As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to spread throughout the U.S. and stay-at-home orders are keeping us indoors, many of us are starting to get restless. When will we be able to see our friends and family? How can we stay mentally and physically healthy until regular life resumes? With kids home from school, how can we make sure we’re staying healthy without getting overwhelmed?
While many, if not all of us, are asking similar questions, this is a great opportunity to ask an expert about ways to make it through this challenging situation while staying as happy and healthy as possible.
We got some outstanding advice from health expert, talk show host and author Dr. Mehmet Oz about his top tips for what we should and should not be doing to stay safe while keeping our quality of life high.
On Maintaining Distance from Family and Friends
Dr. Oz says that one of the most common questions he gets from fans and viewers is about whether or not it is okay to see friends and family while we practice social distancing. Dr. Oz notes that although it’s difficult to be apart from friends and family right now, medical experts and state and national health organizations agree that we should all be staying at home as much as possible right now. In part, this is to help you and your immediate family stay safe and healthy, but it will also control the spread of COVID-19 and keep others safe as well.
Dr. Oz also points out that a significant challenge we are facing is that information about how we should conduct ourselves during the pandemic is constantly being updated by state and national health organizations. While this has to happen to keep everyone safe as we continue to learn more about the virus, it can also be confusing, and Oz notes that the constant rolling out of new information has left some people confused about what is currently expected of them. Many people still want to know: Does it really hurt to occasionally visit a friend or family member?
Dr. Oz’s answer is that it certainly can, because as recent studies reveal, COVID-19 can be spread even by people who do not have symptoms and don’t know they are infected. As the sobering statistics show, COVID-19 is a fatal disease. We also know that it is especially dangerous for older people, people with autoimmune disorders, and people with chronic health issues, as well as those who live in nursing homes. Since we cannot be certain of who our friends and family members have been in contact with, Dr. Oz says the best way to stay safe is by reducing our contact with everyone until we hear otherwise from state and national officials.
Following Updates on Social Distancing Guidelines
While it can be stressful to be constantly immersed in the news, Dr. Oz says that one of the most important things we can do right now is to make it a point to stay up-to-date on social distancing guidelines.
As most of us know, the federal government has asked all U.S. citizens, regardless of whether they believe they have been exposed to the virus, to practice social distancing. According to Oz, this has successfully reduced the spread of the virus in other countries and has shown promising results here as well.
One newer recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Dr. Oz says people may not be aware of is that we should avoid both large and small gatherings, including those with friends and families. Weeks ago, the recommendation was to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more, but now that we have learned more about how the virus spreads, that advice has changed. Dr. Oz also says it is important to adhere to the CDC’s recommendation that children should not have play dates during this time. He says teenagers should not be hanging out together either, even if they are outdoors or at a park.
In addition to avoiding gatherings, Dr. Oz advises everyone to follow social distancing guidelines: maintain at least six feet of physical distance from other people and wear a cloth mask over your nose and mouth if you go out to buy groceries or get medication. This is especially important if you are immunocompromised or chronically ill. If you have health issues that put you at risk for COVID-19, mail-ordering medications and having groceries delivered is a good course of action.
Understanding the Importance of Stay-at-Home and Shelter-in-Place
Dr. Oz mentions that another thing that is cause for confusion is that there are not only federal guidelines, but also stay-at-home orders in place In 45 of our 50 states, which means state governments and health officials are asking people to stay in. Although we may see restrictions beginning to lift when warm weather arrives, Oz points out that for now if you live in one of these states, you should follow the stay-at-home orders until they are lifted. Most states are asking that citizens avoid any nonessential travel and avoid leaving home unless it is absolutely necessary, and he agrees that this is a good guideline to follow.
Although it’s difficult to be apart from family and friends during such a stressful time, Oz says that the best thing we can do is to remember that staying home will help us all stay safe. If you are struggling with this, he says, remember that this is a completely normal response, but try to keep in mind that the pandemic will eventually be over, and you will be able to reconnect with your loved ones again.
