At the beginning of lockdown, a lot of us had plenty of lofty goals on our minds, like making all of our bread from scratch, keeping up with regular virtual yoga and Pilates classes, or finally training for that marathon we might get to run one day. Many months later and with no immediate end in sight, these lofty goals have for the most part been replaced by the doldrums of everyday life. But that doesn’t make it any less important to prioritize our health and fitness goals.
Anxiety, burnout, loneliness, and depression are all common ailments in lockdown. And while we can’t snap our fingers and magically make everything go back to normal, we can take steps to address these problems in our own homes and set ourselves up to better ride out the remaining months to come. Because lockdown won’t last forever, but the changes we make for a healthier lifestyle certainly can.
Whether you’re working hard to maintain your existing positive habits or you’ve fallen behind a bit and are looking for somewhere to start, we’ve put together this list of science-backed ways to stay healthy and positive (even in the midst of a global pandemic). Pick and choose what works best for you, but don’t feel pressure to go all or nothing. Even little lifestyle changes can make a big difference, and putting in any amount of effort is always going to have its benefits.
1. Stay stocked with healthy foods
It’s not an option right now to just run out to the store whenever you need to or to meet a friend for dinner because you’re sick of cooking. And for those reasons, you need to make sure that your fridge, freezer, and pantry are stocked with healthy foods, including convenient picks for when you just don’t feel like turning on the stove but also don’t want to go right to a takeout app.
There’s a big connection between what you eat and how you feel. Diets rich in fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats are proven to boost your mood and promote happiness, and can even reduce symptoms of depression.
Meanwhile, opting for sugary, processed, refined, and fried foods can have the opposite effect, depriving you of the essential nutrients you need for better mental health and causing you to double down on feelings of anxiety and sadness.
Some quick tips for taking the guesswork out of maintaining a well-balanced quarantine diet:
- Fill your freezer with frozen fruits, veggies, seafood, and lean meats, as well as plant-based meals so you can easily eat right even when you don’t feel like putting in a ton of effort.
- Sweet tooth? Choose treats like dark chocolate and chocolate-covered dried fruits instead of traditional, overly-processed candy.
- Stock up on bulk cashews, almonds, and other types of nuts for an easy grab-and-go snack that’s full of protein, fibre, and healthy omega-3s.
It’s all about balance. Don’t feel like you need to deprive yourself, or like you can’t occasionally order a pizza or some Chinese takeout. But do eat for how you want to feel, including when it comes to things like mitigating anxiety and procrastination—both of which are major problems right now.
2. Stay active, even if it’s not your usual routine
Missing your gym? Just because you can’t work out in your preferred way doesn’t mean you have to give up on exercise entirely.
Break up your time in lockdown by engaging in activities that get you active without necessarily feeling like a standard workout, such as long daily walks with your dog or bike rides around the neighborhood (have you tried adult tricycling?). Being out in the fresh air is an excellent way to clear your head and keep your positivity up, and can go a long way toward helping you maintain a healthy lifestyle when your normal options aren’t available.
If you want to go a step further, there are options for that too. Online classes have seen a huge growth in popularity over lockdown, and because they’re virtual you can try out all sorts of workouts that you might not have previously done. Again: don’t fall into the all or nothing trap. Do your best to be active but know that a day spent lounging on the couch watching movies is totally fine too, so long as it’s not every day.
3. Stay connected
One of the very best things that you can do for your health during quarantine is to resist the urge to embrace isolation and instead make an effort to stay connected with your loved ones.
We get it, we’re all a bit sick of Zoom calls at this point. But fortunately, there are lots of other ways to keep your social circle going strong. Bundle up (and mask up) for a winter walk with a friend, play games against one another online, or just text and check in—the more you can do to stave off feelings of loneliness right now, the better off your mental health will be.
Lockdown will never feel normal, regardless of how long we spend in it. And nor should it! There’s plenty of life out there still, and we’ll be back to it soon enough. In the meantime, put your health first and use these months to develop healthy habits that you can take with you throughout 2021 and beyond. Your current self will thank you for it, and so will your future self.
Alex Sal is a business journalist and serial entrepreneur. His topics range from company culture, leadership, and growth hacking strategies and tactics.