of reaching my daily activity goals (I usually aim for 30-60 mins of active time each day). I’m quite the tea jenny which means I’m up putting the kettle on every hour or so giving me good reason to stretch my legs and give my eyes a rest from the screen. I’ve recently started to pay attention to the notifications I receive on my phone about screen time hours, with my aim to spend less time using social media apps.

Dr Christos Theodorakopoulos, Lecturer in Nutrition, Queen Margaret University

I have turned my attention to performing regular muscle stretching since Covid restrictions came in in March. Long desk hours often mean I have some back, neck and shoulder discomfort. Working predominantly at home now allows me to take 5 minute breaks throughout the day to carry out some simple stretches to relieve tension that’s built up in my muscles. Whole body stretching as well as self-massage and mobilisation techniques (using a foam roller, a massage ball or even a tennis/lacrosse ball) have helped a lot with keeping my spine mobile and loosening tight spots.

Lauryn Monahan, SCPN Social Media Editor

During lockdown I found the slower pace of life and lovely weather (for the most part) a real incentive to walk more. I am a busy, single mum which usually leaves little time for much else. But when lockdown hit that all changed, things were quite strange for a while and the uncertainty began to get the better of me. Tired & stressed trying to WFH with a toddler – I needed OUT!

I have always been environmentally conscious, so I decided to ditch the car and walk. It did wonders for my mental health to get out and walk everyday. Even if just to the post office/chemist. I really wouldn’t have considered walking to run those errands previously. Now we have completely made a habit out of it and walk every time. It certainly helps keep my steps up.

I also had a go at growing-my-own fruit and vegetables, with social activities on pause, I felt I needed a new hobby. This had a positive influence on what I was cooking in the kitchen and I found joy in trying out new healthy recipes and getting our 5-a-day.