One profession that thoroughly understands the importance of doing meaningful activities to improve mental and physical
health and well-being, is occupational therapy whose association OTNZ-WNA has developed the COVID-19 Activity
Recommendation Toolkit (CART). CART carries a range of activities designed so that New Zealanders can stay occupied
during the lockdown.
The COVID-19 Activity Recommendation Toolkit (CART) is available at www.otnz.co.nz
With just over two weeks down and (at least) two 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 have adapted 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
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.
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.
To access the COVID-19 Activity Recommendation Toolkit (CART) go to www.otnz.co.nz
Stand Strong New Zealand / Kia Kaha Aotearoa