DIVA

LEZ BE SAFE: Staying well while staying in

A note on looking after yourself and others while practising social distancing

BY DANIELLE MUSTARDE. IMAGES ANDREA PIACQUADIO

It’s all a little surreal out there, isn’t it? With everything that’s going on in the world right now, it can be difficult to distance ourselves from the constant – somewhat necessary – chatter of the multiple talking heads around us.

As well as the overt, physical health risks that a viral pandemic brings with it, (most crucially, to those who are older or have underlying health conditions) are the less black and white mental health risks that come hand-in-hand with the measures we’re now being advised to take, most notably – social distancing and self isolation. Both of which aim to help slow the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19.

Mental health and the LGBTQI+ community

As many of us already know, members of the LGBTQI+ community are at a higher risk of experiencing common mental health problems than the general population – according to Stonewall, 52% of LGBT people said they’d experienced depression in 2018. As such, many of those in our community will be doubly hit in the coming weeks and months.

As Michelle Obama wisely said of parenting, “You need to take care of yourself so that you can have the physical and emotional energy to take care of your family.” So, what are some ways we can look after ourselves so that we’re also better able to care for those around us?

Exercise from the comfort of your own home while working remotely/self isolating

One of the best things for keeping your brain happy is, of course, regular exercise (something I can wholeheartedly vouch for). And one of the best options out there, certainly in terms of content available and ease of accessibility, is yoga.

There are thousands of videos available online ranging in ability level, purpose (to heal stress, chronic pain, or to do with kids) and class length. One of our favourites is Yoga With Adrienne, who also offers 30 Days Of Yoga courses, as well as guided meditations, including one for anxiety.

If yoga isn’t your thing, try searching for more classic workouts, Zumba routines or, alternatively, stick on some Lizzo, pump up the volume and dance yourself fit.

Like to stay busy? Do some (free) online learning

There are so many online MOOCs these days – that’s Massive Open Online Course – covering plenty enough topics to shake your social distancing stick at. Whether you’re interested in philosophy, genealogy, climate change, ancient Japanese literature or artificial intelligence, platforms including FutureLearn, Coursera, edX all offer hundreds of free, online courses.

You can also look directly at the websites of particular universities to see what courses they’ve developed (The Open University, for example, has a section on free courses available alongside their paid-for degree programmes). Crucially, many of these courses actively encourage participants to communicate with their fellow digital class members by sharing ideas via messaging boards, which is all rather old school and lovely.

…equally, learn *that* language

Mais, oui mon petit chou! There are also plenty of language learning courses available on sites like those above, and your good friend DuoLingo still exists if you prefer something in a handheld, app form. Alternatively, grab that workbook off your shelf (there are at *least* five on mine) and do it all offline. (Taking breaks from screens = allowing your brain to recharge).

Get to grips with the basics of meditation and mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness app Headspace’s mission is: “To improve the health and happiness of the world.” And, with millions of users in more than 190 countries around the world, they’re not doing too bad. Best of all, you can try Headspace and “learn the essentials of meditation and mindfulness” with their free Basics course, after that you’ll be asked to subscribe.

Top tip! At the moment, Transport For London (TfL) have teamed up with Headspace to offer 60 days for free using the promotional code: “thetube”. You can then choose to continue your subscription or cancel before your 60 days are up. Either way, learning how to better calm the mind won’t go amiss rn.

Subscribe to a magazine

Books are a wonderful place to seek temporary escape from the noise sounding out around us. Don’t have many books on your shelf? Why not finally subscribe to your favourite magazine? (Wink, wink).

Joking aside, at their heart, magazines are about community and, as the economy is bound to take a big hit, smaller publications and freelance journalists will need the ongoing support of their readers more than ever before. So what are you waiting for? Subscribe to DIVA magazine digitally right here

LOOKING OUT FOR OTHERS

Now that you’ve taken care of yourself…

Check in on your neighbours – set up a Facebook group for your street or block so that older people, those with limited mobility and those who are self-isolating are able to reach out. If Australian telly taught us anything, it’s that everybody needs good neighbours.

Volunteer remotely with a charity like Opening Doors London – is the biggest charity providing information and support services for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT+) people over 50 in the UK. ODL recently launched their telephone befriending service, connecting older LGBTQI+ people who may be experiencing isolation with volunteers via phone calls. Find out how to offer your help/be connected with a “telefriend” here.

Connect with relatives online – Facebook is the only social platform my grandparents are savvy with, which prompted me to come back to the site to be able to stay in touch with them more easily. On top of that, I’ve set up a “Virtual Pub” (Facebook group) so that my family can meet for a digital pint. (They’re already complaining about the London prices).

Be kind – one silver lining to come out of everything that’s happening right now? People are being nicer to one another. When the shit hits the fan, acts of kindness and humanity will get us through.

Stay well, everyone.

DIVA magazine celebrates 26 years on the newsstands in 2020. Get behind LGBTQI media and help us celebrate another 26, at least. Your support is invaluable. Get the latest issue here now.

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