It's important to get proper sleep and nutrition, which will help support your immune system and hopefully prevent you from contributing to the healthcare overload. (Photo courtesy Del Daylami)
It's important to get proper sleep and nutrition, which will help support your immune system and hopefully prevent you from contributing to the healthcare overload. (Photo courtesy Del Daylami)

Surviving Social Distancing: Let’s get physical(ly well)

How to make caring for your body a priority during the coronavirus pandemic

March 28, 2020

(Photo courtesy Del Daylami)

“After the break, seven foods to boost your immune system during the coronavirus pandemic.” 

As I watched the local news, I could almost see the folks of small-town Missouri readying their pens to note down the upcoming tips, despite immune system “boosts” being a myth. During the pandemic, it’s only natural to want to take action. We know the basics of illness prevention by heart: wash your hands, don’t touch your face and practice social distancing. Other aspects of physical wellness, like sleep and nutrition, might seem less important by comparison, but doing our best to stay healthy and maintain a strong immune system will keep us from contributing to the healthcare overload. Should a similar outbreak occur when we’re no longer young and sturdy, which I hope most of us are, we will become that outbreak’s high-risk group. Although old age and circumstance are out of our hands, our current healthy habits are not.

Our New Sedentary Lifestyle

Our new normal is almost bound to be more sedentary. Sitting at the computer completing online classes has left me with way too much back pain for a 20 year-old. I’ve found it helpful to raise my screen closer to eye level, and for mega slouchers like me, I’ve found this yoga strap posture brace to be a game changer. Unnecessary screen time also had to go, since I’ve noticed more eye strain than normal, but my phone’s built-in app timer and blue light filter have also helped. Be mindful of how much more time you’re using technology these days; chances are, it’s taking a physical toll on you.

With exercise routines disrupted, it’s important to find new ways to keep moving in whatever way you’re capable. Maintaining a moderate level of exercise has been found to reduce risk of influenza-related mortality, but moderation is key: exercising too much can also increase your risk of infection. While outdoor activities are safe as long as you maintain distance, not everyone can count on a safe or comfortable place outside to exercise. Apartment workouts are good for small spaces and keeping relatively quiet. If you’re looking for a safe change of scenery, the app All Trails helps you find trails near you—just make sure they’re not currently closed to the public. Walks around the neighborhood, like I take every day with my aunt, can feel just as good. Sunlight is important, as vitamin D helps maintain immunity. Of course, with many communities under stay-at-home orders, check that outdoor exercise is permitted where you’re at.

Counting cases, counting sheep

I like to think that there are two types of quarantined college students right now: those who stay up worrying about an impending apocalypse, and those who stay up scrolling coronavirus meme pages. But chronic sleep loss actually decreases your immunity. For managing anxiety, journaling is my go-to, but there are many other ways to quiet the noises in your head; I recommend working one into your nighttime routine. My biggest sleep tip is to embrace your natural rhythm. The flexibility of online classes affords more choice in your waking hours, so choose your best ones whenever possible and don’t force yourself to be something you’re not.

Another kind of food shortage

As we adjust to life sans Rand bowls, proper nutrition remains important to be able to fight off the virus. If access to food at home is limited, take a look at this site to locate a nearby food pantry. As much as I’ve wanted to hunker down with all the junk I can reach, I’ve been trying to eat healthier as the situation intensifies. I’m sure you know the basics of nutrition; I won’t bombard you with the same old tips, just remind you that good nutrition is critical to an optimally functioning immune system.

The stress of the pandemic might mean that disordered eating behaviors are making an appearance. When I’m struggling with my eating, what helps me most is journaling so I can understand what stressors are prompting me to engage in a certain eating behavior. Having a friend keep me accountable or watching videos online to distract myself is also helpful, but find what works for you and know you’re not alone.

In tough times, treat yourself like you’d treat a pet: food, sleep and exercise, all in appropriate quantities. I hope this found you well and leaves you more equipped to stay well.

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