Occupational Therapy New Zealand Whakaora Ngangahau Aotearoa - COVID-19 Activity Recommendation Toolkit - Occupational Therapy New Zealand Whakaora Ngangahau Aotearoa
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Note: This is an archived article that OTNZ-WNA published during New Zealand COVID-19 Lockdown Levels 3 and 4 in 2020, therefore some suggestions or links may now be out of date.

Don’t just stay at home, stay occupied

Various people keeping busy during lockdown

Let’s keep crushing COVID-19 by keeping busy, Aotearoa

Use Our Activity Toolkit at Level 3

OTNZ-WNA Members Click Here

Kia ora! Why should you use this toolkit?

Well done New Zealand, we’re almost at Level 3! How has the lockdown been for you? Has it been easy to adhere to the lockdown rules, with minimal disruption and inconvenience? Perhaps you have enjoyed the downtime and extra time at home with whānau. Or has has the isolation been really challenging? Have you been tempted to break the lockdown laws?  Even though we’re now allowed to do more outdoor activities, order at drive-throughs, and receive more deliveries during Level 3, it’s still vital that we keep ourselves physically – but not socially – separated from other bubbles.

Whatever your situation, doing meaningful activities will help you stay engaged at home and potentially give you the ability to not just survive the lockdown but thrive during it! You may even come out the other side with some new tools or skills that will really help in the challenging times ahead.

As occupational therapists, we really understand the importance of doing meaningful activities to improve your health and well-being. That’s what the ‘occupation’ in occupational therapy refers to – doing activities of self-care, productivity and leisure. Finding the right balance of each will help you live your best life.


So, let’s identify activities to keep you occupied during Lockdown Level 3

Below is our COVID-19 Activity Recommendation Toolkit (CART). It is a list of recommendations, free online resources, along with referrals to agencies and community groups that can help you keep occupied for health during the lockdown while being physically – but not socially – separated. Not all the suggestions will be relevant to you, so pick and choose the activities that you feel are best for you.


First, let’s make sure you’re OK right now. Steps you can do to look after yourself (skip over any questions not applicable to you):


How’s your mental health?

1737 need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666


Are you feeling safe?

Urgent assistance in the case of family violence – also see Family violence and sexual violence prevention

For urgent police calls, fire or ambulance: dial 111

For non-urgent police calls: dial 105 or 0800 105 105 or visit 105.police.govt.nz


Do you think you might have COVID-19?

If you do have any of the symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, coughing, difficulty breathing), the testing criteria was relaxed on 1 April 2020 so you do not need any links to travel or links to others who have been tested or are being tested. Call your doctor or Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453 for further information and to arrange a test.


Do you have any other serious health concerns?

Don’t put off contacting your doctor or health professional because you’re too afraid to bother them with non-COVID-19 issues. You will be able to consult with most doctors via video calls, and they should still be able to see you in person for serious non-COVID-issues.


Do you need financial support?

There is a range of government financial support options available to most people in New Zealand, with little burden of proof required and relatively fast payment times. See some tips on how to cope with a sudden drop in income.


Struggling with alcohol or drug addiction?

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or other drug use, you can find advice at DrugHelp or Living Sober.

Or, find out more about how much you are drinking with this tool at alcohol.org.nz.


Are you over 70, immune compromised or disabled?

To protect yourself, you may feel safer staying at home rather than venturing out for essential services like grocery shopping. Online ordering is possible in some places, but supermarkets in some areas have been overwhelmed by demand, making it very difficult for people in need to secure a spot for themselves. If this is the case for you, contact Friends in Need who can help with such tasks and leave your groceries outside your front door. The Student Volunteer Army is also available for this in Christchurch and they are soon to be in Dunedin and Auckland through New World supermarkets.

Get a free flu shot as this may avoid unnecessary worry around catching influenza and thinking that it may be COVID-19. From a community perspective, it may also free up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. There are some current distribution issues for the flu vaccine in some practices around the country, so call first to check.


