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Coping with Being Cooped Up

By Matt Cavallo

COVID-19 is here and with it is a new normal. The last time my life was this turned upside down was when I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I lost the functionality of my legs for about ninety days and I decided to social distance in part because I didn’t want anyone to see me. My diagnosis strangely prepared for this current bout of social distancing. From my diagnosis, however, I learned that the longer you stay distant, the easier it is to develop negative behaviors that can make it harder to reconnect when you are ready. Things like diet, exercise and talking to friends and family can fall to the wayside. In order to not fall into old behavior patterns, I knew that I needed to make a plan to handle social distancing differently this time around. Here is what I am doing to ensure that I am ready to reconnect with the world when COVID-19 is behind us. 

Stay on a routine: When stuck at home, it is easy to get caught up in binging the show everyone is talking about and next thing you know it is the middle of the night. Once you break your sleep cycle, it is hard to get back on it. Stay on the same sleep cycle you would be on if there was no social distancing. Sleep is important and when the days blend together at home maintaining a normal is tough to do. Being well-rested is important because an interrupted sleep cycle can lead to increased fatigue.

Be mindful of your diet: Staying at the house makes it easy to make unscheduled trips to the kitchen. I knew this was going to be especially tough for me because my boys are always snacking. It is easy to have a little snack when I am making something for them. If you read my articles, you know that before COVID-19 I started intermittent fasting. Being confined to home makes it challenging to resist overeating. My wife and I recently started a five-day plant-based cleanse. We decided there is no better time to do a cleanse than being trapped at the house. It had only been four days, but I see a visible difference already. Had I been caught up in my normal routine, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to try the cleanse but social distancing allowed me to try something new.

Stay active: While we can’t get to the gym, there are ways to work out around the house. I recently decided to try the thirty-day pushup challenge. I read it in a men’s health magazine where a person decided to do ten pushups a day for thirty days. I am on day four and decided to double it and do twenty a day. This has been hard because of some of my MS deficits, so I started pushups on the stairs because the incline helps. I also started riding my bike which is another low impact exercise, which allows me to get out of my house without coming in contact with others.

Stay social: Just because we can’t see friends and family in person doesn’t mean that we can’t stay connected. Pick up the phone and Facetime with an old friend, schedule a family Zoom night, or organize a drive-by parade for loved ones who aren’t tech savvy. Social distancing has given us more time. I am not overwhelmed with a full calendar of travel and work commitments. My boys don’t have a million afterschool activities that they need to be shuttled back and forth, too. This freedom makes it the perfect time to connect with the important people in your life. 

Don’t sweat the small stuff: COVID-19 has created a lot of restrictions in our world and now there are some many things that we can’t do and that are out of our control but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make the best of it. For example, I usually get a haircut every four weeks and I haven’t had one since the end of February and that’s ok. I can have fun styling my hair in different ways, which is something I haven’t done since I was about 12. I even grew a beard for a couple of weeks because I have never had one in my life. So, while I can’t do everything that is part of my normal routine, I have adapted and had some fun with what I am able to do.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. This is the time to do it. Stop putting off that diet or exercise routine, this is a perfect time to make a change. So, while COVID-19 has us all cooped up, maintaining social connections, diet and exercise can help get us through this time happy, healthy, and in better shape than when it started.