By AnneCherise Jensen, Photos by Micheal Rios
Oftentimes people use the excuse, “I just don’t have enough time” when it comes to achieving goals. Important goals like getting enough exercise, eating healthy and cooking nutritious meals are often put aside. Fortunately, during these unprecedented times, we have been blessed with an abundance of time to tackle these goals firsthand. Though we are not able to control things like our jobs and the economy, we can control our health by practicing preventative lifestyle choices.
For anyone reading this article, I challenge you to spend a couple hours a day practicing and developing healthy habits that will benefit you and your household. Not only will you feel better physically, but chances are you will feel better mentally as well. The best way to start, is to set small, tangible goals. Try one new habit every day. The more you do them, the easier and more natural they become.
In order to obtain and tackle goals, we must set in motion actions of self-discipline. Self-discipline is the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it. However, this can often be the most challenging process. The upside is once you start to slowly tackle your goals, it tends to get easier and easier. With trial, error and repetition, proactive healthy lifestyle choices will eventually become habits. Taking accountability for your actions, understanding failures are inevitable, and having the courage to stand back up again is a huge part of the process. Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself. If you can, find a support group of friends and family who will encourage you along the way. Encouragement from loved ones will help keep you motivated and accountable. Remember, you CAN do this!
Regular Sleep Schedule
A regular sleep schedule is extremely beneficial to our overall health. The CDC recommends 7-10 hours of sleep per night for adults. Even though staying up late and oversleeping can be tempting during this time, it is also a slippery slope to feelings of anxiety and depression. A poor sleep schedule could lead to unwanted weight gain, increased sedentary behavior, and unwanted hormonal imbalances. Sleeping while it is dark out helps keep us on our natural, rhythmic, hormonal sleep schedule. For best sleep, put electronic screens down 60 minutes before bed and stretch for at least 15 minutes before lying down. Experimenting with a variety of essential oils / oil diffuser can also help create a calm and peaceful night’s rest. I personally like to put peppermint and eucalyptus oil on my forehead before going to bed, it helps me get a solid night’s rest.
Organized Clean Spaces
Cleaning your home is a great way to stay busy and optimistic during the quarantine closure. Not only that, but it can help ease feelings of depression and anxiety. Personally, it is a great way to help me destress. Having a clean space is a key to inviting a happy, peaceful and calm atmosphere into the home. It is important at this time, we are also keeping our homes as germ free as possible. We want to limit germ and viral interactions as much as possible to prevent illness. I challenge you to spend at least 30-60 minutes a day cleaning and/or organizing your home.
Three Nutritious Meals a Day
Now is the perfect time to pass on cooking skills to your children and loved ones. Practice making family meals together at home. Have meaningful conversations at the dinner table. Share favorite recipes with friends and family, it’s a great way to stay connected. Try making twice the amount of portions so you have leftovers for the next day. Practice finding the perfect balance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, dairy and healthy fats. For more details on a healthy diet, check out ChooseMyPlate.gov for USDA guidelines.
Fresh Air + Sunshine
Opt outside! Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine while getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Many of us who live in Washington State tend to have a Vitamin D deficiency. Now more than ever is the perfect time to soak up all the extra sunshine and replenish those low levels. Vitamin D/sunshine is great for mental clarity, healthy skin, and strengthening our bones. Though many local parks and trails are closed, we are free to explore areas in nearby neighborhoods. Take a walk in the woods, explore nearby beaches that are open, and remember to stay six feet away from others.
Physical activity really is the best medicine! Physical activity helps boost the feel good hormones in our brain, helping us feel more content and happy. Physical activity can also help us sleep better while preventing us from a wide variety of chronic diseases. The CDC recommends 150 minutes a week of brisk physical activity and at least two days a week of activities that strengthen muscles. Activities you could do at home include going on a walk, gardening, foraging, playing with your kids, home improvement projects, online fitness classes, yoga, walking your dog and even organizing/deep cleaning can count! If interested in online fitness classes, check out the YMCA online page for a wide variety of classes, from easy to moderate levels. www.ymca360.org/
Limit Sweets, Salts, Alcohol, Processed & Fast Foods
Too much of these foods can make us feel tired, groggy and even grumpy. Excessive amounts of sugar, salt, alcohol and unhealthy fats are bad for our health. Too much of these things could lead to weight gain, Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, stroke and certain types of cancers. With the Covid-19 virus lingering, it’s important we limit these foods as much as possible to help keep our immune system healthy and strong. Our bodies are more resilient to disease when we feed them properly.
Drink Lots of Water
Getting enough water every day is very important to our overall health. The CDC recommends we drink at least 8 cups (½ gallon) of water per day. Water is the healthiest beverage choice for many reasons. It helps eliminate toxins and unwanted bio waste lingering in organs. Water helps regulate the digestive system, lubricate the joints, regulate blood sugar, lowers body temperature when needed, maintains electrolyte balance and boosts overall energy. Try drinking at least one 1-2 cups of water with every meal to help keep yourself hydrated.
Limit Screen Time
The average person generally consumes 7-9 hours’ worth of screen time per day. However, the CDC recommends only 1-2 hours of screen time per day for teens and adults. Though it can be hard for many individuals working at home, try putting your phones and electronic devices down as often as you can. Go outside and play, have a picnic, read a book, play a board game, or practice your favorite hobby instead. It’s good for the brain.
Be Kind + Positive
Practice gratitude, forgive, use positive language, encourage others, be intentional with your time. Share love, be loved and use loving words. These are scary times, the more joy and happiness we share with others, the easier we can all get through this TOGETHER!
Again, if you aren’t already, I challenge you to fill your days with as many of these healthy lifestyle habits as possible. I promise, you won’t regret it. If you would like help setting up healthy habits, need assistance with healthy recipe ideas, or would like some words of encouragement at this time, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I am available Monday through Friday, 9am–5pm.
**This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.