Staying Healthy and Well During a Pandemic

washing hands

There’s no doubt that these are strange times we’re living in. Many of us are working remotely for the first time, turning our homes into our child’s classroom, and continuing to care for our families during one of the largest crises in our lifetime. While life may not be completely “normal” for a while, there are plenty of ways to keep you and your family healthy and well—mentally and physically—throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Clean Hands Save Lives

The first step to keeping germs away is washing your hands regularly. Handwashing is a simple yet essential step to protecting you and your loved ones from illness. 

To wash your hands properly, follow these five steps (and remind your kids, too!):

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water.
  • Apply soap and lather your hands. Don’t forget to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands thoroughly under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel.

If you don’t have immediate access to a sink, hand sanitizer is the next best way to get rid of germs. Check the label to be sure that your hand sanitizer contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Much like washing your hands with soap and water, rub hand sanitizer over all surfaces of your hands and fingers—about 20 seconds. While sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands, they do not get rid of all types of germs. Additionally, sanitizers may not be as effective when your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Therefore, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water when you have access to a sink.

Healthy Eating: It’s Easier Than You Think

You may not be able to go out to your favorite restaurants, but you can use your extra free time to create delicious, healthy meals from home. Check out these easy, healthy recipes to try, or use them as inspiration for creating your own concoctions with the ingredients you have on hand.

If you’re avoiding the grocery store, you might want to consider starting a garden at home so you can still access fresh produce. Check out this video from the University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center to learn how to create your own container garden—it’s easier than you think, and it’s a great family-friendly activity for the whole household! 

Get Healthier with 5-2-1-0

LiveWell Frederick launched the 5-2-1-0 program with the goal of helping community members enhance their health and wellness with a few simple steps (that can easily be followed while you’re quarantined at home):

  • 5: Eat five or more fruits and vegetables each day. Choose fresh, frozen, or canned, but eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.
  • 2: Limit yourself and your family to two hours or less of screen time each day, and don’t allow children under age 2 to have any screen time. Don’t watch TV, use the computer, or play games where you sleep.
  • 1: Make family time active time. Play one hour or more each day, and choose toys and games that promote physical activity.
  • 0: Cut out sugary drinks entirely, and instead choose water and 1 percent milk.

Stay Active

Gyms may be closed, but it’s easy to start a new workout routine at home even if you don’t have a dedicated “workout space.” Staying active doesn’t necessarily mean lifting weights and running on a treadmill (but that’s great, too!); gardening, vacuuming, raking, planting, and other housework will burn calories and help you cross some items off your to-do list. It’s the perfect time to involve your whole household.

Physical activity is important for everyone, regardless of age, and being active as a family can help motivate each person in your household to stay healthy. Not only does exercise help keep your body healthy, it can boost your mental health by reducing anxiety and depression. Exercising regularly can also help improve mental health issues.

Consider these activities instead of binge-watching another series:

  • Take a walk or jog around your neighborhood
  • Play tag with your kids
  • Start a garden: rake, plant, and weed
  • Take your dog for longer walks

Missing the Y? Frederick’s YMCA is offering a Virtual YMCA with resources for staying active at every age. Whether you’re looking for on-demand workout videos, a storytime playlist for the kids, or exercises for older adults, the Y’s got you covered—and it’s free!

Don’t Forget About Mental Health

If you’re feeling anxious, upset, depressed, and uncertain, you are certainly not alone. Make sure to take time for yourself and check in on your loved ones as well.

Ways to cope with stress:

  • Stay informed, but don’t obsessively check the news. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting, so limit your exposure to coronavirus-related news and social media. Consider limiting your media consumption to a specific time frame and time of day, such as 30 minutes each evening at 5 p.m.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, and meditate.
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Avoid processed and prepackaged foods as much as possible, and aim for a variety of colors on your plate.
  • Connect with others. It can be upsetting not being able to see friends and family members in person, but you can use video chat apps like Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom to connect with loved ones. Talk to people you trust about your worries and how you’re feeling, and be available for your loved ones to do the same.
  • Make time for yourself. Don’t feel pressured to come out of quarantine knowing a new language or a new skill. This is an incredibly stressful time for everyone, and just getting yourself through difficult times is an accomplishment. Make sure to do activities you enjoy, whether it’s painting, baking, gardening, reading, or writing—whatever makes you happy.

Stressed about finances, too? Check out this blog that outlines how to cope with financial stress and lists newly implemented state policies to meet coronavirus-related needs.

Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row. Also, those with preexisting mental health conditions should continue their treatments and stay aware of new or worsening symptoms.

If you or someone you love are feeling overwhelmed with sadness, depression, or anxiety, or you feel like you want to harm yourself or others:

A lot seems uncertain these days, but we will all get through this together. Take care of yourself, check in on friends and family…and keep washing those hands!

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