The Coronavirus, or COVID-19 continues to spread. As we older folks make lifestyle adjustments and practice social distancing in response, our challenge is to maintain our mental and physical health to combat stress. These strategies will help.
You may have heard the term “social distancing” on TV, or saw it on Facebook or Twitter. But what exactly is “Social Distancing”? The simple answer is to limit close contact with other people. If you have to go out, to go to the grocery store, or to the doctor, stay as far from other people as possible. If you have to stand in line, space yourself to about six feet apart from the people in front of you and behind you. Social distancing can also be limiting groups of people coming together t0 10, closing buildings, and cancelling events.
The information at CoronaVirus.org, a part of WhiteHouse.org website, says that older adults and people who have underlying medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease, are at greater risk for contracting COVID-19. Because we are older adults, we especially need to practice Social Distancing, even though it may be hard to do. I know I feel more alone right now than ever before in my life, but I want to be able to get through this pandemic, and be able to travel and visit with my friends and family around the country later. So. I am sitting it out at my house, avoiding going out. It’s just the right thing to do.
From NPR.org Health News From NPR:
On Monday, the White House announced new guidelines for the next two weeks, urging Americans to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people; to avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, or social visits; and not to go out to restaurants or bars.
As social distancing becomes our new way of living over at the next several weeks, it can become overwhelming. It’s not going to be easy for anyone, but I think it will be especially hard on senior citizens living alone, who depend on gathering at senior centers, or rec centers, for socialization. We all need to think about practical coping strategies while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are five things to do today to cope with this medical crisis: The following is from an article written by Wendy King, the Director of Health and Performance for Hub International and a leader in the field of healthcare communications and corporate wellness strategy. She manages HUB’s team of health and performance experts, who provide clients the strategic insight, multi-year plans, and provider resources required to create healthy, high performing organizations. You can find her blog here.
Use facts and precautions to manage your fear. The unknown can be scary and can overwhelm us. Fear can inflate negative thoughts, which leads to unhealthy stress. Ongoing stress releases hormones that get us ready for emergencies, but also severely depress our immune systems.1 Combat this fear by acting on facts, not misinformation. Look at the statistics and the real numbers of infections being reported by the Centers for Disease Control and local/national officials. You can tackle fear by facing it head-on with facts and smart precautions like handwashing, disinfecting surfaces, and social distancing.
Be smart about social and TV time. Social media platforms can cause incredible anxiety as rumors and misinformation spread on them. Limit time on social media, and don’t instigate hysteria by reposting unvetted information. Limit your children’s exposure to television news. Their perspective is different than adults’, and they will have difficulty processing the facts. Children also notice our emotional state, so try to stay calm and provide facts to help them understand the situation and how everyone can get through this together.
Get some physical exercise. Exercise your body to help keep your mind in check. In fact, aerobic exercise is as important for your head as it is for your heart. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, provide stimulation and calm, as well as counter depression and dissipate stress.2 So, take a walk, a run, or even tune in to one of the thousands of free online yoga, meditation or workout videos. Dust off your weight bench and take the laundry off the treadmill. Get on it. Use it.
Help each other. Social distancing does not mean you shouldn’t seek and give support. The upside to social media is that we truly are more connected than ever before. Find out who needs help and offer it, in a way that keeps everyone safe and cared for. Even with social distancing, you can drop off medicine or supplies to a neighbor or friend. Call your church or check in with your online groups to find out who needs a meal that can be left on their doorstep, or a prescription delivered. And of course, if you bought lots of “bulk extras,” maybe spare a few food or household items for those who weren’t able to stock up. Be creative to ensure our social distancing doesn’t lead to emotional distancing for those most in need.
Limit poor nutritional habits that weaken your immune system. One habit to curb is eating or drinking more than 100 grams (8 tbsp) of sugar a day . That much sugar reduces your white blood cells’ ability to kill germs by 40%! Also limit your alcohol intake as studies show that three or more alcoholic drinks daily is enough to suppress your immunity.
If anxiety or stress interfere with your ability to function or care for yourself or your family, seek professional help. Check in with your personal physician, contact your company-sponsored Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you have one, or call a support line like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or Crisis Text Line by texting “start” to 741-741.
You can find more official information about the Corona Virus and Social Distancing at WhiteHouse.gov and CoronaVirus.gov