Tips to make any COVID-19 quarantine more bearable


March 18, 2020

Centers for Disease Control

Reports of empty store shelves have been racking the nation almost as much as all the other COVID-19 updates. Some of the stockpiling comes from people being generally anxious and proactive, but it's also a result of various organizations mandating employees to self-quarantine.

"How I behave affects your health," said Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Cuomo Prime Time. "And how you behave affects mine. On the Friday night program, he encouraged people to practice social distancing and also stockpiling, but was careful to emphasize reasonable practice of both. "Social distancing should not mean social isolation," he said. He also emphasized that excessive stockpiling isn't good either because it has the potential to negatively affect others in the community.

So, while you're social distancing, and if you have to self-quarantine, here are some health and wellness tips.

When cooking, wash your hands constantly. That means more than just before you cook and before you eat, but also after touching any meat, seafood, or eggs.

Hand washing and surface disinfection is also important if you do leave your house, for instance if you go to the gym. The coronavirus isn't transmitted through sweat, but if someone were to have coughed or sneezed on equipment and you touched your face, you could be in trouble.

But if you're nervous about leaving your house, you ought to be prepared both in terms of supplies and resources for keeping yourself busy.

First, the food--Harvard recommends keeping a 14-30 day supply of both nonperishable food and prescription medication.

Some staples to have on hand are:

  • Frozen or canned vegetables
  • Beans and lentils
  • Frozen berries
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Salsa
  • Whole grains (they're cheaper when you buy in bulk)
  • Olive Oil
  • Honey
  • Pickles, or any fermented food because they help with gut health and some say stress relief

Now with that list of staple foods, there are a number of ways you can prepare it. It's important to portion in advance and meal prep while possible; this is because improper storage or preparation can actually ruin the food. For instance, the "bacterial hot zone" is when food is most vulnerable to being compromised by germs. Unfortunately, since this hot zone is between 41-135 degrees fahrenheit, that means that most room temperatures are included, so you shouldn't leave food out for too long at room temperature.

Similarly, when reheating leftovers, it's risky to reheat food multiple times - that's where the portions come into play. When storing food, try using smaller containers--this also helps the food cool down faster before putting cooked food in the fridge. When food goes from hot to cold, it's a prime time for food to go bad.

But what about preparing food? There are lots of ways to prep it to use food to its higher potential. Roasting vegetables can make slightly wilted ones crisp and flavorful, and a stir fry is a great way to clean out the fridge. The same goes with salads--both dishes are versatile and can even be made into wraps the next day.

Lots of popular magazines and online cooking channels have specific recipes for "struggle meals," which are thrifty recipes where people make the most of the (often limited) ingredients at hand. The popular online channel Tastemade has a YouTube series called "Struggle Meals" and the "Washington Post's" YouTube channel has a coronavirus playlist that even has a new "Quarantine Cooking Show."

But health and wellness extends past just food and includes both physical and mental exercises. As inconvenient as a quarantine may be, it has the potential to be a very beneficial brain break and mental reset.

Even though you may be cooped up, exercise is still really important, and there are many online resources for the most casual to the most avid athlete. For example, if yoga is your thing, there are lots of online yogis with free classes. One is Yoga with Kassandra-- her channel is great because of the variety of classes she has--some are as short as ten minutes or as long as an hour, with videos focused on strength, flexibility and even relaxation.

Many online magazines also have great resources for workouts. If you like the feel of a trainer, Shape Magazine, has a list of its ten favorite workout videos. But Men's Health, Women's Health and even Cosmopolitan all have a variety of exercise regimens to try. Physical exertion is important not only for physical health, but mental health as well. The activity releases endorphins which help boost all around wellness.

On the more mental and emotional side of self care--breathing exercises, sleep, coloring, journaling and meditation have all been shown to help relieve stress. There are a variety of online meditations across the internet, but if you remember author Jim Ringel from last week, he has a free seven-day meditation to download on his homepage that's worth checking out.

Quarantines may be scary, but there are so many resources that can help you through them. For more information and tips for managing anxiety and stress during the outbreak, visit the CDC's Mental Health and Coping Page


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