It is safe to say that COVID-19 has uprooted millions of lives around the world.
Amidst the chaos of an ever-changing situation, it can be hard to take care of our mental and physical health. Here we look at several different ways we can stay healthy during the pandemic.
We’ll talk about ways to minimize exposure to viruses, as well as other ways to take care of mental and physical health. Be sure to keep tabs on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization(WHO) websites for accurate information regarding the pandemic.
Here are 3 essential ways to stay healthy during the coronavirus:
1. Practice Good Hygiene
Practicing good hygiene is critical to ensure you and your loved ones don’t get infected. Here are some ways to do so:
- Wear a Mask (Even if it’s DIY)
Some countries and even the CDC are now recommending wearing your own DIY masks that you can make from old T-shirts, bandanas, etc. As the virus spreads through droplets, it can be transmitted when someone speaks, sneezes or coughs. So, wearing a mask can create an extra physical barrier and stops you from breathing in the virus.
If you can access real masks, you can buy them, but this may cause shortages for essential workers in your country. The cloth mask should cover your nose and mouth as much as possible, without making it difficult to breathe or talk. Ensure you wash your cloth masks at least once a day thoroughly with soap and water.
- Social Distancing
According to CDC guidelines, you should keep a physical distance of around 6 feet from others in public settings. This is how far droplets containing the virus from other people can travel when they talk, sneeze or cough.
- Wash Hands With Soap for 20 Seconds
This is by far the most important hygiene guideline. Soapy water kills the virus by pulling apart its lipid outer cover. However, this takes some time (roughly 20 seconds) to accomplish.
If you can’t access handwashing facilities, carry hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. If hand sanitizer stock has run out in your area, you can try making your own with ingredients like rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel and glycerin. Follow accurate recipes and ensure you get the correct percentage of alcohol in the end product.
- Disinfect Frequently Touched Surfaces
As the coronavirus can linger on hard surfaces for several days, ensure you wipe down frequently touched surfaces with disinfectant. Wipe things like door handles, keys, counters, rails, toilet flushers, etc. You can also wash groceries with water and soapy water for a few minutes.
2. Keep Your Immune System Healthy
Most COVID-19 patients don’t die from the virus itself, but due to an overburdened immune system caused by the virus. The virus takes away attention from your immune system that makes space for other harmful bacteria and viruses to take advantage. So, having a strong immune system to start with is essential.
To help boost immune function, be sure to take in plenty of:
Pretty much everything in your body is made from protein, including hormones, enzymes and antibodies. So skimping on your protein intake is pretty bad for your immune function. Ensure you get good, high-quality protein from sources like fish, dairy, poultry, nuts, seeds, and legumes. The guideline for healthy adults is to eat 0.36g protein per pound of bodyweight.
Antioxidants are a group of protective compounds that help your body fight against oxidative stress (which destroys your body’s cells). They also support immune function.
Some vitamins we all know—such as vitamins C and E—are powerful antioxidants. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, kiwis, berries and leafy greens. Vitamin E can be found in foods like eggs, pumpkin seeds and almonds.
- Vitamin D
You may have seen talk of Vitamin D supplements to help with COVID-19 infections. Well, there’s a good reason for that. There is evidence that Vitamin D could lower viral infection risk, especially in the respiratory tract. Vitamin D can be found in eggs and oily fish like mackerel or salmon. You could also spend more time in the early morning sunshine.
Zinc is a mineral that has been shown to improve white blood cell production. White blood cells are integral to good immune function by fighting off invading pathogens. Zinc can be found in sources such as pumpkin seeds, legumes, sesame seeds, meat and shellfish.
3. Take Care of Your Mental Health
Your mental health should always be a priority in times of chaos and uncertainty like this. Not only do you need for your emotional wellbeing, but poor mental health can directly impact your immune function. Did you know that chronic stress can weaken your immune function?
Here are simple ways you can reduce stress:
- Get Enough Sleep
Sleep and stress is a vicious cycle. Not enough sleep can exacerbate stress and too much stress will mess with your sleep patterns. It is imperative to break this cycle as insufficient sleep is linked to a host of other physical health issues.
Have you noticed that on days of pulling all nighters you’re more likely to get sick? That is because insufficient sleep can weaken your immune function too. It can make it especially susceptible to catching viruses like the common cold.
The benefits of exercise doesn’t stop at your physical health. Aerobic exercise (like running, cycling, jogging, etc.) can help release brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that are linked to mood regulation.
It also directly impacts your immune function by affecting your white blood cells and antibodies. It helps to carry away bacteria and other pathogens from your airways, so that they don’t linger in your body and cause infections.
However, don’t get carried away and overdo it, because overexercising also has its own problems. A good amount would be 30-45 minutes of aerobic exercise for 4-5 days of the week. Use your time during quarantine to cycle, walk and do some jogging.
If there has ever been a time to be vigilant about our mental and physical health, it is now during the pandemic. Healthcare systems are barely coping, so we should aim to take extra care of our physical health during this time. Don’t forget mental health as well, because a healthy mind leads to a healthy body!