Many of this Toolkit’s recommendations require being online. Are you having financial trouble getting broadband at home?

For low income or elderly households without broadband at home and in 4G coverage areas, Skinny Jump can get you connected for a fraction of the cost of commercial broadband.

During lockdown, many NZ Internet companies are also removing data caps for home broadband so you do not need to worry about using too much data.


Are you a little unsure of the NZ lockdown rules or ways you can prevent contracting or spreading COVID-19?

Covid19.govt.nz is the offical COVID-19 website resource for everyone in New Zealand – it is concise with easy to follow advice.



Doing meaningful activities/occupations is important during Lockdown Level 3 as it will make isolating yourself easier and reduce the temptation to break the rules. You can adopt those recommendations that are meaningful to you, effectively creating your own personal activity list.

The tools in the toolkit centre around:

Physical Health (Taha Tinana)

Mental Health (Taha Hinengaro)


Physical Health (Taha Tinana)

Physical Well-being

It’s important during this time to be active, but only within your own realistic physical limits. Don’t over-exert yourself in case you injure yourself, which might compromise the social distance of people who need to treat you. Similarly, stay close to home and do not do an activity that might require your rescue. Examples include swimming, surfing and tramping if you are not experienced.

Group Fitness: Les Mills have free classes available on TVNZ OnDemand as well as on broadcast TVNZ 1 at 9am and 3pm for kids on weekdays.

If you’re used to using weights at the gym but have no equipment, you can still do bodyweight training at home 

DoYogaWithMe has free yoga classes for the next two months.

Even if you are not especially fit but are able to move, getting outside (walks, bicycle rides etc.) is very important for getting the blood flowing, reducing cabin fever and getting some fresh air. It may also be nice to see your neighbours out and about and say hello from a distance.

If you find physical exercise as dull as dishwater, then play some music and dance like no one’s watching! Or close the door and put on some headphones. Your own personal silent disco is good for you physically and can be great stress relief.



Good nutrition may be challenging during the lockdown for several reasons, including wanting to reduce the hassle or contagion risk of going to the supermarket, being on a tight budget, or not knowing how to cook healthy meals. Overeating due to stress or boredom may also be a problem. In fact, most of us may need to reduce our quantity and frequency of meals for the simple reason that we’re exercising less by staying at home and having easy access to the kitchen.

Now that it is possible to have ready-made food delivered or to use fast food drive-throughs, it’s still important to not overdo the “junk food”, and keep a balanced diet.

A healthy compromise to making meals from scratch may be purchasing nutritious ready-made meals from the supermarket, or meal kits such those from HelloFresh, MyFoodBag, or Woop, if they’re available in your area. Meal kits are usually nutritious and they may even open up a new world of cooking.


Spiritual Health (Taha Wairua)

Fun Activities and Enjoyment

Streaming entertainment: Even if you already have a paid streaming service like Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Neon, or Lightbox etc. you might be surprised the breadth of free (ad-supported) streaming entertainment.

These include:

* Don’t let young children roam YouTube unattended, instead let them browse YouTube Kids

Most NZ public libraries have free memberships and free online content such as ebooks, music and movies. Fast online applications are being accepted during the lockdown.

Explore the wonderful world of podcasts

Try some old-school fun if you have access to:

  • books
  • board and card games
  • crosswords
  • Sudoku
  • puzzles.


Spiritual Well-being

Think positively. Don’t overload on negative news; try not to seek out news too frequently as it can be overwhelming and some news outlets’ reporting can be overly sensationalist during this time.

Try yoga. Take time to meditate. Try a mindfulness app to calm your mind; popular free ones include: Smiling Mind, Stop, Breathe & Think, UCLA Mindful, 10% Happier


Religious Well-being

Some people take great comfort in practicing their religion. It is known to support health, well-being, self-control, self-esteem, and empathy.

Most places of worship in New Zealand are now broadcasting online. You may also be able to contact religious leaders or fellow congregation members via social media. Alternatively, Google the faith of your choice online.


