Physical & Mental Health Tips for Living Through a Pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives and made them more stressful than they already were. With cases spiking and new variants of the virus spreading, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest information as we live through a pandemic.
What’s equally important is taking care of your mental and physical health for pandemic survival. While many of the suggestions below are good practices in general, they are even more essential today as we live through a pandemic.
Create a Routine for Pandemic Survival
Having a routine is the first step in pandemic survival. The pandemic caused many of us to get away from our normal routine. It can cause added stress when you aren’t on a routine because it feels like you’re going in multiple directions at once. It also can cause you to pay more attention to the situation causing your stress. Creating a little normalcy during the pandemic will do wonders for your mental wellbeing and help reduce stress.
Start by waking up at the same time every day and follow the morning routine you established before the pandemic.1 It will add a sense of normalcy even if you are working from home. Just as it is important to wake up at the same time every day, it’s equally important to set and keep a bedtime routine. Creating a bedtime routine will help you sleep better and is a natural stress reliever. We’ll discuss the importance of sleep on your overall health in a bit.
If you had a physical fitness routine before the pandemic, keep it as you exercise at home. If you didn’t, there’s no better time to exercise at home and create a routine for physical fitness. It’s also helpful to eat healthy meals on a set schedule. When we are home all the time it’s easy to grab snacks whenever you feel bored. Carving out specific meal times helps to avoid snacking and contributes to your routine. I’ll go into these topics more later.
Maintaining a routine is great for supporting your mental health and provides a sense of certainty in these unprecedented times. You’ll feel organized and productive which will give you a sense of control in an out of control situation.
Limit Screen Time
Whether you’re looking at emails, scrolling through social media or binging on that new Netflix show, you can easily spend too much time looking at screens – especially your phone. As we live through the pandemic and spend less time on out of home activities, we’re looking at screens more and more. With talk of the pandemic being everywhere, that device in your hand can add unnecessary stress. Just putting down your device can reduce stress and help with pandemic survival.
According to a report from Forbes Magazine, we spent a collective 1.6 TRILLION hours on our phones from March to August in 2020.2
For your and your family’s mental wellbeing, it’s important to cut back on the screen time! Try these suggestions to limit your screen time:3
- Turn off the TV and keep phones and devices away from the dining room table for at least one meal each day. Try to avoid eating lunch at your workspace.
- No screens two hours before bedtime (this also helps you sleep better!)
- Turn off your alerts and stay off social media during work hours, unless it’s part of your job.
- Get in some real face time with your household or pick up the phone for a quick chat with a loved one (no texting).
- Reach for a book instead of picking up your phone to mindless scroll
- Play a physical game or do a puzzle with your family.
Our devices are an important part of our daily lives, however it’s more critical than ever to limit the use of them for our physical and mental health during the pandemic.
Reduce Stress for Pandemic Survival
You’ve likely heard me say it before: the gut is the foundation for your health because 80% of your immune system is located there.4 Long-term stress can weaken your intestinal barrier, allowing gut bacteria to enter your body and create an imbalance between good and bad bacteria.5 Ongoing stress from work, illness or death of a loved one, lack of sleep, a poor diet, and other daily stressors can lead to dysbiosis (altered gut microbiome) in your gut and eventually leaky gut. This weakens your immune system and makes it vulnerable to viruses.
When you experience any kind of stress, whether physical (slamming on your brakes), emotional (going through a heartbreak), or mental (overloaded at work), your body processes it the same – through the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands respond by creating a flood of stress hormones, including cortisol, which affects both your digestive system and your immune system.
Our stress response evolved primarily as a means of self-preservation from our ancestors facing immediate, life-threatening situations. Unfortunately, that response isn’t ideal for the type of chronic, ongoing stress we face today. That’s why it’s so crucial to make time to de-stress!
Some of my favorite stress-reducing activities include:
- Meditation and breathing exercises
- Walking my dogs, with my daughter, Elle, and husband, Xavier
- Relaxing and detoxing in my infrared sauna
- Taking a warm bath with homemade lavender bath salts
- Taking ZenAdaptTM, an adaptogen blend that supports optimal cortisol levels to promote a balanced stress response.
Stay Connected With Friends
Being stuck at home may have you feeling isolated from family and friends. After all, we are social creatures and crave human interaction. However, just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you have to be isolated from the people you love. It’s important to keep in touch with friends and loved ones for pandemic survival.
One way I’ve stayed connected with people is through video conferencing software such as Zoom or FaceTime! Technology has made it much easier to keep in touch with our loved ones and even reconnect with old friends that live far away.
Set up a weekly virtual movie using a service such as Teleparty or game night with friends for a fun get together. Have a virtual dinner date where you cook the same meal and eat it together through a video chat. You can even keep up with a book club digitally!
Staying connected with people through the pandemic will make you feel less isolated and support your mental health.
Exercise at Home for Pandemic Survival
We have all heard the saying, “exercise makes you happy.” Well, it also strengthens your immune system and promotes quality sleep, which is essential to achieve optimal health.
If you and your partner are working from home, and your kids are doing remote learning too, it can feel like your home is a three-ring circus. It can also make it feel impossible to find time to exercise at home. Here are a few tips on how to incorporate physical fitness at home for pandemic survival:
Establish a Routine for Exercise At Home
- Set a time every day to workout. Generally, 30 minutes of moderate movement is needed to get the health benefits of exercise.6
- Exercise at home at the same time every day.
