Self-Care in Self-Quarantine: Tips for Staying Healthy during a Pandemic
If I had to pick one thing that I’m most embarrassed by right now, it would have to be my Amazon order history. In chronological order, my last two weeks’ worth of purchases have
been: Cards Against Humanity, the Absurd Box; middle-quality wireless earbuds (as I was recently diagnosed with you-don’t-have-airpods-and-feel-left-out-itis); Cards Against Humanity, the Hidden Gems Bundle; and a 60-pc. Bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups.
What do all of these purchases have in common, you ask? Be glad you did. The cards, the earbuds, the obscene amount of Halloween candy - all these point to a level of inactivity and laziness that I’m ashamed to say has been creeping up on me for some time. I don’t think I’m alone in that; given the choice between chocolatey goodness or a quick jog, I’m sure there are other souls out there who have been weakened by isolation and the lure of a peanut butter cup.
I am here to warn you, in a Dickensian, spectral sort of way (just picture a ghost and a bunch of rattling chains) that self-quarantine and self-care do not easily mix. They’re not mutually exclusive, it’s just that it’s not easy to stay healthy while staying confined by the same four walls for weeks on end. It’s a fact that our jobs right now are to stay healthy, sane, and indoors, in order to change disease progression statistics and keep the world moving. But how, unless we all give up and become like the boneless pillow-people from Wall-E, will we take care of our bodies? It’s hard enough staying healthy under normal circumstances, not to mention during a pandemic.
Well, buckle up! I’ve done the research, and I’m about to break down exactly how we can stay active, healthy, and LIVING, within the confines of our own homes. And, spoiler alert, if I have to limit myself to a Reese’s a day, so do you.
Self-Care in Self-Quarantine: Tips for Staying Healthy During a Pandemic
1. Eat Consciously
I’m not a dietitian, and so can only speak with any kind of authority about my own experiences with food. For me, choosing what I eat always centers around how I know I’m going to feel after I eat it - whether this pasta will make me full, or that salad will turn sour in my stomach. Of course, the relationships we all have with food are unique, defined by a lifetime of experiences and internalized opinions about food. However, regardless of those differences, practicing mindful eating can make anyone more in tune with their body, what it needs at any given moment, and how to distinguish between a food choice that's necessary and one that’s unnecessary. As Harvard Health puts it, mindful eating
“can transform the way you think about food and set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.” (Harvard Health, January 2016)
The practice, in essence, is to make mealtimes about eating the meal, instead of being on your phone, or watching TV, or doing homework. By focusing on your food and being conscious of how you feel about each bite, you’re not turning the meal into a robotic function that may or may not be what your body needs at that moment. As a result, you might more often choose to eat healthier foods at better times, since your awareness of your body's needs will change.
2. Get up in the Morning
I know it’s easier said than done, but you’d be amazing at how much more of the day there is when you get up at nine instead of noon! Keeping your body on a schedule (even if it’s not terribly strict) can ward off lethargy, insomnia, and overall disjointedness. If you need motivation, prep breakfast ingredients the night before, or set up a chair outside to serve as your morning meditation spot. Resolve yourself to go for a walk, or sit up and read, or take a shower! Waking up in the morning means more time to fulfill your goals during the day, and more balanced sleep rhythms at night.
3. Talk to your Friends
Physical healthcare is dominating our lives at the moment, and whether you’re hearing it on the news or from someone in your own home, the list of reasons why we have to protect our bodies from illness is extensive. Flying under the radar, however, is the mental health aspect of isolation. The least extreme example would be those with extraverted personalities - people who get all their energy and motivation from interaction with others may be feeling drained due to isolation. On the other end of the mental health spectrum are those with the tendency to spiral into depressive or anxious thoughts when they are alone. In order to combat whatever type of mental result you may be dealing with - whether stress-related or chronic - reach out to your friends and family digitally. FaceTime them, have Zoom parties, play online games, send video messages! In this time of separation, come together virtually to assuage your own panic, and subsequently help others deal with theirs.
Of the items on this list, this is probably the one I have the most challenges with. Intellectually, I know what the benefits are: cardiovascular health, muscle tone, dopamine release, better sleep, looking like Jane Fonda in the 80s, etc. It’s just so, so impossibly hard to start. There are a couple of things that have helped me keep up with exercise. Firstly, I made my exercise space feel like somewhere I want to be - I cleared out the center of my room, set up a speaker with my fave music, and rolled out my yoga mat. Next, I set to work Googling the best YouTube workout tutorials, and watched the first two minutes of about twenty of the top results, pulling together a few that I felt like I could do. Finally, I made sure that my routine, while upbeat and intense, was sustainable. If I had started out with an oath to do 1,000 squats per day, I wouldn’t have been able to maintain that routine. Being able to keep up a daily (or almost daily) workout that pushes you AND isn’t a monstrous commitment is key. If you want to start, MadFit has a great video that I’ll link below for at-home workout beginners.
5.Work on your Projects
Whether this means clocking some hours online, writing a new poem, finishing a painting, calling a business partner, or something completely different, try not to let your personal goals and responsibilities stagnate. It’s possible to overwork yourself, too, but spending a little time each day completing achievable project-based work keeps your mind engaged and helps you feel accomplished and purposeful. Pick up a new skill or hone an old one - it’s up to you!
It might seem like every hour of the day is blurring together into one long, indeterminate time period, and that’s partially because a lot of the daily markers that you may be used to
have disappeared - driving to work, seeing your classmates, getting lunch with friends. In order to keep from sinking into that fog of timeless despair, every 12 hour-stretch needs to be punctuated with about 8 hours of sleep. It doesn’t sound too difficult, until at 2 am, you realize the only thing stopping you from finishing the last season of Law and Order is you. Believe me, choosing to nurture a healthy sleep cycle does more to regenerate your body and fend off illness than you think.
There you have it! A bit of advice from someone who is probably going through a lot of the same things you are. If you have any questions about what I’ve written, or want to learn a little bit more about how I and all of my Strive to Learn colleagues are adapting to life during a pandemic, please give us a call or text at (949) 873-6807. Stay healthy, and stay safe! :)
Harvard Health on Mindful Eating - https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/8-steps-to-mindful-eating
MadFit “20 MINUTE FULL BODY WORKOUT | At Home & Equipment Free” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKfNUOWuZV8
How Sleep Protects You -
Harvard Health on Maintaining an Exercise Routine -