Vitality

How To Be Physically, Mentally Healthy Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Being healthy all boils down to practicing a balanced diet and regular exercise, as well as getting good sleep, and these are especially crucial amid pandemics such as COVID-19. Unlike before, however, there are factors caused by the virus that can affect your routine, and one of these is social distancing from other people, which all of us have to do to avoid getting infected.
 
Living on non-perishable goods, staying at home and being anxious about everything can slowly take a toll on you over time. The good news is that there are expert-recommended tips that will help you stay healthy physically and mentally in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some of them:

Nutrition 

Carmen Byker Shanks, associate nutrition professor at Montana State University, said it is key to plan what you need before stocking up on groceries to ensure that you get the right items while avoiding panic-buying and wiping out community supplies. Though it is good to have enough supplies at home to survive the pandemic, stores across the country are still open. Check what is in your pantry, and plan to use them to create meals rich in starch, protein and produce.

It is a good time to buy fresh produce, she said. "Buy those fruits and vegetables, cut them up and put them in your freezer, because they can be used for months to come."

If you do buy canned, frozen or dried goods, choose those with less saturated fat, added sugar and salt. Byker Shanks recommended food that has less than five grams of added sugar, less than 200 milligrams of added salt and less than 1.5 grams of saturated fat, all of them per serving. 

Since boredom and stress-eating are common right now, your best defense against it, she said, is to admit that it is happening, and try to productively redirect your energies elsewhere, such as writing down your own feelings and reading a good book.

Fitness 

Since you may not be able to go to the gym, you can at least walk, run or bike outside, so long as you keep a safe distance, which, for Dr. Jennifer Lee, clinical assistant professor of family medicine and community health at Penn Medicine, means about six feet.

Amanda Brabec, a Boston-based personal trainer and fitness instructor, suggested being creative with what you have if you are working out at home, such as a sturdy chair when doing step-ups. There are also many no-equipment-required exercises (e.g. sit-ups, push-ups) that you can do even at a small space. 

It helps to know that physical activity does not have to be a gym-style workout since plenty of research shows that even everyday activities such as walking and gardening slash your risk of premature death and improve your overall health, meaning that every movement counts.

Stress And Sleep

Managing stress and anxiety benefits sleep, and sleep is crucial for every other health aspect. 

Yoga and meditation are great for managing stress, and these can be done at a small space. With these in mind, you can check if guided classes are streamed by your local studio. 

Wellness design consultant Jamie Gold suggested setting aside a specific area in your home that is free of technology, except for a few such as speakers for music, and recommended stocking this area with calming things like your favorite blankets and a scented candle.

"Over-exposure to news, over-exposure to chaos, creates a lot of anxiety [...] If you can create a quiet space to reflect, to journal, it helps to calm you," Gold said. She recommended designating to the extent possible specific areas for work and fitness to mentally separate your parts of the day. 

Balance your quiet time with responsible social interaction, Lee said, since loneliness can affect your physical and mental health. "Using FaceTime and the phone and video chats … [can help you] feel not quite so alone when you’re at home."

Cleaning 

Research suggests that SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, can live on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for 72 hours, cardboard for 24 hours and copper for four hours. Though surface contamination is not the only way the virus will spread, it helps to wipe down high-touch objects like door knobs, railings and faucets, in addition to regular household maintenance. Experts said that most household cleaners have not been specifically tested against COVID-19, but do work against other coronavirus types and are presumed to be effective against this one. 

Wash your hand towels frequently, Lee recommended, and remove your shoes and coats once you return from any outside trips. She added, however, that unless someone in your household is sick, there is no need to clean obsessively -- especially if you are practicing social distancing and regular hand washing. 

Decluttering is crucial, Gold added, especially if you live in a small space. "That’s going to make your space feel larger and more comfortable, and you’re going to have fewer things to touch and transmit germs."

Health Care 

As Lee recommended, postpone non-essential medical appointments such as annual physicals and dental cleanings, and engage in video chats with your doctor (telemedicine) for urgent prescheduled appointments. If you have a pressing medical need, you can (and should) seek care. 

However, if you think you may have COVID-19, call your doctor's office or hospital before you arrive because they may direct you to follow certain containment procedures. 

"I don’t think you can be too cautious [...] The more people can call ahead to pre-complete that triage protocol, the safer everyone is going to be," Lee said.

COVID-19 Pandemic Health authorities encourage people with symptoms of COVID-19 to self-isolate for seven days, keep a 2-meter distance from other people at home and to sleep alone. Pixabay

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