8 Strategies for Staying Healthy During Quarantine

Strategies for maintaining your physical and mental health.

Posted Apr 05, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is stressful. Fighting COVID-19 as a patient or a doctor is downright traumatic. Here are some strategies for keeping yourself physically and mentally healthy in quarantine so you can keep fighting the good fight.

1. Don't overindulge in unhealthy self-soothing. Wine, candy, chips, soda. All are fine in moderation. When humans are under stress (including isolation) we go into self-soothing strategies. Self-soothing strategies are ways that we calm ourselves down when under stress. Many of us self-soothe with alcohol or junk food. Though alcohol or junk food may help your mental health in the short term, it will affect your physical health, and therefore your body's resistance to infection. Limit drinking and consumption of sugary or processed foods.

2. Schedule time for healthy self-soothing. When working from home it can be hard to see the lines between work and downtime (in both directions). Make sure work time is used for work and downtime is kept sacred. Downtime is essential for self-soothing. Epsom salt baths, listening to music, doing yoga, exercise, and meditation are all healthy self-soothing options.

Relieving stress in healthy ways is key to ensuring your stress does not exceed your body's ability to recover from it. This will allow stressors on your body to remain in the hormetic zone (the amount of stress that's healthy rather than harmful).

3. Manage your environment. Designate an area to work if feasible. In a New York City apartment this can be near impossible, so ritualize the beginning and end of work. Play certain music only when you're working, or wear "work clothes" while you're doing work and change clothes when you are transitioning to downtime. You can change your environment with lighting, music, and clothing. Change your state by changing your surroundings. Be deliberate about creating a "working environment" and a "downtime environment."

Though the CDC only recommends cleaning highly touched areas daily, implementing the following recommendation is another way to avoid contaminants from entering your home in the first place. Be advised that the process described in the next paragraph and the embedded link is considered by most health professionals to be "above and beyond" the requirements for staying safe from COVID, including the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. I wanted to share the advice however for at-risk populations like the elderly or immune-compromised people who may wish to take extra precautions.

Keep your groceries (and things that you take outside your home) in a specific area so as not to create unnecessary exposure within your home. Put scrubs or clothes worn outside directly into the hamper. Disinfect grocery packaging, wallet, etc. when possible. Keep shoes in a designated area, maybe in a bin with other materials that leave the home frequently.

4. Maintain your sleep routine. Whether a healthcare worker or a 9-5er who suddenly has very little structure, sleep is going to be essential in keeping you healthy in the face of COVID-19. Make sure you're practicing good sleep hygiene, keeping your sleeping environment cool, dark, and quiet. Limit blue spectrum light before bed with special glasses or programs like Nightshift on MacsiPhones and iPads, and f.lux on PCs and smartphones. 

5. Get sun. Vitamin D is important in the immune response. Getting sun will increase your vitamin D reserves. Opening shades and windows, sitting in sunny areas of your apartment, and even getting outside when social distancing is possible (maintaining 6+ feet between yourself and others).

6. Get exercise. Even if it's raining or too crowded outside to practice social distancing, exercise in your apartment. New York City apartments are small, but there are workouts you can do in any size apartment. Wall push-ups, squats, guard circles, Supermans, and etc. are effective exercises with limited space. Switch between upper and lower body exercises to get your heart pumping and add a cardio component. 

7. Enjoy your in-home "hydrotherapy machine." Use your shower or bath for the therapeutic and toxin-flushing impact it can have.

Hot showers/baths ease muscle tension relieving stress. Steam from hot showers hydrates the nasal passageways making you more COVID-resistant.

Cold showers/baths have a plethora of benefits. Most relevant to COVID-19 resistance, cold showers/baths may lessen the intensity of illness symptoms and alleviate depression caused by social isolation.

8. Reach out for emotional support. Schedule virtual happy hours, brunches, and hangouts with friends. Schedule a virtual therapy session if isolation is beginning to wear on you.

Stay healthy out there. Not only for yourself, but for your neighbors and loved ones.

References

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Coussens, L. M., & Werb, Z. (2002). Inflammation and cancer. Nature, 420(6917), 860-867.

Hassan, S. Z., Waqas, M., Yaqub, D., & Asad, D. (2016). Hydrotherapy: An Efficient and Cost-Effective Treatment for Depression. International Journal Of Community Medicine And Public Health, 4(1), 274.

Nunes, R. F. H., Duffield, R., Nakamura, F. Y., Bezerra, E. D. S., Sakugawa, R. L., Loturco, I., ... & Guglielmo, L. G. A. (2019). Recovery following Rugby Union matches: effects of cold water immersion on markers of fatigue and damage. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 44(5), 546-556.

Parsons, P. A. (2001). The hormetic zone: An ecological and evolutionary perspective based upon habitat characteristics and fitness selection. The Quarterly review of biology, 76(4), 459-467.

Shevchuk, N. A. (2008). Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Medical hypotheses, 70(5), 995-1001.