Well, this has been interesting… I feel like I am just coming up for air. The past six weeks have been an odd combination of emotions, online shopping, and the scent of Lysol. It seems like I am coming out of a rock made of procrastination and anxiety, and my head is finally clearing enough to write down my thoughts. Trying to make sense of this pandemic and how it has changed multiple facets of daily life is a fruitless endeavor for me. What has given me comfort is looking forward to a “better normal” that we are now aiming to create. While the federal government and local authorities will be in charge of setting up new sanitation guidelines and the components of social distancing, we as individuals can take this time to reset our lifestyles to support optimal health and disease prevention. Sleeping, eating right, exercising, and aiming to reach a better body weight are within our control and can be cornerstones of our better normal.
My telehealth sessions have been a combination of helping patients both mentally and physically adapt their health goals to their new schedules. One commonality is that most now have time to exercise. Eliminating commutes, activities with kids, and late afternoon meetings has freed up more time to do online exercise classes, take long walks on lunch breaks or after dinner, and do outdoor calisthenics. Exercise not only helps you look better and become more physically fit, but in a time where anxiety and depression are running rampant, exercise can be an effective tool in managing both of mental health disorders. Exercise is also an essential component of reducing blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Hypertension and diabetes are risk factors for the severity of COVID-19, so improving our control over these conditions or consistently working to prevent them is critical to our better normal.
While the closure of restaurants is devastating to so many lives, the only silver lining I can find is that people have been forced to cook at home more often. Cooking homemade meals is one of the best tools to support weight loss, since meals at home are typically lower in calories, sodium, and fat then those acquired from dining out. While I will be first in line to support my favorite local restaurants when we are allowed, I hope homemade meals will stay a consistent in our better normal. Shopping at outdoor farms or farmers markets will not only support our local economies but will provide us with more nutrient-dense produce and meats, not to mention it is easier to be socially distant outdoors. Meal planning will lead to packing more lunches and snacks once we return to work, and trying new recipes will expand our palates and invite in a wider variety of foods. Right now, you do not have to worry about the baked goods that your co-worker brought into the office, and instead you can have complete control over your intake and what comes into the house. Beef shortage? No worries! Lean more on vegetables, beans, lentils, and seafood. Don’t know how to cook them? No worries! You can YouTube how to cook anything, and you might have a little more time to do that now. Let’s use our extra time to learn how to feed our bodies the best way we can. This can lead to improvements in body composition, disease management, and even immune health.
Speaking of immune health, I cannot stress enough the importance of taking this time to work on your sleep. Getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep every night has been proven to help the immune system work properly. Even if your schedule is slightly different now, try to keep your bedtime and wake-up time the same every day. Avoid watching TV or working on your laptop or phone for 60 minutes before sleep. I would also strongly recommend adding in nightly meditation. Apps like Calm and Head Space are very popular, and there are plenty of free meditation classes online. A quick Google search of “free online meditation classes” brought up more options than I could list.
The wonderful thing about right now is that there are so many people out there trying to help. Free online exercise classes, stress management workshops, and cooking techniques are everywhere. I am a meet-you-face-to-face person and I always will be, but we must adapt. We must channel Darwin’s finches and evolve to the current situation. While this has been an incredibly difficult time for many, we must aim to make the best of it and see if we can even improve ourselves along the way. Use this time to build your new routine and start creating what you want your better normal to be.
In Health & Happiness, Jessica Murgueytio