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Staying Healthy

Healthy Eating and Weight during the Pandemic
During this time of social distancing and possibly of increased stress, it is easy to overeat. Combined with different lifestyle patterns and less physical activity opportunities, this may also lead to weight gain. People with diabetes or severe obesity are at higher risk of complications if they do get infected with the coronavirus. Especially while isolating and in the current circumstances, a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight become even more important. A balanced diet should be based on the Mediterranean diet. This consists mainly of plant foods which are naturally high in dietary fibre, mostly vegetables and fruit, whole grains (oats, wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and other wholegrains), legumes (beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas), nuts, seeds, herbs, spices but also fish and smaller amounts of lower fat dairy, poultry and meat.

People who eat a balanced diet are more likely to be healthier with stronger immune systems and lower risk of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases. Eating a variety of fresh and unprocessed foods every day enables you to get the vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, proteins and antioxidants that the body needs. Careful management of portion sizes are important to stop weight gain during this period of isolation at home. Further information on healthy eating can be accessed here.

Importance of being Physically Active During Self-Quarantine
The pandemic can pose a challenge to remain physically active, can cause increased stress and challenge your mental health. Decreased physical activity together with an increase in sedentary behaviour can all have negative effects on people’s general health, while moderate intensity physical activity leads to a boost in immunity and protects your health against viral infections. Staying at home does not mean that people cannot be physically active. Physical activity recommendations can still be achieved even at home, with no special equipment and with limited space. If being physically active is not possible in the home, people can go out to exercise while keeping a safe distance from other people. However, should physical activity be possible in the home, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate has prepared various guidelines which can be accessed here.

Tobacco Use and Covid-19
During this time of the pandemic social distancing and possibly the increased stress, it is easy to increase tobacco use. Covid-19 is mainly a disease of the lungs, and so quitting or reducing tobacco use can help to reduce the risk from the coronavirus. People suffering from conditions such as asthma are also more likely to have complications if they do get infected with the coronavirus. Giving up tobacco is one of the best things you can do for your health. Quitting can be hard but getting the right support will make it easier. Call the tobacco quit line on 8007 3333 to get help from trained professionals by telephone. Further information on quitting tobacco can be accessed here.

Alcohol Use and Covid-19
During this time of the pandemic, social distancing and possibly of increased stress, it is easy to increase alcohol intake. In order to avoid alcohol-related harm, the Maltese guidelines recommend that if alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation. People who do not drink, should not start drinking for any reason. Alcohol related harm may increase the risk of health problems such as injuries, violence, liver diseases and cancer. Alcohol may also lead to weight gain. While alcohol may sometimes have a temporary positive impact on our mood, in the long term it can cause problems for mental health such as depression and memory loss. Further information on alcohol use can be accessed here.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health
As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, ordinary life was put on pause. Previous circumstances involving
staying inside for elderly and vulnerable, travel restrictions, school closings, shop and business closings, and social distancing have created a level of social isolation previously unseen in Malta and across the globe. Fear placed additional stressors on an already anxious and sensitized population.

Practicing social distancing may have left you feeling lonely or isolated. Having spent prolonged time at home with children, may have left you with less patience than before. Those who are especially vulnerable to Covid-19 older individuals and people with medical comorbidities or immune-comprised systems who need to be especially stringent in following guidelines from the health authorities, may be the very people whose mental health may suffer the most.

It is important that as a population, we learn how to protect our mental health during this stressful and ever-changing situation, while also following the guidelines set by health authorities to protect our physical health.

Here are some strategies that can be used during these challenging times to protect your and others’ mental health:
- Follow regular schedules for waking up, dressing, eating, exercising, working, entertainment and going to sleep
- Establish objectives for each day as well for the whole week
- Limit caffeine intake
- Keep your mind active; reading, writing, playing an instrument and playing board games
- Sit outside in your balcony, yard, roof, garden or near a window to enjoy daylight and sunshine
- Keep your self-informed but limit the time spent focussing on Covid-19 related information
- Stay in contact with family, friends and colleagues

Help is available 24/7. Call 1770 helpline for support of emotional and mental wellbeing.

For further information please refer to the mental well being guidance​.