Ten tips for better health in COVID-19 times

Ten tips for better health in COVID times

Better health can be achieved by most of us. It doesn’t matter where we start. In COVID-19 times and at other stressful periods in life, however, we can take extra care. The better our general health, the more likely our immune systems are to work efficiently when called on.

Australians have been relatively lucky. Until the past month or so, case numbers and the numbers of deaths of people with COVID-19 have been lower than elsewhere. Western Australians are continually blessed, but this may change when our borders open to the rest of the world.

Of course, no one wants to get ill. We want to prevent infection spreading to the people we care about. For example, my husband is old and, like me, vulnerable. My great-grandchildren are mostly too young to be vaccinated. I hate the idea of any of my children or grandchildren being ill, or worse, dying of coronavirus of whatever strain. I also have two siblings whom I love dearly, and many friends, some of whom are in their eighties. They could be especially vulnerable.

Even if everyone survives the virus, there is still the possibility they may suffer from long-COVID.

While most of us take good care of ourselves, it feels timely to list some of the things we can do to ensure we are in the best possible shape to face the future.

Ten tips for better health

My list of tips ranges widely and I’m sure there are things I could add.

1. Be fully vaccinated

Be vaccinated against COVID-19. Doubled dosed at least, ideally with a booster shot. COVID-19 vaccines provide good protection and reduce the risk of serious illness and hospitalisation. More information here.

Remember other vaccinations: Influenza, Shingles, Pneumonia, Whooping Cough, etc.

2. Take sensible precautions as necessary

  • Wear a mask if directed. Properly constructed masks are recommended, to N95 standard. These provide considerably better protection than cloth or poorly fitted masks
  • Enjoy out door gatherings of friends and family rather than meeting indoors
  • Shop early in the day
  • Avoid large crowds
  • Think social distance when moving in the community.

3. Eat as well as possible

Eat a wide variety of food every day. Include the following:

  • Fruits and vegetables. Think lots of colour and variety
  • Lean protein, including fish, beans, small amounts of meat
  • At least three servings of whole grain cereals, bread, rice or pasta
  • Three servings of dairy such as milk, yoghurt or cheese
  • Healthy fats, including nuts, oily fish, vegetable oils and avocados
  • Snack healthily on nuts, vegetables or fruit
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • Cut back on processed and refined foods including sugary drinks.

Include fun foods, perhaps as an occasional snack or treat. Life can be very boring without them. (Confession: I have ice cream almost every day.) Below is a photo of one lunch, prepared by my husband, which is both colourful and fun.

toast, cheese fruit for better health

4. Get moving

Aerobic exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health.

Walk, swim, run, cycle, dance, surf, sail, attend aquarobics, play a team sport. Perform strength and balance exercises. Walking can be an easy way to stay active because it can be combined with socialising, shopping, doing errands, visiting.

Think strength, endurance, balance and flexibility.

If you are an older person, it might help to read my blog, ‘Walking speed predicts seniors life expectancy’.

5. Spend time in fresh air

Some things to think about

  • Remember to be sun safe
  • Parks, beaches, rivers and the bush are all free and fun
  • Good ventilation of homes and work places. Remember the adage of your grandmother: Fresh air and sunlight kill germs!
  • Vitamin D is produced by the action of sunlight on bare skin.
Rivers and bush

6. Manage your stress

Stress has a negative effect on our health in many ways. For example, it increases cortisol levels so that we are in a constant state of flight, fight or freeze. It affects blood sugar levels, food choices, susceptibility to sickness, increased weight and fat distribution.

Some ways to reduce stress include

  • Deep breathing
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Changing negative thinking to more positive ideas
  • Being grateful
  • Talking about problems
  • Doing activities you enjoy
  • Meditating
  • Praying.

More ideas? Here’s a link to a Webmed site about stress management

7. Get enough sleep

Most adults need at least seven hours sleep a night. If you have difficulty sleeping, or think you need more sleep, here are some suggestions:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This helps to reinforce the sleep-wake cycle
  • Don’t go to bed over-full or hungry
  • Beware of the affects of alcohol, smoking and caffeine on your sleep pattern
  • Create a restful environment. This usually means cool, dark and quiet, and limiting the use of screens an hour before bedtime
  • Calming activities such as using relaxation techniques or deep breathing may help
  • Limit daytime naps
  • Include exercise and spending time outdoors in your daily activities
  • Manage worries. This might need more space!

