During lockdown, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy routine in a static environment without our usual social motivators. Whether it’s losing out on exercise because you can’t go to the gym with friends or opting for Netflix instead of meeting with your usual study group, we’re all stuck inside, facing new challenges to independently care for our physical and mental health. But we all could use some external help to keep us on track to stay healthy.
So, who can you lean on to get things done while socially distancing from 6 feet away? Here are some tips that can help you maintain a healthy body and mind with external motivation while confined to your home:
- Set Up a High Protein Diet from the Pantry
Some of your most reliable food choices might not be available at grocery stores due to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice a healthy diet and fulfilling diet. In fact, there are many ways that you can prepare nutrient-rich meals while saving on trips to the supermarket. We recommend exploring canned goods that can last a long time in your pantry and give you access to a variety of healthy nutrients!
One of the best ways to maintain your health with pantry food is by prioritizing protein in your diet. Protein helps you build muscle and stay full so you won’t resort to chips or other packaged desserts. Protein can also be found in many canned goods such as chicken/vegetable stock, beans, mushrooms, sauces, and soy products. These non-perishable ingredients can give you give you easy access to portioned meals that you can track calories, carbs, and protein content.
External Motivator: Family and Housemates
Who better to help you maintain your in-home food choices than the people that are living there with you?! If you set up a shopping list prioritizing protein and canned goods with your family, you can make sure that the only food available in your house is the kind of food that will help you stay healthy.
You can also get external motivation to maintain a healthy diet from your family by encouraging one another to cook healthier meals. While you’re stuck in quarantine and can’t go out to restaurants with friends, it doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the dining experience or social aspect to sticking to healthy meals. You can achieve a social dieting atmosphere picking a different night of the week for each family member to prepare a meal. This way, you can experience culinary achievements from friends while still abiding by healthy food preferences.
- Exercise Regularly
Without your fitness center or regularly scheduled gym class, finding a no-equipment workout might seem a little daunting in a confined space. It can also be difficult to go for a run and maintain a good cardio routine when it’s imperative to wear a mask and social distancing isn’t always adhered to. However, increasing blood flow, engaging your muscles, and cutting through lethargy have never been more important to actively maintain your health. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to boost your cardio until restrictions are lifted.
Some fun exercises that can be done in the living room that will help you cut through fatigue burning calories include:
- Bear Crawls: walk on your hands and feet in straight lines.
- Lunges: alternate between lunges for an extra cardio burn.
- Ice Skaters: hop from side to side while landing with a low lunge.
- Bunny Hop: get into a push-up stance and jump out to either side.
All of these exercises will help you get your heart rate going while keeping your joints and muscles ready for when you hit your next day at the gym or jog around town.
External Motivator: Online Personal Trainers and Friends
It’s incredibly important to start and end your workout at the same time every day. Your body begins to instinctively know when you need to gear up and when it’s time to rest. But when you don’t have the same afterwork/school schedule to rely on for that routine, you’ll need motivation from other external sources to stay on target.
To help you maintain a routine, many personal trainers have moved to online platforms where they can coach you from home! Now that everything is on zoom, you can set weekly scheduled lessons to help you develop a good routine. Personal trainers can also provide techniques and exercises that will help individuals who are new to completely indoor workouts. The specialized information they have to offer can keep your muscles prepared for when things return back to normal. Checking in with a trainer means they’ll be able to give you expert advice about advancing your routine and helping you grow into an evolving practice.
Another way to stick to a regular workout regimen is to set a time with your friends to exercise over video. Whether it’s a specific cardio routine, doing basic movements, or engaging in dancing/choreo, making your exercise routine a social gathering will help you commit to getting the job done. When your friends call in every week, not only will you be able to grow your relationship during quarantine, but you can hold each other accountable to staying fit. That communal struggle of figuring out how to exercise during quarantine will push your dedication to staying active to the next level.
- Engage in Learning and Perform Mental Exercises
While COVID-19 keeps you confined to your home, it’s important to engage your mind on a daily basis. A large part of your overall health depends on your mental state. It’s easy to get bogged down while you’re stuck in the same place every day and depression can affect your day-to-day activities. From completing basic tasks like cooking and cleaning to getting your work done from home and staying committed to exercising regularly, each of these processes depends on your mental wellbeing.
Participating in engaged learning, like using reading comprehension or conceptual engagement in group discussions, encourages your brain’s neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change, adapt, generally function. When you perform mental exercises and increase expand your neuroplasticity, it helps you fight off depression as well as increase your memory and mental processing.
Developing a robust mental state through exercises is also important to stay on top of all your other commitments. Maintaining the willpower to continue working from home and regularly exercising requires a healthy mind, so it’s important to have external motivators that can guide you through critical thinking issues with individualized care.
External Motivator: Tutoring
Tutoring is a great way to work through mental exercises at home and stay intellectually fit. Studies have shown that the benefits of tutoring extend well beyond achieving good grades! Tutors can help you exceed at difficult subjects like math, science, and reading comprehension when you verbalize your thinking with an intellectual expert. They’re the perfect external motivator to report to when you need help with critical thinking or navigating through scholarly disciplines.
Tutors are also a great external source for mental motivation during quarantine because they can assist individuals struggling to keep up in their respective fields. No matter the subject matter, tutors can challenge and inspire scholars—in school or in the workplace—with support and encouragement. If you have a critical thinking task that needs to be completed, tutors can help you work through them remotely until the job gets done.
- Sleep on Time
Getting a full night’s sleep has a huge impact on your mental and bodily health. When you sleep, your body regenerates and repairs itself, including your mind. That way, when you embark on another rigorous day of exercise and mental stress from work or the ongoing pandemic, the cells in your muscle and brain will be rejuvenated.
Most people might think that when you’re sleeping, your body rests by just laying there. But your body is actually active the entire time that you’re not awake. It’s busy using your metabolism to break down all the food you ate during the day and nourish your body and brain. That’s why your blood sugar fluctuates in the middle of the night, because your body is working overtime to heal.
Developing a sleep routine is specifically important to boost your quality of sleep. Just like exercise, your body uses a rhythm that prepares it for tasks at different times of the day (and night). When it comes to sleep, your body is using the circadian rhythm, a natural, internal process that regulates when you go to sleep and when you wake up. Even if you are spending most of your day sitting down at home, the circadian rhythm notifies your body that it is time to relax your mind and start working to repair overnight. This is why it’s extra important to find some external reinforcement to get 8-9 hours of sleep each night.
External Motivator: (Free) Apps
Using apps on your phone or computer are a great way to manage your sleep schedule. Many of them have built in programs to help track how many hours of sleep you’re getting each night, and some even monitor your quality of sleep! They also have advanced alarm systems that help you fall asleep easier and transition you out of sleep so that you’re not groggy in the morning.
Some of the apps we recommend include:
- Sleep Cycle: uses a smart alarm clock and your phone’s vibration system to analyze your sleep patterns. It also provides graphs and displays of your sleep phases so you understand the different parts of how your sleep cycle affects you
- Sleep Time: keeps track of your circadian rhythm to wake you up at an optimal time in the cycle. If you wake up in the wrong time in the cycle, even after a full night’s sleep, you could feel groggy because it hasn’t completed its course. But when you wake up at the right time, you feel extra refreshed and ready to take on the day.
- Relax Melodies: provides a selection of meditations, songs, and sensory-engaging soundscapes that help you relax for a full night’s sleep
All of these apps are free for both the iPhone and Android systems and provide comprehensive tools to help maximize your health while you sleep.