Louisiana Tech students, faculty, staff, and friends have seen their schedules drastically changed and lives altered in countless ways because of social assembly restrictions related to the COVID-19 virus. These are times, health experts say, when people can’t forget to focus on the things that matter most and find unique ways to adapt healthy habits into our altered lifestyles.
By developing new routines that improve our lives physically and mentally, and by maintaining a well-balanced diet, people can stay strong and maintain a healthy lifestyle – even when their schedules are uprooted.
With altered schedules, staying active while staying home becomes crucial. Though binge-watching a favorite TV series may be tempting, it is important to make time for physical activity. Strong bodies lead to strong, healthy routines.
Alexandra Ziepke, a graduate assistant in the Department of Kinesiology, shared some healthy ways to stay active physically while practicing social distancing:
- Develop a routine. Developing a new workout routine can take anywhere from one to two weeks, but over time, you will become more productive.
- Get creative. Do what works best for you and your family’s schedule. The main objective is to make it consistent and enjoyable.
- Exercise outside. Go for a walk, jog, run, or simply ride your bike while remaining at least 6 feet away from others. During the “Stay at Home” mandate, you and your family can stay healthy by adding some fresh air and sunshine to your daily routine. So lace up your tennis shoes and let the brighter days begin.
- Use an online resource. With local gyms and yoga studios temporarily closed, several local and national gym facilities add daily workout routines to their YouTube or other social media platforms that serve as an at-home alternative. Also, there are several blogs and workout apps dedicated to working out from home — Downdog and Nike Training Club to name a couple.
- Have an accountability partner. Just because you might not be together in person does not mean you cannot have social interaction while staying physically fit. Discuss with a friend or family member a time you plan to exercise and see when you can coordinate exercising at the same time.
- Avoid group games. Group physical activity with possible contact and shared interactive items should be avoided at this time. It is not a good way to practice social distancing and there is uncertainty about sharing items that would encourage virus transmission.
- Make it a family priority. While adapting to your new routines, allow this time to be a bonding experience that the whole family will enjoy as you stay fit together.
- Just keep moving. Whatever tasks you do around your house, from household chores to washing your pet, just keep moving and you’ll not only be productive but you’ll also burn calories along the way.
For individuals who are feeling ill, it is advised not to exert themselves, but to focus more on relaxation, meditation, and stretching. If you are quarantined, refrain from physical exertion outside of home and focus on resting and restoring your health.
During these unprecedented times, it is pertinent to also focus on mental health, according to Ron Cathey, Louisiana Tech’s director of Counseling and Career Services. Uncertainty, disruptions, and adversity can take a very heavy toll on each of us.
Mental health may look differently for each individual. However, here are some suggestions to keep in mind:
- Check on others. Please note that social distancing is not social disengagement or social isolation. Especially in the digital age, we have the opportunity to visit with people virtually, even when we are not able to be with them in person. So through interactive video chats, emails, phone calls, or text messages, reach out and connect with others socially. We can show others that we care and remind one another that we are not alone.
- Consider some social media distancing. Social media can be a great way to stay informed. However, constant content consumption leads to a communication overdose that can trigger anxiety, depression, and loneliness over time. It is important to stay informed about the coronavirus from credible sources and to connect daily with others, but the best way is by having a healthy balance with our screentime. Therefore, limit yourself to briefly checking credible medical sources and other social feeds in the morning and then again briefly toward the end of the day. This practice will allow you to balance your screen time, work, relaxation, or other tasks while addressing unhealthy mental triggers. By recognizing unhealthy triggers, you can find ways to encourage a healthy mindset throughout your day. If we consume information continuously, we also run the risk of desensitizing all media content and no longer being able to differentiate credible sources from hype or misinformation.
- Find ways to relieve stress that works for you. Relieving stress can be done in a variety of ways but it is important to find creative ways that work well for you.
- Physical exercise. Physical activity can be a healthy way of relieving stress and clearing your mind, such as taking a walk outside or riding a bike around your neighborhood. Some other helpful exercises are through yoga, meditation, or controlled breathing. Meditation and controlled breathing can help you release current stress and anxiety in a calming way. Practicing meditation and controlled breathing can also help you refocus on a task or completely relax.
- Start a new hobby. Take this time to try new things like learning to play an instrument, a new language, or how to cook a new recipe. Whatever hobby you choose, make it the most enjoyable for you. So dust off your old instruments, cookbooks, and art supplies, and see what creativity inspires you.
- Read a good book.
- Watch your favorite show or movie.
- Enjoy your favorite comfort food.
Along with mental and physical health, the third thing to help maintain a healthy lifestyle is through a balanced, nutritional diet. Your favorite junk foods paired with your preferred binge-watching-worthy show seems perfect — but it won’t sustain you mentally or physically in the long run. With proper nutrition you are prepared to conquer the day with energy that stays with you.
“Uncertainty can cause a heightened feeling of stress and anxiety,” said Dr. Catherine Fontenot, director of Tech’s food pantry and assistant professor for the nutrition and dietetics program in the School of Human Ecology. “One way to reduce stress is meal planning because it is one of the best ways to take care of yourself so that you can be your best for others.”
Fontenot said that meal planning also helps manage resources so that you can eliminate wasting money and time in the fear of the unknown. You can know where you stand with your nutritional health.
Government standards have allowed grocery stores to remain open but have encouraged buying only what you need. Meal planning allows you to have a healthy grasp of not only what you need but using what you currently have wisely while planning for the future.
When meal planning, Fontenot encourages you to take a thorough inventory of your current food supplies and pay close attention to leftovers and food that may expire quickly. She recommends resourceful creativity with repurposing food items for future meals. For example, turning leftover chili into tomorrow’s loaded baked potatoes; tonight’s pot roast into BBQ beef sandwiches; or leftover vegetables into a hearty soup. The important thing is to think of ways to assemble your items to create a meal. Your options are seemingly limitless, and if you get stuck you can always search for recipe ideas online.
Key staple foods to keep in your pantry when eating well include these:
- Dried beans and peas (They serve as a great source of plant-based proteins. When combining rice with beans, tortillas and beans, pasta and beans, or cornbread and beans, you form a complete protein with the same nutrient quality of an animal-based protein.*)
- Rice* (please see note with beans)
- Assorted vegetables (deep reds, oranges, greens, and purples)
- Assorted fruit packed in natural juices
- Low-fat shelf-stable milk (pasteurized using ultra-high temperatures that enable it to stay on the shelf for months if kept unopened)
- Canned tuna (packed in water) and chicken
- Granola bars
- Cereal (hot and cold)
- Nut butters (i.e. peanut, almond, etc.)
- Pancake or waffle mix
- Pasta *(please see note with beans)
- Juice (100%)
In addition, it is wise to have any type of whole grain breads and/or tortillas to help complete any shelf-stable prepared meals.