By: Katya Daragan

A month ago, most of us were not familiar with the term “social distancing” and now it is part of our vernacular. As the world continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that health and well-being continues to be a focus for employers, health plans, healthcare professionals, and individuals in the wellness space. As society continues to adapt to social distancing recommendations and shelter-in-place restrictions, the NWI Emerging Wellness Professional Task Force wants to provide you with four tried-and-true ways to thrive during social distancing:

  1. Establish new routines – With school closures and shelter-in-place restrictions, your normal routines in the past few weeks have probably been disrupted. As a result, you may find that you feel less productive, have less energy, or perhaps are having trouble keeping track of what day it is. Creating new routines will help you and your family acclimate to a new “normal” way of life.
    • Take a step back – Feeling overwhelmed? Consider your priorities, to-do list, and the resources that you have available. Assess what’s most important to you right now and prioritize what you’ll accomplish today.
    • Think outside the box – Your fitness routine may look a little different without the gym or a class, or perhaps your grocery store is out of food you typically purchase. Keep a positive attitude and get creative. Consider other ways that you can stay active or alternative foods you can eat to stay nourished.
    • Use social distancing to your advantage – Most of us are spending more time at home, so use this “extra” time in your day to accomplish things that you are normally too busy to do! Snooze for 7+ hours a night, make a nutritious breakfast for your family, or spend a few minutes organizing a drawer or cabinet.
  2. Set aside time for self-care – With so many unknowns, you may be feeling some stress or anxiety. In addition to taking care of your physical health, it’s important to tune into your emotional well-being. How are you feeling? What is your stress level?
    • Take a deep breath – Yep, that’s right! Let’s do it together.  Breathe in through your nose to a count of 4.  Hold that breath for 2 seconds. Slowly release your breath through your mouth to a count of 4. Repeat as needed during the day, whenever you need a small break.
    • Be patient, with yourself and others – Be mindful about how you respond to others and how you “talk” to yourself during the day. Remember, we are all doing the best that we can in the current situation.
    • Appreciate the little things – Be mindful as you go throughout your day, paying attention to what makes you happy. Tuning into nature on a walk, sharing a joke, or watching an episode of your favorite show can be a quick mood-booster.
    • Reach out to a friend – Increase your endorphins by connecting with someone else! Send a quick message to check in with a friend or family member. If you have more time, ask if they would like to go for a walk and catch up by phone, or schedule a virtual meal.
  3. Limit screen time, if needed – Be mindful of how much screen time you are logging each day. If practicing social distancing, it can be easy to work extra hours, spend more time watching the news, or constantly track your local state’s COVID-19 statistics. Be mindful of your screen time, limiting it if you notice an effect to your productivity, mood, or stress level. Try to unplug from technology at least one hour before bed for best sleep quality.
  4. Tap into your resources – While it can feel isolating at times to practice social distancing, remember that you aren’t alone! There are many tools at your fingertips that can help you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic:
    • Benefits available through your employer – Your employer’s benefit guide may include information about programs and services in your area, such as Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or wellness programs. Many programs are available at little or no cost!
    • Your health plan – Visit your health plan’s website to see what resources are available to members. You may be able to use telemedicine to talk to your doctor or complete an online symptom checker through your health plan.
    • Government or local resources – Stay informed about the COVID-19 with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or World Health Organization. Your local state or county may also have information specific to your geographic area as well.

Remember, we’re all in this together! As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve over the coming weeks, keep your health and well-being a priority.  Approach each day with the goal of doing the best you can.  While your routines may be shifting, you can still focus on the positives in your life while making the best of a temporary situation.

Katya DaraganKatya has been interested in worksite wellness since taking a course in her undergraduate studies UMD’s School of Public Health. In her role as Director of Population Health at US Wellness, she oversees the strategy and design of corporate wellness programs and initiatives, leveraging the use of technology with the science behind behavior change. Holding multiple certifications, including NWI’s Worksite Wellness Specialist and Program Manager certificates, Katya creates personalized programs that work for her clients, whose employees range from 50 to over 10,000 in number. Katya also volunteers at Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad, where she has been a member since 2002, responding to 911 calls most weekends.