We are living in unusual times right now, with most of us working from home and thrown off from our normal routines. Stress and anxiety levels are high as the world deals with the current health crisis, with constant reminders every time we turn on the TV.
With our world turned upside down, it is easy to lose a sense of control and feel powerless over the situation. However, there are some everyday things we can do to create a sense of normalcy and routine despite the circumstances, while improving our health in the process. Here are 5 daily habits that can be done from home to help you stay healthy and cope with the current situation:
1. Outdoor Exercise
It is a telling sign that outdoor exercise is considered an ‘essential’ activity even during stay-at-home orders (as long as physical distancing protocol is followed). Getting outside to walk, run, bike, or hike is a great way to engage your body and clear your mind. Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety, boost your immunity, and improve overall health. Additionally, being outside in nature produces its own health benefits, including reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and premature death.
I aim to get in 10,000 steps per day, which can typically be achieved with a 30-minute run outside in the morning, a couple 10–15 minute walks around the neighborhood, plus routine natural movement throughout the day. A worthy goal is to be outside for at least an hour each day.
Meditation is another potent stress-reliever — the perfect antidote for these uncertain times. Even just a few minutes of meditation is helpful for anxious people, and going up to 10 minutes per day does wonders for your brain. There are numerous apps out there to guide your daily practice, including Headspace and Calm.
I choose to meditate for 10 minutes first thing in the morning using the free Insight Timer app. My guided daily session includes deep breathing, intention setting, and a gratitude practice. It is an ideal way to become calm and centered for the day ahead.
3. Sleep 8 Hours Per Night
In this stay-at-home environment, it is easy to keep your laptop open longer than usual or binge on Netflix late into the evening. But adequate sleep is more important now than ever. Sleep reduces stress, strengthens the immune system, and helps you think more clearly throughout the day. While the amount of sleep you need varies from person to person, most adults need between 7–9 hours per night.
I aim for 8 hours of sleep but I try to give myself 9 hours total in bed. This ensures I can have a wind-down period (I typically read for 15–20 minutes in bed) and it also accounts for the time it takes to fall asleep.
4. Eat a Whole-Food, Plant-Rich Diet
Evidence shows that a healthy diet should revolve around vegetables, fruit, whole grains, healthy fats, and healthy proteins. The most sensible guide to healthy eating is the Healthy Eating Plate, developed by the doctors and nutrition experts at Harvard. This eating approach calls for at least half of your plate to be fruits and vegetables, ¼ of your plate to be whole and intact grains, and ¼ to be healthy proteins such as fish, poultry, beans, and nuts (red meat is to be limited, and processed meats avoided altogether). It can be hard to find exactly what you want in grocery stores these days, but it is still possible to opt for real whole foods instead of packaged processed food.
Eating in this manner has been shown to improve numerous health measures, including lowering the risk of heart disease and premature death. A whole-food, plant-rich diet has also been shown to reduce anxiety and produce better mental health. Exactly what we need right now.
A simple stretching practice can calm your mind, ease tension, and increase energy, in addition to the flexibility and injury prevention benefits. Engaging in yoga — a more active form of stretching — produces powerful mental and physical health benefits.
You don’t need a gym or studio to establish a stretching or yoga practice. There are many great routines that can be found on TV or online and done from your living room. Aim to incorporate 10 minutes of light stretching or yoga as part of your daily mind and body regimen.
These 5 simple habits can be done from home, on your own terms, with profound benefits for your health and well-being.
Although all of these activities can be done individually, it may give you extra motivation and enjoyment to involve your friends and family. For example, take your kids for a walk outside or schedule a Zoom video workout class with your friends. There are creative ways to make these activities fun and social, while still adhering to all recommended precautionary measures.
The world around you might be chaotic, but these habits can help you maintain a sense of control and routine amidst the uncertainty.