Remaining calm during COVID-19 stress

By Angela Knott

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing high stress for us all. Being told to confine yourself in your home, continually wash your hands, wash all surfaces, and socially distance yourselves makes anyone a bit crazy.  Watching the news is beyond unnerving. Now more than ever is a time to take a deep breath (literally) and focus on what you can control.

Following basic wellness steps on a consistent day to day basis adds up to a healthier mind and body. This is important at any time, but even more so now.

Wellness activity checklist:

  • Take time to connect by phone, text, email, facetime, etc. To those you love and care about. What can you do to help them during this time? Perhaps provide a listening ear, drop off toilet paper or other essentials, etc. We are often too busy to get in touch with our friends, neighbors, and family. Now is the time.
  • Get adequate sleep. Take a nap for 30 minutes or less during the day as needed.   A lack of sleep can further exacerbate stress, as cortisol levels increase from lack of sleep and/or disturbed sleep. Remember as your body and mind are dealing with higher amounts of stress, you may need more sleep than usual.
  •  keep a healthy eating pattern. Ongoing stress can lead to the craving and eating of “comfort” food (commonly processed and high in fat and/or sugar). Make sure to eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish/seafood, milk, and lean meats/eggs/plant protein. If you are unsure how to eat healthy, try tracking calories, macronutrients, and basic nutrition with an app called “myfitnesspal”.  It is available online as well, if you do not have a smartphone or tablet, visit www.myfitnesspal.com. Another free resource for basic nutrition education is www.choosemyplate.gov also available via the app “start simple with myplate”.
  • Stay properly hydrated. The best drink is water, and the standard recommended amount is 60-70 ounces per day. Some foods and other beverages may contribute to hydration, such as fruits, vegetables, seltzer, coffee/ tea, etc. As we age, our ability to know we are thirsty is weakened. While you are staying home, keep a log of how much water you drink daily. Most of us could probably drink more.
  • Move your body. Walking is the simplest form of exercise. If you are able to take a walk around the block or near your house – do it. Do it several times throughout the day. You can do this alone or with someone (using social distancing). Listen to your favorite music and dance in your living room. Search for an online class if you regularly do pilates, yoga, or other group exercises classes, as many companies offer them. Lululemon.com is offering free workouts. Consider creating or adding to your home gym. This investment will prove handy now, and in the future.
  • Become more mindful. If you don’t regularly meditate, try it. Set a timer for a minute (or more) then sit comfortably, and focus on your breath. If you need or want more guidance there are many online guided meditation options. I personally enjoy the app “ten percent happier”.  If prayer helps you relax and become more mindful, increase your frequency of prayer. Stay in the moment.
  • Take note of how much time you spend watching the news on television, or reading news online.  There is a fine line between staying informed and overdosing on the daily news.
  • Make a list of what you would like to accomplish (big and small).  Plan the steps necessary to achieve your goal. Some of my clients have mentioned they are using this newfound time to go back to playing their piano, another is learning sign language. Udemy is one of many companies that offer online computing/coding classes for a reasonable price. Whatever you have always wanted to learn or do, get started.
  • Be patient and kind to your family, your medical providers, pharmacists, food store employees, neighbors, basically everyone.  We are all in this together, kindness is contagious, so let’s start a new epidemic.

Angela Knott is a personal trainer serving Princeton, Skillman, and Montgomery. Her website is akfitandwell.com.