A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world still feels the strain. Even those who were indirectly impacted and have remained safely at home often experience mental health challenges, including feelings of isolation and anxiety.
When will the COVID-19 pandemic end? “In the United Kingdom and the United States, we see progress toward a transition to normalcy during the second quarter of 2021. The new wave of cases in the European Union means that a similar transition is likely to come later there, in the late second or third quarter. Improved vaccine availability makes herd immunity most likely in the third quarter for the United Kingdom and the United States and in the fourth quarter for the European Union, but risks threaten that timeline. The timeline in other countries will depend on seven crucial variables. And when herd immunity is reached, the risks will not vanish; herd immunity may prove temporary or be limited to regions in a country.” – McKinsey & Company
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements imposed during the pandemic have further increased the risk of loneliness, especially for the 35.7 million Americans living alone.
Be mindful of physical and mental health
It has been challenging for all of us to stay mentally healthy and maintain healthy habits when we’re feeling isolated, anxious, and sad. If you’ve struggled with your mental health due to the pandemic, knowing you’re not alone isn’t enough. It’s critical to be mindful of your mental and physical health and make an effort to reclaim control so you can create sustainable, healthy habits that will help you get through the remainder of the pandemic.
Here are a few tips to consider.
Move your body during the day
Movement is a powerful antidote to many mental and physical health problems, yet very few people get the recommended amount of exercise they need each week, especially during the pandemic. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, adults should get at least 2.5-5 hours of moderate exercise per week, or 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous activity for “substantial health benefits.”
Not only can regular exercise help you build up stamina and endurance, but it can also help prevent serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes. It can also help prevent or reduce the symptoms of mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.
Matt Schmidt of Diabetes Life Solutions mentions “try ‘logging’ your activity using an Apple Watch, or FitBit device. These inexpensive pieces of technology are a great way to keep track of your progress, and a perfect tool to help you stay motivated. Many consumers can even stand to save money on health insurance premiums, if they are willing to share their activity with insurance providers.”
“A couple of 15-minute walks with hills or a jog and a yoga session can be a great way to keep things manageable and interesting while boosting your mood.”
It’s a good idea to move your body multiple times throughout the day. You don’t have to get all of your activity in during one session. A couple of 15-minute walks with hills or a jog and a yoga session can be a great way to keep things manageable and interesting while boosting your mood.
If you do a lot of sitting in your daily life, you may need even more activity than the recommendations. It’s best to do a combination of regular aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening exercises a few times a week. The good news is that you can determine for yourself what moderate or vigorous exercise is for you, based on your heart rate and how you feel during the activity.
Create some healthy eating habits
Food can have a huge impact on how you feel, and especially during times of stress and isolation. If you comfort yourself with junk food, not only will you feel guilty about it later, but you might have trouble focusing or feel lethargic throughout the day.
Developing good eating habits isn’t easy. It’s much more convenient and comforting to reach for pre-packaged options packed with sugar and fat. But if you can learn to eat better during the pandemic, your body and brain will thank you and you’re likely to feel quite a bit better.
In addition to changing what you eat, it’s also important to consider how and when you eat. Skipping meals, binge eating, and late-night snacking can all make you feel irritable and tired. Try to stick with a regular eating schedule, every 4-5 hours during the day. Keep snacks healthy and make a weekly meal plan so you don’t fall off the wagon. Finally, limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption and stay hydrated for the best results!
Take time for positive self-reflection
When we’re feeling down, we do a lot of self-reflection—and it can be both positive and negative. Negative self-reflection can lead to spiraling thoughts and other problems. That doesn’t mean you need to be relentlessly happy all the time—it’s important to acknowledge what’s happening in your life, both good and bad. But it does mean you should spend some time thinking about the good as well as the bad.
Focus on your small successes.
If you cooked a healthy meal and took a walk, celebrate and reflect on that. Practice meditation for a few minutes every day and celebrate your efforts at self-care. You don’t have to be productive all the time to celebrate and reflect on success in other areas of your life.
Using social media to promote healthy habits and support mental health
Social media has helped connect us throughout the pandemic, but it has also led to anxiety and depression for some, due to the toxicity of online culture and a relentlessly negative news cycle. That’s why it’s so important to use social media to promote healthy habits and support your mental health.
Become intentional about your social media use by creating a clear purpose for logging on, schedule browsing times, and disable push notifications on your smartphone. Now is also a good time to clean house and unfollow people who post content that negatively impacts your mental health. Use social platforms for good, and monitor their effect on you.
You are not alone. People across the world are struggling right now. Give yourself a break and know that the more you focus on healthy habits, the better you’ll feel. Reclaim control of your day and be kinder to your body and mind.
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis.
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