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Key Dimensions of Health and Wellness

As the world emerges from a pandemic and we attempt to renew some semblance of normality, we are forced to assess what we have achieved during the long periods of lockdown and isolation.

Rather than focus on the negative aspects of our privations, we should instead look forward, using the return to ordinary life as an opportunity to revisit our own health and wellbeing in general.

Here are some sobering statistics about the pandemic:

  • 47% of children aged 9-13 and 27% between 5 and 8yo exercised much less than usual.
  • 40% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic.
  • 55% increase of alcohol sales in US during lockdown.
  • 27% of people reported an increase in snacking.
  • 24% of survey respondents said they often suffered loneliness during lockdown.

It’s evident that there have been a host of mental and physical health costs to social distancing and lockdown.  What can we learn from this unique experience?  How do we escape the negative and ongoing consequences?

Five Aspects of Wellbeing

There are five aspects we might pay attention to, five areas in which we can achieve improvement in our lives:

  • Maintaining an Active Lifestyle, through passive behaviors and proactive exercise.
  • Eating Healthily with more home cooked food and a better proportion of nutrients.
  • Looking After Mental Health, with therapy, physician support and medication.
  • Maintaining Social Life, making sure friendships and family relationships are strengthened.
  • Sleeping Better – trying to get at least seven hours sleep per night.

What recommendations might we make for each of these aspects of a healthy life?

Maintaining an Active Lifestyle

There is a much-reduced risk of catching coronavirus when exercising outdoors.  CDC’s website advises that safe exercise options include running, walking and biking on local roads and trails.

The American Heart Association recommends the following:

  • At least 150 minutes per week of moderately vigorous exercise OR
  • At least 75 minutes per week of high intensity aerobic activity.

150 minutes may appear a significant amount of exercise to implement but it’s a little over twenty minutes per day, which could include a brisk walk to a grocery store or around the block.

 

Maintaining an Active Lifestyle Eating Healthily

The US Department of Agriculture have made the following recommendations for daily consumption of the five main food groups (all quoted figures for older children and adults only):

·        1.5 to 2.5 cups of whole fruit per day (good for natural sugars, fiber, and vitamin C).

·        2 to 4 cups of varied vegetables daily (fiber, vitamins, minerals)

·        2.5 to 5 ounces of grains (50% wholegrain) – a great way of consuming slow-burn carbs.

·        4 to 7 ounces of protein including fish, meat, nuts and pulses.

·        3 cups daily of dairy, which may include lactose-free or fortified soy options (unsaturated fat and minerals).

These are approximate recommendations.  Do consult a nutritionist or physician for more specific, tailored advice.

Looking after Mental Health

Too many Americans are obsessed with physical fitness but don’t consult a professional when they feel depressed, anxious, or lonely.  While the stigma surrounding poor mental health is reducing all the time, some sectors of society are still avoidant when it comes to discussing mental health problems.

The American Psychiatric Association reports that over half of Americans don’t receive help for their disorders.  While it can be frightening to come face to face with what is ailing you, an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan can prove hugely empowering too.  The APA reports that of those who do seek psychiatric treatment, 75% see an improvement from it.

Running, meditating, socializing with friends and other low-stress activities have been shown to improve mental health, particularly those actions promoting the release of endorphins.  These neurotransmitters act as analgesics, reducing the perception of pain. 

Addictions including drug and alcohol abuse can also be significantly reduced with the help of a medical professional.  If you feel mentally ill, do attend your local MD or mental health practitioner, who can help with talking therapies, medication, or in-patient treatment.

Maintaining Social Life

With enforced lockdowns, socializing is significantly reduced.  Phone calls and Zoom sessions don’t substitute for face-to-face contact (even when those faces are partially obscured by masks).  During the pandemic, some have combined their daily exercise regime with taking the opportunity to catch-up with a friend or family member.

Where our social lives have necessarily shrunk during the pandemic, we must learn to gradually widen them again, rebuilding those all-important social bonds.  As reported by the New York Times back in 2017, “People who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation. These, in turn, can undermine the well-being of nearly every bodily system, including the brain.”

As we re-enter the world, so we must reinvigorate our relationships, both for our own wellbeing, and for those around us.

Sleeping Better

Insomnia caused by anxiety has become a significant problem over the 13 months since the COVID-19 pandemic began.  One Canadian study identified clinically serious rates of insomnia affecting one in five adults.

Good sleep hygiene is vital if the body is to undertake its nightly repair and reboot routines.  In Matthew Walker’s seminal book “Why We Sleep”, published in 2017, he writes “Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day — Mother Nature’s best effort yet at contra-death.”

The good news is there are an increasing number of apps, herbal sleep aids and forms of meditation that can help us attain a good night’s sleep and these are low-cost and commonly available.

Here are some other helpful tips for ensuring you are healthy in mind and body during this challenging time.

Don’t Neglect Your Viral Protection Measures

One aspect of your physical wellbeing you should not neglect is to protect yourself and those around you against COVID-19.  Treatments including vaccination, testing, and screening should be considered a salve for your physical and mental wellbeing, proving peace of mind and protection.

TrueCare24 is a nationwide Health and Wellness platform for families and businesses providing end-to-end solutions for COVID-19 testing, screening, vaccination, home care, and corporate well-being.  Why not check out our available services, and help maximize your peace of mind, while doing everything you can to protect yourself and your employees during the pandemic and beyond.

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