With the coronavirus outbreak, this is a stressful time as we are all doing what we can to decrease our chances of catching the virus as we wash our hands more, touch our faces less and practice social distancing.
Though I am not an infectious disease expert, I am an expert in Lifestyle Medicine and Obesity Medicine and am quite familiar with the benefits of living more healthfully.
It is well known that one’s healthy living behaviors and habits help combat chronic diseases; we also know that chronic diseases can worsen a coronavirus outcome if you do get the virus.
With more people working remotely, this is a good time to review some healthy living tips that can be practiced in the comforts of your own home:
1 – Eat more plant based foods
Shopping less to lessen your exposure to others may mean you have less salads, fresh fruits and vegetables at home. That’s okay. This is a time to go for frozen fruits and vegetables that can easily complement a meal or snack. Add frozen berries to your oatmeal or yogurt, use a frozen bean and vegetable blend as a side dish to your veggie burger or add frozen broccoli to your vegetarian chili. And don’t forget that nuts and seeds like chopped walnuts, roasted almonds or sunflower seeds are other plant based foods with healthy fats that add crunch to a side dish or snack and have a long shelf life as an added bonus. Consider grocery shopping online when possible.
2 – If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation
Though stressful times can foster drinking more alcohol as a way to unwind, alcohol can be dehydrating, can lower our resolve to make healthy food choices and can disrupt needed sleep. Consider foregoing a daily habit of drinking and instead enjoy a drink just a few times a week as a special occasion treat, versus a daily indulgence.
3 – Exercise regularly
With many health clubs closing and group classes on pause, people are struggling how to stay active. But movement is crucial to keeping your mood positive and your body feeling good. Consider streaming different exercise or dance workouts or using bands and free weights (if you have them) for some home-based resistance training that may include squats or lunges. Weather permitting, walk around your yard, neighborhood or a nearby forest preserve for some much needed fresh air.
4 – Get enough sleep
Sleep is restorative, especially during stressful times. To improve your sleep habits, pay attention to the types of foods you eat at dinner and after. Spicy foods, coffee, chocolate, alcohol and large portions close to bed time can cause indigestion and reflux symptoms that easily interrupt sleep. Develop a bedtime ritual where instead of watching the 24/7 coronavirus news, unplug and listen to music, read a book or take a relaxing bath.
5 – Cope better with stress
Stress is inevitable especially now, during this coronavirus outbreak. The key is how you manage your stress level. Instead of overeating, turning to alcohol or cigarettes (all health draining), incorporate positive coping strategies into your lifestyle. Though you may feel more isolated because you’re distancing yourself from your work colleagues, friends and even relatives, you can still reach out to connect by phone, email or on social media. Check in with the social media groups and contacts who can make you smile and help you realize we’re all in this together. Face time with family. Talk to someone you trust about the issues you’re stressed about and come up with an action plan that brings peace of mind.
6 – Manage your weight
With a changed routine, it’s easy to fall back into less healthful eating habits. Maybe you’re snacking more at home out of boredom or stress. If you want to get a handle on your lifestyle habits and mindset that can sabotage weight loss success, consider taking my short, research-based Six Factor Quiz and get your personalized results. This can help you re-focus.
In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, your healthy lifestyle habits don’t have to come to a screeching halt. I hope you find these tips helpful.
Enjoy your health!
Robert Kushner. MD