8. Limit alcohol intake; stop smoking

These need no explanation.

9. Socialise for better health

  • Maintain old and nurture new friendships
  • Keep in touch regularly with family
  • Enjoy activities with others
  • Contribute (safely) to the community.
  • If you feel lonely or isolated, find ways to connect with others. My blog, ‘Is loneliness the next big health threat‘ might be of interest.

10. Have fun

  • Do things you enjoy, alone or with other people
  • Create things, like music and art; a garden; meals; a home, a special corner. Write a book or a love letter. As Einstein is supposed to have said, ‘Creativity is intelligence having fun’
  • Learn new things: be curious
  • Have something to look forward to.

Photo below, of me having fun with a much-loved granddaughter. So blessed!

Maureen Helen having fun with granddaugher

This has been a fun blog to write. It has prompted me to think again about my own health and life-style. I hope you enjoy challenging yourself to do one or two things you haven’t done recently to improve your health and immune system.

I’d love to read your comments and suggestions for what else might be important to you. Stay safe and well.

Copyright, Maureen Helen 2022

Join the Conversation

24 Comments

  1. Sensible advice as always, Maureen.

    The Omicron variant behaves like a wildfire, it spreads far quicker than any other variant, it is like no other and can attack those who are fully vaccinated and boosted.

    I’ve lost track of how many of my friends and relatives who are fully boosted caught it during the last month, even two of the younger grandchildren aged five and seven. Thankfully, the little ones were over it within a couple of days, we don’t vaccinate children either.

    I am continuing to visit restaurants but no other indoor public areas and I’m limiting my contacts to family only and we all take a test first.
    Stay well, Maureen.

    1. Hi, Sue. We have had such a smooth run for so long, and on February 5 our borders to other states and the rest of the world will be open to whatever COVID strain is passing. Many Western Australians, perhaps the majority of us, would prefer not to have open borders, but there is considerable pressure from other states and the Commonwealth government. They talk about us ‘living in a cave’, ‘living under the doona’ and ‘being precious’. But today, for example, there was one locally acquired case of Omicron variant who was already in quarantine. Fully vaccinated and boosted, I know that John and I are vulnerable because of age and underlying health issues.

      Not one person I know actually wants the borders open. Draconian measures will be in place. The unvaccinated will not be allowed into public venues except for shopping. They are calling foul. Rapid Antigen Tests are not available, nor are N95 masks. Both have been diverted to other states because of ?greater need. Not a good position to be in. I guess we are about to enter the real world whatever that means. We will try to be super careful.

      You stay well, too, Sue x

      1. Apparently, 40% of those infected show no symptoms!
        I understand and sympathise with your concerns, and in my experience, once people gain their freedom, caution is gradually forgotten. Outsiders will bring in the virus, but insiders will spread it. There seems to be a silly belief that if a person is a family member or a friend, then they are unlikely to have the virus. People tend to be more wary of strangers, but they are more likely to contract the virus from a family member or close friend.

        N95 masks are not licenced over here. there is something very similar on sale, but quite expensive. Most people wear washable cloth masks.
        from the beginning I’ve worn disposable three layer surgical masks. They give an excellent fit with no gaps and were given a good review by the medical profession. I buy mine in boxes of fifty from Amazon.
        I’m fortunate in that three of my children work in education where home rapid testing is compulsory every couple of days, my supply of tests comes from them.
        I do hope all goes well for you. Don’t take any chances.

        1. It is all very worrying, Sue. Thanks for the information about the masks you use. John and I have had a mixture of cloth masks since the beginning, and until we find something else available, I guess we’ll continue to wear them. All disposable masks have been snapped up in Perth, ready for 5 February.

          My daughter Jenny works in the WA Health Department, and her husband is an intensivist doctor (specialises in intensive care). They also warn us to be careful about who we mix with when the borders are open. Thank you as always for your good wishes. I hope I don’t take chances, but one never really knows. At least we do know that unvaccinated people will be barred from many non-essential venues from 1 February. That’s a start. Stay well.

