By now, we are all well aware of the worldwide pandemic that is affecting our everyday lives and changing our daily habits. Your health is more important than ever, and it’s essential to remember the simple ways that we can keep our bodies (and minds) the healthiest. These 6 ways to stay healthy are action items that everyone can implement into their lives, needing little to no resources.
Make physical activity a part of your day
Notice that we didn’t say “exercise.” Even if you’re avoiding the gym, moving your body is still crucial for all ages. The World Health Organization defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure – including activities undertaken while working, playing, carrying out household chores, travelling, and engaging in recreational pursuits.” The WHO continues to say that “the term ‘physical activity’ should not be confused with ‘exercise,’ which is a subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and aims to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness.” You don’t need to go to the gym or take an exercise class to incorporate physical activity into your day. Whether you’re inside dancing or cleaning, or outside in the neighborhood taking a walk, make it a point to do some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day. “People who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active,” says the WHO.
Make a routine and stick to it
It’s not just about our bodies. It’s about our minds, too. We’re talking about mental health here. Due to the current health circumstances in our nation, your routine has probably been altered, if not changed all together. Even if you’re working from home, many of us thrive on routine, and we might not realize it. A lack of regular routine, especially if we’re used to it, can cause anxiety and stress, and decrease cognitive functioning. Kids especially benefit from sticking to a schedule and not losing the structure out of their day, even if their lives have been moved outside of a formal educational setting. Routine can be an anchor; when there is uncertainty throughout the day, there is calm and comfort in knowing that dinner will be at 6:00 p.m. It can also create positive habits and ensure that we are not putting items such as exercise and sleep as low priorities. Creating a schedule for yourself, your work day, or your family will allow you to build in time for the important things in life, and ensure that your mental health stays on track, even during times of change. Studies show that children feel safer when they know what to expect.
Consider sleep a requirement
Sleep is a big component of that routine. Getting enough zzzs is your body’s way of restoring itself, and when you don’t give your body (and mind) enough time to rest, you put your health at risk. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “there is a clear association of short sleep times with numerous health problems and increased risk of death.” A normal adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep per night, while children, and others with underlying conditions need more hours of sleep per day. The National Sleep Foundation states that “there are significant mood, performance, health, and mortality consequences associated with sleep restriction, and these consequences increase as sleep restriction becomes chronic.” Your body needs sleep more than ever to boost your immune system so that it can fight health threats such as the flu or Coronavirus. Start making sleep a requirement and stop shaving off hours of your nighttime sleep to accomplish other things for work. It’s your health that’s at risk if you do.
Wash your hands the right way
What is the correct way to wash your hands? According to the CDC, “The temperature of the water does not appear to affect microbe removal,” but the time does. To effectively remove harmful germs and bacteria from your hands, washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is necessary. While hand washing is crucial for all ages, at all times of the year, it is especially important during times such as the flu season or other health threats. Hand washing, the right way, is so critical to our health and the health of others. “Hand-washing offers great rewards in terms of preventing illness,” says the Mayo Clinic. And don’t worry about hunting down that antibacterial soap. The FDA says that “there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. To date, the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap haven’t been proven. In addition, the wide use of these products over a long time has raised the question of potential negative effects on your health.”
Do something creative
According to Forbes, creativity not only improves mental health, but it also boosts your immune system. An article on Forbes.com states that, “the average person has about 60,000 thoughts in a day. A creative act such as crafting can help focus the mind, and has even been compared to meditation due to its calming effects on the brain and body. Even just gardening or sewing releases dopamine, a natural antidepressant.” While painting, sewing, drawing, and writing positively affects your mental health, it also has an impact on your body’s response to outside threats such as viruses and bacteria. There are many studies that have contributed to the belief that creativity is good for your body. Medical News Today states that “while it is unclear why, people who wrote about their experiences on a regular basis exhibited an increased CD4+ lymphocyte count. CD4+ lymphocytes are key to the functioning of the immune system, and they are one of the main targets of the immunodeficiency virus.” Make it a solo act or get the family involved and start creating for the mind, body, and heart.
Figure out how you manage your stress
Instead of just saying “manage your stress,” it’s important to really understand how you manage anxiety the most effectively. What works for your spouse, child, or friend may not work for you in the same way. Whether your stress is due to your children being out of school, the uncertain future of your small business, or the threat of sickness looming, managing your anxiety levels is key to a healthy body and mind. Stress-busting activities from the American Heart Association include meditating, reading, getting outdoors, listening to music, taking a bath, and being creative. Truly discovering how you cope the best with stress will be an invaluable tool that you can rely on for the rest of your life. Incorporate those activities into your life as needed, or make them a part of your routine. If you’re working from home or your calendar is a little bit lighter, it just might be the perfect time to experiment and figure out how you can combat stress. “Chronic stress can lead to physical damage,” according to Harvard Medical School, and it’s up to you to discover how to lessen the impact of your current stressors.
Staying healthy is on our minds more than ever. Whether you think of yourself as a picture of health, or find yourself wishing that you would have taken better care of yourself the past few years, the takeaway is that you can start any one of these 6 ways today, and take control of your health now.