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With the number of coronavirus cases increasing dramatically, we are all aiming to keep ourselves and our loved ones, safe and healthy. It is first and foremost crucial to follow the guidelines provided by our governments and public health institutes which includes hand washing and social distancing (1, 2). Since the virus poses more harm to those that are immunocompromised or that have preexisting conditions, some aspects of our daily lives should be monitored. If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Stay home if you feel unwell.
As much as the virus itself is dangerous if contacted, it can also impact our health indirectly. During an outbreak, we are all inflicted by stress and raised levels of anxiety which results in decreased sleeping quality or duration, change in eating patterns, lost motivation, and so on. As a result, the immune system weakens which increases the risk of infection.
It is, therefore, crucial to cope with stress and stay calm while we get through this outbreak. An important way of improving mental and physical health is exercise. It is recommended that individuals aged 65 or older spend at least 150 minutes a week walking with moderate intensity, as well as partake in muscle-strengthening activities twice a week (3). While this is the recommended activity level, it is sufficient to be as active as one is able. After all, some physical activity is better than none.
Meditation is a process where we train our mind to focus and redirect our thoughts that can help improve mental and emotional health (4). It can help to evoke a positive outlook, elevate mood, and promote a healthy sleeping pattern (4). The best part is that you can do it anywhere. Mediation does not require a set time limit; you can practice once a day for 15 minutes or more. Try choosing a form of meditation based on what you are looking to get out of it. The bottom line is that during this COVID-19 outbreak you should continue to keep yourself calm and collected.
Don’t abandon eating healthy during this pandemic, maintain a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, as well as, an adequate amount of proteins and grains to help you maintain your immunity (5). Limit your intake of added sugar and alcohol but stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Try to prepare for meals ahead of time, purchase enough food for a few days to prevent constant trips to the grocery store (7). During this period, boredom may spike and the anxiety of what is to come, overeating is common (6). Attaining pleasure via food or giving into high-calorie and high-sugar foods during these stressful times only provide a short-term burst of energy (6). Instead, develop an eating schedule to prevent excess eating.
Keeping up with the recent COVID-19 news updates can exert extra anxiety. From the rising number of cases and their effects on the economy (8). It is understandable that your brain is constantly wired and therefore you cannot fall asleep. This lack of sleep, however, can weaken your immune system. If you are not getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep, try to create a routine (8). Wake up and sleep at the same time every day and avoid naps. You can also practice active relaxing before bed, engaging in non-stimulating activities for half an hour before bed (8). Try to sleep in room temperature, dark room to help fall asleep faster, Also, avoid caffeine or big meals before bed and stop constantly checking your phone (8).
Alcohol and drugs are unhelpful coping strategies for stress and isolation from this pandemic. During times of crisis, many people turn to alcohol and drugs, however, turning to these substances can make matters worse (9). Alcohol and drug consumption can weaken our immune systems. An individual with problematic drinking behaviours can be vulnerable to getting COVID-19 (9). While flattening the curve is a priority, we must keep in mind that the unique needs of individuals battling with chronic addictions are equally as urgent during this time of home quarantines (9). As we social distance, look into online social support groups to try to keep addictions under control (9).
Psychologist Tom Hollenstein says it’s also important to check in on family and friends as it provides comfort and a form of connection as you stay home. A better way to look at this is “Keep connected to people. Let’s call it physical distancing and not social distancing because we really need to connect” says Hollenstein (10).
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If you are seeking more information, contact the Government of Canada's coronavirus information line at 1-833-784-4397. If you are located in the USA, click here to seeking additional resources.
Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/index.htm