BY BETH DEDMAN
With gyms closed and grocery lines a mile long, it can be difficult to sustain healthy living within the confines of quarantine, but it is still possible to promote health and well-being from home.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises that half of every meal should be made up of vegetables in a variety of colors. This increases the chances of intaking all of the essential vitamins and minerals to maintain a healthy diet.
Vegetables and fruits can be stored in the freezer for months at a time. While shelf-stable options are good to have in stock, the HHS recommends cutting down on refined sugars by eating whole grains and looking for ingredients such as brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal.
Low-fat milks and lean proteins, such as chicken, fish and eggs are a good way to keep energy levels up without packing on quarantine weight. Seafood is particularly full of protein, minerals and fatty acids, which keep your body from storing weight.
Diets composed of refined foods and sugars can increase the risk of depression by 25-35% compared to diets that are high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains and seafood, according to Harvard Medical School. About 95% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, moods and reduces pain, is produced in the gastrointestinal tract.
Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can help produce serotonin, maintain weight, reduce health risks and improve mental function, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Running and bicycling outside are great ways to increase cardio-activity, as long as there is a six-foot buffer between people. YouTube and other digital platforms have hundreds of at-home workout guides that can be done even in a tiny apartment in New York City.
The CDC recommends limiting alcohol and drug use as they can disrupt natural neurotransmitter production, which can lead to more symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Reducing the intake of notifications, social media posts and news stories about the pandemic can help reduce stress and anxiety, according to the CDC.
Meditation and physical relaxation can also combat those anxieties and stabilize the body’s rhythm and flow. Evidence from multiple studies shows that meditation may reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, flare-ups in people who have had ulcerative colitis, symptoms of anxiety and depression and it may help people with insomnia, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Taking time to unwind and reaching out to loved ones digitally can also improve mood, cognitive function and mental health. Physical self-isolation is necessary for reducing the spread of COVID-19, but emotional self-isolation can lead to a negative mental state.
“Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger,” according to the CDC website.”
Additional tips, resources and helplines are available through the CDC https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html.