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Tips for Staying Healthy During Quarantine

It feels like the world has changed overnight. What a strange time we are living in right now. If you are from Kuwait (and old enough…) you might be getting flashbacks of the Iraqi invasion in 1990. The similarity is mainly in knowing how pivotal this event will be in one’s life. But with the global pandemic of Covid-19,  the repercussions are truly worldwide, affecting the day to day lives of everyone on earth, no matter age, gender, race or religion.
I’ve been generally feeling okay. Thankfully I have developed healthy habits over the years that make me better equipped at dealing with stress and anxiety. I wanted to share them with you in the hope that they will help you get through this difficult period in our lives. During stressful times, it’s even more vital to nourish both mind and body. They are both strongly connected and don’t underestimate the effect of one on the other. Most importantly, high levels of stress may suppress our immune system, which we need to be stronger than ever.
I would like to mention first off that I am very grateful that the change for me isn’t as drastic as it may be for others. Alhamdullilah, Kuwait is one of the best places in the world to be living during this trying time. I also have two children, 16 and 9, that are easier to “handle” than having younger or more kids. I also work primarily from home and keeping busy. I want to express that I am aware that I am privileged in many ways. But that does not mean you can’t benefit from the advice and tips I would like to share with you below. Incorporating all or some into your life will help you and your loved ones get through this difficult time, and hopefully, we will all come out of it better and stronger.

“Be patient and tough; one day this pain will be useful to you.” – Ovid

Take it day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment

I’ve been taking it day by day. But I’ve had tough days where I’ve taken it hour by hour. I would say to myself “it’s fine now and that’s all that matters”. Try your best to live in the moment. Don’t worry about the future, especially when there is so much uncertainty, and nothing in your power to change it. The present moment is the only real thing. Whenever you find yourself starting to worry, bring your thoughts to the now. Hopefully, by adopting more of the tips below it will become easier.

Focus on the positives

It may be so difficult, but they are there if you look carefully. Our circumstances are all different, and we each need to find our own silver lining. Get curious about how can we use this time in a positive way. You might…
Start a project you’ve always wanted to do…
Learn how to bake or a new language…
Finally organize your closets…
Learn how to draw…
Spend quality time with your kids…
And in the least keep in mind that in times of pressure and difficulty, you will come out of it stronger, and with new insights and discoveries about yourself that will lead to personal growth.

Allow yourself specified worry time

It’s normal to worry, just don’t let it take over your day. Give yourself a time in the day (the earlier the better) to worry and try to block those worrisome thoughts the rest of the day. If a fearful thought comes to mind, say to yourself I will think about that during my “worry time”. It will make you more aware and in control of your thoughts, which is empowering especially in this time when so much is out of our control. And please don’t schedule your worry time in the evening when you are about to go to bed!

Journal daily

I have a post about how to start journaling and it’s benefits. And in this trying time, it’s even more important to journal. Set aside 15 minutes a day (or even 5 minutes, just get started) and write freely about whatever is going on in your mind. You can combine your worry time with journalling. Or you can just journal about the positives and what you are grateful for. Or both. It will help you find meaning in this or any other difficult time. It’s also a way to record the events and your thoughts during this historic event that you can look back on one day. I wish I kept a journal during the Kuwait invasion of 1990. Our brain is busy trying to help us understand what is going on in our lives. Journalling will help clear your mind and figure things out. Otherwise, your brain will just replay the same negative or irrational thoughts over and over. When you write, your worries lose their power.

Limit screen time

A joke that has been going around lately is “What did we talk about before the Coronavirus?” It’s on TV, social media, and what’s app messages all day long. It’s important to stay up to date but if it’s adding to your stress, be aware and try to limit it as much as possible. Even without the pandemic coverage, excessive screen time can have negative implications that can harm you mentally and physically. It has been linked to depression, heightened anxiety, and insomnia. Find the best way for you to limit the negative pull of the screen by either switching off earlier or not switching on until later in the day, or by getting busy with other activities around the house. Another option it to link it to a positive activity such as watching TV while marching in place to get more steps in your day.

Eat well

Now is not the time to diet or count calories, that’s stressful even in the best of times. But don’t underestimate the power of healthy food on your mental health and overall wellbeing. You might be stuck at home and bored, or stressed out from dealing with your kids fighting all the time, but be aware if you are reaching for food to comfort yourself. And if you are, that food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Comfort food can also be healthy food. Fruity smoothies, sweet potato fries, or dates dipped in tahini are all healthy and comforting. Avoid processed foods, fast food, and too much sugar. Try your best to cook or bake at home. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but don’t add to your stress by eating junk either.

Fast daily for 12 hours minimum

I’m a big believer in the health benefits of fasting. And while eating and drinking might be a good way to pass the time during quarantine, leaving the time open-ended is not. Your body needs to detoxify every day. But if it’s too busy digesting your food, it will be less efficient at getting rid of toxins. So you need to give it a break and the easiest and most sustainable way is to only eat within a 12-hour time frame. Set your preferred eating window and stick with it. For me it’s 13-14 hours from around 9-10am to 8pm. I also fast for longer, a Muslim fast from dawn to sunset, twice a week. This will also help if you are worried about putting on weight during the quarantine. By deciding on your eating window you eliminate late-night snacking. In addition to your Keating window, try not to have breakfast until you are hungry.

Daily movement

Movement helps with your health, mood, and immunity. Who doesn’t need more of that during stressful times? If you’ve been exercising for a long-time and it’s already a habit for you, chances are you will find a way to exercise. But if you are not a fitness enthusiast, or only exercise sporadically, then this is not the time to start or be strict about sticking with a new fitness routine. However, incorporating movement into your day is beneficial both physically and mentally. Your emotional well-being during this testing time is of vital importance for yourself and anyone living with you. Think of ways you can move that will be most beneficial to you emotionally.
An early morning walk while talking to your best friend on the phone…
If you are on the phone always pace back and forth…
Playing in the backyard with your kids…
Belly-dancing in your bedroom…
An online yoga video…
An easy YouTube steps workouts…
There are so many workouts online, whatever the length or style or intensity you prefer, you can do a different one each day.
For now just make sure to move in the way you prefer or can fit into your day with the goal of relieving stress, sleeping better and keeping your immune system in check. We can all deal with any weight-loss or fitness goals later.

Stick to a normal sleep schedule

With no work or anywhere to go, you might start to sleep and wake up later and later each day. This will disrupt your energy levels as you are not sleeping within your circadian rhythm, or your sleep-wake cycle, which for most is linked to sunrise and sunset. So even if you are getting many hours of sleep, your body may not be getting the rest it truly needs. I don’t want to get into too many details of scientific studies, but all I ask is that you trust in God. The timings of Islamic prayers, from fajer to ishaa, are a sign of when we should be asleep and when we should be awake.

Progress not perfection

In other words, balance. You will have good days, and not so good days. The aim of the habits mentioned above, or any you may want to adopt, are to reduce stress and anxiety, not heighten it. Try your best, but also give yourself a break if any day you don’t find time to exercise, or lose your temper with the kids, or binge-watch a show on Netflix. I ask you to make sure you are aware of your actions and in touch with your emotions overall.
In the end, everyone is different. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses, our likes, and dislikes. Find what works best for your personality and circumstances. Experiment and then stick to what helps you feel your best.
I strongly believe there’s a way for us all to come out of this healthier, stronger and more self-aware. But for each of us, the methods and actions (or inaction) will be different. Find your way, and I look forward to sharing what we have gained from this experience when it is all over. InshAllah very soon.

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