It is always paramount to strive to live your healthiest life possible, but practicing self-care during pandemic might be even more urgent and important. The need to preserve our physical and mental well-being might very well be a decisive factor in our ability to fend off the virus or, if infected, help our bodies fight off the ensuing illness quickly and without lasting after-effects.
In this post, I collaborate with two other bloggers to come up with tips on how to keep yourself healthy in the broadest sense possible. We’ll start with the discussion of physical health and what methods and hacks might lead us to the goal of health and well-being. We’ll follow with aspects of mental health that we need to tend to in order to keep our sanity and positive outlook during these hard times. And we’ll finish with a look into the spiritual aspects of well-being and their importance for overall health during the pandemic and the lockdowns.
Physical Side of Health and Well-being during the Pandemic
Why is self-care during the pandemic so crucial?
Physical well-being is definitely the first step in attaining health in the general sense of the word. When facing dangerous Coronavirus, the need to be in the best physical shape becomes an even more urgent matter. The infection with the virus can strike anyone and it can turn into a formidable disease. Since it is a novel virus, researchers are still struggling to understand which populations are most vulnerable. One thing is certain so far, people with undermined immune systems are at even more risk than the general population. A weakened immune system or dealing with a chronic disease prior to infection with COVID poses an increased risk for sure.
So, what can we do to protect ourselves as best as we can? Here are some common-sense ideas.
- Listen to science (not politicians) and protect yourself from exposure to the virus as best as you can.
- Wear a face mask or cover when in the presence of others (unless with close family members or people in your designated “safe pod”).
- Practice social distance in public spaces (stores, offices, even parks, and beaches)
- Bolster your immunity. Even if one is getting the virus, chances are that the better our immune system the better chances to fight the disease off without long-term aftereffects.
Best self-care during pandemic is bolstering your immunity
How to do it? There are many ways to boost immunity in a natural way. Most of them are the common-sense principles of a healthy lifestyle.
It is my strong belief that the path to health leads through the gut. The healthier your eating, the healthier you. Our immune system depends on us providing it with proper nutrients so that it can function properly. Critical nutrients such as vitamin, minerals, essential fatty acids are necessary for the immune system to function at its best.
But don’t take only my word for it. There is tons of scholarly articles out there that substantiate this claim. Harvard’s School of Public Health warns about the importance of proper nutrition to fight of disease on the one hand, and the detrimental effects of poor nutrition on health outcomes on the other.
Eating enough nutrients as part of a varied diet is required for the health and function of all cells, including immune cells. Certain dietary patterns may better prepare the body for microbial attacks and excess inflammation, but it is unlikely that individual foods offer special protection. Each stage of the body’s immune response relies on the presence of many micronutrients.Harvard U, Nutritionsource
Rather than relying on fast food or SAD (Sad American Diet) and popping a multivitamin as precaution, load your plate with food that provides balanced nutrition.
Diets that are limited in variety and lower in nutrients, such as consisting primarily of ultra-processed foods and lacking in minimally processed foods, can negatively affect a healthy immune system. It is also believed that a Western diet high in refined sugar and red meat and low in fruits and vegetables can promote disturbances in healthy intestinal microorganisms, resulting in chronic inflammation of the gut, and associated suppressed immunity.Harvard School of Public Health
Most crucial nutrients to bolster immunity:
- Protein – choose lean, clean protein like grass-fed beet (occasionally, organic poultry, wild-caught fish, lentils, and beans of all kinds.
- Vitamin C and A – cruciferous vegetables, roots vegetables, spinach, kale.
- Vitamin E – eggs, nuts, seeds.
- Zinc – lean meat, legumes, nuts.
Staying or becoming physically active is another pillar on the path to health and protection form the virus. This does not mean that we all need to become marathon runners of professional athletes. Several times a week of more strenuous aerobic exercise and a few times of weight training should be sufficient to help us ward of illness.
While it is not certain how exactly does exercise help bolster immunity, scholars advanced a few theories about it.
- It is possible that being physically active might help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. As we know, COVID primarily attacks the respiratory system so this is particularly important now.
- Physical activity can modify the actual immune system cells such as antibodies and white blood cells and make them more agile in fighting off the potential illness.
- Getting flushed and sweaty during exercise may prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and the temperature rise may help the body fight infection better. Just like when we have a fever, it is actually a signal that the body is trying to fight off the foreign invader.
