The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt the physical and mental health of people around the world—including those who haven’t contracted the disease. From undesired weight gain to insomnia to increased anxiety, many people are now facing health challenges and wondering how to return to the healthy habits they had in place prior to the pandemic.
As with any goal, the keys are to clearly define your objectives and then create a plan for achieving them. Below are 10 steps you can take to get your health back on track.
Your Roadmap to Better Health
Use these proven practices and you’ll start moving your overall health in a positive direction.
1. Make appointments with your doctor as needed
During the pandemic, many people were understandably reluctant to visit their doctor. Telemedicine helped, but overall, the number of doctor visits declined. If you have a medical issue that needs to be addressed, or if you’re due for a routine health screening, it’s time to schedule an appointment.
- Drink more water
The “afternoon fade”—that lack of energy you experience in the middle-to-late afternoon—is a common trigger for unhealthy snacking, and it’s not even typically caused by hunger. In most cases, people start feeling sluggish because they’re dehydrated. Upping your water intake can help you make it from lunch to dinner without snacking.
- Set realistic dietary goals
Trying to “overhaul” your diet in just days or weeks is a strategy that’s likely to fail. Instead, ease back into more healthy eating over a longer period. The pandemic changed our eating behavior for more than a year. You should give yourself months, at least, to get back to where you were before it started.
- Keep a food diary
Mindless eating was common during the worst of the pandemic. Making a list of everything you consume is a good way to bring your focus back to a healthy diet. It can also be helpful to note how you feel after each meal. You’ll find that healthy foods keep you feeling full and energized longer.
- Get unhealthy foods out of your home
Even with a renewed focus on eating a healthy diet, having unhealthy treats readily available can be a hard temptation for you to resist. Foods that are high in sugar, fats, and salt can be particularly tempting.
Don’t Leave Your Health to Chance
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- Reduce or eliminate snacking
The food you eat between meals can have a deceptively large impact on your weight and overall health. You think it’s just a bite of this or a couple of those, but snack calories quickly add up. If you do snack, be sure you’re consuming small amounts of healthy foods.
- Set reasonable physical activity goals
Deciding to run your first marathon as a way to get back into shape after the pandemic probably isn’t a good idea. It’s much better to start slowly and build gradually. Even a short daily walk around the block will improve your fitness and prepare you for increased physical activity.
- Get different types of exercise
They say, “variety is the spice of life” and that’s true of physical activity. Varying the type of activity you get—walking today, lifting weights tomorrow, a bike rides the next day—can help you maintain your commitment to getting more physical activity.
- Revisit your sleep routine
During the pandemic, it was common for our daily schedules to be changed significantly. For example, parents whose children were being schooled at home often had to work late into the evening after the kids were in bed. In addition, time spent staring at the TV or computer screen probably was at an all-time high for many people. Take a fresh look at your schedule and try to get time away from screens for at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. It’s also helpful to clear your mind of stressful thoughts with practices like meditation or noting your concerns in a journal entry. Winding down is an important part of a good night’s sleep.
- Pay attention to your mental and emotional health
It’s often stated and certainly true that mental health is just as important as physical health. And the pandemic’s many negative impacts—from increased stress to financial issues—created many mental health burdens. It’s easy to neglect your thoughts and emotions when you’re working on getting back into shape, but there’s no reason you can’t make improvements in both areas at the same time. A good first step toward better mental health is to talk with a friend, family member, or counselor about how you’re feeling. That will help you understand what’s affecting your mental health so you can work on dealing with the causes effectively.
Talk with a Baptist Health Provider
If you need assistance in addressing the physical or mental health challenges you’re facing, Baptist Health can help. Find a provider today and make an appointment.
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