Self-care has taken a back seat since the COVID-19 pandemic began and Americans started staying home 24/7. Instead of getting up each day with a full schedule, people are staying in their pajamas until noon (or later), sometimes without even bathing.
"Studies on past quarantines have shown that even with excess of time, there can be a paradoxical decline in motivation due to the negative psychological effects of being in isolation," says Berta Rezik, M.D., a family medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health.
When the outside news feels overwhelming and questions remain about what the near future will hold (even as stay-at-home restrictions are eventually phased out), having mastery of your body and personal environment is more important than ever. That's a key component of preventive care, establishing the building blocks that will help you stay safe and healthy.
Here are six strategies for maintaining a sense of normalcy inside the mayhem:
- Get dressed: Your outward appearance often dictates how you feel on the inside. So it's important to shower, get dressed, brush and floss your teeth and act as if a quarantine day is just like a regular day. Wear a pop of color, shave and do your hair. You can even wear a bit of make-up as a mood booster. "Most important, moisturize and take care of your skin from within — eat healthy and drink plenty of water," Dr. Rezik says.
- Maintain a schedule: To maintain solid sleep hygiene, try to wake up and go to bed at the same times each day. Set an alarm and start the day just as you would have pre-COVID-19 pandemic. And schedule your meals so you're eating at regular times throughout the day. "Sticking to a routine provides a sense of structure during a time when you may feel a lack of control," Dr. Rezik says.
- Do what you can: You may not be able to work at full capacity — or at all — during the COVID-19 pandemic. But you can tackle projects that you haven't had time to address. Schedule check-in calls with your friends, address financial planning projects, catch up on email or do some spring cleaning. You can even tackle creative projects like scrapbooks and photo albums, or make birthday cards and holiday cards now and save them to send.
- Get some exercise: "Exercise is key," Dr. Rezik says. "It helps support a healthy immune system and keeps your metabolism humming." Aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity, such as brisk walking, five or more days each week. A bonus: Regular exercise can aid in weight loss, reduce stress and enhance sleep.
- Plan your meals: Eating at your usual times can help you stay on track. Make sure to eat protein and fiber at every meal and opt for healthful foods over processed snacks. Nutrients like vitamin B and zinc, found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, may help stave off depression. Still hungry? "Reach for snacks with good fats, like nuts and seeds," Dr. Brezik suggests.
- Stay connected: Quarantine can be tough on relationships. It's important to stay connected with your community. Use videoconferencing and FaceTime to meet up with friends and family.
Staying Sane During COVID-19
When it comes to staying sane and healthy during these uncertain times, it's important to keep your expectations in check.
"Integrate small, reasonable schedule changes that coincide with a home/life balance, and that are reflective of your personality," Dr. Rezik says. Focus on improving tasks that were already part of your daily routine. Increase the time you spend walking the dog or take a new route on that walk each day to stave off boredom.
Most important, check in with your primary care physician about mental health concerns, follow up for chronic conditions and come up with a post-quarantine plan from the safety of your home through telemedicine.
To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
Dr. Berta Rezik is a family medicine physician who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center - Woodhaven.