Healthy habits to build resiliency for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic
By Yoon Hang “John” Kim, M.D.
Living with the COVID-19 pandemic for the past year has left its mark on us all.
The isolation of being in quarantine, fear of getting sick and, for many, struggling with jobs and finance, has tested our coping skills to the limit. Many people are grieving over lost loved ones. Many families and friends are not on speaking terms because of differences over their views of COVID-19, vaccinations and politics.
How well we cope and recover from these stressors, depend on our ability to bounce back during hard times. We are not born resilient, but anyone can build resiliency skills by choosing to practice a few simple, daily habits.
• Breathe: Practice simple breathing exercises such as 4-7-8. Breathe in for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds and breathe out for eight seconds. You can do this while driving to work, or waiting in line at the grocery store.
• Connect: Contact family and friends every day. This can be with a phone call or text message. Do this to connect, not because you need something.
• Sleep health: Sleep is more important to being healthy than many people realize. , Many of us now spend more time in front of a screen, which can be bad for getting a good night’s sleep. Practice good sleep habits with a bedtime routine such as bathing and stretching, or doing a breathing exercise.
• Eat healthy: Reduce the amount of processed foods you eat, such as lunchmeat and packaged foods. Processed foods contain a lot of sugar and sodium. Add fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish to your diet, even if just a few at a time.
• Get active. The restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to cut back on their activity level because of social isolation. Try different ways of exercising by doing it in a park or other roomy outdoor space. Or at home, look up a Tai Chi video online to learn some poses. Tai Chi improves balance and flexibility, and helps control anxiety and stress. Learn some basic Tai Chi movements by watching WellMed’s Tai Chi for Wellness at https://youtu.be/2pcHytpWDgY.
Finally, try this meditation practice to help you be calm, centered and at peace. During this mediation, focus on positive feelings for yourself and others, especially those with whom you may be at odds.
Get comfortable, relax and say these four sentences:
May I be happy.
May I be safe.
May I be healthy
May I be at ease.
You can then focus on your loved ones, saying their name instead of “I.” Finally, shift your focus to people who might be difficult. This may take practice, so don’t rush.
Remember, this pandemic has been stressful for everyone. You are not alone.
Yoon Hang Kim, MD is the medical director of integrative medicine for WellMed. He earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He completed a fellowship in integrative medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil, a world-renowned leader in the field of integrative medicine.
WellMed Medical Management is a physician-led health care delivery company serving more than 380,000 Medicare-eligible patients in Texas and Florida through primary care clinics, multi-specialty clinics, and contracted medical management services. Founded in 1990 by noted physician Dr. George Rapier III, the vision of the growing enterprise is to change the face of health care delivery for the nation.