Fostering wellness during the COVID-19 outbreak
Over the past few weeks, concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, have turned our daily lives upside down. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic — a disease that is spreading rapidly worldwide — and the number of reported cases and deaths are climbing every day.
A growing number of employers are allowing their employees to work remotely, schools and daycares have closed their doors, and governors are putting states on lockdown. Even parks are off-limits in some places. In the midst of all of this change, most of us are rightfully concerned about our health and well-being.
COVID survival skills
There's no disputing that social distancing is vital to curbing the spread of COVID-19. How do you maintain some sense of normalcy during times of crisis, particularly when you're socially isolated?
First, instead of fixating on what you can't do, focus on how you can survive and maybe even thrive during this unsettling time. Not only does attending to different dimensions of health and well-being help you remain grounded during times of change, it enhances your ability to help others.
How to stress well
Reduced access to food and daily essentials is stressful. With gyms closed, sporting activities shut down, and bars and restaurants off-limits, we're also being cut off from our friends and loved ones. But you have more control over your stressors than you think. A few ideas:
- Limit the news. Watching the news all day can increase anxiety levels. Tune in to the morning or evening news and turn to reliable sources of information, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization only once or twice a day.
- Take advantage of stress management techniques. Think meditation, deep breathing and journaling. This is also a great time to practice gratitude. Meditation and breathing apps are available to make it easier.
- Stay in touch with friends and family. Touch base through phone calls, online games, video chats and virtual happy hours.
How to eat well
It's important to minimize our excursions to the grocery store to limit the spread of COVID-19. Consider online grocery shopping or home delivery options. Set on selecting your own items? Maintain a safe distance between yourself and others (at least 6 feet), wipe down surfaces with disinfectant wipes, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands before and after shopping.
With grocery stores limiting the purchase of specific items and advising people shop less often, eating well can be difficult. Make it more manageable with these strategies:
- Purchase shelf-stable and frozen foods. Staples such as frozen and canned produce, beans, and lentils will keep longer and are easy to incorporate into recipes.
- Take inventory of the items in your kitchen and get creative with cooking. Choose a recipe site where you can plug in ingredients you have on hand and see what pops up. (You can also browse our collection of tasty, healthy recipes.)
- Pay attention to portion sizes. When we're cooped up inside, it's easy to overindulge. Try to maintain your regular eating habits as much as possible and minimize your reliance on takeout and drive-thru options.
How to move well
Exercise is critical for both mental and physical health. Take advantage of virtual workouts and the great outdoors while gyms are closed. A few suggestions:
- Go for a brisk walk or run.
- Hop on your bicycle for a tour of your neighborhood.
- Try a new activity like yoga, Tai Chi or Zumba.
- Create an obstacle course at your home. Include activities like jumping jacks, pushups and squats. Then challenge your loved ones to virtual competitions.
- Invite your kids to get moving. If you've got children at home, incorporate them into your workouts and make it the PE portion of their day. Freeze dance, jump rope, break out a hula hoop. The options are seemingly endless.
- Staying sane in the midst of COVID-19
During uncertain times, it can be tempting to stay up late, mindlessly watching TV or scrolling through your smartphone. But it's important to maintain a regular schedule and try to keep up with your usual activities. Establish good sleep practices and keep a worry journal by your bed so you can release the thoughts that are keeping you up at night.
As we navigate this new normal, consider how you can use your time mindfully. Maybe you decide to get back into an old hobby or develop a new one. Maybe you use the break from school to do some spring cleaning with your kiddos. Or maybe it's time to get in the kitchen and practice a new cooking technique. Whatever you decide, focus on the things you CAN do to contribute to your health and well-being.
Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN, is director of the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She enjoys communicating with people about healthy living and eating and was a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for 9 years. Beth has served as the president of the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which also named her as the Outstanding Dietitian of the Year in 2012.
For up-to-date information about Henry Ford Health System’s response to the coronavirus, visit henryford.com/coronavirus.
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