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Joaquim Chaves Saúde | Dr. António Fonte – Healthy Lifestyle / Better Mental Health



Joaquim Chaves Saúde | Dr. António Fonte – Healthy Lifestyle / Better Mental Health

On Wednesday 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 epidemic had reached the pandemic level.

With the declaration of a state of emergencydue to the COVID-19 illness, the exceptional and temporary measures implemented, such as social distancing, quarantine and confinement, among others, although necessary, clearly understandable and voluntarily accepted, interfere with multiple stabilising and regulating factors for good mental health in our daily lives.

Habits, customs and routines are no longer what we were accustomed to, and our daily schedules and rhythms were suddenly disrupted.

Behaviours, whether “biological”, “psychological” or “cultural”, usually go hand-in-hand, and are conditioned and regulated by our Biological Clock.

Each person has their own Biological Clock, with its own rhythm –Chronotype– that varies from person to person. Some people are morning people– waking up early and cheerful – while others are afternoon people– who tend to go to bed late and have more energy and motivation in the early afternoon.

The different chronotypes may change with age, and affect or be affected by daily routines, according to lifestyle, for example.

It is the Biological Clock that keeps our body and behaviour in tune with the day-night, 24-hour cycle.

The current limitations may lead to difficulty in synchronising our biological rhythms. The absence of physical social contact, regular routines, work and school schedules, and the added difficulty of reconciling teleworking with the constant presence of children at home (demanding attention and care, as well as support with school work) and the distance and lack of interaction and support from close relatives, friends and neighbours, may disorganise and disrupt our Biological Clock.

Disturbing the rhythm of daily activities disrupts the Biological Clock and may lead to sleep problems, lack of appetite, less energy and motivation, as well as depression.

Establishing routines and observing them has been extremely important to keep the Biological Clock synchronised, improve quality of life and maintain good mental health.

Strategies to maintain regular daily routines

- Establish a routine for yourself. Routines help stabilise your Biological Clock.

- Always wake up at around the same time. A regular waking hour is the most important component to regulate your Biological Clock.

- Take brief outings, with caution and justification, preferably in the morning. The Biological Clock is regulated by the day-night cycle.

- If you cannot go out, try to place yourself near a window for at least 2 hours, facing outside.

- Establish regular schedules for daily activities, such as work, activities with the family, school support, phoning friends and domestic chores.

- Exercise every day, preferably at the same time.

- Take meals at the same time every day. If you are not hungry, eat something light and healthy.

- Social interaction is important. Share thoughts, emotions and future prospects with your family and/or friends in real time (using video call, phone or other means to communicate remotely). Be imaginative and effective in conversations with your family and group of friends.

- Avoid taking naps. If you do nap, these should not exceed 30 minutes.

- Avoid being exposed to bright lights. The bluish light of screens (computers, tablets and mobile phones) suppresses the hormone that induces and facilitates sleep, melatonin. When using a screen at night, try to do so for short periods and never in bed.

- Establish a schedule for sleeping and waking. Choose a timetable that adapts best to your own rhythm and observe it daily.

“Tanta a tormenta, tanta a vontade” Fernando Pessoa(adaptation – Such was the torment, such was the will)

Dr.António Fonte -Psychiatrist


SOURCE: The Covid-19 Pandemic and Emotional Wellbeing: Tips for Healthy Routines and Rhythms During Unpredictable Times, Psychiatric Times, March 30, 2020.

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