How can you maintain your mental, physical health during a pandemic

Health & Wellness

May 26, 2020

Whether you are isolated, or slowly re-entering the public mainstream, there are a few safeguards that can help you maintain your health.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Indiana is beginning to reopen restaurants, businesses, and healthcare centers. On one hand, it’s encouraging. On the other hand, it can stir up some anxiety.

While health experts continue to recommend wearing a face mask in public, washing hands frequently, and social distancing, there are a few other tips that can help Indiana residents safely maintain their health.

Here’s some good news: Time Magazine recently reported some encouraging fitness tracker data – Indiana residents have increased their steps during quarantine by 16 percent. Across the country Americans have increased their steps by about 7%. And while social media is showcasing recipe exchanges and neighbors are sharing homemade breads, the report indicates only 37% of all Americans have gained more than a pound during self-isolation. Around the world, people have turned to such activities as yoga (an increase of 42%), hiking (an increase of 34%), and indoor cycling (an increase of 19%).

Comfort food aside, what are some other feel-good habits that can help maintain good physical and mental health?

May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month – a time to recognize that mental health is something everyone should acknowledge. Although one in five people experience mental illness during their lifetime, anyone can face challenges that impact their mental health.

As Indiana residents continue to navigate their way through a pandemic, the aftermath and the caution of what’s to come, we should prioritize self-care, said Katie Hake, a metabolic dietitian with the department of medical and molecular genetics at IU Health.

“Mental health is so important, and is not a luxury,” said Hake. “Aim to carve 10-30 minutes out of every day to take care of you. Self-care doesn’t always mean a bubble bath or pedicure. It could simply be quiet time, a walk outside, or a session with your therapist.”

Here are other suggestions from Hake to help maintain physical and mental health:

  • Aim to get a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep. The body uses sleep as a chance to recover, rejuvenate, and recharge. You wouldn’t go all day with your cell phone battery on red, so why would you do the same with your body?
  • Prioritize regular meals and snacks. Listen to your body’s biological hunger and fullness cues that tell you when and how much to eat. Our bodies need adequate energy and carbohydrates to provide fuel to function throughout the day.
  • Aim to move your body in a way that feels good. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensive activity most days of the week. This could mean walking outside for fresh air, taking a five-minute stretch break every hour at work, or taking a dance class with a friend. Choose movement that feels good for your body, and also brings you joy.
  • Stay hydrated. Try to carry water with you at all times. If your urine is a pale yellow, this is a good indicator that you are well hydrated. If it is darker, this might mean you could use more fluids.

And above all, if you feel sick, don’t hesitate to call you physician or mental health counselor.

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