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Stay Healthy While You Stay Home

During this time of uncertainty when we are being asked to distance ourselves from others, we need to find ways to care for ourselves at home.  Humans are naturally social beings and even the most introverted people need to interact with others for optimal health.  So, what are we supposed to do when we can’t be near other people?  We get creative. 

 

Getting outside for a walk during the day will help improve your mood and help naturally set your circadian rhythm.  Sunlight and being outdoors has been shown to improve mood and help keep us on a natural schedule. Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural 24-hour clock.  Sunlight helps set it naturally.  When we are exposed to computer screens, especially in the evening, it can alter this natural schedule our bodies thrive on.  Exposure to the blue light emitted by computer screens lowers melatonin secretion.  Melatonin secretion increases at night to make us sleepy.  When our circadian rhythm is out of whack, it can make us feel sleepy, nauseated, increase our risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome, and increase our risk of getting sick – not something we want right now when we are all doing our best to stay healthy.  If you need to work on a computer, or want to watch TV, try doing these things earlier in the day and stay away from screens for an hour or more before bedtime.  You can also wear blue light blocking glasses.  I wear them when working on the computer at work and have found I sleep better and have less eye strain at the end of the day. 

 

If you are working from home, make time to get up and move during the day.  Most of us naturally get up several times each day while at work to get a cup of coffee, chat with co-workers, etc.  It is easy to just sit in front of our computers and never move when we are at home alone.  You don’t have to do an hour workout, just getting up and walking around for a bit, doing a few lunges, knocking out a set of pushups, or stretching is enough.  It not only gives your body a change to move, but it gives your mind a break as well.  There are specific stretches available free online to counteract body parts that are commonly tight when people work on computers a lot.  You may want to consider changing where you are working throughout the day.  Try standing at the kitchen counter for a while.  Sit on the floor if you are able to.  If you can work in a room with natural sunlight, it will help regulate your circadian rhythm as well.

 

Try to keep a schedule.  I know I am guilty of keeping a much different schedule on the weekends than I do during the workweek.  When I keep my same sleep schedule on the weekends that I have during the week, I am more energized, in a better mood and more productive on the weekend.  So whatever your schedule is, stick to it.  I find it important to have a sense of purpose for each day.  Whether it is something at work that needs to be completed, a project you want to get done at home, a chore, or something you want to read and learn about, having a focus for each day will give you something to look forward to and give you a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day. 

 

Eat a healthy diet.  This should be done even when we aren’t being asked to self-isolate, but having a healthy diet is important to keep us healthy.  There are many different thoughts on what a healthy diet is.  I know that the diet that makes me feel the best is different from what makes my husband feel the best.  In general, most people agree that limiting processed, packaged foods should be part of a healthy diet.  Frozen fruits and vegetables are a good way to keep produce in our diets without having to go to the grocery store frequently.  Canned fruits and vegetables can also be a healthy option.  Whether you are choosing frozen or canned, be sure to look at the ingredient label and make sure you are only getting the fruit or vegetable and not added salt, sugar, or fruit juices.  If you are someone that normally doesn’t cook, having more time at home might be a great opportunity to take the time to learn to cook a few basic recipes.  There are many good resources online for finding recipes.  It could also be a good opportunity to call or text with a neighbor or friend to see what their favorite recipes are.  If you have kids at home, they often enjoy looking through cookbooks to pick out recipes for dinner.  I know when I have done this in the past, I am often surprised by what they choose.  And as a bonus, they are typically very excited to eat dinner that night.

 

If you do get sick or have a medical need that is not life or limb threatening, try calling the local clinic or hospital first.  They may be able to assist you over the phone.  Many clinics, mine included, are now offering telehealth services for certain conditions.  Please know that your physicians care about you and are concerned about your health.  While we are not able to perform elective procedures and surgeries right now, there may be conservative treatment options that you would be able to do at home.  For instance, my office has been mailing patients compression socks and topical nail fungus treatment, and utilizing both prescription and over-the-counter topical pain relieving creams and patches. 

 

It is important to keep connected with our coworkers, neighbors, family, and friends.  If you have an elderly neighbor or relative who may be afraid to go out and get groceries, give them a call and see if there is some way you can help them.  We live in an age where we have many forms of technology that can help keep us connected.  We can text with one another, talk on the phone, or use programs such as Skype or FaceTime.  You may need to help your elderly relatives set up these forms of communication but don’t be surprised when they love using them.  My kids love making cards and sending emails to their grandparents, great grandparents, and cousins.

 

Try to support our local businesses.  Most of them have taken a financial hit during this crisis and will continue to do so until it is over.  If you can afford it, order takeout on occasion, buy a gift card, or see if products can be mailed to you.  You may be able to buy a gift card over the phone that you can use once the business is able to reopen.  If you can’t afford to purchase anything, go online and leave a review or “like” their Facebook page.  This will encourage others to support the business as well.

 

Take time to reflect every day, especially on the good things in your life.  You can do this through prayer, meditation and journaling.  It will help you focus on the positive and not get mired down in things you can’t control.  These activities have been shown to improve mood and improve how you handle stress. 

 

And most importantly, remember that “this too shall pass.”  I am hopeful that something good will come out of it as well.  Perhaps being more connected with our families and communities, and increased preparedness for our hospital systems. 

Author
Dr Katie Evans Dr Katie Evans writes a monthly column in the Hometown Focus. The articles cover a variety of issues concerning the foot and ankle. If you have any recommendations for future articles, email them to rangefootandankle@gmail.com.

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