Mental Health (Taha Hinengaro)

Mental Well-being

From mentalhealth.org.nz, apply the 5 ways to well-being each day:    

  • Connect
  • Learn
  • Give
  • Move
  • Take notice

During this time, reaching out to a doctor or mental health professional is more important than ever, so do not be afraid to do this.


Intellectual Stimulation

Learn a new language for free: DuoLingo and Memrise are 100% free and very popular apps that can run in the browser or on your phone.

Learn te reo Māori for free through Whitirea

Ten of the best free online courses

Southern Institute of Technology has zero fee distance learning

Free International Online Courses: edX, FutureLearn, OpenLearn

TED Talks provide free presentations on range of fascinating topics.



Family/Social Health (Taha Whānau)

Social Connection

Social Media

Thank goodness for technology. Connecting with family, friends and making new friends on social media can make you feel less isolated, and it’s a good way to find out what loved ones are up to or to catch up with the lives of those you haven’t seen for a while. If you’re new to social media (or haven’t used it in a while) then a good way to start is to ask your friends or family what platforms they use and connect with them there.

Popular social media include apps: Facebook, Instagram, Wechat, Twitter, Tumblr, Tik Tok, Reddit, LinkedIn, WhatsAppViber, Snapchat, Pinterest, Telegram

Tips: Although social media apps can be useful for feeling socially connected and allow you to have a lot of fun with others, they can also be a huge time vacuum so limit your time on them so you can get other important activities accomplished.

Also be wary of “compare and despair syndrome” where you find yourself feeling sad after perceiving your own life not to be as interesting or successful as others on social media. You may wish to hide or even de-friend people that make you feel this way. Also, keep in mind that people often present a cultivated or glamorised version of themselves online that is not necessarily reflective of their actual life.

Video Chat

Seeing someone via video chat is arguably the next best thing to seeing them in person. This, combined with faster internet speeds and free feature-rich applications, is arguably why video conferencing has skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years – both socially and professionally. Most video chat applications now allow multiple participants and newer apps like Houseparty allow up to eight of your friends to play online games together.

Tip:  Schedule video chats with friends and family in advance and take time to try and connect with a friend or family member that you haven’t spoken to in a while. Be patient with older family members who are not used to the technology.

Video apps: Messenger, Zoom or RingCentral (40 minute free limit), Google Hangouts, Google Duo, Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Viber, and Houseparty


Whānau connection

You can now slightly extend your household bubble, but keep it local, small and exclusive. For example, you could add close family/whānau members, a caregiver, or someone who needs care, or a couple or single person if they live alone. Anyone who feels unwell should immediately self-isolate from others in their extended bubble

With the extensive range of social interactive application available, don’t neglect interacting with the family and friends in your bubble. It doesn’t count if everyone is together but all engrossed with their electronic devices! Plan some group games that could include board or card games, or even karaoke (you can search for your favourite songs for free on YouTube simply with the word “karaoke” added). If you don’t actually have any games in the house you can play group games like charades or find a range of free board games to play at Poki.

Try to watch movies/series together rather than just alone. Sometimes it can be hard finding video entertainment to suit everyone’s taste, especially if there are lots of you. However, it makes a difference if you can watch something that you can all interact with, rather than watching passively, e.g. a comedy that you can all laugh at, or documentaries that you can all discuss afterwards. If your family is spread out in multiple bubbles and you all have Netflix (including the 30 day trial), try Netflix Party, where you can all watch shows together.

Revisit the art talking to each other in the real world, and finding joy in that!




At Alert level 3, all children and young people who can stay at home, should stay at home. This will support physical distancing and reduce the number of people in close proximity in schools.

Schools will be open for children and young people in years 1-10, who are not able to stay at home. All children and young people will still have access to distance learning from home.

Primary and intermediate schools will be open. Secondary schools will be open for years 9 and 10 only. All young people in years 11-13 will continue their learning at home, and will not be able to go to a school site.

