The current “shelter in place” and related changes to everyday lifestyles have proven to be challenging times for many and this can impact our mental and emotional health. We are each trying to find a balance in this “new normal” lifestyle within the restrictions imposed by social distancing. Several of our regular routines and activities are no longer possible in the same way as previously. As a result, we need to adapt our daily routines to the changes imposed.
Socializing with friends, commuting, children going to school, participating in sports or gym/fitness leisure have all disappeared. Given the mass disruption COVID-19 has imposed on our daily routines and lifestyles, we need to be deliberate about making time for our mental and physical well-being every day. The body and mind are intrinsically linked and only work well when both are cared for. Here are some tips on how to do exactly that.
- Move Your Body Daily
In order to maximize mental wellbeing, prioritize physical wellness and care. During the day, make a conscious effort to move every hour to prevent from being sedentary for extended periods of time. Also, be sure to make time to go for walks when it is safe to do so. If leaving your home is challenging, make time to move indoors and practice stretching, yoga and simple at home exercises (there are several options available online) (Top 10 At-Home Exercises to Keep you Moving) to encourage healthy blood flow and a brain break from starting a screen all day. Regular, daily physical activity is proven to reduce stress, enhance your mood and boost the immune system.
- Sleep and Rest
A healthy mind and body require sufficient sleep. The amount varies depending on the individual, but ideally allow your body to have at least 7-9 hours each night. Give yourself enough for a technology free wind-down bedtime routine about 30-60 minutes before bed. Try to adhere to a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible.
- Maintain Healthy Eating Habits
Being stuck indoors can foster boredom and as a result, mindless snacking and excessive eating. Keep healthy food options accessible and available. Wash, cut (or peel if needed) and store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator so when you are craving a snack, you can easily avoid highly processed foods and refined sugar. Avoid the temptation of letting your eating habits turn to junk during this time. Alcohol and caffeine consumption should also be limited. Make small, realistic, attainable changes to your food consumption to result in lasting, healthy, consistent eating every day. Healthful eating is beneficial for your body, brain and emotions.
- Stick a Routine
Lack of structure and routine can be very difficult. Our bodies and minds operate on a 24-hour (circadian) cycle, and we are physiologically designed to necessitate daily activities to happen at predictable times on a consistent schedule. Having a consistent daily routine is extremely important during this period of social distancing and it is very easy to get out of a routine when there is a lack of structure and organization to our day. A few things that help maintain a consistent schedule include similar bedtime and wake up time each day, meals at a similar time each day, making time for outdoors, activities and sunlight, predictable work schedule, down time and relaxation.
- Reach out to loved ones
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, maintain frequent and regular communication and contact with loved ones. It is an easy and slippery slope to neglect our relationships with the people closest to us. Be sure to invest time and energy in the people closest to you, even if you cannot physically be with them during this time. Video call, text, email, and phone calls are all excellent ways to maintain contact and communication with loved ones.
We are all unsure as to exactly how long social distancing, or the virus, will last. By making time each day to practice these mindful habits, your mental and physical wellness will benefit greatly during this stressful time of uncertainty. Above all, be patient with yourself, it is okay to have “bad days” and experience frustration, these are unprecedented times.