Updated: Oct 8
"He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything." -- Arabian proverb
1 - Follow CDC Guidelines
2 - Stay Connected
3 - Exercise
4 - Manage Stress and Foster Resilience
5 - Diet
6 - Organize Your Day
What Not to Do During the Pandemic
More Info On The Coronavirus
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Staying mentally and physically healthy during the pandemic is more important as ever. The coronavirus has spread throughout the US with the death toll now at nearly 190,000 and climbing. Armed with the knowledge that the virus will not magically disappear and will most likely have a second wave this fall and winter, we must take steps to minimize the possibility of infection and of losing our mental and physical health.
Our lives have been irrevocably changed.
Two unfortunate things have occurred resulting in our current situation:
1 - a lack of clear and decisive national leadership required to flatten the curve has led to a hodgepodge of approaches, many inadequate, leading to a crisis of confidence in available scientific facts regarding the virus.
2 - a refusal by many Americans to wear masks, social distance, and not attend large gatherings that act as super spreaders of the virus.
These failings have made it critical for each of us to take the steps to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities.
It’s easy to feel everything is out of control during the pandemic and recent political turmoil. But there is one thing that need not be: You!
Having some degree of self-control can make a difference in how good you feel and how well you survive the covid-19 era. By self-control I mean the capacity to regulate or manage feelings, reactions, and thoughts during the crisis. Granted, it’s more difficult while under stress to feel in control. But there are things you can do; approaches you can take to assure greater emotional stability, and better decision making.
"Research shows that people who practice self-control reap a host of benefits, including fewer physical and mental health problems and a longer lifespan; more success in school and work; a greater popularity with others, fewer arguments, and better relationships."
A good way to start is to settle on what is and is not in your control. You can do this in any number of ways. Simply making a list can be effective. For our purposes, I’ve included below five things that you can potentially control that are empowering and help sustain your physical and emotional health. For instance, how closely are you following CDC guidelines, staying connected with family and friends, keeping up an activity or exercise regimen, managing your stress, making good food choices, and organizing your daily life.
Each of us has our own story surrounding the pandemic, whether it be a loss of work and subsequent income, possible eviction, infection and/or loss of a loved one, balancing at-home work and childrearing, extensive quarantine (especially in older adults), disconnection from friends and family, fear, anxiety, depression, a resurfacing of past emotional trauma and physical illness, and much more. Many of us will suffer the symptoms of PTSD.
Because of all this, I decided to provide information that can empower and sustain us during the coming months. This post outlines the strategies that can serve us well in sustaining the emotional and physical health needed to survive covid-19 and political instability.
Following the suggestions can act as a way of forming new habits that can replace or modify pre-covid-19 behaviors that no longer serve our needs.
Keep in mind, I'm not suggesting you not be involved socially and politically around the issues of covid-19, racial injustice or the presidential election. Such involvement can be health promoting if undertaken with patience, wisdom, and a realistic sense of what is and is not possible. My suggestions focus on what you can do to manage your own physical and emotional health right now.
1 – Follow CDC Guidelines
One of the first things you can do to protect yourself and others is to follow the well-established CDC guidelines. These consist of washing hands often, social distancing, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning and disinfecting, and monitoring for covid-19 symptoms.
By following these guidelines, you can dramatically decrease the possibility of infection for yourself, your family and community members.
Always wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands wherever you are!
Keep in mind that the best strategy is not to get infected!
The CDC video below outlines how to prevent infection from the coronavirus:
2 – Stay Connected
It may surprise you that one of the most important ways to stay healthy during the coronavirus spread is to stay connected to family and friends. Ironically, social distancing is a key strategy for avoiding infection. For this reason, it is especially important to seek out ways that connect us socially that are safe and sustainable.
Being separate from others is “associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety as well as heart disease, premature death, and dementia.” says former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy and Alice T. Chen, former director of Doctors for America.
Murthy and Chen emphasize that we must put people first. They offer small but helpful steps that we can take to stay connected:
· Think of a person who may be particularly lonely or vulnerable and try to support him/her by staying in touch, listening to that individual, and even bringing over a home-cooked meal.
· Creating family night where everyone can sit together and share a meal, play games, and interact.
· Establish a time, each day if possible, when family and friends can give their full attention to each other.
· Think of ways you can be of service to the community in a time of need.
These simple steps can be accomplished both in person and, when necessary, through social media. They are a strong antidote to loneliness and social isolation, as well as building the emotional resilience we will need in the coming months.
Take a look at the apps and websites for more information on staying connected:
3 – Exercise
Exercise is one of the best ways to clear the mind, process emotions, and strengthen nearly every part of the body and mind. Current research demonstrates that exercise can give us a greater sense of control, lower anxiety, and combat depression.
In our current situation, going out for a run or brisk walk can be refreshing, clear our minds, and pump up the immune system. A nice long walk/run out in nature can unleash a cascade of endorphins and neurotransmitters such as serotonin that leaves us feeling calm, clear thinking, and emotionally stable. Exercise reduces stress, lowers stress hormones, and makes us more resilient.
Currently, it is considered safe to go out for a walk or run. Just keep your distance.