- Lastly, staying fit and active is a known stress reducer. As elevated stress hormones can increase our chances of getting sick, anything that helps us de-stress is good for us. So get moving!
Data support a clear inverse relationship between moderate exercise training and illness risk… Habitual exercise improves immune regulation, delaying the onset of age-related dysfunction.Journal of Sports and Health
Herbs and supplements
I wrote a separate post on natural ways to bolster your immunity, but here are some key takeaways. Certain superfoods and herbs can help up-modulate the immune system. Most are very easily incorporated into daily routines:
- Herbs: Elderberry, Echinacea, Rhodiola, Astragalus
- Mushrooms: Chaga, Reishi, Shitake, even plain white mushrooms have certain benefits
- Alium family of veggies: Garlic, Onion, Chives
Self-love as Self-care
Last but not least, it is important to keep an eye on our wellbeing and give ourselves some self-love.
Lack of sleep can lead to weakening your immune response by reducing the activity of T cells in the body. Aim for at least seven hours of good, uninterrupted sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, try melatonin or magnesium supplements or a lovely, relaxing herbal extract before reaching for prescription sleeping pills.
Whether working from home or away, remember to take frequent breaks, stretch, take your eyes of the computer, maybe practice a few breathing exercises. If possible walk outside and walk for five minutes. Enjoy a little bit of sun. Vitamin D is another very important nutrient which we cannot produce and cannot get from food. Only a moderate exposure to sunlight will make out bodies produce this crucial vitamin (actually a hormone, but it’s commonly referred to as a vitamin)
Especially when working from home, its important to develop a schedule that includes small breaks, a larger break for lunch or snack, and time away from the computer. I don’t know about you, but I found that working from home, homeschooling my kid, and keeping the house functioning made me be more overworked than before when I was working away from home. After a small adjustment to our schedules and adding these important breaks and division of labors amongst everyone in the family, I feel more relaxed and hope for better health outcomes.
Speaking of schedules – when preparing a weekly plan, do not forget to schedule some me-time (as well as partner time). What to include in a me-time? A nice bath, a restorative slow yoga session, a body scrub and/or a face mask, or simply a time alone on a hammock when you can gather your thoughts or don’t think at all, just be.
I hope this gives you a few ideas about the physical side of staying healthy and keeping the virus at bay. Now let’s move to the mental aspects of well-being and self-care during the COVID outbreaks and lockdowns.
Mental Self-Care During Pandemic
By Jaysalee Salcedo of Give Some Hope
Hi, sunflowers, my name is Jasyalee and I am a college senior studying communications from New York City. I recently started a blog and podcast that focuses on wellness as well as raising mental health awareness. I have a passion for making a positive difference in someone’s life and connecting with people. I want to help and inspire others.
First, I want to start by saying congratulations, you have survived another day of living through a pandemic. Take a moment and let that sink in. Lay in bed for a few extra seconds when you wake up without checking your phone, take a deep breath, and say at least one positive affirmation.
The truth of the matter is, 2020 has been a rough year. As a world, we have experienced something that we could have never imagined. Allow me to be the one to tell you, “you are doing great.” It is important that we remind ourselves that there is no perfect way to surviving a pandemic. We are all learning and taking it one day at a time.
I know that you are probably exhausted from hearing about Coronavirus (COVID-19). We all remember those two weeks where the entire world shut down. This shift into a reality filled with fear, death, uncertainty, and unemployment can take a toll on anyone’s mental health. With all of these factors the increase in anxiety, depression, social isolation, and low self-esteem amongst many people.
3 things to remember:
Everyone reacts differently to anxiety, stress, depression, grief, etc. Even your own reactions and feelings will evolve over time. Remind yourself to stop comparing and remind yourself that despite what you can’t control, despite what you are feeling it is okay.
- It’s okay
Accept your feelings and what is happening. Remind yourself that it’s okay to take a day to yourself, it’s okay to not be super active, sleep in, or even have that extra plate of food.
- We all have different paths
Linking the first tip to remember, it’s okay to this second tip is extremely important. It is easy to compare especially with social media. We compare our physical appearance, our homes, where we are in life, career paths, etc. However, we are all on different paths and it’s okay to be in a different place from someone else. Take your time and do what is best for you without comparing.
