With everything that is going on with the Coronavirus pandemic, many of us have found ourselves experiencing high levels of stress. During times like these, even the most resilient amongst us (myself included) may start noticing worsened mental health in the form of increased anxiety and depression. It’s immensely important that during these stressful times we prioritize our mental and physical health (they are one and the same and both influence each other). Here are some tips for staying mentally and physically healthy during this pandemic:
1) Limit your intake of news and social media. You can not avoid hearing about Coronavirus as it’s essentially taken over every news outlet and social media platform. However, spending hours watching TV or reading things online about Coronavirus will likely only make you feel more and more anxious. If you can’t stop completely, try and limit yourself to watching news and surfing social media for 20 minutes daily.
2) Sleep! Sleep is always important, and I like to say that it’s the literal foundation of your health. However, during these stressful times, sleep becomes even more important! Getting an adequate quantity and quality of sleep will improve your mental health and boost your immune system. The best way to improve your sleep? Follow Sleep Hygiene:
  • Maintain a regular sleep routine
  • Avoid naps if possible
  • Don’t stay awake in bed for more than 5-10 minutes
  • Don’t watch TV or read in bed
  • Minimize/eliminate caffeine
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol
  • Exercise regularly before 2:00 PM
  • Have a quiet, comfortable bedroom
  • If you are a “clock watcher” at night, hide the clock
  • Have a comfortable pre-bedtime routine

3) Exercise and go outside. Daily exercise and spending time outside have both been linked to improved mental and physical health. Now that many of us are spending time at home in quarantine, it’s even more important to get in daily exercise and time outside in nature. Aim to get a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise in daily. You can do ANYTHING, (I always say choose something you enjoy!) including yoga, running, walking or dancing. Going outside is a healthy choice, however, as social distancing is also very important to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, it’s wise to limit your time outside and follow some guidelines:
  • Stick to wide open areas
  • Avoid crowds or groups of people
  • Try to go out early in the morning or times when there are less people around
  • Try to avoid touching anything (if you have to, don’t touch your face afterwards and/or wear gloves)
  • If you do have to touch things like door handles, disinfect them before and after use (bleach or alcohol work well)
  • Try and keep a distance of at least 6 feet from other people
  • Don’t go out if you are feeling sick
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after you go out

If you can’t make it outside, keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to get your exercise indoors as well (including endless videos available on YouTube).

4) Cook healthy food. We truly are what we eat and our diets have a direct effect on our overall health and well-being. One of the best ways to ramp up your immune system is to eat healthy food. Since eating out is no longer recommended, now is the perfect time to try your hand at cooking meals. There is no one size fits all diet, but for many folks, I recommend an anti-inflammatory diet which means avoiding/limiting:
  • Sugar/refined carbohydrates (soda, candy)
  • Meat (includes beef, chicken, pork)
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, ice cream)
  • Margarine
  • Vegetable oils (such as corn, safflower, soybean, peanut, and cottonseed oil)
  • Processed foods and foods with artificial additives

And eating/increasing:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy oils (such as olive, avocado, coconut)
  • Fish (especially fresh water like salmon)
  • Beans
  • Whole grains (brown rice, barley, quinoa)

5) Meditate! Meditation has also been linked to many different positive health outcomes and can be particularly helpful during times of increased stress and anxiety. I recommend trying to meditate for 3-10 minutes daily, and establishing it as a routine (in the morning works well, before you get out of bed). There are many free resources available, but I highly recommend the application Headspace (which has free options, and is currently available as a free subscription for healthcare workers).

6) Learn something new. If you have found yourself quarantined at home with free time, you now have the opportunity to learn to do something that you’ve never done before! There is an endless amount of information on Google to learn just about anything you could imagine. I have taken this time to try my hand at growing a hydroponic garden and brewing my own kombucha.

7) LOVE every day and check on your loved ones. It’s easy to get so distracted with everything that is going on and forget the BASICS. Don’t forget to LOVE daily. Love yourself, love your partner, love your kids, love your pets. And of course, if you have loved ones who are in quarantine, check in on them daily (via phone or video). Believe it or not, love is just as important to our physical and mental health as eating well and getting exercise.

If you can stick to these tips, I promise you’ll be one step closer to making it through this pandemic with a healthy mind and body!

With LOVE and LIGHT,
Dr. Kendra Campbell, MD
Holistic Psychiatrist