Improving physical and mental health during stressful pandemic (COVID-19).

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The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused tremendous stress for many people. We need to understand the effect it has on our physical and mental stress. Our life has changed dramatically. My family is no different; my kids are taking online classes; we are scared about going out. There is an abundance of news – some are true and some are speculations / non-factual views. It becomes very stressful. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people who care about and your community stronger and healthier.

During this difficult time, it is important to not only look after your mental but also your physical health. This will not only help you feel better but also improve your well-being in the long-term. There are a few important steps you can take now to enhance your well-being:

Eat a healthy and nutritious diet.

A healthy and nutritious diet helps your immune system to function properly. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, a healthy eating plan:

  • Emphasizes fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and fat-free, low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
  • Stays within your daily caloric needs (calculate your daily caloric needs here)

If you are vegetarian or vegan, excludes the meats and/or dairy from the above recommendations but eating fresh fruits and vegetables is an important component of a healthy diet. Do eat a few servings of them every day. Try to get your daily protein requirement every day (0.8 gm per kilogram weight). This article lists vegetarian sources of protein.

Minimize sugar-sweetened beverages. They just add extra calories. For example, fruit juices that you buy from a store. Most of them are made from concentrate and are not real juice from fruits. Many of them have as much sugar as a can of soda (which is also one thing one should avoid).

Limit your alcohol consumption.

While most people know that drinking too much alcohol can lead to injuries and deaths in car crashes, many people do not know that drinking too much alcohol also can increase the chances of cancer, suicide, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and other negative health outcomes.

Just to put things in perspective, binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more alcoholic beverages per occasion for women or 5 or more drinks per occasion for men. Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more alcoholic beverages per week for women or 15 or more alcoholic beverages per week for men.

Take this online CAGE questionnaire for alcohol use to learn about your level of drinking.

Do Not Smoke.

We all know that smoking is injurious to health. It is written on every cigarette box. But do you know that:

  • Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year.
  • Adults who had experienced serious psychological distress were more likely to be current smokers than adults who did not report serious psychological distress
  • Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of smokers in general.
  • Smoking can increase your risk of developing severe disease if you become infected with COVID-19.

For support in quitting, including free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to local resources, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). or visit the CDC website.


During the pandemic, when most gyms are closed, being active is even more important. Most people are working from home and connected to the computer for telework, people are more sedentary than ever.

So, how can one be active in this situation? First, we need to know what is considered an appropriate activity. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines of America, each adult should do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day and 1 hr a day is recommended for children. To remain active, here are few tips:

  • Do some yoga. Here are some books recommendations.
  • Be active at home by a) walking up and down the stairs, b) doing housework, c) playtime with kids, d) play active video games, like Wii, etc.

Keep a healthy mind.

Look after your mental health. It’s normal to feel stressed, confused and scared during a crisis. Talking to people you know and trust can help. Supporting other people in your community can help you as much as it does them. Check on neighbors, family, and friends.

Here are some ways to help keep peace of mind:

COVID-19 is taking so much from us but it’s also given us something special. The opportunity to come together as humanity to work together, to learn together, to grow together.

Together we can handle everything! Be Safe!

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About the Author: Adarsh Gupta