Health & Wellness

7 Ways to Stay Healthy During a Pandemic

There’s no sense in beating around the bush—2020 was nuts. And one thing in particular made it extra stressful: We were all dealing with a very intense pandemic and desperately searching for ways to stay healthy.

While there isn’t much we can do about COVID-19, other than following CDC-recommended guidelines, you’ll be happy to learn that there are actually plenty of ways to stay healthy during a pandemic. The best part? They’re all things you can do at home!

So, let’s not waste any time and take a look at things you can start doing today to help you—and those you love—stay healthy during this pandemic!

 

7 Ways to Stay Healthy During a Pandemic

Here are seven of my top ways to stay healthy during a pandemic.

1. Take breaks from the news and social media.

If you’ve been following along for a while now, this tip won’t come as a surprise. As a doctor who focuses on the ways stress impacts your health, one of my biggest suggestions is to limit your exposure to stressful stimuli.

The simple truth of the matter here is that, right now, most off the stories you see on the news and many of the posts you see in your social media newsfeed are anxiety-producing. And, unfortunately, the odds are high that this isn’t going to change fairly soon.

You know the basics of what is and isn’t recommended right now. So, give yourself a much-deserved mental break.

Not convinced that taking breaks from the news and social media will promote better health right now? Consider this for a moment …

According to one survey, 86 percent of Americans said they are stressed out by checking their email and social media accounts constantly—and this was before the pandemic! [1] Imagine what that survey would look like now!

And since we know how chronically heightened levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) leads to many major long-term health consequences, including lowered immunity, keeping yourself calm by restricting access to upsetting stimuli is one of the great and relatively easy ways to stay healthy during a pandemic.

You can start by limiting your exposure to the news and social media over the weekends. But if that sounds to extreme, start by allowing yourself a total of 30 minutes each day to scroll social media and news sites. Then, you can cut back from there.

The benefit to that? According to a 2018 study, limiting your time on social media to 30 minutes a day not only reduced loneliness, depression, and anxiety but significantly improved overall wellbeing in participants! [2]

2. Take deep breaths or meditate.

There’s a lot of fear out there right now—fear over catching the virus, fear about how to protect your loved ones, and even fear over how long this will continue. It’s easily to spiral into total anxiety and even depression right now.

So, one of the best ways to stay healthy during a pandemic is to try to remain calm and centered. But that’s easier said than done, right? Well, there are a few ways you can refocus your energy and keep a calmer, more positive mindset.

First, consider practicing deep breathing. I often tell my patients that taking even one deep breath can make a difference and give you pause in a moment of anxiety or stress.

And when you take that to the next level, by practicing deep breathing exercises, it can really help to calm anxiety and stress. Click here for my top four deep breathing exercises to get you started.

Remember that with each deep breath, you’re calming your mind, which lowers your stress. And given what we now know about the link between stress and more severe COVID-19 symptoms, this tip should be high on your to-do list!

Once you have a command on deep breathing, you may want to consider trying meditation. Here’s why …

A 2013 study showed that meditation actually helps to reduce inflammation within your body. [3] And that’s the very same inflammation that linked to a higher likelihood of experiencing more severe COVID-19 symptoms!

3. Eat well-balanced, whole foods-based meals.

When it comes to ways you can stay healthy during a pandemic, this one is probably one of the more obvious tips: Eat healthy whole foods.

Remember, when you’re under extreme stress, your adrenal glands are in overdrive and body can’t adequately absorb the nutrients in your food. By eating a nutrient-rich diet that supports your adrenal health, you’re also supporting your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

And since studies have shown that depleted levels of vitamin D are linked with an increased likelihood of being hospitalized with COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to prioritize your diet and kick those processed, nutrient-stealing “foods” to the curb. [4]

For a list of the best foods you can eat to help support your adrenal health, click here.

4. Consider boosting your nutrition with supplements.

Another one of the ways you can stay healthy during a pandemic is by boosting your nutrition with supplements.

