Some habits you adopted during the pandemic may be hurting your health.
First you were urged to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19. You canceled travel plans and social outings, stopped shopping in person and created a home office in your living room. Now, more than two years later, some of these “temporary” changes have become permanent. But here’s why it may be time to say goodbye to some pandemic habits.
Being a Couch Potato
Many people have been working and schooling from home during the pandemic, going from bed to couch and then back to bed again. This lack of physical activity throughout the day creates aches and pains, especially in the neck and back. A sedentary lifestyle may also put you at greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. Increase your activity at home by taking breaks every 30 minutes to move. Stand up and stretch, take a walk around the block or jog up and down the stairs a few times. Wearing a fitness watch may encourage you to move more.
Drinking More Alcohol
Approximately one-quarter of all adults have reported drinking more during the pandemic. Some use alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress, while others drink out of boredom. Alcohol may cause or exacerbate conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease and digestive issues. Regular drinking can lead to alcohol abuse. Become more mindful of when you drink and why. Create a routine that limits your alcohol intake, such as only drinking on weekends or special occasions (hint: Wednesday is not a special occasion!).
Looking at Screens Too Long
To pass the time while staying home so much, many people have spent more time binge watching TV, playing video games, scrolling through social media and shopping online. Too much screen time may lead to eye strain, headaches, poor sleep and insomnia. It may also cause neck, shoulder and back pain. Limit recreational screen time to two hours per day and stop using screens at least one hour before bed. Use your extra free time to exercise, take the dog for a walk or work on a craft project.
Throughout the pandemic, it has been difficult to maintain social connections, especially in person. This may take a toll on your mental health, as people need interpersonal connections to thrive. If you’re still uncomfortable visiting friends and family in person or have gotten into a routine of skipping the social activities you used to enjoy, keep in touch by phone, text or online chats. Schedule regular times to catch up so you don’t lose the important relationships in your life.
Have you become the customer of the month at your local pizzeria? While getting takeout is convenient, it’s often not as healthy as eating homemade meals. When you eat takeout food, you typically consume about 200 calories more per day. There’s also a lot of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium in many restaurant foods. Instead of reaching for that takeout menu again, gather the family to cook a well-balanced meal together.
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Date Last Reviewed: February 16, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Dietary Review: Perry Pitkow, MD