Maintaining Mental and Physical Health During COVID-19

Tips for anyone dealing with stress or anxiety as a result of COVID-19.

Posted Mar 22, 2020

As we navigate this alien world of respirator masks in the grocery store, overcrowding of health care facilities, and the news that our world is, in fact, a dangerous place to live, you may be feeling overwhelmed. This post gives usable strategies for maintaining mental and physical health during this pandemic and improving outcomes should you contract COVID-19.

It is important to maintain relationships and physical health during this time. Here are some ways to keep your mood and physical health up:

  • Video chat with friends and family. Have "video brunch," or "video happy hour." Social support is extremely important to maintaining mental health and improving outcomes should you contract COVID-19. One of the largest threats to our mental health that COVID-19 poses is isolation. Humans are social creatures and we are soothed by the support of others in our group. The very important health precaution of quarantining can have a significant impact on mental health. That is why it is important to get social interaction when possible in physically safe settings like video chat.
  • Take advantage of the up-spring of new technologies that foster distance socializing, like Netflix Party, which allows you to watch Netflix and socialize with friends at the same time. 
  • Get outside, get exercise, get sunshine. Spring is usually a time when we start to refill our vitamin D, with longer days and more time spent outside in the warmth. Quarantine makes us risk losing this essential ingredient to our mental and physical health. That is why it is important to get outside. Go for a run, ride your bike. Limit lingering and socializing in public places, but make sure you're getting some fresh air and sunshine.
  • Take advantage of the free exercise video content on YouTube. Yoga, dance, fitness workouts you can do at home are available for free.
  • Make sure you're eating a balanced diet. Get fresh produce when available. Don't use the quarantine as an excuse to overindulge in inflammatory "junk" foods that will impact your physical health. Staying healthy is important not only for your mental health but also for your resiliency to COVID-19.
  • Take a deep breath. Breathing deeply will stretch the intercostal muscles of your ribs and strengthen your diaphragm. Deep breaths help not only to deal with anxiety but also to keep your lungs strong in response to possible infection.
  • Be grateful. Gratitude can be hard to access while we're concerned for our health, but times like this are the most important times to practice gratitude. More on gratitude in the next post.

As we weather this crisis together, it is important to focus on the things that are in our control. I hope you will take these suggestions seriously and that you and your loved ones are safe during this challenging time.

References

Bonanno, G. A., Ho, S. M., Chan, J. C., Kwong, R. S., Cheung, C. K., Wong, C. P., & Wong, V. C. (2008). Psychological resilience and dysfunction among hospitalized survivors of the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong: a latent class approach. Health Psychology, 27(5), 659.

Hill, P. L., Allemand, M., & Roberts, B. W. (2013). Examining the pathways between gratitude and self-rated physical health across adulthood. Personality and individual differences, 54(1), 92-96.

Hossein-nezhad, A., & Holick, M. F. (2013, July). Vitamin D for health: a global perspective. In Mayo clinic proceedings (Vol. 88, No. 7, pp. 720-755). Elsevier.

World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (‎ COVID-19)‎: situation report, 49.

Zhou, F., Yu, T., Du, R., Fan, G., Liu, Y., Liu, Z., ... & Guan, L. (2020). Clinical course and risk factors for mortality of adult inpatients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China: a retrospective cohort study. The Lancet.