Some early childcare centres will be open, and although there are some rules that they must adhere to, physical distancing is not mandatory. Check with your usual childcare centre to see if they are open and what their requirements are.

See the Ministry of Education’s Alert Level 3 FAQ for more information.


The Sparklers website has tools and ideas for helping and looking after children during times of crisis.

Jacqui Maguire has developed CARE, a set of childcare guidelines, for difficult times.

The Parent Help helpline is available from 9am – 9pm 7 days a week: phone 0800 568 856.



Maintaining Relationships

If your partner is working day and night during the lockdown and you’re not, or vice versa, this may cause tension. Conversely, too much time spent together in the same space can also be mentally claustrophobic. This is where a shared time schedule can be useful; someone feeling neglected may be reassured if they know that their partner will stop working at a certain time. For couples who are both at home, schedule “me time” where both partners can do individual activities, allow for some time and space apart. If an argument ever gets too heated, time-out may be necessary (and now you can leave the house to get some fresh air) but simply remembering to be extra kind and considerate to each other during this crisis may avoid ever getting to that point.

Many NZ relationship counsellors / therapists are now offering counselling online, so this may be an option to improve cohabitation during the lockdown, as well as the relationship in the long-term.

New Relationships

Popular dating apps in New Zealand include Tindr, Bumble, as well as Her and Grindr (for the LGBTQ+ community).

If you’re looking to chat with new people online, you may find dating apps to be a great way to connect with new people and communicate strictly online or by telephone, at least for the time being.

If you’re just looking to chat online with no undue pressure to actually meet for the remainder of the lockdown, this may be a perfect opportunity. A lot of people have been making it clear in their profile that they’re not going to meet anyone until after the lockdown. This is good because it also sends a message to others that such behaviour is unacceptable.

If you do connect with someone special, you must resist the temptation to meet up in person; use the remaining time in lockdown to get to know them as much as possible from afar. The built-up anticipation may make the first meeting even more exciting!


Productivity / Vocation

Your workspace: If you’re working from home, don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not as productive as before the lockdown; a lot of people will be in the same boat. However, there are some simple modifications you can make to help with your productivity. Set up a dedicated area where it is comfortable to work with minimal distraction. If you don’t need to look after anyone, ask others in your bubble not to disturb you if possible or use earphones or earplugs to block out distracting noise. Avoid social media during this time and try to avoid engaging with personal online and phone messages to avoid distraction.

Stick to a routine. Try to keep the same work hours as before the lockdown, and minimise distractions as much as possible.  Ensure colleagues don’t contact you for non-urgent requests outside of these hours.

Use free tools like Trello to set, prioritise and share tasks with your colleagues to help you work to a plan collaboratively, with mutual visibility of tasks being done and completed.

You may find that deadlines are more relaxed during the lockdown, but still, it’s important to self-impose deadlines so that tasks don’t drag on too long. There’s a plethora of time management apps online, with popular ones including Microsoft To Do, Todoist and Any.do. Check out this list of other time management alternatives.

Blueprint for Learning has a good holistic guide to working well from home.

You can also make a list of short and medium-term goals so you can use this time to finally accomplish tasks you’ve tended to put off; whether that’s spring cleaning, DIY, or learning to cook new recipes. It helps to make the goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely).

DIY tips: only do activities that are safe and within your abilities. Avoid any job that will put you or others at risk. Tradespeople such as electricians, plumbers, glaziers etc. are an essential service so they can be contacted for urgent jobs.


Māori Perspective

COVID-19 Advice for Māori

COVID-19 Information for Maori


Other Resources

Wellness Matters under Lockdown


Kia Kaha Aotearoa!

Occupational Therapy New Zealand Whakaora Ngangahau Aotearoa (OTNZ-WNA) can be contacted by members of the public, media, or policymakers who are interested in planning a support system for the community.

Phone:              021 222 9448
Email:               otnzexecdirector@otnzwna.co.nz