The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world in numerous ways. It has wreaked havoc on global economies, overwhelmed healthcare systems around the world, decimated jobs and industries, whilst fundamentally changing the way we interact with each other. Needless to say, global health was perhaps the sector that took the biggest hit – in terms of the increasing number of infections, rising death toll and serious health problems that were brought on by COVID-19. As such, health was very much a priority during the pandemic period. This article takes a look at the importance of being healthy during the pandemic and shares a few tips on what you can do to take care of your health.
The Importance of Being Healthy During the Pandemic
Due to the drastic change of lifestyles that were caused by the pandemic, staying healthy might seem difficult and hence you may need to take a different approach. Social distancing and other safety precautions in place could mean that taking care of your health is not as easy as simply heading off to the gym when you feel like it. A study released by BMC Public Health states that levels of physical activity significantly reduced during the period of social distancing. [Source] From a surveyed group of volunteers, 69% of the group were classified as very active prior to the pandemic – whilst this dropped heavily to just 39% during social distancing – due to strict safety measures such as lock-downs being implemented. It was found that lower levels of physical activity were associated with significant health problems such as damage to the immune system as well as respiratory, cardiovascular and muscular problems.
In addition to physical health , the COVID-19 pandemic also had a massive impact on mental health. According to a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevalence of anxiety and depression across the world increased by 25%, raising serious concern about global mental health conditions during the crisis. [Source] The increase in mental health related problems prompted several countries to include psycho-social support in their response plans in fighting the pandemic.
A number of factors were identified as sources of stress during the pandemic. Social isolation caused unprecedented levels of stress and loneliness for several people, whilst restricting them from pursuing activities that they enjoyed, seeking help from loved ones or engaging with their communities. Other stressors leading to anxiety and depression included the fear of infection, deteriorating health and worries revolving around death. Exhaustion was also observed amongst health workers who worked around the clock during this period, even being a trigger for suicidal thinking. Data suggests that young people and women were affected the most, putting them at risk for self harming and suicidal behavior.
How Can You Stay Healthy During the Pandemic?
So the question arises; with health being such a serious concern during the pandemic, what can you do to remain healthy? Listed below are a few tips and things that you could do in order to take care of your health during such trying times.
- Be active and work out at home
Social distancing and self isolation may have restricted our movement and physical activity to a certain degree, but it does not have to be that way. Despite less activity at gyms, fitness centers and public places, it is possible to indulge in alternate exercises and fitness activities at home in order to overcome physical activity challenges during the pandemic. In order to start working out at home and to motivate yourself, you first need to set yourself realistic goals and a timeline. For example, decide whether you want to focus on strength training or cardio first and decide how you want to work towards achieving it. Also, if you have spent a long period of time without any exercise, it is important that you do not rush things and that you gradually work towards the same intensity that you were used to. Try heading out for a jog once in a while too, which will help you get some fresh air. Remember to be your own cheerleader and motivate yourself throughout, to keep you going.
- Stay connected with others
Social connection has proved to be crucial in terms of mental health during the pandemic. Physical separation has been tough on everyone as it restricts in-person social interaction, in turn reducing social connection and increasing feelings of loneliness. A study by the World Happiness Report 2021 states that reports of happiness and life satisfaction saw one of the largest declines during the pandemic with positive emotions such as joy, contentment and optimism becoming less prevalent and being overtaken by negative emotions such as sadness, fear, stress and frustration. [Source] In order to stay connected, you can start with simple phone calls. Pick up your phone and call someone – be it a relative, friend or anyone who you share a special bond with. You should also take advantage of technology to remain connected – social media, video chats, group conferences, etc. Try participating in interest groups of your choice such as book clubs or other interactive online discussions. Check up on your neighbors once in a while to see if they are okay and strike up a conversation from time to time. Little things can go a long way.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
Having a well-balanced diet is crucial during COVID-19 times as ultimately what we eat & drink determines our body’s ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections. Eating well can surprisingly keep your body and mind healthy to a great extent and reduces the chances of you succumbing to illness and infections. Make sure you eat nourishing meals with a good balance of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grain, whilst cutting down on unhealthy food such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol – which can increase your anxiety and stress levels. Doing grocery shopping might be difficult but take advantage of supermarkets with online shopping & delivery so that you do not have to visit stores physically yourself. Make sure your entire family is eating well too and maintaining a checklist can help you keep track of which items you need to buy for yourself, helping you plan your meals beforehand.
- Adhere to safety precautions
The pandemic is not yet over, despite the situation being seemingly positive as of late. Hence it is now more important than ever to continue following safety precautions and hygiene related measures to ensure the successful tackling of the virus. Wash your hands properly with soap every time you use a public space, wear your mask when outdoors and maintain social distancing wherever possible. It is with a combined effort that we all can see the pandemic to an end – which is why it is important to work together towards achieving this goal.