Self-care during COVID-19

Alumna Dr Preeya Alexander (MBBS 2010) shares her top tips for managing our health and supporting our immune systems during self-isolation.

Dr Preeya Alexander at her practice

With millions of Australians self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic, stress and anxiety levels are on the rise for individuals and families.

We spoke to Melbourne based alumna Dr Preeya Alexander on finding pockets of calm and systems for supporting our immune system in these trying times.

“These are very stressful times with all the changes we are seeing to our way of life. Stress and anxiety levels are high for lots of us, me included,” said Dr Alexander.

According to the mother of two, exercise is key to wellbeing.

“I found myself getting very anxious two weeks ago, so I have incorporated regular exercise into my days with the children, for my mental health predominantly.

“There are also benefits for physical health, including a reduced risk of chronic disease like type two diabetes and high blood pressure. Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days (where you feel warm and slightly short of breath with a raised heart rate) is wonderful for you, whether it is a walk, cycle or online fitness class in your lounge room - it does not matter what it is, it's all good for the brain and body.

“At the moment in Australia, we are still able to leave the home to exercise so a daily walk is great for the mood, just seeing the outside world and getting some sun can make you feel more positive,” said Dr Alexander.

And as for advice for parents with young kids, Dr Alexander advises, “Keeping kids moving - physical activity supports immune health and despite the social distancing measures, keeping kids active is crucial. I'm doing this by using obstacles courses we create together, walks, a treasure hunt to get my daughter excited, and online yoga and ballet classes.”

She also recommends building a daily meditation practise by downloading and using free online applications such as Smiling Mind and Calm, and “more of the good stuff, less of the not so good - if you are feeling stressed and anxious, try to reduce caffeine and alcohol intake - both can make anxiety worse.”

Dr Alexander says managing stress is key to supporting our immune systems.

“Uncontrolled stress and anxiety can negatively impact the immune system. Managing stress well with caffeine reduction, exercise, meditation etc. can help to support immune system function.”

Other ways to support our immune system include, “Aiming for a diet high in fruit and vegetables and aiming for enough sleep (and good quality sleep) - most people need between 6-8 hours. Getting enough sleep supports the immune system. We know when the body does not get enough sleep the immune system can struggle.”

Dr Alexander has another important piece of advice for parents of young kids.

“Ensure children are still up to date with scheduled immunisations. Whilst it is crucial to stay at home right now, to prevent community transmission of COVID-19, leaving the house for essential reasons is still allowed and medical appointments is one of them. Keeping children vaccinated with their normally due vaccines (at six weeks, four and six months etc,) is still a key way to support the immune system.”

Tagged in COVID-19, alumni, health