As I mentioned above, depending on your nutritional status, stress levels, and other factors, your body may not be absorbing all the nutrients from your food. Using supplements can help make sure you’re getting enough of the nutrients your body needs to function properly.

One great example of how important it is to stay nutritionally sufficient during a pandemic is a recent follow-up study on how having adequate vitamin D levels impact COVID-19 recovery.

According to another study, COVID-19 patients who were sufficient in vitamin D had a significantly decreased risk of becoming unconscious, becoming oxygen deprived, and even experiencing death. But that’s not all.

These patients also had lower levels of inflammation and higher levels of lymphocytes, which are immune cells known to help fight infections. [5]

Now, this is just one example relevant to our current situation. You can click on the following links to read more about how other nutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin A, support your overall health and wellbeing.

5. Keep moving with activities you enjoy.

We know that one of the best ways to stay healthy during a pandemic such as the one we’re currently facing is to maintain a healthy weight. Here’s why …

Studies have shown that being overweight or obese increases your risk of mortality from COVID-19 by 1.3-1.4 times. Meanwhile, the risk of intubation is anywhere from 2.0 to 2.4 times greater. [6]

Now, in addition to eating healthy whole foods, studies have shown that regular exercise also assists in healthy weight management. But it goes beyond that.

Studies have also shown that moderate-intensity exercise improves immune function and can even help reduce both the risk and severity of viral respiratory infections. [7]

If you’re looking to incorporate some moderate-intensity exercises into your wellness regimen, consider starting with brisk walking or bicycling. Personally, I love to ride bicycles with my family. It helps us to not only get in a little movement but also spend some quality time together.

6. Get quality rest.

One of the best ways to stay healthy anytime—including during a pandemic—is to get quality rest. And now new studies are showing why that’s the case.

According to a 2019 study, researchers discovered that getting quality sleep actually improves certain immune cells known to fight against viral infections, HIV, and even cancer cells. [8]

Moreover, the researchers also discovered that in people who don’t sleep well have poorer functioning immune cells due to higher stress hormones. And, as a result, are more prone to catching illnesses.

But if you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, what should you do? Start by checking out my top five home remedies for sleep. There may be some simple tips and tricks you can use to improve your quality of sleep and set yourself up for better health.

7. Stay connected with those you love. 

Finally, one of the best ways to stay healthy during a pandemic is by staying connected with those you love. Now, that may sound difficult—and perhaps even impossible—given our current social distancing protocols, but hang in there with me for a moment.

While virtual meetings aren’t the same as in-person visits, consider using the technology at your fingertips to maintain those bonds. Instead of using your smartphone to check social media, consider taking a few moments to video chat with your family and friends who you haven’t seen in a while.

You can also take this time to really reconnect with those in your immediate family. Try having a family game night or a special at-home date night with your significant other. Plan a movie night by browsing Netflix or renting something that’s On Demand, and then discuss it afterward.

I like to get in the kitchen with my kids and teach them about the nutrition they’re putting in their bodies. Including them in the preparation increases the odds that they’ll actually eat their food. Plus, it creates more precious childhood memories for them and gives us one-on-one time.

The benefit to your health? Research has shown that having strong relationships in your life not only help you to live a longer, healthier life but can even reduce the risk of developing dementia and promote better health and lower recurrence rates in cancer survivors! [9]

Having healthy social support has even been known to positively impact heart health, gut function, blood sugar levels, and even your immune system! [10]

 

Ways to stay healthy - Dr. Pingel

 

As you can see, there are many ways to stay healthy during a pandemic. Prioritizing your health right now is the single best thing you can do to make sure you’re in top shape, should you come into contact with the virus. So, give these tips a try and stay hopeful that better days lie ahead.

 

Key Takeaways

  • While there isn’t much we can do about COVID-19, other than following CDC-recommended guidelines, you’ll be happy to learn that there are actually plenty of ways to stay healthy during a pandemic.
  • Some of my top ways to stay healthy during a pandemic include: taking breaks from social media, taking deep breaths or meditating, eating plant-based foods, incorporating supplements, exercising, getting quality rest, and staying connected with loved ones.

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