You know the drill: eat right and exercise. But you can do many other things to improve your health also.
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
1. Go outside and get some nature therapy. “COVID-19 has created a sense of isolation and breathing fresh air helps with lung health, mental health and general wellbeing.”
2. Socialize responsibly. “Fostering connection and a sense of belonging with your community helps rejuvenate your spirit and nourishes mental health.”
3. Make sure you get an annual physical exam. “Ask your doctor or your family medicine physician to order a full blood work panel. Making sure your micronutrient levels and hormones are in check is vitally important to keeping you healthy. The best diet and exercise program in the world will not be effective if you have an underlying issue. Something as minor as low vitamin D levels, common in Western New York, especially in the winter, can cause fatigue, which can prevent you from having the energy to work out, for example.”
4. “Get enough good sleep. “Often people think they are getting enough sleep because they get seven to nine hours. But it’s not just the length of time, but the quality of sleep. With all the time people spend on screens these days it takes a while for our brains to actually dip into the healthy deep sleep we need to rejuvenate. Blue light blocking glasses a few hours before bed can help, as can limiting screen time in the hours leading up to bed. It’s also important to go to bed at roughly the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.”
5. Make sure you are eating enough. “Often people don’t eat enough calories, especially women. Your body needs nutrition to stay healthy. Eating the right amount of calories, including healthy protein, carbohydrates and fats, is crucial. If you aren’t sure how many calories you eat each day, try tracking for a couple of weeks using an app, such as MyFitnessPal or Cronometer. Then use an online macronutrient calculator to compare that to how much you should eat. Not eating enough can actually cause your metabolism to slow down, making it difficult to stay at a healthy weight.”
6. Practice self-care. “Take stock in your mental health as it affects every other area of your life. If you’re not prioritizing it, that’s an issue.”
7. Do a gratitude review. “Do a gratitude review to help turn off your brain for more restful sleep. Start naming all the things we’re thankful for. We can’t hold onto gratitude and stressors. When we go to bed, we tend to think of what we need to do tomorrow or what went wrong. If you don’t give your brain something to do it can be hard to get in sleep mode.
8. Having 30 minutes every day where you’re not responsible for everyone else. “This is important, especially for women. We’re responsible for our kids and work and there’s no time where you’re not on-call. Having 30 minutes where no one will interrupt you is a huge reducer of anxiety. Have a three-hour chunk every week where you’re not responsible for anyone. For me, it was taking my book and going to Starbucks. I wouldn’t take my phone in. The family’s instructions were don’t call me unless the house was on fire.
9. Use no electronics in the first hour of the day. “You have decided whatever is coming into your brain. It can hijack your day and set your mood for the day. You’re not setting your own agenda for the day. I spend a little time focusing on what I want my day to look like. I’m not going to be reactive when the crisis happens at work. You can respond better to a coworker having a meltdown. You can be helpful and troubleshoot. It helps you not resort to being reactive.”
10. Track your health. “Tracking your health and seeing your doctor can help you maintain health and it also keeps the costs as low as possible for healthcare. From the health standpoint, get all of your health screenings, vaccines and these are ordinarily covered in full. More and more pharmacies are getting more involved in preventive care, especially vaccination shots. If you have any chronic conditions, visit lifestyle medicine specialists so that you can make any necessary changes to keep you as healthy and comfortable as possible”
- Tips 1 and 2 by Joanne Wu, integrative spine physician with Rochester Regional Health Spine and Pain.
- Tips 3 through 5 by Kerri Howell, certified personal training and nutrition coach, West Henrietta.
- Tip 6 by Leanne Walters, assistant professor of social work at Roberts Wesleyan College.
- Tips 7 through 9 by Kerry Graff, lifestyle medicine and family medicine physician with Rochester Regional Health.
- Tip 10 by Fran Pullano, owner Pullano & Company, Rochester