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COVID-19: Don’t Just Stay At Home, Stay Occupied

OTNZ-WNA has developed the COVID-19 Activity Recommendation Toolkit (CART) so New Zealanders can keep occupied and keep the virus in check.

With just over one week down and (at least) three to go, we all need to be mindful that the COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown will be impacting New Zealanders in vastly different ways. Some will be adapting to working from home, largely unaffected, apart from minor inconveniences. Others may even be enjoying the break from work, and the extra time spent with family and friends in their bubble. Sadly, some will be feeling stressed, depressed or anxious by isolation, money issues or coronavirus-related health worries for themselves or their loved ones.

Even if you are on the happier end of the lockdown impact spectrum, it is still important to do things. Engaging in meaningful activities will make staying home a little easier. You may even come out of it having finally done some neglected tasks or being more disciplined, with skills or habits that will serve you well in the challenging times ahead.

For those who are facing mental or physical hardship during the lockdown, having a range of activities to do could significantly reduce the possibility of harm to themselves or their loved ones, or even the community. There have been incidents of self-harm overseas, including a 19-year-old who couldn’t cope with the impending isolation of the UK lockdown. Whilst this may be an extreme case, New Zealanders suffering from mental anguish, too little physical activity, loneliness, or just simple boredom, can prevent themselves from flouting the stay-at-home rules and potentially spreading the virus by doing meaningful tasks during this time.

One profession that thoroughly understands the importance of doing meaningful activities to improve mental and physical health and well-being, is occupational therapy. The type of activities, and the time spent on each, will vary from person to person, depending on their values, interests, aptitudes and goals. At a high level, they include self-care, productivity and leisure. People of all ages and abilities can benefit from doing these activities to enrich their daily lives.

In the opinion of Professor Clare Hocking, a New Zealand occupational therapy academic, "We need to ensure people do not go stir-crazy while they self–isolate (which could be a long time in the case of people who are immune-compromised). We also need to be mindful of people who are now trying to work from home, with their children at home”. The Auckland University of Technology based professor added, "Even when confined, people still need to have a routine that includes being physically active, having fun, staying in contact with other people, and not getting overloaded with the news every hour. . . what you do every day has an essential impact on your health and well-being. Engaging in a wide range of activities can collectively combine to activate the body, mind, senses and spirit.”

Harsh Vardhan President Tangata Tiriti of Occupational Therapy New Zealand / Whakaora Ngangahau Aotearoa (OTNZ-WNA) said that today, various online technologies can allow most of us to conduct meaningful activities whilst still allowing us to stay physically separated at home. Best of all, much of this technology is both ubiquitous and free, such as social media, e-learning, on-demand broadcast television and newer video work and social interaction applications such as Zoom and Houseparty. What’s more, during the COVID-19 crisis, some local and international companies have altruistically made their platforms completely free. For instance, New Zealand-founded gym group Les Mills has made their group fitness classes available for no charge via TVNZOnDemand as well as broadcasting classes on TVNZ1.

Says Vardhan, “Teaching people about free online and community resources is important, particularly less wealthy and elderly groups who might not have peers who can show them. A big challenge is educating these groups during lockdown when in-person communication and demonstrations are not possible.”

In response to this challenge and with the need to keep all New Zealanders occupied during the lockdown, OTNZ-WNA has created a COVID-19 Activity Recommendation Toolkit (CART) specifically for New Zealanders during the pandemic. CART provides activity suggestions and points people to a range of free online, government and community resources. As everyone’s needs are different, the suggestions are not prescriptive, but rather a list of ideas that people can pick and choose from, to suit their own needs and situation.

Occupational therapy is a holistic therapy, so to use that lens, successfully doing meaningful activities sometimes requires adjustments to your environment. Examples might include adjusting your work area at home so you can decrease distractions, or creating your own personal space where you can have “me time”. It might also require behavioural modifications from those around you. For example, for those in lockdown with their partner at home, just being extra kind and considerate to each other may really help both to get through the lockdown with minimal tension.

The COVID-19 Activity Recommendation Toolkit (CART) is available at

Stand Strong New Zealand / Kia Kaha Aotearoa

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