COVID-19: What to do while you’re saving lives by being at home?

Mar 23, 2020

So, you’re doing your part to stem the tide and are hunkered down. As infectious disease expert, Emily Landon, a former colleague of mine from the University of Chicago said in a press conference, “It’s really hard to feel like you’re saving the world when you’re watching Netflix on your couch but, if we do this right, nothing happens.”

I know that for some of you, a couple of weeks snuggled in your bed with a stack of books wouldn't be all that bad. For others, being isolated from others will be a struggle. Extroverts need human contact! What to look out for as you're hunkered down? If you have emotional symptoms that worry you or someone close to you, please contact your provider. How do you know if your symptoms are out of the range of normal? Well, there are online surveys for depression and anxiety you can do to identify if you’re at risk. If you take one of these and the results are concerning, or you have any questions at all, please contact one of us. We want to help.

So, yes, one size doesn’t fit all in this unprecedented situation. Yet for those of you who might find a “Stay at Home” strategy a challenge, here are some suggestions:

1. Make a schedule. Routines are really helpful an any situation, and it’s particularly important in times like this.

  • Keep your normal bedtime and wake time. If you stay up late, sleep in too much, or nap when you don’t normally do so, your sleep patterns can get disrupted. We don’t want issues with insomnia to creep in

  • Plan your day with activities such as those below

2. Stay active. Yes, most gyms are closed, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop workouts. Aim to be active in some form for at least 30 minutes per day. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you have the resources and the space, get a Peloton bike. I can’t tell you the number of patients who have told me how much they like it. And if you don’t want to get the bike, just get the app. You can use it on your computer, phone or tablet. It’s more than spin classes, the app has yoga, bootcamp, bodyweight, etc. 

  • Nike Training Club. Almost 200 FREE workouts from beginner to experienced, from yoga to strength training. You can upgrade to premium for $15/month

  • NeoU has an incredible number of workouts you can do. Bodyweight classes, stretch classes, yoga, pilates, core, and on and on. It looks like they may even be having a sale!

  • If you don’t want to sit in front of the TV and instead want to put your headphones on, Aaptiv does it this way

  • We’ll soon be sharing with our members a home workout routine developed by Jeff Bitter, our partner in concierge health and physical therapy

  • If none of these are right for you, reach out and we can help find a platform that fits your needs

3. Get outside. It is still okay for you to get outside and breathe in FRESH air. Aim for 30 minutes a day. If it’s safe in your neighborhood, take a walk outside while keeping your six foot distance

  • I know many of you live in high rise apartments, so what about elevators? I think about this, myself, when I arrive at work at 737 N. Michigan Avenue. How am I going to get up to the 20th floor? Well, (unfortunately) the New Yorkers are a step ahead of us, and here are some recommendations from them. A memo from Solstice Residential Group, which manages 80 apartment buildings in NYC said this: “Do not get into a crowded elevator, which while a subjective statement pre-Covid-19, may now mean no more than two people facing opposite directions. Please encourage and do not be offended by this practice—this is our current reality.” So, if there are already a couple of people on the elevator when it arrives, politely decline, saying, “I’ll wait for the next one.”

  • If your building doesn’t have a policy on elevator etiquette, share the above article with them and advocate for proper social distancing in your building. That way, when there are already two folks on an elevator and someone tries to get on with you, you can refer to the policy.

  • Bring two tissues with you and use one to press the buttons on the way out. Toss the tissue when you’re done and use the second one for pushing buttons on your way back

  • Bring hand sanitizer with you: remember, when you leave your house you should consider your hands “dirty” the moment you touch something, and don’t touch your face until you wash or sanitize your hands

4. Keep your mind engaged. If you’re working from home, that helps. If you’re not, how can you do things that challenge your brain? Aim for at least 30 minutes a day.

  • Read a book. There are a vast number of publishers who are making their libraries FREE during the COVID-19 pandemic: I’ve always wanted to learn about Spanish exlamatives. Haven’t you?

  • Join or start a virtual book club. Here’s a link to some apps that can help you start your online book club. There are even book clubs that are being hosted by the authors themselves.

  • Mental games. It’s easy to get caught up in the news when we’re sitting with nothing but our phones. Instead, download a game that can keep your mind sharp: This link is a couple of years old, so availability of the apps may have changed

5. Connect with people. Particularly for those of you who live alone, it’s important that you connect with others. And if you know someone who lives alone, reach out to them. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day.

  • Use this as an opportunity to connect with family, friends, and even people who you may not have reached out to in a while. What a blessing this could be: “Hi, I know we haven’t talked in a while, but I’ve been thinking about you.”

  • While you can’t do it in person, can you call? FaceTime? Zoom? Zoom is a very easy-to-use program on your computer or phone. The free version allows you to connect to more than one person at once. Here’s a tutorial on how to use it.

6. Worship. For those of us who are religious, being together in our communities is a blessing and a strength. How can we stay connected without being present?

7. Pets! A friend of mine just got a dog. Yes, at the bleeding edge of this crisis he and his family brought a dog into the family. If you have a dog, then enjoy longer walks, staying six feet from any other individual on the street. Or if you have pet penguins, let them roam around.

8. Share gratitude. There is a lot of evidence that giving thanks can make you a happier person. As we’re cooped up inside, can we think of things that we’re grateful for? Can you share that gratitude with others? Suggestions from this Harvard Health Letter include

  • Write a thank you note. Thank someone mentally. Keep a gratitude journal. Count your blessings. Pray. Meditate.

  • Gratitude journal: As this article states: Keeping a gratitude journal “can help prepare and strengthen you to deal with the rough patches when the pop up.” Well, here we are.

9. Cook: I love to create in the kitchen but often don’t have time to do it. Find a recipe you’ve been meaning to create and go for it. Try something you haven’t made before. My family has been watching the Great British Baking Show and they make some pretty interesting stuff. Give one of those treats a try.

10. Binge watch. I like a good serial, myself, and there are a lot of good ones out there, old and new. My wife and I are making our way through The Wire on HBO. Netflix has some great originals. Dr. Meg’s family and my brother’s family, both, were doing Harry Potter marathons last Sunday. I suggest you avoid disaster movies.

These are suggestions that we have. Do you have any? Comment or reply as to what you’re doing and we’ll share some good ideas.

More to come.

Dr. Will

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