It’s always the right time to commit to healthy habits, behaviors and steps to improve your physical and mental health. With the COVID-19 pandemic creating so much uncertainty and upending so many routines, experts say that focusing on the things within your control is particularly important.
“At this particular moment — challenging as it may be — it is very important for all of us as individuals to recognize that our actions can and do have a collective impact,” says Dr. Patrice A. Harris, president of the American Medical Association (AMA). “A lot of people are grieving at this moment. Tragically some are grieving loss of loved ones; but people can also grieve the loss of employment, routines or the ability to be with family and friends. Everyone should know that these feelings are normal, and they should allow themselves to experience them.”
Here some simple steps from the AMA to maintain your physical and mental health during the unusual times of COVID-19:
1. Channel your feelings of anxiety or helplessness into action. Practicing physical distancing and making sure to wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds are two steps that protect your health and the health of others. Create a safety action plan for you and your family. Also consider how small gestures – like offering to pick up groceries for an older or at-risk neighbor who may be anxious about leaving home — can make a big difference.
2. Take care of yourself physically. Get as much sleep as you can, try to include fruits and vegetables into your diet, and make sure you move. With many gyms and parks closed and physical distancing in place, it may seem harder to work out, so consider options at home, including dancing, to stay active.
3. Create new routines. With more people working from home and/or caring for school-aged children, the daily lives we had before COVID-19 are a distant memory. But building routines — time for work, time for meals, time for decompressing — is critical to creating a new normal. In the world today, there are so many things we can’t control, but our schedules are something we can.
4. Take time to turn off social media and the news. It is critical at this moment to know what is happening in the world and to stay connected with family and friends, but if social media and 24-hour news are making you anxious, consume them in doses.
5. Feel your feelings. It’s natural to worry and be afraid at a moment like this. It is also important to remember there are physicians, public health officials at all levels of government, as well as experts in the private sector, working tirelessly to limit the spread and impact of COVID-19.
6. Stay connected. Social media gives us a common connection point during times of isolation, but there is real opportunity at this moment to stay connected via phone calls and video chats with friends, family, and even people you haven’t heard from in a while. Physical distancing is important, but it’s still okay to socialize.
7. If you have children, talk to them in an age-appropriate way, and avoid ascribing feelings to them. Don’t say, “I know you’re scared.” Kids are observant and they’re wise. They may know things are different, but they may not be afraid. Let them know smart people are working on ways to keep us all safe. Model healthy coping.