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How the Pandemic Has Caused Many to Reevaluate Their Lifestyle and Adopt Healthier Habits

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For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has come with huge changes. Everything is different, from taking a trip to the grocery store to going to work or deciding what to do over the weekend, and many of these changes aren't going to go away anytime soon. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing. This crisis has prompted many people to rethink their health habits and attempt to reduce their risk of contracting the virus by living healthier lifestyles. Here are some changes many people are making that will probably stick around for a while.

A Different Diet

Maintaining a healthy diet with the vitamins and minerals you need is crucial for keeping your energy levels high, improving your brain function, and preventing a variety of diseases, including COVID-19. (1) Many people are drinking more water, reducing their consumption of fast food and sugary drinks, and learning to cook their own food using healthy, organic ingredients with fewer additives like flavorings or preservatives.

According to a survey of 23,000 European shoppers by FMCG Gurus research firm, 72% will make greater attempts to eat and drink healthily because of their experience in the pandemic. In a survey of 1,030 people by the Netherlands Nutrition Centre, one in ten said they started eating healthier during the lockdown, and one-third started watching their weight more carefully.

According to Ecovia Intelligence, sales of organic foods have increased globally. These foods contain fewer pesticides and other chemicals, and they often have more nutrients than conventional foods. More people are also getting their protein from plant-based alternatives to meat because of health, safety, and animal welfare concerns. (2)

Some people have gained weight during the pandemic because they ate more when they were bored or anxious. Fortunately, they can use this experience to learn how to decide when they're truly hungry and when they're just bored. From now on, when you feel like a snack, drink some water, find something to do for 10 or 15 minutes, and then decide whether you still feel hungry. That way, you can avoid eating because you feel stressed out.

The virus has also caused many people to minimize going to the grocery store. After the pandemic, people will probably continue buying many foods and supplies in bulk for more convenience and better savings. They may continue shopping online for their food. A survey of more than 1,500 consumers by RBC Capital Markets investment firm in March 2020 found that 55% had shopped for groceries online. In a similar poll in late 2018, that figure was only 36%. The number of people ordering groceries online every week nearly doubled and downloads for grocery apps tripled and quadrupled. (3)

Instead of buying prepackaged meals, people will make their own bread, pancakes, waffles, casseroles, brownies, and more. They'll also be more likely to make their own lunches rather than stopping at a restaurant during their lunch breaks from work. They've learned that planning their meals ahead of time is healthier, easier, and less costly than fast food. With a little practice, it can even taste better.

Vitamin Supplements

In addition to a healthier diet, more awareness of health and wellness will lead many people to keep taking vitamins or herbal supplements. Vitamin C is critical for your immune system, and it's a powerful antioxidant that can protect your body from free radicals, unstable atoms that can damage your cells over time and contribute to aging. Vitamin C can also reduce the symptoms of colds caused by coronaviruses related to COVID-19 as well as reduce the risk of contracting colds. Vitamin C could also reduce symptoms in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis caused by other viruses.

Zinc is essential for immune cell development, and it can lower the risk of contracting a respiratory infection. It can also reduce the number of days that someone is ill. According to U.S. Pharmacist, about 30% of adults in the United States have a zinc deficiency, so taking a moderate dose of a supplement can help many individuals improve their health. Melatonin encourages restful sleep and reduces anxiety. It can also reduce the risks of inflammation and fibrosis in the lungs, some of the most severe symptoms of COVID-19.

Getting enough Vitamin D can help protect you from COVID-19 as well. People with Vitamin D deficiencies who contract the virus are more likely to be hospitalized, and low Vitamin D can also contribute to asthma and other respiratory disorders. People are staying inside more because of the pandemic, so they aren't getting as much Vitamin D from their skin reacting to sunlight. This makes a supplement an especially good idea. However, getting too much of any vitamin or supplement could harm your health instead of improving it. Check with your health care provider to make sure the dosage you choose is right for you. (4)

PPE

Many people may continue to wear PPE or personal protective equipment like masks after the pandemic is over. Thanks to these precautions, the numbers of flu cases were unusually low in 2020, and many individuals will decide to take the same actions to avoid illness next flu season. (5)

Masks have also become fashion accessories. You can find masks with glitter, sequins, political slogans, funny images, and more, and people aren't going to stop wearing these fun items. Wearing a mask used to imply that you were trying to hide your identity, but now it means you're a responsible citizen who wants to avoid making others ill.

Masks can make life much safer for people with immune system deficiencies, and they're useful when you want to keep your face warm on a cold day or when you don't feel like shaving or wearing makeup. They can also help people who live in big cities breathe easier.

According to Prevention Magazine, health and wellness guidelines about masks won't change for a while. No vaccine is 100% effective, and people need about two weeks after the first shot to produce effective amounts of antibodies. Doctors don't know if people who are vaccinated can contract asymptomatic infections and then spread the disease to others. We also don't know how long the immunity from the vaccination or from contracting the virus will last. Some people have already had COVID-19 twice. (6)

Hand-Washing and Using Disinfectant

COVID-19 has increased people's awareness of the benefits of hand-washing and using disinfectants along with wearing masks. According to a survey from Bradley Corporation in April 2020, 90% of Americans are washing their hands more frequently, longer, or more thoroughly, and 78% are washing their hands six or more times per day. Before the pandemic, just 37% of people washed that often. Now, 20% of Americans wash their hands 16 or more times per day.

