How to Stay Healthy During Social Distancing (Physically and Mentally)
As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic unfolds, most governments around the world suggest that you stay at home, keeping your distance from other people.
Staying at home is the best way to fight the coronavirus. Isolation protects higher-risk individuals like children and the elderly, and it will help to keep the virus from spreading.
But being isolated at home can take a toll on your physical and mental health — especially if the quarantine lasts for multiple weeks or months.
How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle during the coronavirus lockdown?
Don’t worry — we’ve put together a guide to staying healthy (and sane) while you’re cooped up at home. It will cover:
- How to boost your immune system
- Healthy eating tips, keto recipes, and keto snacks you can still find at the grocery store
- How to keep up physical activity without a gym
- The psychological side effects of isolation, and ways to stay happy and connected from home
This is a strange, stressful time, but there’s still plenty you can do to protect your overall health and well-being. Use this guide to establish healthy habits and keep yourself grounded while you’re at home.
We encourage you to share these tips with loved ones and family members, too. This is a time to come together and help one another; the more of us stay in good health, the stronger we are as a worldwide community, and the faster we’ll overcome this challenge we all face.
Let’s start with the most important health tip: how to boost your immune system.
Immunity is more important than ever right now. You want to make sure your immune system is as strong as it can be so you can fight off illness.
There are three major things you can do to keep your immunity strong while you’re stuck at home.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important parts of immune health.
In fact, it’s during sleep that your immune system gets a lot of its best work done. Different parts of your sleep cycle activate different aspects of immune function[*].
During early sleep, your body releases T cells, which hunt down invaders like viruses (coronavirus, for example) and bacteria, as well as infected cells. T cells destroy pathogens to keep them from spreading, and they’re most active while you’re asleep.
Sleep is also an essential part of immunological memory, meaning it encourages your body to remember invaders and protect against them in the future[*].
Make sure you’re getting a solid 7-9 hours of sleep every night during quarantine. This should be one of your top priorities.
3 Simple Ways to Get Better Sleep
Sleep quality matters too. Here are three simple ways to boost your sleep quality:
- Black out your room. You can order blackout curtains on Amazon or another online retailer. Alternatively, you can hang a blanket over your window, or just tape up cardboard before bed each night. Get your room as dark as possible; it will improve your sleep dramatically[*].
- Take magnesium. Magnesium helps you fall asleep and improves your sleep quality[*]. It’s also a good supplement to take in general, since most people don’t get enough of it through diet. Take 400 mg of magnesium glycinate an hour before bed to improve your sleep and support your immune system.
- Avoid electronics before bed. Blue light (from electronics like your computer, phone, and TV) inhibits melatonin, your body’s main sleep hormone[*]. Try to stay off screens for at least two hours before bed. If you have to use your computer at night, download f.lux. It’s a free app that filters blue light from your computer screen. You can also filter blue light from your smartphone by turning on night mode under your phone’s settings.
Take Immune-Boosting Supplements
You can also boost your immunity with a few well-chosen supplements. The three most important supplements for immune health are:
- Vitamin D (1000-4000 IU per day). Unless you supplement daily or spend a lot of time shirtless in the sun, you’re probably deficient in vitamin D. Almost everyone is. Now is a great time to correct that deficiency, because vitamin D is essential to immune health[*]. It’s especially good at preventing respiratory infections (like coronavirus)[*].
- Vitamin C (2000 mg per day). New York hospitals are currently treating coronavirus patients with vitamin C. They got the tip from doctors in China, who claim that they saw a major difference in recovery when they used vitamin C in their patients. The results are promising enough that researchers have already begun a clinical trial on vitamin C for coronavirus[*]. Plus, vitamin C is good for your overall immune function[*], and it’s cheap and widely available.
- B Vitamin Complex (follow package instructions). B vitamins are an essential part of a healthy immune response[*][*], and they can help improve your body’s reaction to stress[*]. Check your local health food store for a B vitamin complex that includes B6 and B12.
Don’t Drink Alcohol to Excess
A drink or two of alcohol is actually good for your immune response, but any more than that and your immune system will take a major hit[*].
So while you can still enjoy a dry red wine with dinner, quarantine is not the time for partying. Save your alcohol to celebrate when all this craziness is over. In the meantime, practice moderation.
