Taking Care Of Both Physical And Mental Health During COVID-19

April 15, 2020

By Tom Fontana, PT

While only the term “physical” appears in our company name, we know that one’s mental health can have profound effects on one’s physical health, which is why we look at the whole person.

During this time of disrupted routines, more time spent at home, etc., it is easy to let go of good health practices, both physical and mental (I know I’m guilty of going to the refrigerator/pantry too often, particularly for “comfort food,” have been more indulgent with adult beverages and have struggled to maintain my workout habits). Am I that much of a creature of habit or is it just that this is all so depressing?

For your physical health (which is also good for your mental health), while staying at home, particularly with school-aged children whose schedules are also disrupted, schedule some time where you will do something physical. That may be running around with your kids, it may be doing your usual exercise routine if you’re used to working out with home exercise equipment, inventing new exercise routines with the use of inexpensive resistance bands, or just going for a walk.

For your mental health (which is also good for your physical health), the terms we use for staying apart are starting to change (and this may be terribly dated by the time you read this) as we are beginning to understand that it is “physical” distancing that needs to happen (more than 6 feet apart from strangers) rather than “social” distancing. In fact, it’s more important than ever to be socially connected. Whether that’s more time with family, visits by Skype, Facetime or other video conferencing, or, heaven forbid, that archaic technology the telephone (egads!).

While it is easy to get swept up in worry about our health and financial futures, or even daily challenges, we also mustn’t lose sight of the wonderful things we continue to take for granted and the kind acts and beauty that surround us (otherwise known as being mindful). We are not the first people to experience hardship and, as awful as things are or may become, we may have it better than many. I think about how pioneers in the 1800s survived long winters. They didn’t have a reliable, consistent source of food. They didn’t have electricity. They didn’t have clean, running water. They couldn’t flip a switch to get heat. And, maybe they had a bowl and some sticks (perhaps a harmonica?) for entertainment where our lives are filled with streaming video entertainment and music. As bad as things are, I am grateful for these things in my life.

There are things to look forward to, or things to be aware of now, that can help insulate us against the psychological cost of this virus. Especially if you go outside, be aware of how good the sun feels on your skin and how good the cool, crisp air feels in your lungs. I saw crocuses poking through the snow the other day and am aware of all the birds returning from the winter. There is beauty and rebirth all around us and we have to remember better days will come. Gravitate to news stories about the good in people—the Olympian who shopped for the 80-year-old couple, the man in Cleveland leaving a note of appreciation to his healthcare workers who cared for him while he was in isolation, the Nebraska police officer who learned his daughter’s dance routine so she could still have her “recital.” If you feel these stories are too few and far between, I recommend going to Upworthy.com, which is dedicated to positive storytelling for a little pick me up, or maybe tears of joy.

Be safe, be well and we’re looking forward to “getting physical” with you all once the pandemic clears.

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