The USA is in a very different state today than it was on Memorial Day, and so are many Americans.
According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, unwanted weight changes due to pandemic stress are common: 42% of adults reported gaining weight, with an average weight gain of 15 pounds, while 18% reported unwanted weight loss. About 66% of people reported changes in their sleeping habits and 23% of respondents reported an increase in alcohol consumption.
In addition, many people have delayed routine medical and dental maintenance: think about mammograms, childhood vaccinations, and teeth cleaning. There is also a mental health pandemic that is paralleling increased drug use that also needs to be addressed.
I am a doctor and associate professor of medicine in the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University. In my role as Director of Wellness, Resilience, and Vulnerable Populations, I hear faculty and staff concerns about returning to work in the field.
The switch that was flipped to social distancing, distance learning, mask-wearing, and remote work – or no work – in March 2020 flips back almost as abruptly. With little preparation time, many people are faced with the desire to be in top form when they return to work. Resuming – or starting – healthier habits is a wonderful goal. However, trying to return to normal too quickly can put stress on your joints and heart. Here is a guide to help you get back in shape without harming yourself.
It is important to start with accepting your current state as you plan and implement changes. It may be necessary to hold two seemingly contradicting truths at the same time – a core tenet of dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT. A classic example of DBT is when a therapist tells a client, “I love you just the way you are, and I’m here to help you make the change.” The statements are contradicting and true at the same time.
This requires three steps in terms of pandemic-induced changes:
Notice the current reality like “I’m gaining 10 pounds”, “I’m drinking more than before the pandemic” or “I’m not getting enough exercise” but without a negative self-assessment.
Set realistic, measurable goals for change: “I want to lose a kilo in four weeks”, “I want to climb stairs without becoming breathless” or “I only drink alcohol when I’m out with friends”.
Create a plan to achieve these goals.
Also, wanting to take good care of yourself rather than being a certain way is an important focus. A little self-knowledge goes a long way here. People who tend to “go all in” rather than doing things incrementally need to ensure that their plans are safe by seeking professional advice from a reliable source, such as a New York Times opinion writer recently described as ” Weight Loss Profiteers “.
How does this process apply to some common pandemic-related health problems? Here are a few suggestions.
One of the most effective and “easiest but not easy” ways to normalize sleep is to be careful of your own sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene includes a distraction-free, dark and quiet place to sleep. This may require the use of a sleep mask, blackout curtains, or some white noise device, rather than a TV in the bedroom.
Even parents of very young children who find these steps unrealistic can make some changes to improve sleep, such as: B. Avoid naps, stick to a schedule, develop a routine, and physically tire yourself before bed. It also helps to have caffeinated drinks blocked and to avoid late night eating and too much alcohol.
If excessive snoring is a problem, very sleepy and dozing all day, or other unusual symptoms occur, a visit to a doctor should be part of the plan.
There are many shades in alcohol use between total abstinence and full-blown alcohol use disorder. If the goal is to completely stop drinking, it is important to be vigilant for signs of alcohol withdrawal, the severity of which can range from symptoms of a mild hangover to delirium tremens (a sudden and severe state of confusion), seizures, and delusions . The good news is that in addition to behavioral and support groups, there are now drugs that can help.
If you’re concerned, try a quick self-test and talk to your doctor.
To create a safe training plan, start with an honest self-assessment. This includes examining your current age and physical condition (especially knees, hips, lungs, heart and balance); Weight and weight changes during the pandemic; and activity levels before and during lockdown. The National Academy of Sports Medicine has a downloadable questionnaire that can help with this self-assessment.
Remember that there are weight-bearing, aerobic, and stretching exercises. With each one, start at a comfortable level and gradually go a little further. For example, if the goal is to start running, start small, with a 30-minute routine a few days a week of jogging for one minute and then walking for four minutes. Increase the stake every week, e.g. B. in the second week jog for two minutes and then walk for three minutes.
If the goal is to start running, setting a time limit can help achieve tangible goals: a 10-minute walk a few days the first week, 15 minutes the next week, and so on each week. Then focus on increasing the pace.
Chest or arm pain, dizziness, or extreme discomfort are all signs that you should stop. While it is useful to know what it feels like to be a little sore from hard work, and how that differs from taking it too far, it is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the warning signs of a heart attack do.
Regardless of whether it is mental or physical health – although this is usually an artificial separation – post-lockdown behavior changes should begin with an accurate assessment of the situation, a realistic goal for what they will become, and a plan to to get there. All of this should reflect care and love for yourself and your body.
A good – and safe – re-entry!
Claudia Finkelstein, Associate Professor of Medicine, Michigan State University
This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.