As we look at this next year of being in (probably mostly) and out of social isolation, it’s important to consider how we can make the most of this time, so that despite all the unpleasant and/or horrible things happening, we manage to salvage some good from this next period. As we settle into our routines we need to make sure we are making time for work (of some kind), play, exercise, healthy eating, junk food eating, accomplishing goals (of some kind), and ridiculousness.
Whether you’re working from home and trying to figure out how to hold a meeting while the dog is barking or you’re home applying for unemployment and/or stressing out about the fact that you no longer have a job for the foreseeable future, whether you’re dealing with constant isolation, or trying to navigate others who are now *always* around, these are weird and challenging times and we are just going to have to do the very best that we can. It’s trite and obvious (and obnoxious) to say, but something that I think is useful to remember on a daily basis.
What goal have you set yourself for this time? Having no goals can be enjoyable for a minute, but wears thin awfully quick. For those of you who are working and looking at your job all the time now – try to have defined times when you are not at work. For those of you not working – try to set a goal that you will accomplish every day so you have a sense that you have done “something” in your day. For everyone feeling bored and shut in – there are a ton of free science and art classes online through Universities, you can learn a new language for free on DuoLingo (my fav language app!), you could learn to knit/crochet/sew, you could learn to cook an amazing recipe, create a YouTube channel… so many options to explore if you have the inclination! If you’re too much in a funk to do any of those, start small – comedy every day, dishes every day, shower every day, anything small every day that you can do to lift yourself up. If you’re in too much of a funk to even do that – call the office for an appointment or consider finding a therapist – they are nearly all offering telemedicine appointments and many take insurance.
How is your diet? Are you depressed and stressed and living on junk food? Sometimes a good wallow is needed, but living on junk food is not only terrible for your immune system, but also likely to make you feel more stressed & depressed the longer you continue it. Remember this is for the long game. In general we want to eat really healthy – fruits & veg, clean meats, avoid the food sensitivities, and now and then go large on the junk food and just enjoy – no guilt. Find that healthy balance for you.
Has the couch become your new bestest friend? Remember that lots of big blood vessels and nerves run through and in between the large muscle groups, and we require movement to circulate blood and lymphatic fluid (for the immune system); so if those muscles are stuck in one position all day as you scrunch up on the sofa, consider the implications for your body’s circulatory and immune systems. Do a few jumping jacks every day or try a little yoga online! My favorite online yoga teacher (as many of you know) is Yoga With Adriene on YouTube. She’s got yoga for everything: back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, when you’re angry or sad, or even quick yoga for when you don’t want to do yoga. Also she doesn’t do the super exaggerated “yoga voice” which is probably my favorite thing of all about her!
If you’re living alone, try to make sure you’re getting some kind of social contact at least weekly or every few days. Join an online club if necessary. Online video chatting and telephone chats are a weak substitute for the real thing, but at least give you the chance to have someone to talk to besides yourself. If you’re living with others while in quarantine, make sure you’re not only making time to get away from each other (noise cancelling headphones are amazingly helpful if you don’t have the space to escape) but also making sure you set some time to intentionally connect, whether over a meal or a board game or some other project that requires communication and a meeting of the minds. You want to make sure you are caring for your relationships both in the home and within yourself (meditation anyone?).
For all the essential workers still leaving home to go work in the hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, sanitation companies, pet stores, and everywhere else staying open to keep the world moving, THANK YOU. Also please drink water, get your rest, and mask up! There are other immune support suggestions in the cold/flu handout here on the blog, that would be worth exploring as well.
For all my patients who had no time before to work on their health, this is an excellent opportunity to do some focused work on ourselves. “Free” from social obligations, parties, happy hours, and work events, we now have an abundance of time for self reflection, self care and self growth. Yay?! A friend of mine used to call these times AFGE – Another F*cking Growth Experience! I think that would be an apt description in this case.
Fortunately, there are lots of tools available to support your health and to help you make the most of this weird, weird time out. Most of what I do with folks translates just fine over video, and insurance has been covering the visits as if they were in the office; so I am continuing to see patients on our regular schedules. I am not ordering labs now unless absolutely necessary, but if labwork or imaging are urgently needed, I have been recommending quieter lab locations that see fewer people in order to minimize the risk of exposure.
Whatever your situation, I encourage you to keep working on your physical and mental health during this time, and to be kind – not just to others (though that too) but also to yourself.
Wishing you all the best in these crazy times!