If you find that you are becoming restless during social distancing, read on for more of Dr. Oz’s tips on how to best stay mentally and physically healthy while social distancing and stay-at-home measures are being observed.
Making Physical and Mental Health a Priority
COVID-19 has changed our lives in sudden and dramatic ways. As we adjust to the initial shock and to our lives working at home, home-schooling our kids, and finding ways to stay connected to those we love, Dr. Oz notes that it is increasingly important to be patient with ourselves as we try to stick to our health, fitness, and other goals.
If you are feeling unproductive or unmotivated to make healthy choices during this time, you are certainly not alone. The recent New York Times article “Stop Trying to Be Productive” features productivity consultant and author Chris Bailey, who notes: “It is tough enough to be productive in the best of times let alone when we’re in a global crisis…The idea that we have so much time available during the day now is fantastic, but these days it’s the opposite of a luxury…we have much less attention because we’re living through so much.”
While this may be true, Dr. Oz says we should try to remember that with a little effort, we can still gently prioritize our mental and physical health during this time without overdoing it. Making the effort will definitely make you feel much better than you would if you ignored your wellbeing, Oz says, and it is worth it to give them a try while remaining patient with yourself.
Coping with Isolation
Depending on your personality type, social distancing may feel like a blessing or a curse. For many people, including those who enjoy a quiet life, social distancing has taken a heavy emotional toll, Dr. Oz says. We are feeling less connected to those we love and cannot do some of the activities we most enjoy, which has left us feeling depressed and anxious.
One of Dr. Oz’s top recommendations for staying positive during this time is to find things you enjoy doing and make it a point to do some of them every day. If you are working from home for your job, this may keep you occupied, he says, but some people may find hours of alone time without the structure of a 9-5 job daunting. And even if you have a job, you need to make time for yourself.
Oz notes that many studies have shown that participating in enjoyable leisure activities can improve both mental and physical health by alleviating stress, high blood pressure, depression, and more. He recommends that people start by finding a hobby they enjoy doing, and that they can immerse yourself in. Whether you work in your garden, spend time cooking new recipes, start a home improvement project you’ve been neglecting, or make time to read that novel you haven’t been able to find time for, any activity you can enjoyably immerse yourself in can help you thrive mentally.
If you are feeling socially isolated as many of us are, one thing we can do, according to Dr. Oz, is to get creative in thinking about ways you can reach out to the people you love. Send a card or small gift to a family member you haven’t seen. Give a phone call to a friend you haven’t talked to in some time. Start a book group or plan weekend gatherings with friends on FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or Zoom. If you’re missing your old board game night with friends, try taking it online with a digital site like Tabletopia which features over 800 board games you can play online. While it may take some creativity to connect, now is actually a great time to rebuild connections we often lose track of during our busy lives.
Getting in an Exercise Groove
As you’ve likely heard, countless studies have shown that exercise can improve mood, alleviate depression, and decrease stress and anxiety. But our disrupted schedules, closed gyms, and feelings of overwhelm can all make it hard to start or stick with an exercise routine.
Dr. Oz recommends that despite the obvious challenges these things can present, try looking on the bright side. Spring and summer are just around the corner, and getting outside for a walk or run while maintaining social distance is becoming easier and more enjoyable now that the cold months are mostly behind us. If you’re used to relying on your running or cycling group for motivation, Oz recommends trying an app like Map My Fitness: even the free version will keep splits so you can stay on pace, and premium features include fitness coaching that can help you reach your weight loss or other fitness goals.
For days when you’d rather stay in, there are luckily many options online. If you want personalized tips and ideas, visit Work Out With Dr. Oz on YouTube and check out his 7-minute morning workouts. If you love to dance, try a choreography workout on Popsugar Fitness. There are also plenty of low-impact cardio, yoga, and HIIT workouts to be found online.
While it may be tempting to use this time to lose 20 pounds or get six-pack abs, Dr. Oz warns that something we should avoid is working out too much. Studies have shown that working out for up to 60 minutes per day improves mental health, but more than 90 minutes per day can actually diminish mental health. So, make time to work out, but don’t overdo it.