- Don’t stress what you can not control
We try really hard to control everything in our life. With the pandemic impacting our world it is hard to fully take control of every aspect of your life, or even some parts that you used to have control over. The best thing you can do is work on letting it go. Stop trying to have control over things that you can not. Going with the flow can be difficult but focusing on what you can control and not stressing what you cant is important for your mental health.
5 tips on taking care of your mental health:
- Stay active
- Prioritize sleep
- Practice self-care
- Connect with others
- Seek help if and when needed
Why is mental self-care during a pandemic so important?
Well, when you take care of your mental health you will feel better and more energized. You will be able to think much more clearly and have better reactions to different situations, which is very important in a time like this.
Let’s get personal:
During quarantine, the isolation began to affect my mental health. I became anxious in fear of the unknown. As social media consumed my time, my self-esteem lowered and I slowly started getting depressed. Getting through this down period I hade to focus on myself through practicing self-care, allow myself to connect with others, and I pushed myself to stay active doing something every day. Of course, I take some days off for myself but I try to stay on a consistent schedule to avoid stressing during these unpredictable times.
Please remember that it’s okay to be to yourself and respond to our new world in the way that best fits you. Practice self-care and take advantage of every day because it is a blessing. Together we will get through this!
Related: Self Growth Journey
Practicing Spiritual Self-Care
By Jeffrey Williams of Golden State of Mind
My name is Jeffery Williams Jr, born in Georgia but currently living in England. I am an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces and have roughly 3 years left until I retire from the forces and transition to civilian life to begin fulfilling my passion. I began blogging, roughly 2 months before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, to help continue the spread and sharing of my message. I am a mindset coach, that is my mission in life, and the purpose is to help others achieve their goals by learning and applying the right mindset to do just that.
The New Normal
Navigating life and norms has become a bit of a task, in these current times. As things begin to look uncertain, not so clear, in the near future, some people may have begun to lose control or faith in their spirituality.
Let me say this, it is easy to lose control but you must regain it, as soon as possible, for this one simple fact… it’s all temporary. Life is always changing, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, every now and then, you can’t tell which direction you are moving in.
The difficulties of life are all temporary, that is a fact. The only on-going situations that exist, for prolonged periods, are the ones fueled by the decision to wait.
My advice to you is to stop waiting for “it” to come to or happen to you. Take control, or re-gain control, of your life.
Find a Higher Purpose
One of the biggest things that I advocate for is self-belief. If you do not believe in anyone or anything else, you should believe in yourself. To be clear, I am speaking about taking ownership. While in this lockdown, you’ve probably seen those around you press the brakes on their life’s goals and others that have put the gas pedal through the floor.
Speaking for myself, I found my higher purpose in life. Before the pandemic, I was an instructor looking to spread my views on how to excel in a work environment. I was building and leading training sessions for groups of 20-40 people and I was gaining a lot of momentum. I was feeling good about it, but there were times where I was not feeling so good about it. I often felt like something was missing, and come to find it, it was.
The thing that was missing was I was instructing on how to but I was withholding my “why” for doing it. Before the lockdowns hit, I was juggling the thought of becoming a mindset and career coach. And while I was building and ramping up to execute my plan, BOOM, a global pandemic hits!
I was asking the cliche question, “why me?”. I began to question the universe and if my dreams of helping others was misaligned. After about two weeks, I got back to it. There were a few things that got me back on track but the main thing was that I regained belief in myself. The belief that my purpose is to be of service to others helped return the balance of my spirit. The desire to pass on information to prevent others from having to learn everything from scratch was something that I could not shake, so I re-centered my focus and pressed forward.
Unplug from the noise
Another thing about navigating the lockdown, and reducing the impact on your spirituality, you have to unplug from the noise. A lot of crazy things have been televised and posted via social media to make almost anyone lose faith in the future.
Riots, violence, person caused and pandemic caused deaths, to name a few… it can be mentally taxing on anyone. Do yourself, and those around you, a favor, unplug from the world for a while. Detox for about 30 days. Whatever inner conflict you may be dealing with, allow yourself the time to address and remedy it.
You are important to the world, you have something valuable to deliver to the world. Free yourself of the negativity within you and around you. Navigate these new norms with confidence and strength. Let the world witness the power of a positively driven spirit!