As state governments tentatively ease coronavirus restrictions, it’s alarming to think of a nation of pale-skinned, cave dwellers emerging into the light after two months of lockdown.
But the reality is something in between, with plenty of evidence that Australians have used their time at home to get essential jobs done or practise some stress-free self-love that could ultimately prove beneficial in these stressful times.
Weight, there’s more … but that’s OK
In a world awash with coronavirus memes, the one defining concern – beyond not catching the virus – has been the weight many of us feel we’ve stacked on while being confined to our homes.
The angst over our inability to maintain fitness has played out on social media feeds the world over, but the Dietitians Association of Australia says everyone should cut themselves some slack as they emerge from hibernation a little chubbier.
“For healthy people, eating a little unhealthier than usual will likely not be a huge problem, and we need to practise some self-love through this time that could be stressful for them,” says the DAA’s president Tara Diversi.
Ms Diversi says a bigger concern is those with more pressing health problems who have been delaying seeing their dietitians during lockdown.
“Our members are concerned that people who need to see a dietitian delay their appointments and don’t get the care they need,” she said.
“Or those who are now facing food security issues because they have lost their jobs and trying to make ends meet.
“We are hearing from our members that people who are still visiting them are worried about what they should and shouldn’t be eating, and need some support with managing their relationship with food and their bodies through this time.
“We are also acutely aware of the effect on nutrition and mental health, and it is a catch-22 where food intake affects mental health, and mental health affects food intake.”
One advantage of the lockdown for those with dietary issues is that changes to Medicare and private rebates have now made it easier for people to access telehealth, which Ms Diversi says will assist people in rural and remote areas going forward.
And if you have gained weight or become unfit during lockdown?
Be honest with yourself as to whether you need to change your eating, or you need to be kinder to yourself about small changes to your eating behaviour that may not be important when you take into account the bigger picture.
“Base your food choices mainly around the core food groups, including plenty of fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy – and alternatives – lean meat, chicken, fish, and legumes, nuts and seeds. But don’t beat yourself up for the extra treats you are having. Enjoy them occasionally and in appropriate portions for you.”
Tearing up the ‘to do’ list …
Unless you live in the proverbial cave, somewhere near your favourite lounge chair is a ‘to do’ list of all those odd jobs that need doing around the house.
The lines at Australia’s largest hardware chain Bunnings’ may have suggested that we all spent lockdown diligently ticking things off that list – but, anecdotally, for many the lounge chair won the battle.
Bunnings says its research last month showed 65 per cent of Australians had at least one unfinished Do It Yourself job around the home, but 64 per cent said they were tackling a project once a month.
Hardly a cracking pace given we’ve all been stuck at home.
Not surprisingly, it seems the great outdoors was where it was at, with gardening and landscaping, along with painting, topping the list of jobs being tackled.
“We’ve seen an increase in popularity across all plant types over the past few months,” the company’s Greenlife buyer Alex Newman said.
“Our customers are tackling everything in the garden from growing their own food to updating their garden landscapes, as well as adding greenery inside their homes with indoor plants.”
Bunnings had introduced click-and-collect services to help boost safety protocols during the height of the lockdown, with the company saying it had been well supported by customers.
Still, given a choice between ripping up the kitchen or whacking in a few plants, it seems Australians mostly opted for the home project that caused least disruption to the smooth running of a house in lockdown.
Oh, and did we mention that there’s been a boom in TV sales? Funny that.
Taming your addictions
For those not working in the hospitality industry, one of the unexpected bonuses of lockdown was the closure of TABs, casinos and pokies venues.
Given Australia’s poker machines reel in $7.5 billion every six months, the savings made on that form of gambling alone in the past two months will ensure that some bank balances that were often empty, are now brimming with savings.
Monash University Associate Professor Charles Livingstone hopes that for those who want to gamble less, the lockdown had provided a chance to refocus on what life could be like without gambling.
“The important thing is that it does give people an opportunity to reset what has become, in many cases, a very unpleasant and dangerous habit,” Professor Livingstone told the ABC.
The lack of AFL and NRL has also meant that the fast-growing, live-sport betting market has also not been a temptation, although the stockmarket regulator ASIC issued a warning that it had seen an uptick in day trading of shares during the crisis.
With sport due to return in coming weeks, there’s little doubt the corporate bookings will be one of the first advertisers back on your screens with new advertisements, so it’s possibly a sure bet their stocks are the ones to soar as gambling tries to return to fleecing as usual.
School books and parents dirty looks
Now students are returning to school in most states there’s likely one achievement that we will all happily throw in the bin – making sure the kids are studying while at home.
Perhaps that’s why the rush to get the kids back to the classroom despite some concerns from teachers about a second wave of infections.
At least now parents have a greater understanding of how hard it is to get primary school kids and teenagers to focus on the task at hand, there will likely be less whining at parent-teacher night about why little Johnny isn’t getting the attention his towering intellect deserves.
In short, we emerge from lockdown fatter, with more shrubs and taking odds on how soon we can pack the kids back off to school.