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Keeping your family healthy during the pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing people into isolation, it’s a good time to take stock of the emotional and physical health of your family. Integrating a few simple habits can improve their wellbeing, as well as your own.

“Now’s an unprecedented time, so it’s important to think of the ways we can protect the ones we love while maintaining our sanity,” says Tiffany Lowe-Payne, DO, a board-certified osteopathic physician with a special interest in stress management. “An event like this that pulls you into your home—with a lot of time to think and process and go over different things—it can bring up a lot of feelings.”

Here are some tips for you to help keep yourself and your family whole-body healthy during the time of COVID-19.

Acknowledge a sense of loss

First, Dr. Lowe-Payne says, is it’s OK to feel a sense of loss right now, even if you’re healthy.

“Many people are feeling a loss of freedom,” she says. “Some have experienced health declines, and we’re all managing a period of uncertainty. It can produce many symptoms you’d see in the grieving process.”

Reframe the situation

Considering the sense of loss people are feeling, Dr. Lowe-Payne explains that it may be helpful to think of what can be gained by our changed living circumstances instead of what is lost.

“Many of us get caught up in the hustle and bustle, but now we are home much more often,” she says. “If you have time, cook, and try to meal prep. Make food for yourself or someone you love.”

With restaurants otherwise closed, this pandemic affords an opportunity to take care of, and connect with on an emotional level, family.

Cooking is an easy and fun way to get children and your parents involved, if they’re able to help.

“This is a wonderful time to share recipes, to talk, to laugh,” she says. “All of which will help in the kitchen and lower stress.”

Eat well, together

Though it can beneficial to support your local restaurants through this period of economic uncertainty, it’s also important to be mindful of what you and your family are eating.

“Nourishing meals create an environment where loved ones feel healthy and safe,” she says.

For parents who are older and at higher risk, going to the grocery store can be a stressful task. Dr. Lowe-Payne suggests dropping prepared food or groceries off, helping manage a subscription service, or making them something and leaving it on their doorstep.

Use a video app while eating. Sharing a meal virtually with family is a wonderful way to enjoy the food together, she says.

Dr. Lowe-Payne recommends choosing non-sugary foods that are rich in nutrients and whole grains like couscous and quinoa. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins that can help boost the immune system, she notes.

Encourage movement

Exercise remains important, but you may have to get creative. Fortunately, social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t be active.

“Walking is still one of the best ways to exercise. It’s good physical health, and a change of scenery can provide a much-needed mental boost,” says the doctor.

She suggests gardening, stairs, and dancing as other easy at-home exercises. Additionally, many companies are offering free access to online workouts, enabling activities that the whole family can do together even if they are in different locations.

Talk with your parents

The lack of control can be anxiety-provoking, which can, in turn, cause tempers to flare more readily.

It’s important for family members—old and young—to understand that each person will feel differently about the difficult situation society finds itself in. It’s best to own those feelings and talk through them, lest family members find themselves withdrawn.

Signs of stress include sleeping a lot or not at all, as well as a change in appetite.

During this period of physical distance, we don’t want our parents and loved ones to feel alone, Dr. Lowe-Payne says. For this reason, it’s essential to check in regularly.

“In this unprecedented time, as we look at our families and we look at how to best care for them, most people just want to know they’re remembered. They want to know they’re not forgotten. Letting them know we’re thinking of them, that goes a long way,” Dr. Lowe-Payne says.

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