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Joggers at the top of the Lady Chancellor Hill in Port-of-Spain yesterday.

Joel Julien

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By 6 am yesterday there were already around 25 people walking, riding, and running along Lady Chancellor Hill.

The hill which has become a go-to of sorts for fitness enthusiasts had a larger than normal crowd size for that hour on a Sunday morning.

But yesterday was no normal morning.

It was the first time in more than a month that citizens were allowed to venture outdoors to exercise since stay at home orders were announced on March 27.

And citizens yesterday made use of the lifted restrictions announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Saturday.

They did so while maintaining the recommended physical distancing.

Clinical and Organisational psychologist Kelly Mc Farlane yesterday said if a person feels safe being outdoors and is not panicked about exposure to COVID-19 they should make use of the opportunity to exercise.

“Exercise is a definite contributor to improved mental wellbeing. Additionally, being outdoors and getting at least 10 minutes per day of sunlight is a definite contributor to good mental wellbeing,” Mc Farlane stated.

“As long as a person feels safe being outdoors and is not panicked about exposure to the COVID-19, this can certainly help people psychologically. For many, jogging outdoors was a part of their routine, so being able to get this going again will help them to feel ‘normal’ again and get back into their schedule,” she said.

“There’s also the benefit of getting out of the house and spending time alone for those who usually love spending time outdoors and have been locked away with family at every corner and no space to workout. Any or all of these considerations would make getting back outdoors for exercise a wonderful thing for those experiencing psychological distress,” Mc Farlane said.

Mc Farlane said while some may feel a sense of relief with Rowley’s announcement of a phased reopening, others may become fearful.

“You now have something that you lost for a couple months – choice, being returned to you slowly and hopefully surely. When this was perceived as being taken away when the quarantine was requested and people’s time spent outdoors, travelling, partying, working etc was limited, there were many reactions of discomfort, fear, anxiety, frustration and so on,” Mc Farlane stated.

“We know that Trinidadians are used to having the ability to choose what they do and how they do it so for many this may begin to offer some psychological relief. For others though, those who are more sensitive to the possible negative effects of the pandemic, this may create some fear and anxiety as they look on in angst for whatever comes next,” she said.

Mc Farlane said it is absolutely normal for people “to feel down, scared or frustrated sometimes during crises like this one.”

“Even without crisis our moods and wellbeing fluctuate. However, it is important not to maintain negative thoughts and moods because they can multiply and lead to interpersonal and mental health problems. Ruminating or staying focused on fears and regrets and the negative things in your life creates and maintains depression. Try talking about your fears with someone that you trust, who is either objective or encouraging. Make plans for your future, finding all of your resources that may help you through this difficult time and then let it go,” she said.

“Ask yourself whether you can control that which you are worrying about, if the answer is yes, then write down how and what you can do about it, if the answer is no, seek advice, start working on acceptance and try to stop thinking about it. Use hobbies, books, cooking, television, art etc to distract yourself and maintain a positive mood. Meditation and deep breathing for at least ten minutes a day can help to settle your nervous system and keep you calm. Eat healthily and get some sun and cardiovascular exercise at least four times weekly. Keep your brain active by providing it with variety and learning new skills. There is so much to learn, so many free resources,” Mc Farlane said

Mc Farlane said if anyone is having a difficult time and needs to speak with a professional, the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists has a directory of psychologists on its website.

Many of the psychologists who are listed offer virtual sessions, Mc Farlane said.