Take care of yourself

It’s easy to forget that Covid-19 is not the only threat to our health right now, and as restrictions begin to ease in Ireland, it’s important we don’t neglect our overall health and wellbeing.

For example, heart disease it still the number one killer in Ireland with approximately 10,000 people dying each year from often preventable heart-related illnesses according to the HSE.

A balanced diet and regular exercise are two of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy heart, but during a year of exhausting lockdowns and ever-changing restrictions, many of us have found it difficult to keep up healthy habits.

Now, with the county ours to explore once again and with outdoor sports facilities such as pitches and tennis courts set to reopen next week, it’s important that we get back to healthy ways and get moving again.

Habits like alcohol consumption and smoking have also been affected by the lockdown according to multiple surveys carried out last year by Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO).

One such survey asked respondents aged 18 and over if their alcohol consumption had increased since the introduction of Covid-19 restrictions, with 22.2 per cent saying that it had.

The survey also found that 30.5 per cent of respondents who were smokers said their tobacco intake had increased noticeably.

According to the HSE, now is a great time to quit smoking as it helps build your natural resistance to all types of infections including Covid-19.

The HSE website has an entire section dedicated to helping smokers to quit for good. To sign up for a Quit Plan, visit hse.ie/wellbeing/quit-smoking for more information.

Our eating habits have also taken a hit with delicious takeaway options now more available and more tempting than ever before.

Unsurprisingly, the same CSO survey recorded a dramatic increase in the consumption of junk food and sweets with 45.4 per cent of respondents admitting to eating more takeaway and unhealthy foods during the pandemic.

It’s fair to say the reason for all of these changes in our collective behaviour comes down to one underlying factor - the effect the pandemic has had on our mental health.

Those two words have been thrown about a lot in the last year, often irresponsibly, but the fact remains that everyone has been emotionally affected by Covid-19 in one way or another.

On its website, the HSE lists increased anxiety, stress and irritability as just some of the more common emotional changes we might encounter in ourselves or those around us.

To counteract these negative feelings, the HSE suggests keeping a “realistic perspective” on the pandemic based on facts and to set limits on your news and social media exposure.

It also highlights the importance of healthy routines and daily structure as well as paying special attention to your needs and feelings.

We’re not out of this by a longshot, but we can make small changes to our own lives and we can look after each other.

To summarise in Corkonian terms, look after yourself and stay in by the wall!