Health Tips for Difficult Times

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s normal to feel uneasy and anxious. We’ve had to physically distance to protect ourselves and our communities and this has created significant disruptions to our daily lives and routines. In challenging times like this, it becomes even more important to look inwards, self-reflect and ensure that we are caring for our mental and physical health. Below, we’ve outlined some tips and resources you can utilize to make the best of this difficult time.

If you are new to working from home: 

Here are some tips to help maintain your productivity and routines: 

  • Decide when you need to start your workday and create a routine that helps you ease into it. This can look different for everyone such as returning home after a morning jog in nature, making coffee/tea, or getting dressed in comfortable clothes. 
  • Keep a dedicated office space so you can get into the “work mindset” when you are there and relax when your workday is over in other areas of your living space.
  • Take regularly scheduled, active breaks during your workday to help re-energize for the rest of the day. 
  • Create a habit to mark the end of your workday such as a relaxing yoga routine or tuning into your favourite podcast or a short meditation. This can help distinguish between the end of your workday and the start of your evening routine, helping to create a better work-life balance.

Protecting your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  • Focus on the positives: You’re finally at home – make time to organize, read, rest, cook, play. Emphasize what you are able to do right now instead of what you can’t. 
  • Avoid news overload: Choose reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO) to get updates and check in a couple times a day, at most. Remaining constantly tuned into the news won’t change anything and will only increase your stress. Similarly, while social media is an excellent way to stay virtually connected to our family and friends, excessive engagement inevitably leads to misinformation and fear so take social media breaks as well. 
  • Maintain your perspective: News articles, uncertainty and the unknown are all anxiety provoking but this will not last forever and it’s important to remember that during this difficult but temporary period of time. 

Maintain your pillars of health: healthy sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress management and social connection.

Healthy Sleep: It can become easy to let go of our daily routines and habits during this time but maintaining regularity with your sleep-wake cycle will help you achieve high quality, restorative sleep which is crucial for mental and physical health, including healthy immunity. Create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you wind down in preparation for sleep, such as reading, a bedtime yoga flow, a warm bath, prayer or meditation.

Nutrition: We are all prone to reaching for comfort food when we’re feeling stressed, especially when some of us have access to our kitchens all day. It’s important to remember that eating too high calorie foods with little nutrition can weaken immunity and physical health along with worsen moods, at a time when it’s particularly important to care for our health. To avoid this, we recommend the following:

  • Distinguish between stress eating vs. real hunger. Stress eating instinctively occurs, without much thought and you are more likely to reach for processed, high carbohydrate snacks. Real hunger lasts longer, with an appetite for a greater variety of foods (i.e. vegetables and fruits). 
  • Stick to your normal eating routine of 2-3 meals per day and focus on foods containing fiber (plenty of vegetables and fruits), healthy fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds) and plant-based sources of protein (chickpeas, lentils, beans) to keep you feeling full, curb cravings and tendencies to overeat.
  • Ensure that you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Many times, when we crave certain foods between meals, we may just be thirsty instead.

Stress Management: Understandably, life may feel very hard over the next several weeks or months, making it even more important to find ways to instill a sense of calm and steadiness into your life. Mindfulness meditation/yoga practices can help ground us in the present moment and may help manage the fear and anxiety we are all facing.

Exercise: Given the importance of exercise in maintaining physical health, mental clarity, energy, mood and immune function, use this opportunity to become innovative in how you incorporate physical activity and movement into your new routine. Try to regularly engage in movement that feels right for you.  

Going for a jog or a brisk walk in a trail near your home can be an excellent way to be in nature, get some fresh air and exercise. Regular time spent in nature can help improve our stress response and do wonders for our mood and immune system.

  • Exercise app: FitBod is currently offering free body weight-only workouts. 
  • Youtube Channels: Fitness Blender, HASfit and Body Project all offer beginner to advanced cardiovascular/bodyweight only resistance workouts. 

Social Connection in a Time of Physical Distancing: 

Don’t let social distancing become social isolation. Regularly check in with your friends, family, coworkers, etc using phone/video chat. Schedule time to check in with others can help maintain a sense of community and support when we need it the most. We are all facing new and unexpected challenges at this time. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help if you need it.

Author: Dr. Sukriti Bhardwaj, ND