Amidst the craziness of stockpiling hand sanitizers and soap, it can be easy to forget how much things like our diets, exercise, and emotional states can also affect our overall well-being. Every emotion concerning the current situation is valid, from feelings of loneliness and boredom to happiness and comfort. It is important that we take care of both our mental and physical health during these times. In addition to preventative measures as recommended by the CDC, it is equally important to focus on the more basic things we can all do to stay happy and healthy.
One of the most important things we can do to take care of ourselves during a global pandemic is to take care of our physical health. Eating foods rich in micronutrients is essential to keeping our immune systems healthy and functioning. Some examples are Vitamins (A,B,C…), zinc, and iron, as well as fruits and vegetables rich in micronutrients. If you aren’t getting these regularly in your diet, you might consider taking supplements to stay healthy.
Many companies such as “Instant Immunity,” GNC, Legion, and others are promoting immune-boosting supplements, with often inflated claims. However, an article from Harvard Health in 2014 suggests that these supplements be taken with precaution. The immune system is a system of many different cells that must be balanced in order to function properly. Harvard Health suggests that a supplement that increases red blood cells and other immune cells won’t necessarily make you healthier. If you have enough red blood cells, you may just end up increasing your risk of a stroke by taking these. It is critical to follow your doctor’s instructions, and only take supplements for immunity if you know you are deficient in something.
Another way of keeping your body in good health naturally is getting enough sleep and exercise. Geoff Ruth, the academic dean, shared that “every morning at sunrise I wake up and take a forty-five minute walk around my neighborhood.”
Zack Walsh ‘21 has been “trying to do two hours of exercise each day.” He does this by going on bike rides and playing basketball with his brother. Quarantine can be a good time to explore different forms of exercise, like going on walks or doing yoga.
Along with good physical health, it is just as important to take care of your mental health during such stressful times. Kaern Kreyling, school counselor, shared her concern that “there’s so many things running around about ‘mental health suggestions,’ and I think everyone’s so individual.” For her, she said, “I identify as an introvert, so being asked to stay home has been delightful. Mostly it’s been very comforting to be mandated not to go out. There’s an element of relief in it for me.”
But it’s also clear that others experience this isolation very differently. Ruth shared that “I try to be really aware of where I’m at emotionally, so I can self-monitor what I’m projecting [onto my family] and my moods. That indirectly leads to happiness or more peace in my house.” He also said, “I try to take long, deep, breaths to lower my stress hormones and try to refocus and reground myself.”
Walsh also practices “diaphragm breathing,” which is part of the two meditation sessions that he does each day. He said that “one of them is more classic meditation, where you just sit in silence and try to monitor your thoughts. The other type is a mantra, where you say something out loud while you think.” Walsh also likes to “journal at night so I can get all those ideas out of my mind before I go to sleep, so they’re not floating around in my head.”
Kreyling also felt that “it’s [the pandemic] about how this whole thing can contribute to your own evolution and growth cycle,” and said that she is “interested in having people take responsibility for their own growth in this situation.”
It can feel difficult to be positive when all of the news seems negative. “Everyone else seems to be not happy, so me being happy seems kind of weird,” Walsh said. It is important to remember that all feelings — both positive and negative — are valid. Everyone will be impacted and change from this experience differently, so it is important to focus on where you are personally rather than comparing yourself to others.