Tips for a Healthy and Safe Return to “Normal”
“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,” says the great American song by composer George Gershwin. And this year, after spending 18 months or so in relative isolation, people from coast to coast are striving to get back to that carefree state-of-mind. From baseball games to backyard barbeques, block parties to picnics in the park, people are reclaiming former warm weather traditions that were all but abandoned last summer, victims of the coronavirus. But as with your approach to a swimming pool—a dip of the toe or a cannonball jump—everyone is finding their own way to return to normal.
While some are embracing re-entry full on, others find that the idea of socializing again is bringing new stress. One survey revealed that nearly half of vaccinated adults are reluctant to return to in-person interactions right now. In fact, this hesitation affects so many that experts have given the phenomenon a name: re-entry anxiety or cave syndrome.
At Capital Caring Health (CCH), our goal is to help you live the best life possible, at every stage and under every circumstance. So as we all emerge to a new and still evolving post-pandemic life, we offer some tips to make this a healthy and enjoyable summer. There’s no need to jump in the deep end right away—unless you really want to!
Reduce New Stress and Old
There’s no escaping it: modern life is stressful, made worse by the pandemic and restrictions that went along with it. Experts suggest one way to reduce your stress and feel safe with the “new normal” is to identify your boundaries, determine what activities you are comfortable with, and then relay that information to others.
Our advice below covers a few of the factors known to help reduce stress and promote better physical and mental health.
Stay Socially Connected
The pandemic tested our creativity, sense of community, and technology skills as families and friends tried numerous and new ways to stay in touch. If you are not yet comfortable with in-person gatherings, continue using Zoom, make phone calls, send email and texts. Make socializing a daily habit and spend at least 15 minutes connecting with someone, whether a family member, friend, or neighbor—especially if you are a senior living alone.
If you developed new friendships online and want to stay in touch, let people know you’d like to continue. They may also be delaying in-person interactions for now. And with warm summertime weather you can safely socialize outdoors. Take advantage of it while you can to meet up in nearby parks, or attend outdoor concerts, for instance.
Follow Healthy Habits—Sleep, Diet and Exercise
Whether you maintained good habits during the pandemic or not, now’s the time to get quality sleep, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and enjoy the great outdoors.
Ensure Quality Sleep
Stress from the pandemic may have disturbed your sleep, resulting in insomnia or sleeping too much. Getting proper sleep is about its quality as well as the right number of hours. Without both, you run a greater risk of developing or worsening heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, depression, and more.
The best sleep calls for a ritual—a regular schedule of when you go to bed and get up, a dark room, and no phone or other blue light-emitting devices nearby. You’ll also improve your chance of quality sleep by not eating or drinking caffeine or alcohol too close to bedtime.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Forget the “Freshman 15.” During COVID, the majority of Americans gained unwanted weight, tipping the scales at an average of 29 more pounds than in pre-pandemic days. Stress, boredom—and proximity to the refrigerator all day, every day—all played a role in America’s expanding waistlines. Alcohol consumption also rose sharply during the same period, especially among women.
Eating a balanced diet including fruit and vegetables helps maintain your health, energy, and outlook. Conversely, an unhealthy diet and too much alcohol can actually make stress and depression worse. You don’t have to give up potato salad and brownies at the next picnic; just consume in moderation!
Given the requirements to stay at home, sitting may have been last year’s most popular pastime. However, if exercise was a habit, you probably found it did a great job at reducing stress and improving your mood.
It doesn’t require a lot of exercise to reap the rewards. Even with a chronic illness and limitations, most conditions benefit from some type of exercise. Depending on your ability, try seated exercise or yoga, or take a walk or bike ride. Doing these activities in nature—or just being outside—is even better as it brings additional healthy results. If you’d like to add safe socializing to the mix, try your hand at gentle outdoor summer “sports,” such as croquet, horseshoes, or lawn bowling.
Facing the Future
It’s hard to capture just how many things about daily life have changed during the pandemic, often for the worse, unfortunately. Yet, the time spent at home also offered many a chance to consider what really matters to them and to set priorities moving forward.
Our tips for healthy living are sound any time of the year, but this summer offers a chance to do a reset. Make time to continue or establish healthy habits and move on from bad ones you may have developed over the past year.
Lastly, while most of our tips can be followed on your own or with family members, Capital Caring Health can help if need be. Through our Primary Care at Home (PCH) program, we can provide nutritional counseling, arrange for the preparation and delivery of healthy meals, or develop an exercise regimen right for you.
At its core, PCH is designed to help you age safely in place, with a full spectrum of care and support at your fingertips. And if there comes a day when that isn’t enough, our many other programs and services can help, regardless of age or condition.
(PS: And whatever you do…no running by the pool!)