These are truly unprecedented times for everyone. Staying indoors, physical distancing, home schooling, and working from home—none of these things would have been considered to be the “new normal” of our lives a month ago.
We know staying home, whether for self-quarantine or social distancing purposes, is the right thing to do to help stop the spread. During these times, mindset plays a vital role in getting through this pandemic, both physically and mentally.
Here are some tips I’ve put together to help all of us maintain our mental wellbeing during this unfamiliar time.
1. Stick to a routine.
While COVID-19 has affected all of our daily routines, setting a schedule for waking, eating, and bedtime can help. Resilience thrives with proper nutrition and rest. Get dressed as though you’re meeting people outside. Build in time to exercise and try to maintain as much normalcy as possible throughout your day.
For example, if you’re used to going to the gym every day before work, try and get an at-home workout in before starting your day, even if you can’t physically go to the gym. You can also find and try out new online workouts. Many gyms are providing videos of their workouts for people to do each day at home.
Fill the day with projects and end it with pleasant rituals such as reading and catching up with friends over video. Consider what anchors and relaxes you—for some, this might mean meditating, listening to music, practicing yoga, or gardening. Lift your spirits by watching funny movies. Try to steer clear of social media that makes you anxious and restrict news consumption, especially one hour before going to sleep.
Additionally, if your children are home from school, create a routine for them. This includes virtual learning with their school along with a structured schedule, so they know what’s expected of them. Try to limit screen time as much as possible and incorporate learning activities throughout the day. Overall, sticking to a routine can help reduce boredom, keep moods lifted, and prevent stress from taking over.
2. Sleep well.
Sleep is part of your routine. Working remotely has the potential to alter sleep patterns as you may tend to go to bed later or sleep in longer. Try to stick to your normal schedule, if possible.
3. Get outside.
Unless specified by public health officials to stay inside, try to go outside throughout the day. Take a walk in your neighborhood or sit outside in your backyard—try to avoid the park or other areas where large groups might be. When your skin is exposed to the sun, your body makes vitamin D. The majority of Canadians are reported to have inadequate vitamin D intakes, so exercising outside can help with that, especially as temperatures start to warm up. Don’t forget sunscreen, shades and a hat!
4. Minimize trips to the supermarket and eat healthy.
With all the sites I visit and the news articles out there, I’m reminded how healthy eating is integral for keeping our immune system in the best possible condition. However, I also find myself in front of my refrigerator more than usual, and likely not always making the best choices. Among the most discussed top suggestions for staying healthy during this time is to plan and minimize our trips to the supermarkets.
Visualize breakfast, lunch, and dinner for at least 5 days. What will you serve? What do you need? Consider the foods your family likes, your food preparation methods, interests and skills, and the time and energy you will have for preparing meals. Working from home may not mean there is more time to cook—especially if you're now responsible for teaching your kids and completing your own work each day.
Have children at home?
Include children in meal planning, preparation, and clean up while teaching them writing, math, reading, and science.
- Reading/Writing: Ask your kids to make a list of what’s in the pantry and refrigerator. Then, have them look through cookbooks or online recipes sites to find meals and snacks that use up what is on hand. Have them share their breakfast, lunch, or dinner meal ideas.
- Math: Find math in measuring spoons and cups, counting out numbers of ingredients, taking stock of pantry items, or planning the time it will take to prepare, cook, eat, and clean up a meal.
- Science: Get kids involved in baking bread, cooking an egg, or creating a homemade salad dressing—then, search the internet to discover the science behind why ingredients change when they are combined, heated, or blended
The healthiest meals emphasize whole grains, vegetables, and fruits—serve them in the greatest amounts. Meat portions should be smaller. This will save money and help keep dietary saturated fat in check. Make a shopping list—and use it! You’ll be less like to forget items or buy impulse items.
Stock up on nutrition-packed foods that will stay fresh for a week or longer.
- Breads: Corn tortillas, whole grain English muffins, bagels, breads, wraps, frozen whole wheat waffles
- Grains: Instant oatmeal, quick cooking pasta, frozen brown rice, couscous, refrigerated pizza crust
- Fruits: Sturdy fresh fruit (apples, citrus), dried, plain frozen, canned in juice or water
- Vegetables: Sturdy fresh veggies (celery, broccoli, onions, potatoes), plain frozen, low sodium canned, sun-dried
- Sauces: Tomato pasta sauce, salsa
- Soups and broths: Canned, frozen, shelf-stable cartons
- 100% Juice: Refrigerated, frozen, canned, boxed
- Milk: Fresh, canned, shelf-stable packages
- Eggs: Fresh eggs, egg whites in cartons
- Cheese: Sliced, cubed, shredded, crumbled, grated hard cheese
- Beans/Legumes: Canned beans (black beans, chickpeas), dry beans
- Nuts and seeds: bagged, canned, nut butters
- Chicken: Frozen or canned
- Seafood: Frozen ready-to-cook fish fillets, frozen shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, and sardines
- Beef: Pre-made frozen lean ground patties or meatballs
- Flavourings: Add zing with dried herbs and spices, vinegars, mustard, hot sauce, steak sauce, lemon/lime juice, light dressings, honey, Greek yogurt
Limit purchases of tempting foods like chips, sodas, cookies, and ice cream. They’re high in empty calories and run up your grocery bill. Also, go easy on the frozen dinners—most are high in sodium, fat, and calories.
Keep costs down with economical alternatives.
Instead of buying ready-made hummus, pureed a drained can of chickpeas to make your own. Try a meatless meal, like chili with beans instead of beef. If fresh fruits and veggies are too costly, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables can provide the same nutrients as fresh produce. Best bets are plain frozen veggies and fruits. Go for low sodium canned veggies and fruits canned in juice or water. If these are in short supply, buy regular canned fruits and veggies—drain and rinse before use.
Try online shopping.
This will save you time and let you keep your social distance. Be sure to plan ahead since many stores need a day or two from order to delivery or pickup.
While at the supermarket during the Coronavirus pandemic…
- Use a disinfecting wipe to wipe your hands and grocery cart handle, then put the wipe in the trash.
- Prepared for the unexpected. Supermarkets are running low on many items. Be ready with a back-up plan if an ingredient you need is unavailable.
- Think about friends and neighbors, especially older adults or those with health conditions. Could you save them a trip to the grocery store?
- Keep the less fortunate in mind. If you’re able, contribute to local pantries and soup kitchens now. Then, when this is all over, donate extra food you stocked up on that is still fresh and safe to eat.
- Use contactless payment or credit cards. If you use the payment keypad, tap the buttons and screen with your knuckle—then use hand sanitizer after completing your payment.
For further grocery tips for shopping during COVID-19, click here.
Whether it’s homemade or takeout, eating more meals at home is a new routine for many families. Keep the stress down by making mealtime fun.
- Get the family involved: Kids can help set the table, pour the water, make the salad, or grate the cheese. Make mealtimes a family affair.
- Try some new recipes: If you’ve never made homemade pizza, roasted a whole chicken, or cooked meatballs from scratch—now is a good time to try! There are lots of great recipes on the internet. Look for those that call for only a few ingredients and use common kitchen tools.
- Reconnect with the family: Eat together at the table or spread a blanket on the floor and have an indoor picnic. Be sure to separate mealtime and TV time—watching while eating makes it too easy to pay attention to TV and not your food, so you are likely to overeat. Wonder what to talk about at mealtime? Chat about things you will do this summer, tell jokes—just keep the conversation upbeat and fun.
5. Unplug a bit and don’t obsess.
With a 24/7 news cycle, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by watching the news and checking for updates on the situation surrounding COVID-19. It’s important to stay informed but try not to obsess. Instead of having the news on all day in the background while at home, check in periodically—once in the morning and once at night.
6. Keep busy.
This can take many forms, including those discussed above. Exercise, reading, creative activities, yoga, gardening… all of these are great ways to keep busy while still practicing physical and social distancing.
7. Practice positivity and gratitude.
Take a step back and focus on the positive. Reserving five minutes each day to write down things you’re grateful for can lower stress levels and create a positive mindset. During a period of quarantine or social distancing, build time into your routine to practice positivity or express gratitude.
Psychologists say the one thing most associated with emotional resilience is social connection and support. So, reach out to that friend who’s struggling, get your friends together virtually over Zoom, and check on your neighbors. Nothing beats doing something nice for others. And these days, we’ll take all the good news stories we can!
In the midst of all this uncertainty I see opportunities for connection, courage, growth and compassion. I believe inspiring each other and feeling connected with one another will help us get through this together. Just knowing we are not alone in our feelings or struggles can be a big comfort.