So, how’s isolating going for you? Did you get dressed today? Have you exercised? Or are you an essential worker, and reading this from your workplace—afraid to bring the virus home? No matter where you find yourself during the coronavirus pandemic, you’ll want your home to be the safest place possible. Which is why reading this essential list of 30 ways you’re ruining your health indoors is so important.
“Walking around your home with shoes on increases the risk of transferring harmful bacteria and allergens from the outdoors into the home surfaces where they could end up in membranes by touching your eyes, nose or mouth after coming into contact with those surfaces,” says Dr. Candace Raczkowski.
The Rx: Take them off immediately, or else you risk spreading coronavirus in your home!
“Boredom and easy access to online buying, along with increased stress and anxiety, can lead to overspending,” says Dr. Leann Poston.
The Rx: We shop because it makes us feel in control. Buy only what you need. One way to keep yourself in check is to remember that every delivery potentially puts someone else in danger, as delivery people expose themselves to the virus. Make it worth their while.
Has your sleep been wonky ever since self-isolating? There’s a medical reason for that. By not going outside as much, “you stop getting regular pacing from the sun, and our circadian clock is driven by blue light from natural sunlight that stimulates our retina which triggers our pineal gland to secrete melatonin,” says Dr. Mara Cvejic, a practicing neurologist and sleep specialist. “Melatonin is a natural pacemaker for our sleep-wake cycle.”
The Rx: Step outside at least once a day to get some sun. And turn off your devices one or two hours before bed. The blue light they admit trick your body into thinking it’s daytime.
“We have a natural nadir in our wake cycle around 12-3 pm, which can cause drowsiness with inactivity or heavy lunches,” says Dr. Cvejic. “If you nap, you naturally sabotage your sleep drive for a consolidated nocturnal sleep period.”
The Rx: Although your bed is now also your desk, and your home movie theater, don’t use it to nap.
“The biggest mistake people are making when they are self-isolating indoors is keeping the TV on, watching news about coronavirus 24/7,” says Dr. Carole Lieberman, a Board Certified Psychiatrist. “They are scaring themselves to death because of all the sensationalized news that makes people believe ‘we’re all gonna die!'”
The Rx: Stay informed, but find a balance. “Watch shows that make you laugh instead of news that makes you cry,” she advises.
“When the pandemic is over, our nation will have an even bigger problem with obesity than it does now,” says Dr. Lieberman. “It will ramp up with these new traumatic times because we turn to foods that have good memories from our childhood—like chocolate, pizza, ice cream and cake.”
The Rx: “Instead, try to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables,” she advises, along with healthy fats and high-protein foods. With shopping so difficult these days, you’ll be less likely to sneak out for chips.
“Being inside all of the time can lead to boredom and may cause some to take unnecessary risks to relieve that boredom,” like going outside or making a date with a neighbor.
The Rx: “Learn something new instead,” says Dr. Poston. “Try a new craft, learn a language, or take one of the many free online classes that are available.”
“Pet dandruff, saliva, cockroach debris, pollen, bacteria and viruses build up inside our homes and cause poor indoor air quality resulting in infections, allergy symptoms, and other health risks,” says Dr. Shirin Peters, Primary Care Doctor at Bethany Medical Clinic of New York.
The Rx: “Open a window or purchase an air purifier to help solve this problem.”
“While stuck indoors we are required to buy foods that last longer, which are often highly processed foods,” says Dr. Peters.
The Rx: Self-isolation is actually an opportunity to focus on your health. Schedule regular deliveries of foods with ingredients you can pronounce.
Slouching in front of a computer screen all day when working from home can have negative drawbacks over time. “It adds to the stress on your spine. That puts a strain on the bones, muscles, and joints you need to hold your backbone in place,” according to WebMD. “A constant slump smashes your inside organs together, and makes it harder for your lungs and intestines to work. Over time, that’ll make it hard to digest food or get enough air when you breathe.”
The Rx: Find a chair that supports your back and sit on that when working (not the couch). Now that you’ve been told, you’ll be more aware.
“We tend to sit or lie down a lot more when we are indoors because of the confined space,” says Dr. Peters.
The Rx: Try a fitness app like Beachbody or a YouTube channel like the one run by trainer Joe Wicks, who hosts daily “P.E.” classes for you at home for free. “Moving our bodies promotes blood circulation, gives a boost to our immune systems, and improves digestion as well as promoting mental health, and muscle and joint health.”
“Your bed should be reserved for sleep and intimacy, so you can condition your mind to associate your bed with sleep and reduce insomnia,” says Dr. Peters.
The Rx: Have a separate area for your TV time. The Tiger King doesn’t belong between your sheets.
“Reducing face-to-face time can lead to more superficial conversations,” says Dr. Peters.
“Working from home or being suddenly unemployed can lead to loneliness and a loss of social connection,” says Dr. Poston.
The Rx: “Use Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts to connect online without increasing your risk of disease exposure,” says Dr. Poston.
As we’ve said, “Blue light emitted from our devices is similar to daylight and when we use devices in evening hours, we confuse our bodies. Use a setting on your device to limit blue light exposure,” says Dr. Peters.