Getting Good Sleep
Sleep issues are incredibly common, and even people who don’t usually have trouble sleeping are finding it hard to get their 40 winks during COVID-19 because our minds are busier than ever.
If you aren’t getting great sleep right now, Dr. Oz notes that you aren’t alone, and you certainly shouldn’t panic. Sleep experts point out that getting a few nights of poor sleep but resisting the urge to nap the next day can actually reset us, allowing us to return to our regular sleep schedules.
If you continue to sleep poorly, however, the best thing you can do is to get out of bed if it’s taking you more than 15 minutes to fall asleep, including if you wake in the middle of the night. Go to another room and read a book or watch a comforting TV show (just make sure to put on your night light setting on your TV or computer). If you’re still having trouble, check out more of Dr. Oz’s tips for better sleep here.
Eating Healthy During COVID-19
Eating has become a significant challenge during COVID-19. Not only is going to the grocery and getting the foods we want a challenge, but when we are stressed, we tend to reach for foods that are less than healthy. As many of us are cooking much more as we stay home these days, we need to find ways to eat healthy without adding stress to our lives.
Are Groceries and Food Delivery Safe?
One of the most common questions Dr. Oz has gotten in recent weeks is whether or not groceries are safe. Can the virus live on food, or on food containers? Can I get COVID-19 from the food I eat?
To date, according to the CDC, Oz says, there has been no evidence that coronavirus has been passed through food or food packaging. In addition, we know that coronavirus is similar to other recent viruses, including SARS, which can be killed with a 30-minute heat treatment at 140 degrees. From this, we can assume that cooking has the ability to kill similar types of viruses, including COVID-19.
However, Dr. Oz cautions, something we do know is that COVID-19 can survive on objects and surfaces like metal, glass, or plastic for up to nine days. Because it does not survive especially well on surfaces, as time passes, its infectiousness decreases. Still, if you are worried about getting the virus from food, wipe down items after a grocery run with a disinfectant approved to kill COVID-19. Just make sure to never use these products on food itself or your skin, Oz says. For fruits and vegetables, you can use a special wash made for these foods.
It is also comforting to know that many restaurants have taken safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so Dr. Oz says it is probably okay to order takeout on occasion. To be on the safe side, if you have food delivered, ask that it be delivered “no-contact” where the food is left outside your door to prevent human contact.
Cooking Healthy Meals During COVID-19
An excellent way to stay on top of healthy cooking, especially when cooking for a whole family, is to freeze meals in advance. Simply make the meal and then wrap it in plastic wrap or aluminum foil or put it in an airtight container.
One of Dr. Oz’s favorite and most nutritious freezer meals is comforting pantry minestrone, which requires only garlic, onions, a sweet potato, and any other veggies you have at home along with pasta. Pasta with broccoli is another simple meal that can be frozen ahead of time.
When you want a hearty, healthy meal for the whole family, going casserole-style is a great way to do it. Dr. Oz recommends Taste of Koko’s food blog, which has a wonderful recipe for stuffed shells with italian sausage and wild mushrooms that can be easily whipped up with these three ingredients plus a jar of marinara sauce. Vegetarian lasagna is also a great way to get your vitamins while getting full. Bell peppers, onions, zucchini, carrots, and other veggies of your choice can be easily added. Here is one of Dr. Oz’s favorite recipes from Cookie + Kate.
Another large dish that is delicious and nutritious is shrimp and vegetable fried cauliflower rice. Dr. Oz says this is an especially good meal if you want to eat healthy for weight loss purposes, as cauliflower rice provides tons of nutrition without the calories of rice. If you are vegetarian, a hearty lentil chili can be comforting without being unhealthy. It’s a great high-fiber option that will keep you full if you’re trying to lose weight.
While we are certainly living in unprecedented times, Dr. Oz says that accepting ourselves while making creative and low-stress efforts to live healthy lives will help us better face the challenges ahead. For more of his favorite tips, visit Dr. Oz’s COVID-19 Center.