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How to Maintain Physical and Mental Health While in Quarantine
At this point, everyone already knows that 2020 was a very tough year. The world greeted the year 2020 with high hopes, but the optimism was soon dampened by the emergence of the virus now known as SARS-CoV-2 in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of China. Identified as the virus responsible for COVID-19, this coronavirus and its variants such as delta and omicron are responsible for over 660 million cases of infection and over 6.7 million deaths to date (World Health Organization, 2023). The drastic impact of the virus in the early days of the pandemic brought the world to a standstill. With no known cure and a vaccine yet to be developed, governments imposed widespread lockdowns that disrupted life. It prevented millions from going to school and work, disrupted global supply chains, and ravaged the global economy.
The pandemic may be in its latter stages, thanks to the deployment of safe COVID-19 vaccines. Hence, governments around the globe have taken steps to reclaim a sense of normalcy in a world with COVID-19 . But the ordeal certainly left many invaluable lessons, and one of these is the need to prioritize health in face of prolonged quarantines. As many would recall, entire populations were made to stay at home for weeks or even months in order to slow the rate of infection. Working from home became the norm but it came with its own drawbacks. Most countries no longer impose lockdowns, but there is no telling when a quarantine would be necessary again, especially since climate change and environmental degradation are likely to increase the risk of epidemics and pandemics. The prospect of quarantines in the future highlights the need to learn how to maintain overall health in face of limited socialization and mobility.
The Drawbacks of Quarantine
While working from home due to quarantine may seem easier than commuting to workplaces every day, it is not without its challenges. Prolonged isolation has been associated with a number of health effects, from decreased physical health to psychological distress. Effects of quarantine on mental health include boredom, anger, confusion, frustration, sadness, anxiety, decreased motivation, irritability, and emotional exhaustion (Rubin & Wessely, 2020). Going through quarantine may be more difficult for those diagnosed with mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder and depression (de Lima et al., 2020).
Apart from causing psychological distress, quarantine adversely affects physical health. The inability to go out means that people are less physically active. People are unable to engage in routine exercises that require wide open spaces like walking, jogging, cycling, and playing sports. Moreover, living in small tight spaces means there is less ventilation and exposure to sunlight (Chtourou et al., 2020). All of these mental and physical effects ultimately lead to lowered health status. With countless people now familiar with the effects of prolonged quarantine, many have asked how physical and mental health can be maintained. In this piece, we look at some of the effective ways to maintain physical and mental health while working from home.
Maintaining Physical Health
Employees and students alike are at risk for the negative effects of quarantine, especially now that more and more universities are implementing online courses to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. If you are one of them, you may be wondering how you can stay physically healthy if you are stuck at home. We came up with a list of simple and practical tips for maintaining your physical health. In fact, they are not much different from the things you can do to minimize college stress.
- Eat a balanced diet. One of the best things you can do to stay physically healthy is to eat a balanced diet. This means eating your recommended daily intake of the major food groups. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, in particular, will give you the nutrients that boost the immune system. Eating a balanced diet has also been associated with improved mental health. Consuming healthy food while limiting the intake of unhealthy food promotes a sense of wellness.
- Exercise at home. Trying to find the opportunity to exercise may be a little trickier when you are under quarantine and working from home. It does not help that gyms and sports facilities are closed and the streets are off-limits. But if you have equipment at home, you can do your exercise routine during your free time. Even if you have no equipment, the internet is filled with tutorials of easy exercises and routines that do not require equipment and wide spaces. Regular exercise benefits health by keeping the body in shape and reducing the risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and coronary artery disease . Studies also show that regular exercise lessens stress and promotes positive emotions by encouraging the release of hormones that regulate emotions.
- Maintain personal care. Just because you do not have to go anywhere for months does not mean you should skip your personal care routine. Keep your routine despite working or studying from home. This will give you that vibe that you are to accomplish something for today like you did before the pandemic. Take a shower, brush your teeth, and wear clothes that give off that "game on" energy before you sit down on your work or study space. This will help transition your body from any lethargic tendencies you took with you from your sleep. That feeling of being fresh and energetic will go a long way in maintaining your physical wellness.
- Get enough sleep. It can be tempting to stay up late at night when you are working from home. After all, you get to have more time for yourself since you do not have to spend time getting ready or commuting to work. But do not yield to this temptation. Lack of sleep and an irregular sleeping pattern are both associated with decreased health. Establish a regular sleeping pattern and make sure you get enough sleep every night since these have been shown to improve health.
- Take a quiet time. Many people underestimate the power of meditation. In fact, there is no need to roll down a yoga mat to do this. You can maintain your personal quiet time by simply clearing your mind and focusing on one point such as your breathing as you water your plants or as you make your bed upon waking up. This moment will do wonders to your physical health as meditation is known to provide many benefits to the body such as stabilizing your blood pressure. Also, this quiet time can reduce your stress significantly. Stress brings a lot of problems not just to your physical body, but also to your overall health. Those few minutes of peace and quiet should be your first step to maintaining your overall wellness.