Access these websites and apps for more info on the benefits of exercise:
Please check with your medical practitioner before embarking on any exercise program.
4 – Manage Stress and Foster Resilience
In prolonged chronic situations like covid-19, stress, anxiety, and depression are very common. Managing stress and fostering resilience is an important predictor of how well we do in overcoming the challenge.
Why is it important to manage stress and foster resilience?
According to Johns Hopkins it helps people experience a better sense of control, an improvement of immune function, a reduction in negative chronic health outcomes, and improvement in the ability to cope with unexpected new stresses.
It takes time and effort to accomplish productive stress reduction and to build emotional resilience.
Here are some suggestions you might try:
· Taking care of your physical health by getting sufficient sleep, establishing a routine for your day, exercising at home or proper social distancing outdoors, eat plenty of vegetables, nuts, and seeds and a salad every day, avoid alcohol and drugs.
· Avoiding negative thoughts by using guided meditations, practicing deep breathing, pausing and becoming mindful while performing daily tasks, creating an intention for each day, and identifying negative or irrational thoughts and challenging them.
· Learning to manage emotionally charged situations by taking deep breaths, ending a conversation instead of losing your temper.
· Indulging in activities that reduce stress and bring enjoyment.
· Practicing stress management techniques and meditation.
Dr Mark Hyman's Take 5 breathing technique, demonstrated in this video, is very helpful in resetting the nervous system. It can be practiced for just a few minutes in the morning and evening to great effect.
I suggest you consider supplementing with Theanine and Lemon Balm to calm your nervous system while keeping your mind alert and active.
Take a few minutes to watch this video on progressive relaxation training
5 - Diet
Eating a whole food diet that provides all the essential nutrients we need to remain healthy, vital, and strong during the pandemic is essential.
There are several things that healthy diets consist of and which you may consider emulating:
Reduce unhealthy processed food (low-fat foods, crackers, salad dressings, cookies, breakfast cereals, white bread and most multi-grain breads) and ultra-processed foods (soft drinks, chips, candy, cake mix, flavored yogurt, Chicken nuggets, fast food burgers, hot dogs). Doing this will reduce your intake of salt, fat, as well as minimize added and excess sugars.
Reduce caloric intake by 20 to 25% depending on your weight. Don’t eat until you are full. Eat until you are no longer hungry (the 80% rule).
Reduce meat to a few times a week. There is no need to become a vegan or vegetarian. Some hunter-gatherer tribes eat more meat than others. People living in what are called Blue Zones eat meat regularly but not daily.
Eat natural, whole foods whenever possible. Foods such as beans, vegetables, mushrooms, whole grains, fruits, cheeses, herbal teas, natural yogurt, tofu, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and nuts and seeds should be the bulk of your daily meal plate. Here is a list of whole foods you can choose from.
A natural food diet will increase your fiber intake substantially. This is very beneficial for your health and microbiome. Aim for at least 30 - 40 grams a day or more.
Drink wine in moderation. There are a lot of down sides to alcohol, so be careful.
Don’t worry about dieting. Your body will respond to a natural food diet which is naturally low in calories. No need to do calorie counting.
6 - Organize Your Day
Planning and organizing your day can be extremely helpful in maintaining a sense of order and purpose to daily living. Having a well planned day and week can foster feelings of control, safety, and focus. Productivity can also benefit.
Martine Moore, Benefits and HRIS Specialist at Healthcare Risk Advisors has this to say about structuring your time:
"If you’re spending more time at home and perhaps working remotely, it’s important to structure your day to stay on track with your obligations and goals. That way, you can still get done what needs to get done in a balanced way. That includes not only finishing work, but keeping up with your exercises, doing chores, staying socially connected, even getting some quality downtime."
By structuring your time you create the sense of control and meaning needed to remain emotionally and physically healthy. Rather than wandering listlessly around the house, binging on Netflix, scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, etc. creating schedules can keep you on track to accomplish tasks and reduce feelings of stress. The emotional impact of this can be immense.
When you are planning a schedule follow some of these rules:
· Include a balance of work, home, health, fitness, hobbies, finances, etc.
· Plan and set priorities for the entire week or beyond.
· Take your own priorities seriously. What really needs to get done?
· Keep a calendar.
· Create incentives such as a coffee break or snack as a reward for accomplishing a goal.
· Create a checklist.
· Make time for yourself each day. Self-care is a priority.
Taking care of ourselves during these turbulent times needs to be a high priority for us all. The stress of illness and political turmoil can take a heavy toll on our health both physically and emotionally. Taking control of our lives helps us to sustain meaning and stability, as we move forward.
The suggestions I've listed in this post are aimed at giving you the focus and wherewithal to thrive during unsettled times. Try them and see if they provide you with what you need. Don't stop here. Search out what works for you. Explore new avenues. Create new paths!
What Not To Do During the Pandemic
More Info On the Coronavirus
To read more information on dealing with the coronavirus read my articles published on Transform Your Life:
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The information contained in this post is not meant to diagnose or treat any disease or to replace the advice of medical and health professionals. Information contained in links are the sole opinions of the owners of the websites referenced. Information on this site is for educational purposes only.