With stay-at-home orders currently in place to help slow the spread of coronavirus, it can be hard to maintain physical and emotional well-being.
“There is uncertainty and anxiety around the changes that are happening and affecting our day-to-day life right now,” said Bella Vasoya, PsyD, from Samaritan Weight Management Institute. “It’s tempting to shut down a little bit and not take care of yourself, but it’s still really important to pay attention to every aspect of your health.”
Taking care of your health doesn’t mean just eating well and exercising (although you should be doing those things, too). Even though life might look a little different right now, paying attention to these eight aspects to wellness may help you feel better all around.
Dr. Vasoya recommends the following tips that can help you stay sane while you stay home and address some aspects of health that you may be neglecting.
1. Stick to a Schedule
Staying home can throw a wrench in your usual schedule, but you can still create a routine that works for what’s happening in your life now.
“People do best on some type of routine,” said Dr. Vasoya. “Keeping the same waking and sleeping hours and mealtimes can add structure to your day.”
It can also be helpful to get up, shower and get dressed first thing so there is a defined start to your day. Make your bed and put your breakfast dishes in the dishwasher while you’re at it.
2. Go Outside for 15 Minutes, Twice a Day
Connecting to nature is associated with a greater sense of health and well-being, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature. The study found that participants needed at least 120 minutes a week to get the benefits. You can get your nature fix all at once, or space it out to give yourself mini breaks during the day.
To make the most of your nature experience, Dr. Vasoya recommends not using the time to check the news, listen to music or talk on your phone. You can sit in your garden, walk around the block or even just look out your window and notice the birds, squirrels, trees and flowers. Fortunately, spring is actively unfurling, so there will likely be something new to look at every day.
Exercise has a host of benefits. The National Institutes of Health report that in addition to the physical benefits, exercise is also helpful for reducing depression, stress and anxiety, increasing feel-good endorphins and an overall boost in mood. This emotional boost can be especially important while staying at home.
If exercise was already a part of your routine, don’t stop now! Walk or jog outside. Regular gym rats can try the “Quarantine Fitness” playlist on YouTube from trainers at Samaritan Athletic Medicine Center. For a more beginner-friendly workout, try the full body circuit from SamFit, a gentle flow yoga or qigong.
Get in at least 30 minutes of heart pumping exercise a day.
4. Keep in Touch
Without seeing your usual work cohort or weekend brunch crew, you might be starting to feel a little lonely.
“People are social creatures and connecting with others can help you cope with feelings of stress, anxiety or loneliness that can accompany staying at home, even if you don’t explicitly talk about those topics,” Dr. Vasoya said.
Fortunately, technology has made it easy to keep in touch. Try to call or video chat with one friend or family member a day, says Dr. Vasoya. Texting or emailing is fine, but if you can, try and talk to someone, even if it’s just a three-minute conversation.
5. Work on a Project You’ve Been Putting Off
Take a break from Netflix and spend 30 minutes a day working on a project you’ve been putting off. It could be a home improvement project, cleaning the refrigerator, learning a new language, writing a letter or pulling weeds. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel can add meaning to long days.
6. Find Things to Look Forward to
The anticipation of a positive future event can help keep you motivated and optimistic when things are tough, says Dr. Vasoya.
You can look forward to small daily things like your first cup of coffee, the supper that’s been bubbling in the slow cooker all day, or the book you’re reading before bed. Have things during the week to look forward to as well. Maybe you’ll get take-out on Wednesday, stream a movie Friday night or maybe your Amazon package will finally arrive with a new game.
7. Pay Attention to Finances
If you can afford it, this is a good time to pay a little extra to have groceries delivered but don’t fall into the trap of binge-shopping online to manage your stress or boredom. Retailers are starting to cut prices, which can make it especially enticing to buy things you don’t need.
Aim to spend what you normally do in a month on things like groceries, eating out and entertainment, even though you’re doing a lot more of those things from home.
8. Set a Timer for Reading the News
It’s good to stay informed, but the information changes by the hour and can quickly swallow up your time and your positivity. Instead, limit yourself to reading the news twice a day and set a timer for 30 minutes. Stick to two or three trusted news outlets rather than scrolling endlessly through Facebook or your News app feed.
9. Stay Grateful
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with what’s happening in the world or to feel scared or worried about what tomorrow will bring. Remember to stay grateful for the good things in your life today. Before bed each night, list five things you are grateful for.
10. Help Others
When you’re feeling helpless, helping others is a good solution.
You can check in with neighbors, elderly relatives, friends with young children or those who are immunocompromised and may need help getting supplies from the store. Donate time or money to local food pantries and shelters that are committed to helping those less fortunate. Thank the people who are continuing to work. Support small businesses. Send an encouraging message to your child’s teacher.
“When you help someone else it has double benefits because you’re assisting someone who needs it, but it can distract you from your own worries,” said Dr. Vasoya. “It feels natural to try and double down on your own wants and needs during a crisis but looking around to see how you can help others leads to a higher sense of happiness and emotional well-being.”
Meanwhile, be sure to access reliable sources of information, which can go a long way toward helping reduce stress and confusion. You can stay informed about coronavirus by getting information from trusted sources such as the Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both of those sites offer a wealth of information about how people can prepare, protect and care for their families.
Information specific to Samaritan may be found at samhealth.org/Coronavirus.