GPs give top tips for maintaining health during lockdown

The Royal College of GPs is encouraging people to take steps to care for both their physical and mental health during the second national lockdown.

During the first lockdown, GPs anecdotally reported an increase in patients presenting with anxiety and depression, particularly in those who have pre-existing physical and mental health conditions.

GP services are available for people with both physical and mental health problems during lockdown, as they have been throughout the coronavirus pandemic – and the RCGP is again urging patients who are concerned about their health to seek medical help. But there are also things patients can do to safeguard their physical and mental health during lockdown and, in line with of this year’s Self Care Week, the college has collated some simple but effective ‘top tips’ – taking into consideration seasonal challenges - to support them to do so.

Among the tips for maintaining good mental health, the RCGP recommends: trying to take a daily walk, run or exercise outdoors during daylight hours because this will help with vitamin D intake, and vitamin D can support better sleep and reduce stress levels; eating a balanced diet full of fruit and vegetables and try to avoid an over-reliance on fast food and fried food; learning something new - whether it’s a new hobby, skill or book this will help to occupy the mind; and keeping in touch with friends and family - this can be done digitally via virtual platforms or telephone calls.

Among the tips for maintaining good physical health, the RCGP recommends: ensuring that your chosen activity is a part of your routine; finding a ‘staying active buddy’; using apps and technology to your advantage – you can download free fitness apps or opt for a virtual workout class in the comfort of your home; and setting a challenge, such as the NHS couch to 5K challenge.

Dr Faraz Mughal, a GP in Birmingham and RCGP Clinical Advisor, said: “Having lived through the experience of one national lockdown, GPs and our teams are acutely aware of the impact that a lockdown has on the mental and physical health of our patients. Anything that can be done to reduce the lockdown related symptoms that were highlighted last time should be encouraged.

“Loneliness, constant negative news and worry often leads to low mood, depression and hopelessness which are all risk factors for self-harm and suicidal behaviour. However, there can be benefit in taking control of one’s health and maintaining good habits - we hope that patients find these tips below useful.”