It is a vast understatement to say that the last two months or so have been filled with adjusting to a new normal, which of course looks different for everyone. While we each face unique opportunities and challenges during this time, we all have at least one common goal and that is to stay as healthy and well as possible. Below are six ways to prioritize your health and wellness right now and although this is not an exhaustive list, through implementing some or all of these you will likely experience benefits immediately!
What we put into our body is absolutely essential to our ability to stay healthy and well. Eating an abundant variety of whole-food plants like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds will help ensure we are consuming the health-promoting antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals as well as high fiber foods our body needs to thrive. Try to make each of your meals as colorful as possible and focus on increasing the quality of your food, not restricting the quantity. Don’t forget to stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day especially in between meals. For an easy and convenient way to make sure you are consuming everything you should be striving to consume each day, check out Dr. Michael Greger’s app Daily Dozen. Aim for progress over perfection – small, consistent changes go a long way!
Most people’s typical day-to-day schedule has completely changed. Though our schedules are different, we still need a general day-to-day routine. Our brain thrives with routine so we want to keep a consistent schedule to the best of our ability. An ideal schedule includes going to sleep and waking up at approximately the same time each day (even on the weekend), doing a similar morning and evening routine every day, having set work hours throughout the week, and striving to keep work hours and non-work hours separate. If you can keep your working and living space separate, even better! Approach each day on purpose with a purpose as much as you possibly can.
We all know how important sleep is to our overall wellness because at some point we have felt the negative impact of not getting enough sleep. When we are not sufficiently rested, we can feel physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted – and sometimes all three at the same time! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults 18-60 years old get seven or more hours of sleep per night. What amount of sleep results in you feeling your absolute best? Some people feel great with seven hours of sleep but others might need eight or nine hours of sleep to function optimally. Be sure to also set yourself up to get quality sleep. Avoiding large or heavy meals, exercising, and screen time before bed in addition to maintaining a cool temperature in your bedroom and journaling before going to sleep can help ensure your body and mind are in the best state possible for achieving good rest.
Our body is meant to move! We simply cannot sit in front of a screen most of the day, most days of the week, and expect to be healthy and well. Whether or not you are currently working from home, schedule time in your day to move. This can be something simple like setting a reminder every hour to stand up and stretch and/or taking a short walk outside over your lunch break. We also want to engage in moderate-intense or vigorous-intense aerobic activity most days of the week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has physical activity recommendations for adults that can be found here. Get creative with movement to help you meet your physical activity goals like gardening, going for a hike, riding a bike, taking an online yoga class, etc. Movement can and should be fun so pursue activities you enjoy doing! Avoid the all or nothing mentality -- do the best you can and remember that doing something is better than doing nothing.
How often do you experience complete silence? How often do you focus your energy internally rather than externally? If you are like most people, the answer to both of these questions is almost never or never. For most of us, it can usually feel like all day every day someone or something needs our attention. Most of us are always go-go-go thinking about or preparing for what is next and not taking time to exist in the present moment. Meditation can help us release the need to be in control and focus on simply letting things be as they are. Developing a basic practice of meditation can also help us slow down and become more mindful. Even taking just 10 minutes every day to be alone with your thoughts can have a positive impact. Apps such as Meditation Studio can be used to help guide your meditation time and lead you in practicing breathwork.
Most of us are currently experiencing significantly less in person social interaction than what we are used to, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. It is extremely important to remember that while we might currently have to be physically distant, we do not have to be socially distant. Make it a priority to stay emotionally connected with others. What can you do to keep yourself feeling supported right now? Things like scheduling a weekly Zoom check-in or social hour with your family or friends and attending one or two webinars every week that focus on a cause you care about can be great ways to keep yourself feeling a sense of belonging while still remaining physically distant.
In conclusion, be kind to yourself! While taking time to prioritize our health and wellness is always immensely important, we are each doing the best we can to fulfill all of our daily personal and professional obligations while navigating what it looks like for us to be staying at home.
To learn more about the connection between food and mood, join Dr. Verena Rossa-Roccor, Dr. Jade Ditarro, and myself at FFAC’s upcoming webinar Food and Mood: How Our Food Choices Affect Our Emotional Well-Being.
Ali Fairchild is the Chicago Director of the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition.