The pandemic has significantly affected the mental and physical well-being of many people. Over the past two years, people lost their fitness routines due to gym closures and other safety concerns. And there were fewer outlets for relieving stress, like gathering with friends and family or attending other group activities. Women, especially, took on more household and child care responsibilities, which only compounded the pandemic-related stress. As you continue to adjust to the “new normal,” it is time to start rebuilding a healthy routine that works for where you are now. Achieving your health goals won’t happen overnight. Yet, these small steps will help you get back to a happier, healthier self.
Work-from-home and hybrid formats mean that you’re likely facing a lot of distractions and competing priorities throughout the day. It is okay to set boundaries between when you work, when you care for others, and when you care for yourself. Find a balance that allows you to feel in control instead of stressed out. When you set boundaries, you better communicate your needs in relationships, set healthy limits, and set time for self-care. Setting boundaries might feel selfish at first, but you have a right to live your life in a way that prioritizes your physical and mental wellbeing. It will take time for clear boundaries to form in your daily routine. Stay assertive and keep communicating your needs so others can support you better.
We all know that sitting in front of your computer all day is bad for your long-term health. Whether you’re looking to build strength or lose some unwanted pandemic weight, adding some simple exercises to your routine will begin improving your physical and mental health. If it’s been a while since you worked out, start slowly. Whether it is a twenty-minute walk or a recreational sport, the best way to motivate yourself to exercise is by engaging in something you enjoy. You might feel pressure from the number on the scale, but there are things you can do to support a positive mental attitude. “This boils down to what will resonate individually to each woman. It is not a one-size-fits-all. For example, design an environment that will continue to support your weight loss efforts. Make the cues (food, water, exercise) of good healthy habits obvious and visible,” says Sharon Johnson, IAW member with 12 years of experience in Healthcare Quality Accreditation & Practice Transformation Management. There is no one right way to start, so find a physical activity you love.
Make Eating Healthy Easier
Eating a balanced diet goes hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle. But let’s be realistic, when you’re caring for children, working, and managing a household, making healthy home-cooked meals isn’t easy. Make eating healthy easier by planning meals in advance or ordering meal prep to your door. More businesses are delivering vegan, vegetarian, keto, paleo, etc. meal prep. “In the evening, my family subscribed to HelloFresh dinner boxes to help ease cooking, and I chose healthy ingredients. Since I have food allergies, I have to be careful with my food choices. I tend to lean between vegetarian and vegan foods,” says Johnson. Also, look into contacting local farms or businesses that ship fresh produce that didn’t make market standards to your door.
Finding a Hobby
When you are drained, sometimes the best way to reduce stress is doing something you love. Hobbies can be eating, listening to music, crafting, DIY house projects, gardening, athletics, etc. It comes as no surprise that the things that make you happy make you relaxed. Try incorporating your hobbies in your daily life that help you release the annoyances of the day. Schedule it into your calendar, or spontaneously take a break. You deserve downtime!
Give Back to Others
There are lots of ways to give back to others during the pandemic that doesn’t include human interaction. Donating money to foundations, non-profits, charities, and more is a simple and easy way to give. A more budget-friendly way is to donate clothes, furniture, canned food, and more. After sitting around your house non-stop, you are probably tired of living with the same picture or furniture. Donating blood, platelets, or plasma is always a good idea for those who can. Especially donate if you have COVID-19 antibodies, as you may be saving a life. Ask your friends, family, and community what you can do to help support them best because there could be simple things you can do to support those you love.
Lean on Others
Whether it’s mental or physical health, you should never face your obstacles alone. Seeking professional medical help when needed is highly recommended. Yet, do not forget about your friends, family, and community who can also support you personally. You will realize you are not alone the more you find people with similar health goals or experiences. Comradery and solidarity are great mood boosters on those days when things feel overwhelming. Check out your IAW community to find fellow members in your area!
Getting to your dream healthy lifestyle takes time. Starting can feel overwhelming with all the things you already have on your plate. “I recommend doing a self-evaluation (self-assessment) and thinking about your Habit Loop. This feedback loop – 1.cue, 2.craving, 3.response, and 4.reward. What cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and ultimately becomes associated with the cue. Once you have identified your habit loop, then start a specific action plan. I will (behavior) at (time) in (location). Create a simple plan initially you can consistently follow. Also, take small wins so you can feel an accomplishment; then challenge yourself when you feel you are ready,” recommends Johnson.