Prioritizing your health sounds simple enough, but when you mix in a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, working from home and increased isolation it’s understandable how taking care of yourself can get placed on the backburner.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health and all of its complexities as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
According to a study conducted by The Obesity Society, physical activity levels of adults 18 years of age and older in the U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada declined during the pandemic when compared to physical activity levels before the pandemic. Researchers also reported that anxiety scores for participants nearly doubled in response to the pandemic, highlighting the impact of the pandemic on mental health.
With the extraordinary circumstances we all experienced in 2020, prioritizing mental and physical health has become a challenge, but is as important as ever. So how can someone get back on track? Nikki Pham, MD, a family medicine physician with Dignity Health Mercy Medical Group, has a few tips you can incorporate into your routine that will not only benefit your body, but also your mind.
Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist is a great step towards prioritizing your mental health. Behavioral health professionals can help you with a myriad of mental health issues including depression and anxiety brought on by the pandemic.
You can also take steps towards mental and physical well-being at home. Dr. Pham recommends taking it easy and trying to make time for yourself whenever you can. “I try to make time for regular exercise and walks in the evening to give myself time to think and process my day,” said Dr. Pham. Starting a new routine that focuses on yourself whether it is a quick walk around your neighborhood or taking some time to journal are great ways to improve your mood and keep mental health top of mind.
It is important to remember that physical health includes both exercise and good nutrition. “I try to bring lunch to work to limit unhealthy fast food choices and try to use the stairs instead of the elevators at work to get more exercise,” said Dr. Pham. And for those who don’t have the time or resources to get to the gym, there are many free, online resources available. Dr. Pham recommends YouTube for a variety of workout videos that are both fun and free.
Last but not least, it is very important to engage in preventative health care. Staying on top of your doctor’s appointments is pivotal in maintaining your health.
“Preventative care gives us an opportunity to do routine screening and catch diseases early,” said Dr. Pham. “Treatment is always easier when illness is caught early. It also allows us an opportunity to address lifestyle changes that can improve someone's health. For example, if they have prediabetes, slightly elevated blood pressure or are a smoker, we can provide suggestions and resources to help patients make healthy lifestyle choices.”
For those who skipped their check-up due to the pandemic this year, it is time to book an appointment with your primary care physician. The good news is, there are now multiple ways to connect with your physician. Patients can still make an appointment to see their primary care physician safely in-person, or they can schedule a virtual visit as a convenient way to speak with their doctor.
Prioritizing your health was challenging this past year, but with these tips, we hope you can make the first step towards healthier habits. If you have any concerns about your general health, please make an appointment to consult with your doctor today.