The COVID pandemic has changed many of our daily routines and has had a physical and emotional impact on our lives. Many of us stay at home to minimise exposure. A day that may previously have included many steps with physical activities like walking to work, shopping for groceries, exercising in the park and social interactions with family and friends, has now seen a shift to a more sedentary lifestyle. With this unprecedented lifestyle change packed with stationary activities like watching television, Netflix, sitting while reading during longer periods of time, or sitting on a computer for longer than usual periods, it is critical to stay proactive and in some cases even creative to maintain an active lifestyle. Even if you have not been directly affected by COVID-19, take steps to improve your overall mental and physical health and in turn preventing getting sick in the first place.
Chinese medicine can treat a variety of conditions but also focuses strongly on preventative medicine with lifestyle and nutritional changes.
So what are some of the things you can do to improve your nutrition and lifestyle and avoid exposure to COVID-19 or any other pathogens?
The gyms may not be open however there are lots of safe alternatives to getting physical activity without going against the current government restrictions. Exercising or workouts can be successfully done at home without the need for a lot of space. Push-up, sit-ups, jumping jacks and more exercises are a great way to stay fit. Weather permitting consider going out into the nature. Going for a brisk walk or a jog in uncrowded outdoor areas is still considered safe. And if you own any type of bike hit the road and venture out into the mountains or the countryside.
Get adequate sleep
Good uninterrupted sleep is essential to our overall health and wellbeing. From a biological standpoint some of our body functions are triggered by light and some others by darkness. It is therefore essential to go to sleep at a reasonable time and wake up when the sun rises. According to Chinese medicine, seasonal differences in sunset and sunrise times also play a role, that is to say that with the longer days during the summer our body can sleep less hours and with longer nights in the winter we need more rest.
In some countries like in Spain, we have the unfortunate habit of eating dinner very late. Pay attention to what you eat and drink but don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might make it difficult to fall asleep. In particular, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime and refrain from drinking large quantities of fluids at least one hour before you go to sleep. This might keep you awake as the body is still trying to process the extra food or fluid. Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. If you are particularly sensitive to it, the stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can affect your sleep quality. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy and relaxed, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
Practising self-discipline and avoiding “emotional eating” due to stress caused by the drastic changes surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and how it’s affecting our lives is imperative. According to Chinese medicine, whole foods like dark, leafy greens, oranges, tomatoes, fruits and even some fresh herbs like parsley, are loaded with vitamins, fibres and minerals. Make it a habit to try eat a variety of different whole and nutritious foods instead of processed and packaged ones.
The key is a balanced nutrition!
Eating properly is not only about consuming the right foods. It’s also about eating regularly and in correct quantities. Chinese medicine wisdom advocates for 3 meals a day. No matter how many meals you have, let your body process the food you have ingested between meals so that your digestive system can also have time to rest. If you never feel hungry, chances are you are eating too often or your digestion is sluggish. An old Japanese saying goes “hara hachibu” which basically means fill your stomach up to 80% of its capacity. Don’t stuff yourself up, give a chance to your digestive system to run smoothly without putting too much strain to it.
Take time to take care of yourself. Be supportive and suggest the same for those close to you. Meditation, relaxation, listening to music, spending time in nature, exercising and quality time with family, personal care of yourself promotes overall wellness and strengthen your immune system.
Talking to loved ones while in isolation can help reduce anxiety and low moods. Take time to use the multitudes of technologies that can help you stay in touch with those you care. Our busy lives before the COVID-19 pandemic may have limited how often we connected with distant friends and family, now is the time to fully exploit these modern capabilities for feeling more connected and closer to the ones we really care about and love.
Wash your hands and disinfect surfaces
As the main route for airborne infectious diseases to enter the body is mainly through the mucous membrane of the nose and the mouth, improving one’s hygiene and not repeatedly touching one’s mouth, nose and eyes, is of the utmost important way of keeping healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is equally paramount to wear a surgical face mask when visiting crowded places and practise social distancing. If you are working in a closed environment consulting with clients or patients make sure you air the office with regularity.
Because the virus has the ability to spread quickly it is important to disinfect commonly touched surfaces regularly. These include cell phones, telephones, desks, door knobs, and the like. Most disinfectants will work but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend to dilute bleach in water or using at least 70% alcohol solutions.
Washing your hands is something we have been taught since we were children. A simple rinse under the water though is not sufficient, research shows that washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds is what it takes to sanitise your hands effectively.
Avoid crowded places and stay at home
By now, the world is only beginning to understand how the novel coronavirus works, but one thing is quite certain: it seems to spread and mutate easily. Understanding why it is necessary to avoid crowds, begins with understanding how the virus is spread. While there is ongoing research about that, what most scientists believe is that coronavirus is spread through droplets produced when one sneezes or coughs. These droplets then fall onto surfaces, which other people touch and which proves why it is important to wash your hands.
The second way of spreading is if someone nearby sneezes or coughs and droplets then land onto someone’s face: their eyes, their nose, or their mouth. As such, it is important to stay at least 2 meters away from any person sneezing or coughing. Masks may be worn, but more importantly when you are in a crowed and closed setting.
While social distancing may be uncomfortable for some people, know that it is essential in flattening the curve and preventing the disease to be spread to more vulnerable people. Some more staying at home than usual and meeting only people you regularly see, is a good practise to help putting less strain on our health system and help slowing down the number of transmissions.
Positively cope with stress and anxiety induced by restrictions. We must all now adopt to combat the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Positive coping mechanisms would include exercise, meditation, reading, further developing certain skills or hobbies etc. Use this time to increase your daily repetition of these positive activities and develop new or even better routines than you may have adhered to prior to the emergence of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
And do not panic
Easier said than done, I know. While many people understand how important it is to keep yourself physically safe during this time, it’s also important to keep yourself mentally balanced. Nothing good happens out of panic.
We have to understand that our health also rests in the hands of every single person who should comply with the recommendations and restrictions given out by our governments. Therefore, no amount of alcohol, soap, or disinfectant can protect you if your neighbours don’t behave in a responsible way.
People who suffer from anxiety disorders may also experience psychosomatic symptoms during times of pandemic. Meaning, people may experience symptoms without actually having the virus. Remember that plenty of symptoms can be triggered by stress, panic attacks or anxiety — shortness of breath, hot and cold flashes, and sometimes even cough.
There is not one single thing or magical formula that you can apply to staying healthy during a pandemic. A combination of things will most likely help you achieve it. Additionally being part of a community and acting responsibly will make a substantial difference in making you feel physically and emotionally balanced.
According to the latest research, COVID-19 may turn out to be seasonal like the flu, so watch out for the colder months and the changes of season when there is big temperature swings.