How do you handle stress? There’s no doubt that living in the shadow of a global pandemic is stressful. It disrupts your work, money, relationships and plans. It’s easy to rely on retail therapy, comfort food or yet another beer to make yourself feel better. The relief is short-lived though and you’re left with long-term impacts on your health and wealth.
Staying healthy during COVID-19 means finding healthy ways to manage stress. That’s things like a routine, a good diet, regular exercise and work-life balance. It’s nurturing relationships and caring for your mental health.
Sure, it’s OK to indulge in some quick-fix comfort from time to time. But staying healthy means building good habits. Here’s how.
10 Ways You Can Stay Healthy During the Covid-19 Outbreak
There’s a meme doing the rounds at the moment that states there are three ways to emerge from the COVID-19 outbreak: as a hunk, a chunk or a drunk.
The idea is that there are a few different ways to cope with this destabilising period when your usual routines have been obliterated by social distancing measures and you may be feeling increased anxiety about your health or your finances.
The hunk manages the stress by exercises, the chunk relies on food, and the drunk turns to alcohol for relief.
How Do You Handle Stress?
Clearly, there are better and worse ways of responding to difficult life events.
Some ways of managing stress are considered unhealthy because they effectively create another problem or stress that you have to deal with. You might make yourself feel better in the short-term but you’re ultimately damaging your health or your bank balance.
Unhelpful ways of handling COVID-19 stress include:
- Too much TV or gaming
- Dietary changes such as overeating or undereating
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Changed sleeping habits (too much or too little)
- Withdrawing from relationships
- Exercising too little or too much
Staying Healthy During the COVID-19 Outbreak
The COVID-19 pandemic changed our world abruptly, plunging us into a chronically stressful situation that will last, in one form or other, for a good long while to come.
Social distancing measures have probably affected your work, income, exercise routine, relationships, kids, and holiday plans.
So, how do you stay healthy in this new world?
Routine: You’d be surprised how important a routine is to your wellbeing. You don’t have to plan out every minute of every day but it’s helpful to have a rough getting-up time and bedtime. A routine also helps you create time for important things such as exercising, grocery shopping, working or nurturing relationships. If you don’t plan when these things will happen, they probably won’t.
Exercise: That’s right, this is a blog post where physiotherapists advise you to move more often. Why? Because it’s so good for you. Regular exercise helps you manage your weight, reduces the risk of various chronic conditions, reduces stress and improves mood.Like most of us, you’re probably out of your usual exercise routine. You’re not walking to work, going to the gym or doing laps in the pool right now because you can’t.
Diet: If you’ve started eating your feelings, then try to distract yourself when you reach for another snack, have a glass of water instead and make sure that there are healthy snacks available if you really are hungry. Make a weekly meal plan before you shop so that you have the right ingredients and get creative in the kitchen. You’ll feel better when you’re properly fuelled and you’ll avoid the weight gain that comes with the C19 diet.
Sleep: Can’t sleep? You might feel mentally exhausted by your new lifestyle but not physically tired because you’ve only moved from your bedroom to your study. You might be worried about the future or prone to binge-watching TV late at night.Sticking to a regular improves sleep as do exercise and exposure to sunlight. Try not to use your phone for an hour or so before bed and wind down before sleep with a good book or some calm music. Resist the urge to lie in next morning too – getting up at a similar time each day helps you go to sleep at a similar time each night.
Work-life balance: Have your working hours increased now you’re working from home? That’s happened in many countries. With no need to leave the office to get home for dinner, the desire to prove your usefulness and the implications of a pandemic to manage, you may find that, if you’re lucky enough to still have a job, you’re working way more than you used to.
One technique is to set an alarm for the time you intend to finish work. You can always snooze it for another 20 minutes but it’ll hopefully stop you working through the night.
Alcohol: If you’re drinking more during COVID-19, you’re not alone. People tend to drink more on holidays – and the permanent Blursday of lockdown felt a bit like that at times – or when facing times of stress and difficulty. Far from helping you handle stress, though, alcohol interferes with your sleep, impairs your decision making and lowers your mood.
Mental health: An abruptly changed reality, an uncertain future, a sense that things are spiralling out of your control – COVID-19 is really not good for your mental health.Many of the other things on this list – like taking care of your diet, alcohol, exercise and sleep habits – will also boost your mental health. Beyond Blue has a dedicated helpline and many resources to help you manage your mental health during COVID-19.
Relationships: Social connection remains important for your health and wellbeing, even during physical distancing. It’s getting easier to see friends and family again as lockdown gradually lifts. If your state’s public health advice allows, begin arranging catch-ups with friends and nearby family. If you’re quarantined, then use Facetime, social media, or an app to remain connected to your loved ones. We all need those relationships.
Refreshment: Once you’ve stopped work, you have time (before your set bedtime!) for refreshment. Creative pleasures and hobbies like drawing, making music, baking or sewing can absorb you for a while and give you a sense of accomplishment. Immersing yourself in a good book, film or TV show also brings refreshment.
Change your scenery: With restrictions easing, you’re now able to travel a little way from home, meaning you can lift your spirits with a change of scenery, like a bushwalk. The fresh air, sunlight and exercise will boost your body and your mind.
How Are You Coping With COVID-19 Stress?
There’s obviously nothing wrong with indulging yourself a little during stressful times. It’s OK to enjoy a night on the couch watching your favourite show with a glass of wine and a tub of ice-cream. It’s OK to treat yourself to something nice from time to time. It’s OK to have the occasional doona day.
The problem comes when you regularly rely on those things to cope with stress. Especially if you’re facing a long-term stressful situation like a global pandemic. If the stressor lasts a long time and your ways of handling it are unhealthy, then you risk harming yourself in the long run.
Take a moment to think about how you’re handling the stress of the last few months. What helpful, healthy habits have you formed or continued? Can you see other ways in which your behaviour may have negative long-term consequences?
How Can The Brisbane Spine Clinic Help?
Exercise is a vital way of supporting your physical and mental health during COVID-19. If you’d like help to get into an exercise routine that minimises your risk of injury, then please make a telehealth appointment with us at The Brisbane Spine Clinic.