How to keep your body and mind strong while dealing with COVID-19
This is an unprecedented time. There are many uncertainties, which can cause feelings of uneasiness and anxiety. Rather than dwelling on things out of your control, it can be helpful to remember there are areas in your life you can manage to help you feel your best while coping with the effects of COVID-19.
Here are a few tips on what you should do to keep your body and mind strong during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Nourish your body
Wholesome foods like fruits and vegetables nourish your body. However, fewer trips to the grocery store while you're social distancing may mean less fresh produce in the house. To make fruits and veggies last, try to purchase items that stay fresh for longer periods of time (grapes, apples, carrots and potatoes) in addition to ones that spoil sooner (lettuce and berries).
Buying frozen and canned produce is another great way to keep fruits and vegetables around.
In short, stock up on nutrition-packed foods (yes, fruits and veggies but also things like nuts, seeds, whole grains and healthy fats) that will stay fresh for a week or longer and limit buying less nutritious options such as chips, soda, cookies and ice cream.
Immune cells react positively to vitamin D, which you can get through sunlight and some fortified foods. To boost your vitamin D levels, head outdoors for a walk, to play a sport or even read a book in the sunshine. (Don't forget sunscreen!) You also can add vitamin D-rich foods to your diet like canned tuna, salmon, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified foods (e.g., milk, cereal and more).
Get active outdoors to enjoy the benefits of exercising and being in the sunshine. Physical activity can improve your mood, how your body responds to an infection and your overall health. Since spending time outside during social distancing is allowed and even encouraged, simultaneously soak up some sunshine by going for a walk, riding a bike or jogging. Whether you go alone or with others in your household, be sure to stay at least 6 feet from people you may encounter and avoid public gathering areas.
It's easy to focus on the negative right now, but thinking this way tends not to be helpful. Instead, try to pay attention to the positive by limiting screen time, supporting others—including local businesses that may still be open (if you have the means)—accomplishing tasks that you've been putting off, taking a walk in nature or writing down three things for which you're grateful.
Sleep allows our body to repair and heal from the stress it endures each day. Right now, it's especially important to aim for at least seven hours of shuteye. If you find yourself not falling asleep as easily as you once did, try moving your bedtime up 30 minutes earlier and practicing good sleep hygiene and relaxation breathing techniques.
Now is the time to support others. There are endless ways to support and care for one another during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some obvious ways are practicing social distancing and proper hygiene like washing your hands frequently. Less obvious ways are reaching out to someone with a phone call, video chat or simple letter or care package. Take special care to check in on family, friends and neighbors who live alone, as this time may be especially isolating for those with limited social interaction.
What NOT to do during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Don't load up on junk. If you find yourself reaching for chips and cookies, you're not alone. Just keep in mind our bodies also need nutritious foods right now. Aim to incorporate at least five fruits and vegetables into your diet each day.
- Don't accept bad sleep. Be sure your sleeping space is dark, quiet, cool and comfortable.
- Don't over-train. With all the free at-home workouts available, it's important to remember that rest days are still essential. Doing too much and putting too much stress on our body is a bad thing. Take care of yourself and grant yourself some down time.
- Don't fast. Appetites can be all over the place during times of uncertainty. Some people feel hungrier while others lose their appetite. Lack of food can put added stress on the body. If you aren't feeling hungry, try smaller nutritious meals to give your body the nutrients it needs right now.
- Don't smoke. If you smoke, consider this your wake up call to try to quit. Smokers are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19 than non-smokers.
- Don't stress. Chronic stress suppresses our immune response by releasing the hormone cortisol. When feelings of anxiety or stress creep in, try doing activities you enjoy or call a friend or family member.