Healthy-living tips for pandemic times and beyond.
Not all years are created equal; some are just harder than others, and 2020 proved that with the COVID-19 stunt it pulled. Yep, having to go through a pandemic has been rough, to say the least. But whether you’ve been working from home or worrying from home (or both), one thing has become crystal clear: we need to take better care of ourselves. Many of us think that our life expectancy is mainly due to genetics, but that’s not 100% accurate (if your Uncle Earl lived to 102, it doesn’t mean you will). Genes actually play a much smaller role than factors such as lifestyle. So, there are a few daily habits you can adopt to stack the cards in your favor. And luckily for you, we’ve listed them below since avoiding death is kinda our thing.
- Try exercise snacking to sneak in physical activity
- Get off your butt to strengthen your body
- Get your LOL on to ease chronic stress
- Prioritize self care to help reduce anxiety
- Try habit stacking to pull it all together
Try exercise snacking to sneak in physical activity
We won’t bore you with the same ol’ basic advice of “try yoga” or “try training for a 5K”. We all know we need more physical activity. What we will preach is trying a new bite-sized approach and dividing workouts into smaller more frequent sessions with exercise snacking. Making dinner? Try some calf raises while stirring your pot. Time to put that delicious bad boy in the oven? Bust out a few squats while you’re down there (after your hands are empty, obvs). Clearly, exercise snacking has nothing to do with enjoying a Snickers while riding your bike—it just means sneaking in short bursts of exercise throughout your day. And, pairing exercise snacking with something already in your routine might mean you stick with it. From sprinting up the stairs instead of taking the elevator to speed walking around the block on your way to get groceries—this extra movement can add up and could even trump a single 30-min fat-burning sesh.
Get off your butt to strengthen your body
Can you guess which of your daily habits is working overtime to lower your life expectancy? Yep, it’s sitting. From tightening and weakening your muscles to putting you at a higher risk of heart disease and some cancers, sitting is a silent killer. Simply put, our glorious bodies weren’t made to sit around all day. But keeping our butts glued to our seats has become so ingrained in our lives that most of us spend more time sitting than we do snoozing, yikes! The solution to living longer? Standing and moving around more often. It’s that simple. If you can afford it, consider investing in a standing desk. If funds are tight, you can still make this happen with some creative ingenuity. That dresser in your bedroom? Standing desk! The kitchen counter? Standing desk! Certain bookshelves will also work if they’re large enough. A lot of your home furniture has standing desk potential if you look hard enough. Once you find the perfect spot, try standing for half of your workday. And if you’re not a desk worker, getting up and out of your seat (whichever seat that may be), every hour can help reduce the harms of sedentary behavior. So shake those legs out and give your body a break from sitting. Also, we bet you were seated as you read all that, right?
Get your LOL on to ease chronic stress
You know what they say, “laughter is the best medicine.” Who can say they haven’t instantly felt better after a good chuckle? Some scientists have even said laughter is a potent endorphin-filled drug with the contagious power of a virus (shh, not that virus). From reducing stress hormones like cortisol to strengthening the immune system by boosting the number of antibody-producing cells to helping us form strong social bonds, the stress-relieving effects of laughter are endless. As weird as it may feel, try keeping track of how much you laugh over a week or so, and also note the cause. Trust us on this. Just do it the same way you’d count how many glasses of water you drink. Once you know your patterns, you can start taking practical steps to laugh more. So try upping your weekly giggle count by scheduling in some Netflix comedy nights or rounding up friends for laughter-filled online Pictionary sessions. The endorphins you get will lift your mood and kick those pandemic blues straight to the curb.
Prioritize self care to help reduce anxiety
From staying out dancing ’til 4 a.m. to saying yes to every social invitation ‘cos FOMO—our pre-pandemic routines clearly weren’t the healthiest. But life is different now, which means our routines should be too. Do yourself a favor and start setting daily practices rooted in self-care. Morning routines, in particular, are powerful in reducing anxiety and can set the pattern for the rest of your day. Spending some time meditating, or even waking up 30 mins earlier may help your mornings feel less frazzled. On a related note, paying attention to your circadian rhythm by sticking to a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule can work wonders for your energy levels. Once you’ve nailed mornings, you could add a nightly relaxing bath or shower to help you decompress. Wanna make your workweek feel less chaotic? Try taking some work calls in your PJs while playing Schitt’s Creek in the background. Remember, taking care of mental and physical health is no longer a luxury for those who have the time—it’s an essential part of maintaining sanity, improving health, and reducing anxiety in these crazy times.
Try habit stacking to pull it all together
Know what teeny tiny hack can help improve your overall health? Habit stacking. And no, we don’t mean laundry day at your local monastery (sorry, nuns). Habit stacking is taking several small habits and putting them all together in one time slot. It’s a simple way to make your activities automatic. The way this hack works is through triggers as each thing you do triggers your brain’s desire to do the next. To visualize this, think about your current habits and how they’re all connected. For example, your brain is probably awesome at reminding you to take a shower every morning, right? After that, it might nudge you to take your dog out for a walk and then do whatever you usually do during your morning routine. Essentially, each habit is stacked on top of a previous one. Now try applying that same formula to these healthy habits. For example, try starting your morning off with some mindful meditation. After that, move onto some exercise snacking while making breakfast. After that, spend an hour at your standing desk, and so on and so on. If you keep at it and regularly do the same things together, the habits will become engrained (thanks, brain). Best of all, unlike us, habit stacking doesn’t have a circadian rhythm, so you can practice it at any time, day or night!