- If you can’t have the room to yourself, choose an activity your family can do together.
- Set goals and track your progress with an app. It’s encouraging to see all you’ve accomplished!
Find a Workout You Enjoy
- There are many online physical fitness options available including bodyweight exercises, cardio, yoga and Pilates. Even better, some of them are free.
- Get the benefits of walking by taking a walk with your dog and family to get outside and get in a workout!
- Expand your definition of exercise at home – play outdoor games such as hopscotch and redlight/greenlight with your kids.
Work With the Equipment You Have
- If you have home gym equipment, use it!
- Use a beach towel on top of carpet as a yoga mat.
- Canned goods can function as hand weights for strength training.
- Jump rope.
Get Better Sleep
Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick from a virus. This is because sleep deprivation lowers the body’s production of cytokines, which are essential to fighting off infection and inflammation. They also aid in your body’s response to stress.7
- Eat foods rich in tryptophan and magnesium such as lean meats, avocados, and green leafy vegetables.
- Eliminate fatty foods, heavy metals, caffeine and alcohol.
- Get tired naturally by establishing a regular sleep schedule and creating a bedtime routine.
- Exercise at home.
- Use herbal supplements such as Rest and Restore Max™, a physician-formulated combination of melatonin, valerian root, and targeted amino acids and minerals designed to support deep relaxation and a healthy night’s rest.
Eat a Nutrient Dense Diet
Sticking with a healthy diet has been a challenge for most of us throughout the pandemic. The convenience of delivery and take-out has made it easier to order out rather than cook a healthy nutrient-dense meal at home.
However, the processed foods often used at restaurants lack essential nutrients, are full of unhealthy fat and too much salt, and usually include toxins, leading to obesity, leaky gut, and other health issues. The more processed a food is, the more likely it is to be high in calories, sugar, and salt.
This can increase the risk of having complications if you get Covid-19 or other illness. I advocate choosing foods that meet your caloric needs while also filling your nutrient requirements. This means eating grass-fed and pasture-raised meat, wild caught fish, organic vegetables and fruits, and healthy fats.
Many people have specific food sensitivities, and it’s important to know what those are. That way, you can tailor your diet to fit your body. An elimination diet is a great tool to help you identify which foods will and will not work for you. The advantage of The Myers Way® is that you can do it whether or not you follow a vegan, vegetarian, or paleo diet. You begin by removing foods that are inflammatory and following an approach similar to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (avoid gluten, dairy, grains and legumes). Then, you reintroduce some of those foods while gauging your symptoms in order to identify food sensitivities. Modifying your diet to suit your body’s needs allows your gut to heal, ensuring that you absorb all those wonderful whole foods you are now eating.
We all have days where we just want something quick and easy. If you aren’t feeling like preparing a meal and decide to order take out try these paleo-friendly options. Paleo fast food options and healthy dining are actually more readily available than you might think.
Change the Subject
It seems like everywhere you turn people are talking about the pandemic – the news, social media, even during virtual or socially distant gatherings. You can feel like you just can’t get away from hearing about Covid-19.
While it is important for pandemic survival to keep yourself informed on new developments, however it is equally important to take a time out from discussing or thinking about the pandemic to reduce stress.9 Set boundaries with friends and family when it comes to discussing the pandemic.
Here’s a few tips on how to change the subject from the pandemic:
Be Firm and Be Clear
If discussing the pandemic becomes overwhelming say something like, “Can we talk about something else, please.” or “I’m feeling stressed about the pandemic. Let’s change the subject.”
Respect Other People’s Boundaries
Others may not be as clear about their needs or feelings, so it’s important to pay attention to clues that they might be uncomfortable. If they aren’t making eye contact or look frustrated, that might be a clue they want to change the subject.
Take a Breath
Pausing the conversion can be beneficial for pandemic survival to stop feeling overwhelmed and reduce stress, especially if you are feeling irritated about something being said. Take a break and pause for 10 seconds before responding.
It’s important to be aware of what is causing you stress, take a break and talk about something else when it’s overwhelming.
The pandemic is still raging through the world. It’s important that we sleep better and find ways to naturally relieve stress. Exercising at home and finding natural stress relief, along with the other mental health tips outlined above are essential for pandemic survival and adapting to life through a pandemic.
- How to Build Daily and Weekly Routines as Shelter-in-Place Drags On<br>. Brian Krans. Healthline. 2020.
- We’ve Spent 1.6 Trillion Hours On Mobile So Far In 2020<br>. John Koetsier. Forbes. 2020.
- Family Digital Wellness Guide. Boston Children's Hospital. 2020.
- Stress Weakens the Immune System. American Psychological Association. 2006.
- Side Effects of Stress On the Body. American Psychological Association. 2018.
- How Much Should the Average Adult Exercise Every Day? . Edward R. Laskowski, MD. Mayo Clinic. 2019.
- Lack of Sleep: Can It Make You Sick?. Eric J. Olson, MD. Mayo Clinic. 2018.
- Assess Your Sleep Needs. Harvard Medical School. 2008.
- Changing the Subject: Setting Boundries About Covid-19 Talk. Advent Health. 2020.
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