The novel coronavirus pandemic has introduced a completely new way of life for people throughout the U.S. and across the globe—one that involves less contact with human beings and more contact with our couches.
While it’s tempting to forego our usual routines and wellness practices in these stressful and uncertain times, supporting our mental, physical, and emotional health has never been more important. Not only does it help keep our immune systems strong amidst the threat of COVID-19, but it also allows us to find peace amidst the chaos.
Sure, social distancing and logistical changes to daily life mean we all have to recalibrate our schedules, hobbies, and more—but there are plenty of ways we can discover new healthy routines and stay well, even without leaving our homes.
Here, experts share eight of their best tips for keeping ourselves healthy and strong—inside and out—as we navigate these uncharted waters together.
1. Schedule Some Form Of Exercise Daily
Exercise not only helps ward off chronic health conditions, from heart disease to diabetes, but it also boosts your mood.
“Movement stimulates the release of endorphins, brain chemicals that help us feel happy, assisting us to let go of stress,” says Pamela Kalechofsky, RYT-500, yoga instructor and stretch therapist with Stretch Relief. It also increases circulation, which keeps us from feeling physically stiff and stuck.
Schedule a time for daily exercise—even if it’s just 20 minutes. Whether you opt for a walk outside or yoga in your living room is up to you—as long as you get moving.
Read More: How To Get A Full Workout Using Just Your Body Weight
Luckily, an overwhelming number of fitness brands have responded to the coronavirus pandemic by waiving fees and offering virtual workouts of all kinds. Whether you’ve got a home gym set-up or just enough space for bodyweight squats, there’s a class out there for you. (Tip: Head to @vitaminshoppe on Instagram at 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday for live at-home workouts.)
2. Prioritize Self-Care
Self-care has been shown to reduce stress and enhance quality of life, according to research published in BMC Medical Education.
If coronavirus has thrown you into working from home and homeschooling your kids, while still managing household chores, making time for self-care is all the more important. Even 15 minutes goes a long way.
“You must take care of you before you can take care of others,” says Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., owner of eatrightfitness.
Read More: 7 Ways To Practice Self-Care That Don’t Cost A Dime
Adams recommends slotting some time in the morning and evening to do something you enjoy. It can be anything from taking a warm bubble bath, to reading a good book, to journaling.
3. Connect With Loved Ones
Physically distancing ourselves from others at this time doesn’t mean we should lose touch with friends and family.
“We benefit mentally from the simple interactions that occur throughout the course of a typical day,” says. Amy Boyers, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Miami. “Those in-person interactions are lost right now, so we must make the effort to have those moments on a daily basis.”
Boyers recommends setting a goal of connecting with three people a day. Instead of text messaging or connecting via social media, she recommends talking on the phone or via FaceTime or Skype for a more personal interaction.
4. Get Outside Every Day
Though it’s easy to stay cooped up at home (especially when the weather isn’t ideal), research published in Health & Place reminds us of the stress-fighting power of time spent outdoors.
“Whether you go for a walk or sit on your balcony, make a point to do so daily, ideally in the mornings so that it serves as the start to your day,” says Boyers. As long as you can maintain a safe distance from others, time spent out of the house goes a long way—even if you’re only outside for 10 minutes.
5. Unplug From Technology Regularly
With news about the coronavirus coming at us from all angles, it’s easy to experience information overload. Not only can this cause excess stress, but time spent on devices can negatively impact your sleep and productivity, notes Boyers.
Dedicate some time ever day to dust off a deck of cards or art supplies, play a musical instrument, or read.
6. Accept The Coronavirus Situation As It Is
There’s no denying it: The coronavirus pandemic is disruptive, scary, and sad in many ways. The more we dwell on it, though, the less effectively we can cope with it, explains Boyers.
“Focusing on what we may be missing or what we don’t like about this situation only increases our stress,” she says. “It also creates more stress for the loved ones around us.”
Allow yourself to accept the current reality as it is. Only then can you create a peaceful—even positive—experience. “Think about how to create meaning out of this experience rather than lamenting what has been lost,” Boyers says.
7. Stock Up On Nutritious Foods
Times of high stress often propel us towards comfort foods that provide little nutritional value. On top of that, concerns about food access have further complicated the conversation around food amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
That said, Amie Vapone, H.H.C., A.A.D.P, a Manhattan-based culinary nutritionist, recommends focusing your meals as much on nutrition as possible right now.
If you can, stock up on pantry staples. A few to keep around: quinoa, oats, brown rice, protein-rich pastas (like chickpea pasta), and boxed plant-based milks with long shelf lives.
Frozen vegetables and fruits (which work well in stir-fries and smoothies) are especially helpful in case of a quarantine. However, since many supermarkets have wiped-out freezer aisles these days, you can also buy—and freeze—fresh produce. Vapone recommends leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard, and arugula, which may be left behind at many grocery stores.
If you think you’ll be tempted to reach for cookies and chips during prime snacking hours, you can also load up on shelf-stable, nutrient-heavy superfoods, green powders, and protein powders.
8. Level Up Your Cleaning Routine
Washing your hands and not touching your face are crucial right now. However, it’s also important to be mindful of other surfaces you touch often, like countertops, credit cards, and your phone.
“Be sure to wipe these products and surfaces down a few times a day,” says Vapone. (Out of household cleaner? Try this DIY recipe.)
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