Coronavirus: Healthy Actions That Help You Feel Better
Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 13, 2022
The coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it. These changes can be hard, but there are ways you can stay mentally and physically healthy during this time. For one, try to get outside. Sunshine can boost your mood, and time outdoors brings many health perks. One study suggests green spaces can help keep depression and high blood pressure at bay. Of course, stay at least 6 feet away from anyone you don’t live with.
Get More Than 5,000 Steps a Day
Don’t feel bad if your fitness tracker isn’t logging 10,000 steps a day right now, but try to get more than 5,000 steps in to lower your risk of problems tied to an inactive lifestyle. Move around your home more to add steps your daily routine, whether you pace while on the phone or march in place during a TV show.
Be Active Throughout Your Day
Even if you hit your step goal with a morning run, it’s not healthy to spend the rest of the day sitting. If you have to be at a computer all day, set an alarm to get up and move every hour. Try to replace some of your sitting with standing. Plan short breaks throughout the day to go for a walk, play with your kids or pets, or do an exercise video.
Call or Text Someone
It’s important to stay connected with your friends, family, and neighbors even while you keep social distance. Text a funny meme, call your loved ones, mail an encouraging note, or set up a group video chat. These small acts can lift others up and boost your own mood. Research shows social connection helps your self-esteem, lowers your anxiety, and helps keep your emotions even.
Limit News or Social Media
If you feel more anxious after you read a bunch of news stories or scroll through social media, set limits for yourself. Maybe check your most trusted news source once a day for a set amount of time. Choose certain days and times to check in on social media, and delete the apps from your phone the rest of the time. Ask a family member or friend to help you stick to it if you find it hard to step back.
Take Time to Relax
While you take a break from routines that may cause anxiety, add time for things that help you relax. Maybe take a long bath or shower, put your holiday lights back up, or sip tea in the afternoon. Start an evening ritual to help you wind down, like lighting a scented candle and listening to music. Fragrances like lavender, sandalwood, and bergamot may help calm you. If your candle has an open flame, be sure to blow it out before bed.
Give and Receive Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, whether it’s groceries or someone to talk to. If you don’t know who to turn to, reach out to your community or your neighborhood social media group. In turn, look for ways you can care for others. Donate to a food drive, send a care package to a friend, or ask your older neighbors if they need anything before you head to the store. When you help others, it helps you feel better as well.
Try Something New
If there’s a bright side to all the canceled events, maybe it’s the newfound time you may have to try out a new hobby at home. There are plenty of online videos and websites that can help you learn anything from art and gardening to astronomy and coding. A new interest can help keep your mind off needless worry, and research shows hobbies are good for your health.
Goals can help you stay focused and give you a clearer purpose during this uncertain time. Don’t make them too hard. Set goals that are within reach, and think about what you can do each week or each day to work toward them. If you had set goals at the beginning of this year and they no longer make sense, reshape them or set new ones. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to put them on hold for now.
Go Easy on Yourself
This may not be the most productive season of your life, and that’s OK. You don’t have to cook fancy meals, start new work projects, or come up with creative activities for your kids every day. Give yourself grace, and focus on what’s most important, like keeping you and your family healthy.
Start a Journal
Keep a journal to help you process this unusual time. Try to write about both your feelings and the facts of what’s going on. A study found that people who did that were able to see the positive side of a stressful event better than those who wrote about only their feelings. You could also keep a diary, to simply record what life looks like right now, or a gratitude journal, which can help lift your mood.
Watch for Unhealthy Patterns
Take a look at any changes to your habits. Are you drinking more? Did you quit smoking years ago and find yourself reaching for a cigarette again? Is your stress showing up in angry outbursts? If you notice any harmful patterns, take steps now to get back on a healthy course. For instance, if you’re in recovery, reach back out to your support group. If you saw a therapist before the pandemic, schedule an online appointment.
Think of the Big Picture
Although you may be more distant from others right now, you are not alone. Across the globe, this virus has disrupted people’s lives. Keep in mind that your friends, colleagues, and millions of strangers all over the world are going through some of the same things you are. So try to give them some margin, too, if someone isn’t their usual self. We truly are all in this together.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
Environmental Health Perspectives: “Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health.”
Environmental Research: “The Health Benefits of the Great Outdoors: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Greenspace Exposure and Health Outcomes.”
Scientific Reports: “Health Benefits from Nature Experiences Depend on Dose.”