Seven Smart Habits to Maintain After Social Distancing Ends
The current pandemic has borne a few official behavioral guidelines (wash your hands for 20 seconds) and a few unofficial ones (Zoom calls are the best way to communicate with everyone). Some of these make such good sense that they'll likely live on beyond the crisis and become a part of our lifestyle. Here, seven habits you should consider maintaining as restrictions ease up or end.
Wash your hands frequently.
Even before COVID-19 sent everyone scrambling for hand sanitizer, washing your hands often was a good idea. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), scrubbing frequently for 20 seconds can help prevent the spread of respiratory infections. Germs can spread when you touch your face with unwashed hands, blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into your hand and then greet someone with a friendly handshake.
Stock your cabinets with food and other essentials.
This isn't about hoarding but rather about keeping extra supplies of food, medicines, and paper goods in your house so if a crisis hits your community and you've got to hunker down, you won't stress about having only one roll of toilet paper left.
Stay in touch—or reconnect—with people.
"One of the gifts of this strange time has been the opportunity to reconnect with faraway family and friends," says Cecile Gunn, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire. Maybe you made a Zoom call to a cousin, a college roommate, or someone else who you've had little or no contact with in years. "These emotional connections help us know who we are, keep us grounded, and give us a sense of our identity," says Dr. Gunn. "Keeping in touch helps us cope during stressful times."
Cook at home more often.
Making meals at home isn't just about eating but also about bonding with loved ones around the kitchen table. For ideas, try Martha's simple meals—some involve nothing harder to do than boiling water. Cooking at home a couple of times a week will decrease food costs, too.
Spend more time with family.
One of the benefits of sheltering at home is having lots of bonding time with your immediate family. "While that can be both a blessing and a curse, it can also be a chance to refocus on or develop family traditions, such as having a weekly movie night, playing board games, or going on a weekend walk," says Dr. Gunn. Children thrive on routines, and when kids can expect regular family time, it can help them cope with the outside world. Having a chance to laugh and play together as a family also helps relieve stress and builds memories.
Acknowledge neighbors with a smile and a wave.
These are the same people you once passed by regularly, so why should you continue to be friendly post-pandemic? "Research has shown that smiling releases endorphins and serotonin and makes us feel good," says Dr. Matt Grzesiak, Ph.D., an internationally recognized psychologist and therapist. "It also pays off in the long run: By being kind to our neighbors, we encourage them to be the same to us."
Exercise every day.
Boredom gave you the impetus to start exercising again. Now a highlight of your day in quarantine is your Peloton strength class. Plan on continuing to exercise even when you stop working from home. One big benefit: Exercising reduces your risk of getting cardiovascular disease and diabetes.