Updated: May 21, 2020
The world has been turned on its head in the last few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have had to adapt to all activities being confined to our home spaces. It is easy to succumb to the fear, anxiety and frustration that the uncertainty and restriction may evoke. A mental pivot is required in order to adjust to this temporary reality and remain grounded. In addition, this pandemic allows us to be more introspective about our health and wellness practices. What is working? What is not working and what are the potential barriers? Do the values you live by support your health and wellness goals, or do they conflict?
All health organizations and practitioners advocate a healthy lifestyle and I will briefly touch on these factors. These combined factors contribute to boosting your immune system on a daily basis, to fight illness and disease including COVID-19. Cultivate habits to support your health and wellness with intention, unique to your environment and your life’s activities.
Mental Stimulation & Nurturing Connections
Choose engaging activities that can be done safely at home or virtually. The options are endless but here are a few that are mentally stimulating and relatively practical:
Home activities: board games and physical games, puzzles, exercise, gardening, cooking, dancing, reading, listening to podcasts, practicing mindfulness or meditation.
Virtual activities: exercise classes, book clubs, social support groups, calls with friends or family.
Nutrition, Hydration & Sunlight
Form a routine around meals and snacks that you can maintain when you resume normal activities. Eat to fuel your level of activity and maintain a healthy weight. Prioritize foods that are rich in nutrients and affordable for you – this is a great opportunity to support local produce and learn about indigenous products that help boost your immunity. Enjoy a treat once in a while – you can research healthy recipes for these. Pinterest is a great resource for this.
Growing some seasonal vegetables or herbs at home if you have a garden, pots and good soil. Gardening is also a natural source of physical activity, mental distraction and sunlight.
Take a short walk to enjoy the sun and fresh air when you need to brainstorm or make a phone call. Sunlight provides a natural source of Vitamin D to maintain bone density – this is best combined with calcium and resistance exercise.
Hydrate regularly to support your body’s functions. Prioritize drinking water and avoid excessive sugar and caffeing in other beverages, especially in the evening.
Physical Activity & Exercise
Consider exercise as an opportunity to take a break and connect with other people and yourself. Try to do one short exercise session daily, between 10 to 30 minutes is sufficient and at a time that is convenient for you. Several instructors are offering virtual classes or one-on-one training, and they can keep you motivated. If time is a limitation for you, housework and yard work are natural sources of physical activity for general health (more details in my previous article. Being active does not have to be lengthy, vigorous or about major transformations. It is about investing on your health as you do with your hygiene.
Working & Posture
If you are working from home, set up a clutter-free work station and choose a chair that will support good posture. Ensure you have good ventilation as well. Maintain boundaries between your working and relaxation areas if possible. Stand and move every 30 to 45 minutes, to relieve your spine, joints and muscles from prolonged sitting. This can be a 2-minute stretch or walk to the bathroom, to the kitchen to get some water, or to check on your children. This small amount of physical activity is beneficial to your health especially if you cannot fit in an exercise session, and helps to reduce the chance of developing repetitive strain injuries. The same applies if you are watching TV – use commercials and the end of a program to move your body.
Sleep & Relaxation
Exercise good sleep hygiene as you would with personal hygiene:
Try to wake up and go to sleep at the same times consistently, including on weekends.
Avoid stimulants like caffeine before bed and limit your liquid intake 1-2 hours before you plan to sleep.
Turn off devices 1-2 hours before sleeping and adopt a pre-sleep ritual. Do some stretches, take a bath, read a book, listen to calming music or have a conversation with the people around you. Use dimmed light in this period if you can to prepare your body for sleep.
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow. Ideally, the temperature of your bedroom should be cool.
Preventative practices are certainly more affordable, less stressful and rewarding for your health over time. Making this part of your lifestyle is worth the continued effort. Continue to observe the specific recommendations of the World Health Organization, to prevent infection and to slow transmission of COVID-19.
Yours in Wellness,
This article was featured in Harare Magazine