The Rx: “Consider limiting screen time to 20-minute bursts with breaks where you look away at something far from you, and blink 20 times.”
You’ve heard it before but we’ll say it again: “Hands should be washed first thing when entering your home to reduce the risk of transferring harmful bacteria and allergens from outdoors or other locations you have visited,” says Dr. Raczkowski.
The Rx: “Hands should be washed using soap and warm water for 20-30 seconds, ensuring you clean the web spaces, fingertips and thumbs thoroughly.”
“Grazing is defined as eating small amounts of food frequently throughout the day which can add up to a lot of calories throughout the day,” says Dr. David Buchin, Director of Bariatric Surgery at Northwell Health-Huntington Hospital. “This is usually done out of boredom or anxiety.”
The Rx: Stick to three square meals with two snacks in between. Ensure each is high in protein and fiber.
“With gyms and health clubs closed, people may have lost their ambition to exercise daily. A daily routine helps people complete those tasks they may not be excited about,” says Dr. Poston.
The Rx: “Many gyms, clubs, and YouTube offer exercise videos that can help you maintain your routine. Go for a walk around your neighborhood—just make sure you keep your distance from others.”
“An unstructured schedule can lead to irregular sleep habits,” says Dr. Poston. “Decreased sleep can increase the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which can negatively affect your immune system.”
The Rx: Go to bed at the same time every night. The iPhone alarm app even has a feature to help you do that.
“Just like new college students gain weight due to a lack of schedule and decreased activity, those who are used to a job that requires physical activity and now find themselves sitting around all day or working in front of a computer may find the pounds creeping on,” says Dr. Poston.
The Rx: Our advice to exercise and eat properly will make sure you stay at a healthy weight.
“Ready access to the refrigerator can lead to choosing sugary drinks and soda over water,” says Dr. Poston. “In an office setting, you carry in your drinks. Many people are more conscious of drinking water when they drink it in a work setting.”
The Rx: Buy a SodaStream and satisfy your soda urge with healthy, clean homemade seltzer.
“When you feel like you have unlimited time to complete your chores, you may find that you have a harder time completing your tasks than if you had a busy schedule,” says Dr. Poston.
The Rx: Make a to-do list and do it—but don’t feel like you have to conquer the world every day. Take small bites or else you’ll get overwhelmed by the pressure to perform.
“Vitamin D helps maintain calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood and contributes to strong teeth and bones, helps support the immune system, and decreases inflammation,” says Dr. Poston.
The Rx: Twenty minutes of sunlight exposure twice a week can help maintain adequate vitamin D levels,” he says. Short of that, try a supplement.
“Staying inside all of the time may lead to obsessive email checking and news broadcast watching. Give yourself a break from the news,” says Dr. Poston.
The Rx: “Spend some time outside, but away from people, to decrease your stress level naturally.”
“Some people are drinking too much alcohol to try to escape from being aware of reality,” says Dr. Lieberman.
The Rx: “There is really no need for alcohol during isolation, which takes enough of a toll on the body and mind. The best way to avoid overindulging is not to bring any alcohol into the house to begin with.”
“Using a computer all day, or playing video games, can lead to carpal tunnel pain,” says Dr. Poston. According to WebMD, “Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, tingling, and numbness in your hand from pressure on the median nerve in your wrist.”
The Rx: “Rest and exercises may help relieve symptoms,” as can an ergonomic mouse and keyboard.
“Meditation is a simple technique that, if practiced for as few as 10 minutes each day, can help you control stress, decrease anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, and achieve a greater capacity for relaxation.” according to WebMD.
The Rx: “Training our bodies on a daily basis to achieve this state of relaxation can lead to enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, and a reduction of everyday stress.” Our favorite meditation app is called Calm.
According to Dr. Lily Kiswani, this “can lead to oxidative stress, sperm damage, changes in the brain, cellular DNA damage and endocrine changes.”
The Rx: The content online can also make you anxious. Make one day, or even one hour, router-free.
Sex is a known factor that can boost your mood, amongst other things. “Being close to your partner can soothe stress and anxiety,” according to WebMD, “Sexual arousal releases a brain chemical that revs up your brain’s pleasure and reward system.”
The Rx: If you have a partner, don’t fall into unhealthy patterns. Make time for intimacy as you would make time for food and water.
They can get pretty filthy, and mold can accumulate faster if you’re using it more often now that you’re home all day.
The Rx: “If you use a humidifier in your home, it should be cleaned on a weekly basis with vinegar and water to kill harmful bacteria and mold build up so that it does not have the potential of invading your respiratory system,” says Dr. Raczkowski.
“Being stuck indoors can sometimes cause respiratory problems especially if there is a smoker within the house,” says Dr. Buchin. “Second-hand smoke can expose both the smoker and the other members of the household to a risk of lung cancer.” Smokers also suffer more from the coronavirus because it’s a respiratory disease.
The Rx: Before the virus, you knew it was time to quit the sticks. Dial 1-800-QUIT-NOW for a free plan.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 50 Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.