Healthy choices in a pandemic

By Caroline Crotty

Confession: I am tired of Covid-19! I am looking forward to life without masks and recognising people from their whole face, not just eyes and eyebrows!  I am also looking forward to hugging, kissing and handshakes – each of which, I also confess, I took for granted!
Covid-19, referred to as a “novel coronavirus (nCoV)” is a new strain, and is not something we lived through before. We have no previous experience or benchmark so our reactions to Covid-19 are also novel.  We can expect to be somewhat ruffled by this pandemic. Humans, by nature, are creatures of habit and we like to think that we know what our future holds.  We may feel a little cautious about our future now because we do not have an end date for Covid-19. However, if we stay focused on the present, make healthy choices and form beneficial habits, we will be better able to face whatever lies ahead. Making healthy choices helps us feel better in the moment and is an investment in our future health.
The decisions we make today have potential to affect and impact us long-term. We rarely keep this in mind when we overindulge in highly processed foods, use illicit drugs or alcohol, smoke, drive irresponsibly etc.  While watching tv we might consume snacks simply because they are close-by, not because we are hungry. The process of eating is often automatic rather than consciously slowing down, savouring aromas, sensing textures and tasting food.  Making a conscientious effort to enjoy every morsel that we ingest is a mindful, healthy choice. 

We are never too old or too out of shape to make healthier choices – it is never too late! Healthy choices can include drinking more water, increasing cardio fitness and resistance training, reducing stressors, eating nutritious foods, quitting smoking, improving sleep routine, limiting screen time, connecting more with others, saying ‘no’ to things we don’t want to do, being outside in nature etc. The benefits of making healthier choices can include feeling more confident, weight loss, body strengthening, reducing the risk of health-related issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity etc. 
It can be difficult to make healthy choices even when we know making the right choice is rewarding – we are human and fallible and succumb to temptation! Keep in mind, the more often we make healthy choices, the easier they become. Make a healthy-choices plan by setting goals that are reasonable, achievable, and specific. Acknowledge beneficial decisions by giving yourself a pat on the back for each little victory. Whenever tempted to give-in to cravings, keep in mind the three D’s. Delay, Distract, Decide.
When craving something unhelpful/unhealthy, delay caving in by a predetermined number of minutes. Cravings pass. If we learn to postpone immediate gratification we are winning. Learn to distract thoughts away from the craving and focus attention onto another activity. Doing something sporty/active can be helpful. After we delay and distract, we decide not to succumb to the craving. Recall reasons to change, the advantages of making positive choices and benefits to your future self.
Whenever there is a setback or not-so-healthy decision, resume the healthy-choices plan quickly. Life is not linear or straightforward. Stay forward-facing towards the future. Remind yourself you’re doing your best and find joy – it’s everywhere – hiding in open view!!

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