- Robert Drenning, PT, OCS,FAAOMPT
Tips to maintain your physical health..and sanity!...while social distancing
So I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there is a pandemic going on. Every time we turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or go on social media we are bombarded with all of the things we CANNOT do in order to maintain social distancing and stop the spread of COVID-19. It occurred to me this weekend that if the virus doesn’t get me, then insanity surely will. Let me explain…
First of all, social distancing is an extremely important concept and one that we must all follow to combat the spread of COVID-19...obviously. However, the consequence of this is that we are no longer able to participate in the activities that we enjoy! And this causes a lot of things to happen:
When we don’t do things that make us happy, we generally feel less happy (seems like a no-brainier, right?)
When we’re confined to our homes, we are able to get less physical activity. Exercise has been shown to release dopamine, nor-epinephrine, and serotonin....all chemicals in our brain that regulate mood. In other words, exercise makes us feel better. When we can’t exercise, we don’t feel as good because we have less of the ‘feel good’ chemicals being released
When we are less active, we burn less calories. This usually means our bodies do not need as much recovery time and therefore our quality of sleep goes down. Lack of quality sleep can cause irritability, mood changes and stress
Oh, speaking of stress, the impact that COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on our society as a whole. Many of us have lost jobs or are juggling kids at home with work. This inevitably causes stress! Everyone reading this has felt stressed at some point and knows exactly how this impacts our mood...so enough said there.
Here’s the most interesting one! Did you know that social interactions make us feel good? That’s right, interacting with other people causes oxytocin (aka the ‘love hormone’) to release dopamine in our brains. As I mentioned above, dopamine activates our pleasure and rewards centers and makes us feel good. So...when we can’t see our friends and family, chemical changes in our brain impacts our mood in a negative way!
So to summarize, if you are feeling a little depressed during social isolation, there are a lot of biological reasons why! And most importantly, you’re not alone. We’re all feeling that way to some degree. BUT, these changes and feelings are reversible! It’s more important now than ever to put an effort into maximizing your physical and mental well-being while confined at home. Here are a few tips to help:
Go for a walk outside. Yes! You are still allowed to go outside during social isolation, just keep you distance from others. Getting a fresh intake of oxygen improves energy and mood. Sunlight and vitamin-D can balance serotonin levels which helps with mood and sleep patterns. And finally, it’s a form of exercise, which makes us feel good, for the reasons mentioned above.
Keep your mind stimulated. Do regular crosswords, puzzles, reading...whatever it is that’s not sitting around and watching TV. And switch the activities up, variety is the spice of life, remember?!
Maintain a schedule. That’s right, schedules are not just for your kids! Routine helps us. Set aside specific times each day for walks, reading, etc. This will make sure the important things get done each day.
Don’t take naps. As a parent of two young kids, a nap has always been a dream of mine. But now, it’s something to avoid. Save your sleep for night time to improve overall quality. The more we sleep each night, the better we feel the next day
Try something new! There are things you can do at home that you’ve never done before, you may just have to think outside the box a bit. For me, it was a home yoga DVD. I’m not a big yoga person and flexibility has never been a gift of mine. I never could quite ‘find my center’ like the lady in the DVD was telling me to...but nonetheless it was fun to do something different and I felt so much better after!
Start an exercise program at home. There are a number of options to do basic strength and conditioning training in your home. You don’t need any equipment, and it doesn’t matter what your age or fitness levels are. If you need some guidance, we are here to help. We can do a video call with you and show you exercises to do with the things you have at home! Give us a call any time for more info
Hope you find some of this info helpful. At the very least, you can get a laugh picturing me struggling through what is supposed to be a ‘relaxation’ yoga dvd! Everybody hang in there and stay safe. If you need anything, we are here to help!