Follow these tips to keep your immune system strong and protect yourself (and your loved ones) from coronavirus.
The keto diet is a powerful way to boost immune health, which makes it the perfect healthy diet to follow while you’re homebound.
Of course, a lot of grocery stores are low on options right now. Keto staples like red meat and veggies may be hard to come by.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other options you can probably still find. Look for these shelf-stable keto snacks next time you go on a food run:
- Beef sticks/jerky
- Cheese crisps (often in the chip aisle)
- Nuts and nut butters
- Almond flour
- Canned fish (salmon, tuna, anchovies, sardines)
- Summer sausage
- Dry salami, pepperoni, and other cured meats (find the unrefrigerated ones; they’ll last in your pantry)
- Pork rinds
- Grass-fed whey protein
- Grass-fed collagen protein
- Keto bars
And if you aren’t sure what to make, check out our keto recipe archives. We have hundreds of free recipes to keep you from getting bored while you’re at home.
You don’t need to give up on gains just because your gym is closed. There’s a ton you can do to stay in shape at home.
- Plyometrics will give you a killer cardio workout and build your speed, endurance, and agility. Plyo workouts require little to no equipment, and they’re a bigger challenge than you might think. Check out this complete plyometrics workout guide for exercises you can do anywhere.
- Bodyweight workouts can be as easy or difficult as you want them to be. You can always go for the classic: 100 push-ups, 100 squats, 100 sit-ups, and 50 pull-ups, spread out throughout your day. Or you can get a little more creative with this guide to bodyweight exercise.
- Yoga is another great option for staying fit and flexible at home. You can find plenty of yoga progressions online for free.
Want more ideas? Check out our guide to at-home workouts.
One of the biggest challenges of staying at home is the lack of human contact. Humans are very social creatures. We don’t do well locked indoors without other people around.
Loneliness is a major contributor to anxiety and depression[*], so it’s more important than ever that you stay connected during this isolating time.
It’s also essential to fight off boredom. Odds are that right now you have more downtime than you’re used to. Why not put it to good use?
Here are a few ways to build community and keep yourself engaged from home:
Start a New Hobby With a Friend
Pick something that you can practice individually, then have a video call once a week to show each other your progress.
It could be learning the guitar (pick a new song each week), cooking the same recipe together via video and then sitting down to eat it together, reading a book and video calling each other to discuss — whatever appeals to you.
And why limit it to one person? Get three or four friends in on your plan to foster a sense of community. Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and Google Hangouts all offer free video software.
Call Someone Every Day
In the age of texting and emailing, phone calls are increasingly rare. But now is the perfect time to start calling your friends, family members, and loved ones. Call someone once a day just to catch up and chat. Odds are you’ll both be grateful for the social connection.
Social distancing is also the perfect time to get in touch with yourself. Meditation is great for depression, anxiety, stress, self-awareness, and many other aspects of mental health[*][*].
You can use a meditation app like Headspace for guided meditations, or you can just sit in silence with yourself for a while every day.
If you’re new to meditation, start with 10 minutes, then work your way up. It’s more challenging (and rewarding) than it sounds.
Adopt/Foster a Pet (or a Plant)
First off: if you’re considering pet adoption, make absolutely sure that you’re willing to care for an animal long-term, and that you have the money and lifestyle to do so.
Pets are not something to take lightly. They’re a lot of work, and they depend on you completely, so you have to be 100% certain that you can commit to them for the next 10+ years.
All that said, dogs and cats (and other animal friends) make wonderful companions. When you and your pet ineract, you both release oxytocin, the same “love molecule” you release when you bond with people[*]. Plus, pets relieve stress and anxiety so well that they’re used as a legitimate form of therapy[*].
And if adopting a pet is too big a commitment, why not adopt a plant? Studies show that owning houseplants (and seeing their natural beauty every day) significantly reduces stress and anxiety[*][*].
Plus, you get all the joy of caring for a living thing and seeing it thrive, without the responsibility of owning an animal.
This is a stressful and challenging time for all of us, but we’re going to get through it.
Stay at home, keep yourself healthy, prioritize self-care, and connect with your friends, family, and loved ones. Things will be back to normal soon.
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