After this crisis is over, 88% of people say they're extremely or somewhat likely to maintain their hand-washing habits. (7) For the most effective hand-washing, you should follow these steps:

  1. Remove rings and bracelets.
  2. Wet your hands thoroughly.
  3. Apply soap to your hands and wrists.
  4. Rub your hands together vigorously, including the backs of the hands, the spaces between your fingers, and your wrists.
  5. Scrub your hands for at least 15 seconds.
  6. Rinse thoroughly.
  7. Dry your hands with a paper towel.
  8. Use the paper towel to turn off the faucet. (8)

People are also likely to use hand sanitizer more often when they can't get to a sink to wash their hands. They'll disinfect surfaces more, clean items like food packages after bringing them home from the store, avoid touching their faces with dirty hands, and remove jackets, gloves, and shoes right away when they enter their homes.

Working From Home

Lockdowns from the pandemic have forced more people than ever to work from home, and many of these workers will keep telecommuting, at least some of the time. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 56% of the U.S. workforce has a job that's at least partially compatible with online work.

Before the crisis, 80% of employees said they would be interested in working from home. This situation has led many managers to realize that good workers don't need constant supervision, and allowing remote work is a great way to save on office space and utilities. Experts predict that work-from-home initiatives during the pandemic will save employers in the United States 30 billion dollars per day. We've also seen dramatic reductions in traffic and pollution all over the world. Companies will choose online meetings more often instead of paying for business travel as well. (9)

Many health care workers will work from home as well. With telemedicine, people can get advice about healthy living from a doctor without leaving their homes. This trend could make talking to an expert about medical issues faster and more convenient. It could prevent many illnesses that are normally spread at hospitals or doctor's offices, protecting health care workers and patients, and allow people to make virtual appointments with the best medical professionals without worrying about their locations. (10)

More Fresh Air

Experts from the Minnesota Department of Health recommend that people get as much fresh air as possible to combat COVID-19. Plenty of air circulation keeps droplets and aerosols that contain the virus from lingering in the atmosphere, reducing transmission. People are spending time more outside when possible and keeping windows open or cracked, even in chilly weather.

The Minnesota Department of Health is also making improvements to HVAC and ventilation systems. Using a portable air cleaner or air purifier can help remove the virus from your indoor air. You can also replace your HVAC system's air filter with a higher-grade model and keep the fan on for two hours before and two hours after people enter your home. Have your HVAC system inspected by a professional at least once per year, and use gloves and a mask when you change the air filter. (11)

According to the FDA, ultraviolet or UVC lamps can help kill COVID-19 particles in the area as well. These devices use a type of light that's normally filtered by the earth's atmosphere that can damage the DNA of viruses. However, being exposed to this light can also harm your skin and eyes. Most UV lamps are installed inside HVAC duct systems because they can kill pathogens without harming your home's residents. People will continue using these devices after the pandemic. They're excellent investments, and they can increase the values of the buildings they're installed in. (12)

Better Self-Care

The COVID-19 pandemic may be the most stressful event any of us will ever experience. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in July 2020, 53% of people reported that the crisis has negatively impacted their mental health. It has also taught people the importance of self-care and coping with stress in healthy ways.

After the pandemic is over, people will continue to be more aware of their mental health. They will be more likely to meditate, exercise, speak with a therapist, or just take a day off when they need it. They'll also appreciate it more than ever when they can spend time with friends and family members, go on vacation, see a movie, and do all the other things that this disease has disrupted. (13)

The pandemic could change our lives forever, but the lessons we learn could also help us live healthy lifestyles in the future.

Footnotes:

  1. "Ideas for Staying Healthy During COVID-19," Indiana University Health, https://iuhealth.org/thrive/ideas-for-staying-healthy-during-covid-19
  2. "Is Coronovirus Changing How We Eat," Food Navigator, https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2020/05/11/Is-coronavirus-changing-how-we-eat
  3. "10 Things the Pandemic Has Changed for Good," AARP, https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/coronavirus-lifestyle-effects.html
  4. "Common Supplements Might Reduce COVID Severity," U.S. Pharmacist, https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/common-supplements-might-reduce-covid-severity
  5. "Why Flu Cases Are Down During a Massive Pandemic," Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health-news/covid19-is-surging-but-flu-cases-are-down
  6. "Why You'll Need to Wear a Mask After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine, According to Doctors," Prevention, https://www.prevention.com/health/a34904463/wearing-face-mask-after-covid-19-vaccine/
  7. "Healthy Handwashing Survey," Bradley Corporation, https://www.bradleycorp.com/handwashing
  8. "National Hand-Washing Awareness Week," Concorde Career Colleges, https://www.concorde.edu/about-us/blog/health-care-insights/health-care-awareness-hand-washing
  9. "Work-At-Home After Covid-19 - Our Forecast," Global Workplace Analytics, https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/work-at-home-after-covid-19-our-forecast
  10. "How the Medical Field Is Adapting to Prepare for Future Healthcare Crises," Concorde Career Colleges, https://www.concorde.edu/about-us/blog/health-care-insights/how-the-medical-field-is-adapting-to-prepare-for-future-healthcare-crises
  11. "Indoor Air Considerations: COVID-19," Minnesota Department of Health, https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/indoorair.html
  12. "UV Lights and Lamps: Ultraviolet-C Radiation, Disinfection, and Coronavirus," U.S. Food & Drug Administration, https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/coronavirus-covid-19-and-medical-devices/uv-lights-and-lamps-ultraviolet-c-radiation-disinfection-and-coronavirus
  13. "The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use," Kaiser Family Foundation, https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/
  14. "Image", muffinn, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mwf2005/49791315608/sizes/m/
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