You know you should stay at a distance to help avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus. You also know to wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water and to wear a mask when going to the grocery store or on other essential trips.
But what can you do to keep yourself healthy while staying at home – in isolation while waiting for state and local health officials to say it is safe to venture out again?
There are three critical areas to focus on: eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising your body.
We are dealing with events unlike anything in our lifetime. We are scared about getting the COVID-19 virus. We are worried about our family and friends. We are concerned about our financial well-being.
One or all of those stresses can lead to overeating. Boredom and anxiety are common triggers for self-medication with food – especially comfort food such as snacks loaded with empty calories. When you have been through a long day of bad news, loneliness and uncertainty, it’s easy to feel better by consuming a bag of chips or several snack cakes.
Over the long term, though, impulsive eating can lead to weight gain and related health issues with your heart and immune system.
Here are some tips to improve your calorie intake while isolated:
- Plan healthy meals for the week. The plan should include all three meals for each day.
- Make certain the meals are balanced with the right amount of carbohydrates and proteins.
- Plan your snacks as well. This helps you avoid binge eating late at night.
- Drink plenty of water. Avoid too much caffeine that can dehydrate you – which also can impact your sleep.
- Be deliberate with your process and purchase only the ingredients you need for your healthy meals.
When crisis strikes, your mind races through scenarios on survival. The brain chemicals connected with deep sleep are the same ones that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones, according to the National Sleep Foundation. As a result, when you don't sleep well, your body keeps pumping out those hormones. The next day, you feel more stressed, the following night you find it harder to fall asleep, and so on.
The cycle can be vicious, and become unhealthy.
Here are some tips from the National Sleep Foundation:
- Get an hour of bright light in the morning and around midday to help regulate your circadian rhythm.
- Start the day with exercise, which releases hormones that signal your body to stay awake.
- Stick to the same bedtime and wake-up time every day.
- Sit quietly for a couple of minutes as you focus on your breathing.
- Avoid eating in the three to four hours before bedtime — it can throw off your internal clock and lead to reflux, which is disruptive to sleep.
- If you can't get seven to nine hours of sleep at night, take short naps during the day.
The American College of Sports Medicine points out that the human immune system is a highly intricate network of cells and molecules designed to keep the host free from infection and disease. Exercise is known to have a profound impact on the normal functioning of the immune system.
That is why staying active is critical during this time. Not only can exercise have a positive direct effect on the cells and molecules of the immune system, but it is also known to counter the negative effects of isolation and confinement stress on various aspects of immunity.
Here are some exercising tips:
- Commit to 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. This can include riding a stationary bicycle, gliding on an elliptical, jogging or walking. If you do your activity outside, wear a mask and keep your distance from others.
- Do muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week.
- Take breaks from being in front of your computer or television every 20 to 30 minutes.
- Walk around or play with your pet.
- Walk up and down your stairs for three 20-second bursts per day.
- Do sit ups, push ups and/or planking two to three times per week. Start slowly and work up to the number of repetitions you can handle.
- Dance and play with your children.
All three of these areas of healthy focus are connected. Stay safe and stay well.
View more information about dealing with the impact of this outbreak at the JMH COVOID-19 Resource Center.