For many of us, the COVID-19 outbreak has drastically changed the way we live, work, and enjoy our free time. Perhaps we weren’t as prepared for an emergency as we thought we were or never expected the government would tell us to stay home. Restaurants, bars, parks, and beaches all closed? No way! A line to get into the grocery store? You’re kidding. Signs along the highway reminding us to stay home to stay safe? It feels more like an apocalypse movie than real life. Without access to our usual ways of socializing and entertaining, we’re having to get creative – virtual happy hour anyone?
Since we’re all in this together, let’s do what we can to make it as comfortable and tolerable of an experience as we can. Understand that life is different right now and it’s important to adjust our expectations for ourselves and others accordingly. And maybe the silver lining is that we’ll have a better idea of what we need in order to maintain our health, happiness, and overall well-being when life returns to normal.
- Physical Health
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the daily news cycle, you’ve probably seen headlines about how many people are out jogging. Staying active is one of the most important ways to maintain your happiness during stressful times; we’ve all heard about the power of endorphins. Exercise has been proven to improve quality of sleep, decrease stress, and help prevent feelings of depression and anxiety (WebMD). There are a variety of ways you can work out indoors if you’d rather not venture outside, from guided home workout videos on YouTube to practicing yoga. If you do decide to go outside, remember to give yourself plenty of space and stay at least six feet away from other people. Regardless of how much you exercise, given the circumstances, there’s a high chance that you’re sitting more than normal, so be sure to move around and stretch regularly.
- Mental Health
Mental health goes hand-in-hand with physical health. Living through a global pandemic is a nerve-wracking experience for everyone; it’s easy to get caught up worrying about what-if scenarios because there is such uncertainty about what life will look like moving forward. Be sure to check in with yourself when you feel unhappy or stressed. What’s at the root of your feelings? Was there a specific trigger? Did you wake up feeling like you’re in a funk? We’re all experiencing some level of stress and anxiety, and it shows up in different ways. Consider taking a break from social media and the news to focus on other interests. Reading, gardening, watching a movie, and artistic outlets such as writing or painting may help put your mind at ease. This is also a great time to check in with your loved ones via a phone call or video chat. Although we can’t partake in our usual activities and social outings, there are many ways to stay connected and occupied, but be sure to take time to rest and relax too! If spring is at your doorstep, take a moment to soak in the sunshine and colorful flowers. If spring showers arrived instead, they too can be a peaceful respite. There’s no better time than the present to appreciate the little things and take a step back from the usual hustle and bustle of daily life.
Maintaining your sleep schedule and ensuring that you get enough sleep will benefit you both physically and mentally. Try not to let your sleeping habits get out of balance; sleeping too little or too much can both make you feel fatigued. Be mindful of taking naps during the day as they too can disturb your schedule. If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are a few things you can try before contacting your doctor. Make your bedroom a restful area; don’t work or watch TV in bed. Try to put screens away at least an hour before bedtime. Electronic devices create a blue light that is known to interfere with the body’s ability to fall asleep. Instead, consider adding calming activities to your bedtime routine, such as meditating, reading, stretching, or listening to music (Sleep Foundation). If you’re having more intense dreams lately, don’t fret, it’s a normal occurrence given the stressful times. Experts think that the social isolation we’re going through and lack of usual events is causing our subconscious minds to draw on our past experiences and negative emotions to fuel our dreams. It’s scientifically proven that peaceful minds produce positive dreams, so be kind to yourself throughout this pandemic and practice self-care when you’re feeling down (National Geographic).
As news of the virus spreading in the United States grew more serious, fear of what was to come caused people to rush out to stock up on groceries, household goods, and other necessities. You might still be struggling to find some basic goods and encountering empty shelves at the grocery store. After the worst of the pandemic has passed, it’s a good idea to put together a supply of essentials for your household, especially now that you’re familiar with what you need in the case of an extended emergency. The Department of Homeland Security recommends having an emergency kit stocked with non-perishable food and at least one gallon of water per day per person in your family that will last at least three days. It is also recommended to have batteries, a manual can opener, dust masks, a flashlight, a radio that does not require electricity, household cleaners, required prescription medications, and common over-the-counter medications.
These are some basic suggestions, but there are many more things you can include and items specific to your family are important to consider too. As we navigate the rest of this pandemic, we hope you and your family stay happy and healthy. If you need help coping, please reach out to a trusted loved one or your doctor.