During this unique period in our history, we have been faced with numerous unknowns. How many people will get sick from COVID-19? How many people will die? When will it all be over? Will my job still be there at the end of this? Unfortunately, the answer to all of these is that nobody knows. And continuing to focus on these unknowns will not only drive you crazy, but they can add stress leading to health and mental issues. So what exactly should you be focused on right now?
Focus on You
While it may feel unnatural to focus on yourself during this crisis, it is vital to do so. Helping your family navigate this time and the possibility of illness depends on you staying strong and healthy enough to do so. Take steps to boost your immune system, including:
- Eating real food – Step away from the processed foods and prepare meals for you and your family that include fresh, whole ingredients. Not only will you feel better, but you will be offering your body and immune system the nutrients it requires to defend against viruses.
- Get sleep – Take this opportunity to develop a healthy sleep routine that allows for at least eight hours of sleep. Without adequate rest, the immune system will start to fail and will not be ready to tackle illnesses.
- Get sunshine and fresh air – Not only will this improve your mood, but it can also help your body make critical nutrient, Vitamin D.
Another crucial way to care for yourself during this time is through exercise. For many quarantined at home, this is the perfect opportunity to incorporate a fitness regimen into daily life. Though gyms are closed, consider going for a daily walk or even trying out Tabata.
Tabata is named after the scientist that researched exercise and found that eight minutes of dedicated physical activity a day was the perfect amount without over- or under-doing it.
To do Tabata, pick any exercise (push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, etc.) and perform it for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. Do this for eight rounds (a total of four minutes), then pick another exercise and repeat the process. Try to choose one upper body exercise and one lower body exercise for a full-body workout. Not only does this type of exercise require no gym equipment, but it also requires a small time commitment making it perfect for every-day life.
Exercise and Immune Function?
Though many don’t realize it, exercise leading to muscle tone boosts immune function. When the immune system is weak, it will start to use muscle to make antibodies to fight infection. Muscle tone can be built through exercising as few as four times a week and it is never too late to start.
Focus on Family
With forced confinement, there has never been a greater time to focus on family than now. Work demands, outside commitments, and even technology have created a busy-ness that has taken away from quality time spent with the family unit. Therefore, use this opportunity to invest in the lives of your spouse and kids and to refocus your priorities.
Turn off the electronics and go for walks or bike rides together. Play games and try new recipes. Get creative and work on a craft or learn a new hobby. Choosing to spend quality time with family members during the quarantine will not only ease everyone’s stress and fear but will make lasting, cherished memories.
Focus on the Home
Another focus during this time at home should be the home itself. For most of us, there is a never-ending to-do list. Therefore, why not take this time to knock some of those things out?
Start cleaning out those drawers and closets and organize the cabinets and pantries. Finish up those larger house projects, like repairs and painting that may have been on hold.
Lastly, get outside and prep the yard for spring and summer. Consider starting a flower or vegetable garden with the family. Not only will this provide a learning tool, but possibly fresh cut flowers for the home or delicious vegetables to eat.
What Not to Do
Now that some items to focus on have been established, it’s important to highlight items to avoid during this time. These include:
- Watching the News – While it’s not bad to want to stay updated on what is happening, the media has a way of exaggerating a lot of the danger and death rates. Though this is a serious situation, the media focuses on selling fear and watching it constantly could have an impact on health.
- Searching the Web – Similar to the media, the web can be a hub of fear and false information. If wanting to stay in the loop on COVID-19, search for sites that share factual statistics, rather than opinions.
- Theories – Everyone has a thought about this pandemic, how it started and how it’s going to end. These lead to not only stress and fear but, again, misinformation. Try to avoid these altogether.
The Issue with Fear
Though no one wants to feel fear, what few people realize is that it activates the nervous system, also known as the fight or flight response. This, in turn, increases adrenaline and cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. These hormones lead to elevated blood sugar, which over an extended time can lead to diabetes.
Additionally, the sympathetic nervous system can also reduce nutrition by suppressing digestion. Over time, this can hinder the immune system which relies on proper nutrition to function.
Learn from This Time
With so many unknowns and things outside of our control, it’s easy to let stress and fear take over. Instead of allowing that, consider how you can support your immune function and the immune function of family members, and take advantage of this time together.
Furthermore, it’s important to take stock of how you can handle things differently should another major event arise. Figure out and write down the items that can help you prepare your family and home. Most importantly, figure out how to take care of your body in a way that will have your immune system prepared and ready to tackle another virus or other health condition down the road.