Personal trainer Ben Williams

Health chiefs and fitness experts are urging the public to self-care in a bid to beat the lockdown blues.

As part of their Help Us, Help You campaign, the Welsh Government and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board are urging anyone suffering with anxiety and stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic to look after their wellbeing with regular exercise, an improved diet, and more sleep.

Ben Williams, a personal trainer from Wrexham, says there are lots of things people can do from their home or garden to stay fit and focused.

“Exercise and a healthy diet can have a huge impact,” said Ben.

“Just taking that first step to get moving and exercise releases a hormone in your body called endorphin, helping to lift your mood, which can combat poor mental health, low self-esteem and a lack of motivation.

“When everyone is at home in lockdown it can be difficult to stay in good spirits. By dedicating a little bit of time for yourself to exercise, you can have a massive impact on the rest of your day – or week – knowing that you are looking after your health and keeping active.”

He added: “Finding a community you can get support from is also a huge help to many people.

“Having access to group chats and shared Zoom workouts during lockdown is a great way to get started and not be on your own.”

A YouGov survey revealed more than half of people in North Wales have experienced a deterioration in their mental health since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Those questioned who had managed to stay positive said a proactive approach made a difference, including exercise (35%), sticking to a routine (32%), a healthy diet (12%) and mindfulness, notably yoga and meditation (8%).

Donna Welsh is coordinator of Coleg Cambria’s Active Cambria programme, which has been supporting students and staff across north east Wales throughout the lockdowns with online mental health sessions and Pilates, yoga and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts.

She said: “Keeping our minds and bodies busy has been vital in lockdown; it is extremely important we focus on helping people understand that, now more than ever.

“We can learn a lot from this pandemic and pass that down to the next generation, the value we place on looking after ourselves, living a full life and ensure people are resilient and can handle whatever the world throws at them.

“I found it hard at times but with my coping strategies for when life gets me down – running, eating healthily, cutting down on alcohol and talking to others – I became motivated again.”

The Welsh Government spends more than £700m a year on mental health services, supported by additional funding of almost £10m on a range of initiatives including online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the CALL mental health and BEAT eating disorders helplines.

A dedicated Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Eluned Morgan, has also been appointed to tackle the impact of the pandemic.

Alun Thomas, Chief Executive of Welsh mental health charity Hafal, said taking steps to self-care and keeping communication channels open with friends and family will be crucial in the weeks ahead.

“Our advice is to stay connected to others as much as you can within the guidelines, look after your physical health, and reach out and support others who you think may be in need,” he added.

“To overcome feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety it’s important to make use of our own support systems, whether that be our friends, families, schools or employers.”