The good thing about these tips is that you probably have already been doing these even before COVID-19 emerged. Eating a balanced diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep are all ideal practices regardless of whether there is a pandemic. Take these basic tips to heart and add your personal favorites such as your usual workout. Even cooking can be good exercise for you. Now is the time to explore your hidden talents.
Maintaining Mental Health
While maintaining your physical health while working from home involves familiar tips like exercising and eating healthy food, taking care of your mental health can be more difficult. Most people have no prior experience of working from home due to being under quarantine. Hence, prolonged isolation can take a toll on a person’s mental health. Some of the tips for maintaining mental health are discussed below.
- Draw a line between work and personal life. One of the problems with working from home is it sometimes blurs the line between your working hours and your personal time. For example, people with output-based jobs or flexible working hours may put off working. But procrastinating causes more trouble, since it means they end up spending more time working than necessary. Draw a clear line between these two aspects of your life. Create a schedule and stick to it. By keeping work separate from your personal time, you will avoid the stress of feeling like you are spending your entire day working.
- Switch off your work communication lines. Similar to keeping working hours and personal time separate, switching off your work communication lines will help reduce stress. Employees are sometimes under the impression that they need to be available 24 hours a day. But this can cause a lot of stress, as being contacted even during your days off or resting hours disrupts your routine. Remember that just because you are always at home due to the pandemic does not mean you are available all the time.
- Limit your exposure to the news. Staying updated with the latest information on current events is important. After all, you need to know the latest developments as part of your strategy for dealing with a crisis. However, studies show that excessive exposure to the news can cause a lot of stress. Being bombarded by news on the pandemic can aggravate feelings of fear, frustration, and powerlessness. Limit your exposure to news updates to a tolerable period. This way you can stay aware of what is happening around you without feeling like you are being suffocated by all the bad news.
- Connect with family and friends. The prolonged quarantine can take a toll on your mental health as it prevents you from socializing with others. The sense of loneliness and isolation can become unbearable for many and lead to depression. Setting aside some time to socialize with friends and family can lessen loneliness and isolation. Simple acts like exchanging emails, chatting, or video calls can provide warmth, comfort, and support at a time when mobility is limited.
- Talk to counselors who offer free services. Talking to counselors is another way to ease the negative impact of the pandemic on your mental health. Organizations that promote mental health are aware that their services are more important now than ever before. They are ready to provide free counseling to those who need it. If you feel like the mental health toll is too much, do not hesitate to call counselors to receive the support you need.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Make sure that you leave time for relaxation. Do not feel pressured to spend your time being productive. Cleaning, organizing, and fixing broken items at home can wait. Sometimes, the time you spend doing nothing may prove to be the rest that your mind and body require. So go ahead and do the things you find most relaxing, whether it is an hour of meditation and reflection, doing some yoga, lighting up scented candles for aromatherapy, or simply taking a long warm bath.
- Seek professional services. Many people who work from home also study at the same time. Torn between working, studying, and the added stress of being caught in the middle of a pandemic, you might feel as if you are drowning in all these responsibilities. Fortunately, there are companies that can help you out. For example, you can hire a professional writer to complete some of your writing tasks. You can have some peace of mind knowing that a professional writer is handling the job.
You can easily avoid numerous physical and mental health problems, including the risk of acquiring the virus, by taking these easy and simple tips. But maintaining these healthy habits does not give you a shield against COVID-19. We are asked to stay at home for a reason. If it is not necessary, just enjoy this time of being in the comfort of your home.
The emergence of COVID-19 certainly turned the world upside down. While the world is emerging from this crisis, there is no telling when a quarantine might become necessary again. But the good thing is our experience with COVID-19 made us more resilient. We now know that there are ways to stay healthy even when we are required to stay home. These include more practical approaches like eating a balanced meal and exercising. Some are more intuitive measures like taking the time to relax and connecting with loved ones. Knowing the ways to stay healthy is vital to staying afloat in these challenging times.
Chtourou, H., Trabelsi, K., H’mida, C., Boukhris, O., Glenn, J. M., Brach, M., Bentlage, E., Bott, N., Shephard, R. J., Ammar, A., & Bragazzi, N. L. (2020). Staying physically active during the quarantine and self-isolation period for controlling and mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic overview of the literature. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1708. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01708
de Lima, C. V. C., Candido, E. L., da Silva, Albuquerque, L. V., Soares, L. D. M., do Nascimento, M. M., de Oliveira, S. A., & Neto, M. L. R. (2020). Effects of quarantine on mental health of populations affected by Covid-19. Journal of Affective Disorders, 275(1), 253-254. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.06.063
Rubin, G.J., Wessely S. (2020). The psychological effects of quarantining a city. British Medical Journal, 368, m313 doi:10.1136/bmj.m313
World Health Organization. (2023). WHO coronavirus (COVID-19) dashboard. https://covid19.who.int/
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