As a busy mum, Sheena Tanna-Shah is used to juggling her work as an optometrist with running a healthy snack business, Pure & Raw Goodies. But since lockdown began, she’s enjoying more time with her husband Piyus, 37, and daughters Sienna, nine, and seven-year-old Isla at their Northampton home.
“I really like being at home with the girls, and I know this is going to sound really bizarre, but I love home schooling,” says Sheena, 37.
“Both girls have Zoom at 10am, so when they’re doing that, I’ll be doing my work. They have their designated study areas and I encourage them to work independently, but I make sure I’m present so if they need me, they can come and get me.”
Sheena, who’s written a book, Perfectly Imperfect Mum, believes that it’s important for mothers to take the pressure off themselves.
“Seeing people making perfect meals on Instagram can make us feel guilty and start judging ourselves,” she says. “As long as we try our best, that should be good enough. If you want to have beans on toast or chips, that’s OK.”
Sheena is one of many people finding ways to embrace their time at home and make the most of lockdown.
New restrictions are in place, with people all over the UK being urged to stay at home to stop the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel with thousands of vulnerable people being vaccinated every week, but for now everyone must play their part by avoiding mixing with others.
What’s really helping Sheena feel calm during lockdown is practising mindfulness. “Whether we’re eating meals, brushing our teeth, looking at our phones and watching TV, we’re always multi-tasking,” she says.
“So we started practising mindfulness as a family and creating our own little videos so that other children could benefit. We go on little mindfulness walks, becoming more aware of our surroundings.
“A simple technique is when we’re eating at home, we feel grateful for the food and then talk about where it came from. You start appreciating food you’re eating and feel fuller, rather than always thinking, ‘What can I eat next?’”
As an active family who love to travel, the Tanna-Shahs have had to get creative during their time at home – and they’ve found themselves trying activities they’d never have imagined doing.
“None of us are dancers at all, but we thought, ‘What can we do to make things more fun?’ so we filmed ourselves doing a dance to Super-heroes by The Script and shared it online,” says Sheena. “Before lockdown, I would have never dreamt we’d do anything like that!
“My daughter loves Enid Blyton books, so we did a midnight feast outdoors and looked at shooting stars – it wasn’t something we’d normally dream of doing. And we went to Woburn Park at 4am last summer to watch the sunrise. We’re living in the moment, and not worrying about what everyone else is doing.”
Although getting out in the fresh air is important, Sheena is happy to find alternative ways to exercise at home. “In winter, it’s really important to go outside and get your vitamin D, but maybe the weather ’s cold and wet,” she says. “So we bring that exercise indoors – as long as you’re moving and having fun, that’s great. There are so many things the kids can do online, whether it’s PE with Joe or yoga.”
There are things we can all do to look after our mental wellbeing at this time. Every Mind Matters can get you started with a free NHS online plan showing you simple steps to help manage anxiety, sleep better and boost your mood.
For your mental health action plan, visit Every Mind Matters.
Join the club
A virtual book group, supper club and choir mean Flip Kulakiewicz’s lockdown is filled with ways to socialise.
She says connecting with friends and family online is vital for her wellbeing.
Flip, 33, an administrator from Edinburgh, says: “I was living on my own last year and being able to connect with family and friends online was my only way of socialising, so it’s been really important.
“Book groups work really well online – it means everyone can take part, wherever they are.
“One of our group is living abroad and so she was able to join our meetings too.
“We all discuss on Facebook which book to read and then we use Zoom to catch up and discuss it. It has been really nice – one of those things that has transferred really well from in person to online.
“We’ve all made an effort to pick slightly shorter books to make it feel more relaxed. We’ve tried to choose books that are 300 pages tops as I think we’ve all found it hard to concentrate during lockdown.
“We get to share books and we’re all able to introduce our own favourite types of books.”
She says she and her friends have also tried a supper club, where they cook something over video and then sit down and eat and chat together.
And even if not everything Flip has tried has been such a success, some ventures have still raised a few laughs. “Our choir also went online with hilarious results,” she says. “It might not have worked quite as well online, but it has still been fun.
“The head of the choir has tried a new method where we all sing but our individual laptops are muted, so we’re just singing at our screens.”
For your mental health action plan, visit Clear Your Head today.
Fitter and healthier
The Stephensons, from Newport in South Wales, are using lockdown to get fit and improve their diet.
One positive that’s come out of lockdown for the family is that
they have more time to improve their health.
Retired nurse Nettie, 59, and surgeon Brian, 61, are together with their daughter, Alice, 26. Their other daughter Bryoni, 28, is working as a paramedic, and son Ben, 30, is teaching in Thailand.
“Now we all have more time on our hands we are looking to get fit and eat a healthier diet,” says Nettie. “We are cooking a wider range of dishes than we would usually, based on recipes from books at home and by going online. There are lots of amazing recipes out there. It’s all about trying different ingredients.”
The family have also got a newfound interest in fitness. Nettie explains: “None of us are usually runners, but we are doing the Couch to 5k, which helps you build up your fitness gradually. We’ve also got a treadmill in the house. We’ve only been doing it since January 1, but we’re already feeling a lot better.”
Rediscovering hobbies has also been important to Brian and Nettie.
“Brian has taken much more of an interest in gardening,” says Nettie. “We’ve also been doing a lot of redecorating.
“And I’ve made about 80 masks for nurses out of material around the house, using a template from the internet.
“Alice is trying to set up a sustainable clothing business. It will help put money back into companies that protect endangered animals.”
For help on getting active, visit the NHS Fitness Studio, and download the Easy Meals app for healthy-eating ideas.
Upskill in lockdown
Dr Ruth Miller-Anderson has been using lockdown to pick up new skills
As an NHS pharmacist and success coach who goes by the name The Swan Doctor, Dr Ruth Miller-Anderson, 46, is used to being busy.
She lives with her husband Alan, 49, daughter Sophia, 14, and 85-year-old mother Maureen, near Lough Neagh in Ballyronan, Northern Ireland.
Lockdown has given her more time to do new things because she’s cut out the time she’d normally spend travelling to work.
“My commute would normally be a couple of hours per day,” she says. “That’s given me more time to do things for my business and work. I’ve made my study really comfortable with new furniture – whereas before it was a bit of a dumping ground.
“I’ve been taking part in a programme about bringing products to market. It was a lot of work and I don’t think I could have had the time to take on something like that before.
“I’m a bit of a lifelong learner who is always looking for a new challenge.
“I’ve been doing quite a bit with developing my own business as well, particularly the online aspect of it.”
Stay at home, save lives
Let’s all keep doing everything we can to help stop the spread of Coronavirus. Find out more about national restrictions in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.