By Dr Sally Phillips, TAL General Manager of Health Services

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time which has changed our lives and possibly the world forever. While many of us have had moments of feeling overwhelmed as we’ve adapted to new ways of living and working, it also provided us with the time to reflect on ourselves and what’s most important in our lives.

TAL’s new research1 found that 62 percent of Australians believe COVID-19 has provided them with a greater sense of what’s important to them.

Now that restrictions have started to ease in some areas, and Australians are starting to return to a new normalcy, we are in the unique position to take our learnings from this experience to ensure we can continue to focus on what’s truly important to us – physical, mental and financial health and wellbeing.

As we fall back into some of our old routines, it’s important to take forward the lessons we’ve learned to help instil good habits to keep moving us forward and thriving.

Below you’ll find some simple advice to help keep your health and wellbeing a top priority this year.

Dr Sally Phillips is TAL General Manager of Health Services.

1. Practice mindfulness and take some time out

One thing that being at home more than ever before has taught many of us is how important it is to take regular breaks within your working day and practice self-care. Over half of Australians (53 percent) have said that the lockdown allowed them to slow down and reflect – a few ways to help give your mind and body time to recharge is to read a book, listen to music or meditate.

Ensure you make time to rest, relax and get enough sleep as this will help rejuvenate you – giving both your mind and body the time it needs to recharge ahead of a busy working day.

2. Make exercise part of your daily routine

During lockdown, most of us realised just how important getting outside into the fresh air and finding time to stretch our legs is to help boost our energy, and mood. Keep that enthusiasm to get outside and stay active by choosing activities that you find both interesting and manageable to fit into your daily life.

As we enter the winter months it is important to take the opportunity to enjoy the sun when you can, whether that’s deciding to walk to the shops, walking your dog, or cycling around the local park.

Don’t let winter be an excuse not to exercise as there are plenty of activities that you can still do. TAL’s research found that 30 percent of people are doing more exercise than before, so now that restrictions have eased, choosing to exercise with friends can help motivate you to commit to a routine as well as providing a great way to socialise and deepen your relationships, which can boost mental wellbeing.

WATCH: The benefits of meditating. Continues after video …

3. Stay informed with your finances

During unpredictable times, like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable that people will feel levels of uncertainty in all aspects of their life. Financial security is one area that many of us will have become more conscious of in these challenging times. Feeling in more in control of your finances can help you not only practically plan but also help ease any worries that you may have.

Taking time to do your research or consult with a financial adviser can help you understand your current position more clearly and build your confidence in any financial decisions for your future by addressing any concerns.

4. Prioritise your mental health

Maintaining positive mental health has been one of the biggest challenges facing Australians during this time. But with 49 percent of people saying the COVID-19 situation has allowed them to focus more on their personal wellbeing, it’s important to continue this individual self-care. Being aware of your own health and wellbeing needs is at the core of good mental health.

If you’re working from home, it’s important that you make a conscious effort to separate work and home life. For example, pick a definitive finishing time each day when you switch off your laptop and stop for the day so that you maintain a boundary between your work life and your personal life.

Social connections also play a huge role in our wellbeing, so now that we have the opportunity to continue to socially connect beyond the computer screen, it’s important to make time to spend quality time with family and friends. Having a close support network is a great way to release any built-up worries that you may have which helps preserve your mental health.

It’s important that you make a conscious effort to separate work and home life.

5. Commit to cooking and eating more healthily

Staying at home has given people the opportunity to develop new hobbies and many of us have focused on improving our culinary skills – this has presented us with a tremendous health opportunity.

Take advantage of the additional time at home to expand your cooking repertoire and prepare meals that you would usually think are too time consuming. Not only will this feel rewarding, but it will also help keep you healthy.

Just because the restrictions have eased, it’s no excuse to not continue home cooking, as it’s easier to control what you’re eating and avoid unnecessary additives that are often contained in meals out. We all know that increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables can have great long-term benefits for our health. By avoiding sugar and junk food and replacing these snacks with healthier options, or cooking your new favourite homemade meal, you can help improve your sleep and boost your energy levels.