Are lockdowns responsible for your aches, pains and weight gain?
As an Osteopath in Doha, I have encountered many patients who have attributed their aches and pains to lockdowns and other changes imposed upon us since the beginning of 2020. People regularly tell me that they have experienced symptoms such as low back pain, muscle and joint pain, weight gain, etc since the start of the enforced measures to control the pandemic. Now I understand that 2020 may have imposed unwanted changes upon our lives, but the truth is that it is our choices and responses to these changes that have caused many of us to both hurt and weigh more!
Life is constantly throwing challenges our way, but the challenges many of us have faced since the beginning of 2020 has taken things to a new level. In the space of a year, some of the most important infrastructure of our lives such as our routines, freedoms and financial security have been suddenly compromised. In addition, wee have been forced to adapt to a rather bleak and dystopian reality, with no idea of whether or when it will end.
Despite all the uncertainty we are facing, we have maintained the freedom to choose how we respond. I completely empathize with those who feel like there is only one way to react to the completely avoidable destruction of our economies and societies, however, no matter how frustrating, unfair and disempowering things may feel, we must take full responsibility for how we allow these circumstances affect our health and wellness.
Lockdowns haven’t caused back pain or weight gain, it’s the choices we have made in response to them. We haven’t been forced to become more sedentary, sit in uncomfortable positions for prolonged periods of time, eat or drink more excessively! These are choices that we have made, and It is really important for us to acknowledge this autonomy at a time when life feels so disempowering.
We are not victims of circumstance unless we choose to be.
Wellness is a choice
Making choices that reinforce a sense of control over our lives is fundamental at this time when our physical and mental wellbeing is being stress tested by a pandemic and the drastic responses to it.
Trying to suppress a virus with lockdowns is not only proving ineffective, they are also contributing to an increase in mental health issues, especially amongst women and children. Both the short and long-term effects of these measures may place a greater burden on the health services we are trying to protect. For many, the sudden erosion of the ‘life we once knew’ has contributed to increased levels of stress, anxiety, apathy, and escapism. For a few, the enforced changes have been a calling and a motivation to double down on health and wellness.
Wellness can be defined as ‘an active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health’. It is an ever fluctuating and multi-dimensional state that incorporates our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social and environmental health.
All the components of our wellness overlap and influence each other. They are also strongly influenced by the environments we dwell in, and the way we choose to interact with them. So however authorities try to restrict our environment, we must counter with favourable responses that protect our wellness.
The philosophy of stoicism, which is essentially the art of how to live a good life in the face of all it’s hardship and adversity, reminds us that it is not the events or circumstances in our lives that harm us- it’s our responses or reactions to them. Also, that we may not have control over the things that happen, but we can control how we both perceive and respond to them.
A good friend and mentor of mine often tells me that we should always try to respond and not react. He describes a response as more calculated, mindful and constructive, and a reaction as more impulsive, primitive, and mindless. These are not text book definitions, but they are analogies that i’m sure many of us can relate to during this pandemic.
This blog is not intended to point the finger at people who have struggled to control their health and happiness during a pretty torrid time, but a reminder that no matter what happens to us, we always have a choice in the way we respond.
We must acknowledge, with a degree of self-compassion, that on some level many of us are grieving the loss of our lives pre-2020, along with much of the purpose and identity that was interwoven into it. In addition, the fear and confusion being pumped out by most mainstream news channels is enough to make even the most hopeful amongst us feel a sense of apathy towards life at present.
However, on the flipside of the same coin, our current global shake up is also an opportunity to get back to some of the neglected basics, and re-invest in some of the age-old tenets of the ‘good life’.
- Regular Physical Activity
- Quality Home Prepared Food
- Quality Sleep
- Meaningful Relationships & Connections
- Acts of Altruism
It sounds like a no-brainer to double down on our wellness, in the midst of a global health crisis that is taking it’s toll mostly on the sick and frail. However, I am consistently seeing people in my clinic, who are living unhealthier lives now than they did before the start of the pandemic.
If there was ever a time that we should be nurturing our physical and psychological immune systems, it’s most definitely now!
Personally, I have found it hard to implement a lot of what I preach and am passionate about over the last year, so I do feel a genuine sense of empathy and compassion towards those who are struggling to feel well and happy at this time. I can reassure you from my personal experience, and the reports of many of my patients, that even the smallest of efforts, such as a walk with friends, an exercise class, a good night’s sleep, or a small act of altruism can cultivate a disproportionate feeling of wellness.
Our wellness is built on a feeling of agency and control over our lives and circumstances, and at a time when we are being systematically disempowered, it is so important that we continue to be mindful of, and invest well in the many choices that we can make in our day to day lives. Feeling empowered supports health, happiness and resilience. Many of us may feel like rabbits caught in headlights, or suspended in animation, but life is still moving on under the influence of of our daily decisions, responses and choices.
So don’t let lockdowns steal your health or happiness, because they only point the gun at our wellness but it’s our reactions that pull the trigger!
If you’re struggling with any aspect of your wellbeing or finding it difficult to establish simple healthy habits, get in touch to see how I can help.
We’re all in this together, and when I is replaced with WE even ILLNESS becomes WELLNESS!