How to stay healthy at home dur­ing the coro­n­avirus lock­down

Cooped up and feel­ing slug­gish, bored, even a bit mis­er­able? De­spite be­ing con­fined to the in­doors dur­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break, there are still lots of things you can do to pro­tect your health and well­be­ing.

Deutsche Welle (English edition) - - Front Page -

Cooped up and feel­ing slug­gish, bored, even a bit mis­er­able? De­spite be­ing con­fined to the in­doors dur­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break, there are still lots of things you can do to pro­tect your health and well­be­ing.

At un­set­tling times like the coro­n­avirus out­break, it might feel like things are very much out of your con­trol. Most rou­tines have been thrown into dis­ar­ray and the fu­ture, as far as the ex­perts tell us, is far from cer­tain.

But there are still lots of things you can do — aside from so­cial dis­tanc­ing and washing your hands with soap — to pro­tect your health and well­be­ing. Eat­ing well

Without a vaccine, none of us can en­tirely elim­i­nate our risk of con­tract­ing coro­n­avirus. And ex­perts say that's still 18 to 24 months away.

But eat­ing as healthily as pos­si­ble is im­por­tant not only for our phys­i­cal health, but our psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing, too. A healthy diet has been shown to re­duce our risk of chronic ill­nesses such as car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, di­a­betes and obe­sity, as well as de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

You don't have to fol­low a par­tic­u­lar diet, just avoid pro­cessed foods as they tend to be high in sugar.

The best foods for our mental health are gen­er­ally the health­i­est foods. Com­plex car­bo­hy­drates, found in fruit, veg­eta­bles and whole grains, pro­vide im­por­tant nour­ish­ment for our brains as they slowly re­lease en­ergy, which also sta­bi­lizes our moods.

A bal­anced diet ideally in­cludes a va­ri­ety of foods high in vi­ta­mins A, B, C, D and E, as well as the min­er­als iron, zinc and se­le­nium.

B vi­ta­mins, found in green veg­eta­bles like broc­coli and spinach, beans, bananas, eggs, poul­try, fish and beet­root, are im­por­tant for our brain and it's hap­pi­ness chem­i­cals, sero­tonin and dopamine. A lack of B6, B12 and fo­late (B9) are com­mon in cases of de­pres­sion.

It's also vi­tal to look af­ter our gut health, which a grow­ing body of re­search shows has a re­mark­able im­pact on our mood and be­hav­ior. Pre­bi­otics and pro­bi­otics, found in fer­mented foods like ke­fir, tem­peh, sauer­kraut, kim­chi and yo­gurt can re­duce in­flam­ma­tion, boost our moods and cog­ni­tive func­tion.

In its tips for cop­ing with the stress of the coro­n­avirus out­break, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) re­minds us not to "use smok­ing, al­co­hol or other drugs to deal with your emo­tions." They rec­om­mend speak­ing to a health worker or coun­sel­lor if you're feel­ing over­whelmed.

Sleep­ing soundly

Sleep is es­sen­tial for our bod­ies to re­pair cells, clear tox­ins, con­sol­i­date our mem­o­ries and process in­for­ma­tion. There's good ev­i­dence that sleep de­pri­va­tion can have ma­jor im­pacts on our health — neg­a­tively af­fect­ing our psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing con­cen­tra­tion and even our emo­tional in­tel­li­gence.

It can also in­crease our risk of de­vel­op­ing chronic health con­di­tions, like di­a­betes, obe­sity and heart dis­ease.

Just like our sched­ules for eat­ing, work­ing and ex­er­cis­ing, it's im­por­tant to sus­tain a reg­u­lar sleep rou­tine. For most peo­ple, be­tween six to nine hours a night is sufficient. Go­ing to bed and wak­ing up at a sim­i­lar time each day can help main­tain a sense of nor­mal­ity, and help you fol­low through with plans.

If you're find­ing it dif­fi­cult to get to sleep be­cause you're ly­ing awake wor­ry­ing, try to limit your con­sump­tion of the news be­fore bed. It can also be help­ful to re­duce your ex­po­sure to screens in the evening, as the ef­fect of the blue light on our reti­nas can dis­rupt our sleep qual­ity. Ex­er­cis­ing enough

Ex­er­cise re­leases chem­i­cals in the body that make us feel good, and it's also been linked to bet­ter sleep, re­duced stress and anx­i­ety, and im­proved memory and cog­ni­tion.

Team sports may be off the agenda, but you can cer­tainly still ex­er­cise on your own, says Mar­cus Thor­mann, owner of a high-tech fit­ness stu­dio in western Germany. He rec­om­mends mod­er­ate move­ment for 30 min­utes per day, as backed by the WHO.

"You can even break that up into 10 minute sec­tions — 10 min­utes in the morn­ing, 10 in the af­ter­noon, and 10 in the evening. When you've es­tab­lished that as a daily rou­tine, then your day will be bet­ter struc­tured as well," he told DW.

Many fit­ness in­struc­tors — yoga and pi­lates, personal train­ers, dance teach­ers — are of­fer­ing their classes online dur­ing the out­break, some of them for free. All you need is a mat or towel on the floor and a re­li­able in­ter­net connection.

Or, as Thor­mann points out, just a good dose of cre­ativ­ity. "I saw a so­cial me­dia post about a guy who used his 7-me­ter bal­cony, so about 20 feet in length, to run an en­tire marathon."

While that's "a very ex­treme ex­am­ple," Thor­mann says, there are many ways to stim­u­late your body's cir­cu­la­tion. He sug­gests "walk­ing up and down the stairs in your home, or in your build­ing, for ex­am­ple. Or, you could jog in place in­side, or do some shadow box­ing, or jump­ing jacks, or situps, or push-ups."

While the area you can roam out­side might be lim­ited dur­ing lock­down, go­ing out­doors, even briefly, has been shown to im­prove peo­ple's state of mind. Even if a short walk once per day is all you can man­age, re­search sug­gests just two hours a week in na­ture is linked with bet­ter health and well­be­ing.

But be care­ful not to ex­er­cise if you have flu-like symp­toms, or if you feel ex­hausted.

So­cial connection

Now more than ever, we need our friends. Ev­i­dence shows that so­cial con­nect­ed­ness is as im­por­tant for our health as diet, move­ment and sleep.

No, you can't have a din­ner party or a pic­nic in lock­down — in per­son! But not all so­cial in­ter­ac­tions have to be face-to-face to be mean­ing­ful. Try recre­at­ing them through video calls — you could or­ga­nize a vir­tual din­ner via apps like Zoom, Housep­a­rty or good old Google Han­gouts, or take a friend on a vir­tual walk or do a house­bound ac­tiv­ity to­gether, like craft or draw­ing.

Think of it as be­ing dis­tantly so­cial.

Calm­ing activities

While it might seem like the world is only talk­ing about one topic right now, en­forced so­cial iso­la­tion could also pro­vide the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for many peo­ple to take a break from the news cy­cle.

What do you usu­ally not have time for? Gar­den­ing, cook­ing, pick­ling, puz­zles, craft, sewing, learn­ing to med­i­tate, build­ing fur­ni­ture, read­ing that pile of books on your bed­side?

Now could be the per­fect time to do them all, or some, or half of a few — what­ever you can man­age.

Through it all, remember as the WHO has ad­vised, to "draw on skills you have used in the past that have helped you man­age pre­vi­ous ad­ver­si­ties."

The best foods for our mental health are also the health­i­est.

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