The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us, including those of us fortunate enough not to have been infected with it. It has changed how we live our daily lives including gathering with family and friends, attending school and work, going out for entertainment, as well as many other ways. As we continue to wear our masks, clean our hands, and socially distance, there are several things that we can do to help our families stay healthy as we await the end of this pandemic.
Eating a healthy, plant-rich diet can boost our immune system, help us maintain a healthy weight, and reduce inflammation in our bodies. Some families have experienced challenges with regard to food during this pandemic. Since there are families in which children receive 2 meals and a snack while at school, these families have been negatively impacted by school closures. As a result, some school systems have begun distributing meal packages to families with children in the community. Many churches/places of worship, health centers and community organizations distribute food as well. Families are also choosing to shop at discount grocers where they can find fresh, canned and frozen plant food that are just as nutritious while being less expensive.
Many children get exercise by walking to and from school, walking through the school building, in gym class, at recess and indoor play spaces. Many adults get exercise by walking around at work, running errands and going to the gym. During the pandemic, many of us have not been able to maintain our usual level of activity due to quarantine recommendations and the temporary closure of schools, workplaces, gyms and play spaces. For many children participating in hybrid or remote/eLearning platforms, gym class has either been cut out or is not as physically challenging. As a result, many of us have become a lot more sedentary since March 2020.
Make an exercise plan for your family. Encourage your children to stand and do a minute or two of activities between classes. These activities can include jumping and running in place, walking or running stairs, doing jumping jacks, sit ups, etc. Tiny bursts of activity can help children be better able to focus on their work too. With the many free online exercise videos available, families can also do video workouts together. You may also want to keep it fun by creating family fitness challenges and games.
Most of us don’t get enough sleep, yet sleep is essential for maintaining good health. Adequate sleep helps keep our stress hormones at a normal level which can help us maintain a healthy mood, healthy blood sugar levels, and a healthy blood pressure.
It is important to make sure that children are keeping normal bedtime/sleep hours in as dark and quiet a room as possible. Many parents collect all electronics before bedtime which helps to ensure no distractions for a restful night’s sleep.
Whether children are participating in remote/eLearning or in a hybrid/in school platform, keeping non-educational screen time at a minimum is important. Studies have shown that greater amounts of screen time are associated with being sedentary as well as with weight instability/weight gain. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting “fun” screen time (e.g. tablets, computer games, phones, video games for non-academic reasons) to help prevent eye strain and maintain healthy vision.
It’s important for the health of the whole family to spend time together. This includes regularly connecting with other family members via video chat platforms as well as spending time with family in the household. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, eating at least three home-cooked meals per week with the family, with at least one parent/guardian present, results in a 12% decrease in risk of children becoming overweight. Staying connected with our loved ones helps to keep us centered and better able to manage feelings of isolation and stress during these challenging times.
Spiritual Stress Relief
Whether we practice a faith, meditate, journal, or engage in breathing/centering exercises (among other practices), it is important that we do something to relieve stress in order to maintain good health. This is extremely important for children who may be experiencing stress due to changes in their daily lives but who may not have the language to express themselves well enough. Encourage your children to practice spiritual stress relieving techniques regularly.
If you’re interested in meditation and want to try it with your family, visit our 7-day Jumpstart to Meditation page. Daily tips and easy to follow instructions motivate you to begin with 10 minutes of silent meditation, and by the end of the week you will be sitting for 20 minutes! There are many health benefits related to meditation, from reduced blood pressure to lowered levels of the stress hormone called cortisol. Feel free to try this simple technique, called SOS Meditation, on your own and with your loved ones.
May you and your family remain safe, and may we all emerge from this pandemic healthy.
–from Dr. Natalie Santiago, M.D.
Meditation can increase your physical, emotional, and mental health. Visit our Jumpstart to Meditation page for seven days of inspirational tips, meditation instructions, and support.