            1. Indeed it would be a waste of effort, Sue. I’m becoming more and more concerned for when Western Australian borders are relaxed on 5 February.

            2. I can understand that. I suppose the only saving grace about this strain of the virus is that although it spreads quicker than other variants, it appears not to be as harmful as other strains and is shorter lived.

            3. I guess we are in for a rude awakening, come 5 February, Sue. But we have had such a good run we probably shouldn’t complain.

            4. Next week we are about to lose all the Covid restrictions. Many of us see it as a bad decision.

              Covid cases here in Yorkshire are usually two to three weeks behind the south. Schools up here are now reporting alarmingly high numbers of Covid amongst both children and staff. So, although the south and London are seeing the numbers drop, the numbers in the north are increasing.

              The idea is we now need to live with the virus just as we do with Flu. I will continue to wear my mask and continue taking care.

            5. It is such a worry, Sue. I wish ‘they’ would stop making bad decisions! And the statistics seem so patchy from place to place. As you will have gathered I am not looking forward to the borders disappearing in a couple of weeks. One of the worst things is that I will have three new great-grandchildren by June, as three of my granddaughters are pregnant. They are already saying they will try to ‘protect’ me from COVID and they will ensure they do not come to visit, or me to visit them. I hope I’ll be making my own decisions to see these babies!

            6. The scientists soon discovered that the virus disperses in seconds in the fresh air, so unless someone is breathing directly into your face you are pretty safe outside. So that’s one option for you.

              By the time those babies arrive your family should be able to get hold of a supply of home tests kits and could take a quick home test before coming to see you in your home. That’s what my family is doing at the moment.

              Towards the end of all our lockdowns, we were able to have small groups visit us in our gardens. We met up with our family many times outside and maintained a safe distance.

              A few weeks ago, I included a picture that I had taken of granddaughter Daisy, she was covered with a blanket and cuddled up to her dad outside in our garden. At the time it was June and we were having a BBQ, Daisy wasn’t very well, she had Covid (I didn’t say that in my blog).
              I sat just over two metres away, and in the fresh air, I felt perfectly safe.

            7. Dear Sue, that is such a comforting post. Because we haven’t had any virus to speak of here, we have never had rapid antigen tests. In fact, there were unlawful until a fortnight ago. We don’t really know how we will use them, but you give a perfect example. I feel much lighter and optimistic about the future and the babies. We have to wear masks inside public buildings, shops, etc at the moment but not outdoors. Knowing the virus disperses in seconds in the fresh air makes that very sensible and plausible. Poor little Daisy! I didn’t know she had the virus. Thank you again.

            8. Five of the grandchildren have had the virus.
              Ben aged 20, Max aged 19, Daisy, 16. Evie, 7 and Lily-Jane, 5
              Max and Daisy (siblings) had it at the same time and from the same source. They were both unwell for a week.
              Ben, was not very poorly, he stayed in his room and did not pass it to his brothers and sisters. This was last summer.
              Evie and Lily-Jane (cousins) had it over Christmas and were unconnected. They were well again within two days, nothing more than a slight temperature.
              Son-in-law Simon had the virus in March last year, he was poorly for a week and also suffers from long Covid.
              Despite her husband and children getting the virus, Victoria has managed to avoid it, though we do wonder if she was Asymptomatic.

            9. I’m shocked that so many members of your family have had the virus. We have so many vulnerable people in our family, babies, under fives, pregnant women, old folk, that I am even more scared. Here’s to good sense, good luck and loads of hope!

            10. They tell us it is not as dangerous as the other variants, Sue. But the statistics for people who have died from Omnicron are higher than deaths from other strains in Australia.

            11. As for masks, I wear one outside if I am walking on a busy shopping street where I am close to people as I by and I will continue when the mask wearing rule is lifted next week.

    1. Hi, Maureen,
      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you found it helpful and positive. I loved those photos, too, especially the one of me at UWA with my granddaughter.

    1. Thanks, Fiona. We have been so spoilt in WA that the thought of imminent border relaxation is quite scary. I guess we will weather this storm as other states have done. Thinking often about you and your book release very soon. Stay safe and well.

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