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COVID-19: How do I practice self-care during a pandemic?

Much of the world has been jolted into a new way of life following the outbreak of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). With so much uncertainty, fear and anxiety going around, many of us are wondering what we can and should be doing to keep ourselves safe and healthy right now. With that in mind, we’ve put together a few recommendations which might help you out!

Sexual health is still a priority

  • During this turbulent time, you should be maintaining your usual contraception routine — whatever that is for you.
  • As a tip, condoms are great at both helping to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of STIs (including HIV), and are available at most pharmacies and supermarkets.
  • If you are using contraception that requires support from a medical practitioner, such as the Pill or injection, contact your healthcare provider (preferably by telephone) to discuss how you will be able to continue this routine if, for example, clinics are temporarily closed.
  • Similarly, if you require emergency contraception or abortion support, contact your local healthcare provider for advice. You can also seek further support from Women on Waves and Women Help Women.
  • Some of you might be wondering if it’s OK to be having sex right now. If you live with or are self-isolating with a regular sexual partner, and neither of you display coronavirus symptoms, nor have you had any likely exposure to it, it is possibly safe to continue having sex as usual.
  • For others not in that category, as people around the world are being encouraged to practice social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19, now is probably not the best time to meet new sexual partners. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself! You can try dating virtually, sexting, or masturbating. See our blog on sex during COVID-19 for more information.
  • And of course, as ever, consent is critical for all sexual activity with other people.

Look after your physical & mental health

  • This is a great time to focus on eating healthily, keeping hydrated and sleeping well.
  • Regular exercise is also key to keeping your body healthy, which is particularly important at this time. There are plenty of resources online (such as YouTube fitness classes) if you’re not sure where to start, with plenty that can be done from inside your own home.
  • If your country’s guidelines allow, you should go for a walk, run or cycle outside daily, while ensuring you keep a two-meter distance from others.
  • If you are quarantining or self-isolating in an abusive household, this can be a particularly frightening time. Contact your local domestic violence services for help and support.
  • It’s very important to look after your mental health. Many therapists are offering online sessions, and you might find meditation works for you. Again, YouTube is a good resource for free meditation sessions, and apps like Headspace are popular too.
  • If the news ever feels like too much, switch it off. While it’s important to keep informed in order to stay safe, the news and social media can be overwhelming, so know when to call it a day.
  • Feeling like you have a lot of time on your hands? Try taking up a new hobby or focus on an existing one, whether that be learning a new language, reading more, doing some drawing, practising yoga, or picking up an instrument.
  • Keep connected with friends and family. There are plenty of apps that can help you keep connected if you have internet access, such as WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom and Houseparty, which can help you feel less alone if you are self-isolating.
  • You may also find that having a routine helps to keep your days structured, which you could divide into categories such as work time, meal breaks, exercise sessions, downtime, slots for chatting with loved ones and so on.

Keep entertained!

There are plenty of movies, TV shows, books and podcasts out there to keep you entertained and occupied during this time — and we may be biased, but of course, we would suggest the ones with an SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights) twist! Here are our top 5 recommendations:

  • Sex and Lies by Leïla Slimani — This collection of essays gives voice to young Moroccan women who are grappling with a conservative Arab culture that at once condemns and commodifies sex. Available to download.
  • Sex Education — the hilarious and thoughtful TV show that everyone’s talking about tracks the lives of a group of teenagers navigating sex, relationships, friendships and family. Available on Netflix.
  • Queen of Katwe — this biographical movie tracks the life of a young Ugandan girl who seeks to lift her family out of poverty through her talent for chess. Available on Disney+
  • Doing It! With Hannah Witton — join Hannah and her guests as they discuss all things sex, relationships, dating and bodies in this frank, open and honest podcast. Listen now.
  • To Each, Her Own — this French rom-com follows Simone, a woman facing confusion over her sexual identity, exploring family, religion, race, gender, nationality and other prejudices along the way. Available on Netflix.

Around the world, International Planned Parenthood Federation provides healthcare & protects people's health and lives from sexual and reproductive coercion.

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