You’re well aware of the symptoms that come with coronavirus, like fever, cough, and shortness of breath. But even those not diagnosed with coronavirus may find themselves dealing with side effects due to living in a pandemic.
A recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Samueli Integrative Health Programs found that Americans are struggling to maintain their health. The survey discovered:
- 30% of participants reported having a lack of energy during the pandemic
- 29% dealt with difficulty sleeping and were exercising less
- 36% said they were eating more
- 42% of female participants stated that the pandemic has had negative effects on their mental health
- 34% of male participants felt the same way
With a majority of the public feeling rundown, it is clear that the coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on the public’s ability to practice self-care. In fact, 80% of those surveyed said they plan to start being more mindful about self-care after the pandemic is over.
In this article, Wayne Jonas, MD executive director of Samueli Integrative Health Programs explains why self-care is so important for your overall health and what you can be doing now to make sure you’re staying as healthy as possible during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
Self-Care Is Preventative Care
It’s easy to associate self-care with the “extra” things you can do to boost your health, like take a weekly yoga class or schedule brunch with your friends, but part of self-care is doing the maintenance your body needs to stay healthy. The first step to this is keeping up with your medical appointments, from your annual physical to visiting the dentist.
“We found that 45% of participants in the survey pretty much stopped going in for medical care throughout this pandemic, and that is concerning,” says Dr. Jonas.
Making sure you stay on top of your health, be it through telehealth or in-person visits, can help keep other infections away as well as prevent more serious, chronic diseases like heart disease from developing.
Your Health Happens at Home
“Research has shown that if the basic care you get from your doctor was evenly distributed, it would increase the health of the population by approximately 15% to 20%,” says Dr. Jonas. “This means about 80% of the status of your health has to do with what you do outside of the doctor’s office.”
Data from the CDC supports this, with those most at-risk for COVID-19 infection being individuals with chronic disease risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
“These are all risk factors that can be mitigated or reversed with lifestyle changes,” says Dr. Jonas.
How to Start Practicing Self-Care Right Now
If you’ve found yourself slacking in the self-care department during this pandemic, don’t wait until its passed to start taking proactive steps to protect your health. Here’s what you can—and should—start doing now to boost your immunity and health:
- Increase your mental fitness: This can be done in a number of ways, from making sure you’re connecting with friends and family in whatever way possible, to making it a point to feel joy and gratitude to the things and people around you.
“Stress management is a very important part of this, and I recommend mind-body techniques like meditation or yoga to help manage stress and balance your emotional health,” says Dr. Jonas.
- Eat a healthy diet: “Food has a huge impact on many chronic diseases that are increased risk factors for coronavirus,” says Dr. Jonas. “Make sure to focus on a diet filled with fruits and veggies, as well as healthy fats.” If you need a little help in this area look into the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to prevent and reverse conditions like heart disease.
- Move more: Exercising daily (even if it's just a walk around the neighborhood) can help ward off illness by finding and eliminating pathogens in the body as well as slowing down the aging effects of the immune system. Aim for 150 minutes of activity a week.
- Get enough sleep: “Focus on not just the quantity [seven to nine hours a night] but also the quality of your sleep,” says Dr. Jonas. This may mean working on what’s called sleep hygiene – turning off all screens an hour before bedtime, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, and making sure your room is dark, cool, and comfortable so you can get optimal shut-eye.
Talk to a Doctor About Self-Care
About 72% of survey participants said they wished their doctor talked to them more about self-care. Start your own conversation by scheduling a telehealth consultation with a board-certified, specialist physician—and get a tailored treatment plan to help boost your immunity and make the lifestyle changes you need to stay healthy long-term.