Key Steps for Staying Healthy During COVID-19
Staying healthy is especially important now during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to following recommendations to prevent contracting and spreading the coronavirus, it’s vital to stay as healthy as you can so you are best able to fight the virus should you be exposed to it.
Taking steps to stay active, eat nutritious meals, minimize stress, and follow guidelines regarding hand washing, face covering and social distancing will help you to stay healthy and avoid exposure to the coronavirus, colds, flus, and other contagious illnesses. Here are four key strategies for staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, from sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Stay Mentally Strong
Pandemics can be stressful, and fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children, according to the CDC. Learning to cope with stress and anxiety is an important part of taking care of your mental health. Practicing mindfulness exercises can improve your ability to regulate emotions and decrease stress, anxiety and depression, allowing you to think more clearly, improve your mood and self-esteem and possibly enhance your relationships. You can practice mindfulness through meditation, breathing exercises or simply being in the moment when you are doing certain activities. Another way to stay mentally strong is by making sure to carve out time for yourself by taking a bath, reading a book, writing in a journal, or doing other stress-reducing activities you enjoy.
If your workplace offers HealthTrust medical coverage, employees and their family and household members can access mental health resources including free counseling sessions and helpful online resources through the LifeResources Employee Assistance Program (EAP). They can call 800.759.8122 or log in to their account on HealthTrust’s Secure Enrollee Portal and click on the LifeResources button to access the EAP website. If you have a different medical coverage provider, contact them to learn more about EAP resources available to you.
What you eat and drink can affect your body’s ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections, according to the WHO. The food you consume fuels you and provides you with energy to do daily tasks and stay well. Eating healthy can reduce your risk of chronic disease, weight gain and improve your mood.
• Read food labels. Note the serving size and calories and consume reasonable portions.
• Eat foods that are nutrient-dense, such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
• Avoid highly processed foods like chips, candy, crackers, and cookies that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Consume foods as close to their natural state as possible, and choose low-sodium versions of packaged foods such as soups, frozen dinners, and canned vegetables.
• Choose snack foods rich in fiber and protein; this combination helps keep you feel fuller longer than sugary foods will. Examples include a tablespoon of peanut butter on whole-grain crackers; a sliced apple with 1-2 ounces of cheese; a yogurt with fresh fruit.
• Keep healthy options visible by having a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter instead of a candy dish, for example, or having celery and carrot sticks available with a hummus dip.
• Plan and prep ahead. Plan healthy meals and snacks ahead of time to prevent impulse buying and eating. Chop your vegetables for the week on Sunday evening for salads you can
put together quickly after a work day.
Physical activity is an important part of everyone’s life. The WHO reminds us that during the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many of us are restricted in our movements, it is even more important for people of all ages and abilities to be as active as possible. Regular physical activity benefits both the body and mind. It can reduce high blood pressure, help manage weight and reduce
the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers. It also improves bone and muscle strength and increases balance, flexibility and fitness. Regular physical activity can also be a way to stay connected with family and friends. Here are a few tips from the WHO:
• Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Take movement breaks and get up and walk, dance or do anything that gets you moving. Even a short break from sitting, by doing 3-5 minutes of physical movement, such as walking or stretching, will help ease muscle strain, relieve mental tension and improve blood circulation and muscle activity.
• Try to set up a physical activity routine. If your gym is closed or you just can’t seem to get there, learn ways to work out at home or get outside when the weather is nice.
• Get moving with your friends and family. You can practice social distancing while walking, running, biking, hiking and enjoying many outdoor activities. Take a group walk, participate in an online workout or find other creative ways to move and socialize. If you are part of a HealthTrust Member Group, Enrollees in a HealthTrust medical plan can participate in the Slice of Life program which includes personal and group challenges to encourage healthy living while connecting with others.
Help Prevent the Spread of Germs
The following guidelines from the CDC can help reduce the spread of COVID-19:
• Keep your hands clean. Washing your hands with soap and water for a least 20 seconds especially after being in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing can reduce the spread of germs. The CDC recommends washing your hands before eating or preparing food, before touching your face, after using the restroom, after leaving a public area, after handling your mask, after changing a diaper, after caring for someone sick, or after touching animals or pets. If soap is not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol;
cover all surfaces of your hands and rub together until they feel dry.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible. These are easy access points for germs to get into your body and infect you.
• Avoid close contact with individuals who are sick. If a family member is sick, try to maintain at least six feet between the person who is sick and other household members. Outside your home, always try to put six feet of distance between yourself and others who don’t live in your household to reduce the chances of being exposed to someone infected.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others. You can spread COVID-19 to others even if you don’t feel sick. The mask is meant to not only protect you but others, too. Wash your hands before putting on your mask, put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin, and make sure you can breathe easily. Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when you cannot stay six feet apart.
• Monitor your health daily by being aware of symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath. Take your temperature if symptoms develop. If you are sick, stay home except to seek medical care. You know your body better than anyone else and you know if something is not right.
Taking care of yourself is important throughout your life, but now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it takes on new significance as we all try to contain the spread of the virus. It is everyone’s responsibility to stay as healthy as you can, not only for yourself and your loved ones, but for the safety of your community.
Taylor Bowse is a HealthTrust Wellness Advisor.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is intended to be informational and does not constitute professional health advice or an endorsement of the resources mentioned.
7 Benefits of Regular Physical Exercise (Mayo Clinic)
Importance of Good Nutrition (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services)
Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids (American Heart Association)
Basic Nutrition (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)
Coping with Stress (CDC)