While social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucially important to do what you can to maintain health and wellness from home.
In the following Q&A, UNC Greensboro’s Stefanie Milroy, director of HealthyUNCG and health education expert, and Cari Culp, registered dietitian, discuss how to stay healthy and well while maintaining social distance.
What can people do to maintain wellness – mentally and physically – during these times?
“During this time, it is important to manage our expectations,” says Milroy. “Adaptation to this new way of living life will take time. Be compassionate. Giving yourself, your family, and your co-workers grace will go a long way as we all learn alongside each other about how these next couple of weeks or months will look.
Doing your best to establish a schedule for yourself or your family can help with staying well, both mentally and physically. It’s okay if your schedule does not look like what your former work/family/self-care schedule looked like a month ago or like someone else’s! It also doesn’t have to look pretty or color-coded like the ones we see floating around social media! Create a schedule that works for you and your family. Maybe it’s something as simple as getting up at the same time each day, or perhaps it’s creating time to allow yourself breaks and time to do the things you love as a family or for yourself throughout the day or the week. Block scheduling is one type of scheduling that works well for many because it allows you freedom and flexibility within that ‘block’ of time, rather than planning out each day to the minute.
Take care of yourself mentally and physically. Along with taking stretch breaks or going for a walk or bike ride, there are some great free physical activity resources available to you. The Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness has put together a Keep Moving page with links to various activity-at-home resources. HealthyUNCG has also put together a resource page with physical activity and other wellness resources available to employees and their families. We are updating the list each week, so check in often! If you see something missing, let us know and we will do our best to find the best resource for what you are looking for. Creating schedules and staying active will help keep our minds healthy as well.
In addition, finding creative ways to connect socially can be an enormous boost to our mental health. Using Zoom, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime to stay connected with our colleagues, friends, and family can help to maintain those contact points that we are now missing in person. Take breaks from news and media if needed. Start a gratitude journal or just mentally note what is going well for you today or what you are grateful for each day.
Recognize when you need support and routinely check in with others to offer support or encouragement. This is a time where many of us are grieving or struggling in various ways. It is important to know your red flags. Being able to recognize those and identifying ways to actively reduce those can help you reset and gain control. Engage your support network of family and close friends. Seek help from professionals to talk or process these feelings. Utilize UNCG’s Employee Assistance Program for additional support and resources.”
Do you have any tips for maintaining good work-life and school-life balances for those who are now working and taking classes from home?
“To paraphrase a quote I heard in a recent webinar made by Ryan Picarella, President of the Wellness Council of America, ‘We are now in a time where there is no more leaving one’s personal life at home or work/life integration. We are integrated. We are at home, in each other’s living rooms on virtual meetings, trying to live life, stay productive, raise children, and find balance in what we do.’ We are now having to find new ways to do business, support our employees, friends, and family, to teach our children, to make time for self so that we can come out better. This is our new norm and we can help employers create a new way of operating. By practicing some of the suggestions above and facilitating conversation on how we are doing and ways to improve, we can help to create these new norms that will help us to find ways to balance and live our lives happy, healthy, and well.”
What are some free online wellness resources students, parents, and employees can take advantage of?
“We have put together a virtual wellness resource page on our website with some of our recommended free or low cost resources. We try to add to it each week or so. There is a link to the page on our home page.”
How can people maintain good nutrition habits during social distancing?
Culp recommends, “Eat a rainbow! Fruits and veggies contain vitamin C and other important plant compounds that boost our immunity and decrease inflammation. Since we are all trying to minimize our trips to the grocery store, and it’s so important to continue eating fresh fruits and veggies, stick with the heartier options that last longer in the fridge like red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, green beans, broccoli, snow peas, sugar snap peas, celery, carrots, bell peppers, beets, kale, apples, and oranges. Remember to keep some frozen fruits and veggies on hand as well. Also, try sprouting your own broccoli seeds or growing your own veggies and herbs to make fresh options more available.
Keep shelf-stable dried or canned legumes and whole grains like quinoa, barley, and oats in stock for a quick and nutritious meal.
Remember to drink enough fluid! Being thrown off schedule can result in less fluid intake for many of us. Set an alarm on your phone to remember to drink water throughout the day. Try adding well washed citrus for extra vitamin C.
Be mindful about snacking. Make sure your snacks include a fruit, veggie, or both. Take 5 minutes to consider whether you are really hungry before eating a snack to avoid unnecessary snacking. Avoid keeping trigger foods that tempt you to indulge around the house since you are there most of the time.
Make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D, zinc, and vitamin C for immune health. We get vitamin D primarily from the sun. It plays a major role in immune function. Since vitamin D deficiency is very common and we are indoors now more than ever, most people need a supplement. Extra zinc can also be very helpful for immunity during this time. Vitamin C is found in most fruits and veggies, especially bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi, citrus, broccoli, and pineapple. Get a couple servings of these foods daily.
Get seven and a half to nine hours of sleep each night. Not only does sleep boost our immunity, it also helps us control our cravings, calorie intake, and unnecessary snacking while allowing us to move more during the day.
Aim to move your body most days of the week. There are all sorts of ways to continue to exercise at home. Take a family walk, do an exercise video, use an app or an at-home exercise machine. Look at each week, make a plan for exercise, and write it on your calendar to help you stay on schedule.”
Interview by Avery Campbell, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications