The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over yet. But here in the United States, positivity rates, illnesses, and deaths from the coronavirus are plummeting.
Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. And we’re starting to cautiously resume some of our old pre-pandemic activities.
But as we do, many folks, especially seniors, are finding some unexpected challenges. If you don’t feel as fit as you did before you spent much of the last year and a half cooped up inside, rest assured you’re NOT alone.
Our physical and emotional health has taken quite a hit. Muscles have weakened, sleep schedules have been destroyed, and our anxiety levels are STILL through the roof. And these things have hit older Americans the hardest.
Reclaim your life with these post-pandemic tips
It’s time, to be honest with yourself. Resuming “normal” life isn’t going to be like flipping a switch. It will take some time, effort, and patience to return to your pre-pandemic existence.
But don’t worry, I have a four-step plan that can help you do just that.
1. Focus on food:
A good place to start your post-pandemic planning is by focusing on your diet. If you’re like many folks, your eating habits during the pandemic took a turn for the worse.
As our anxiety grew and isolation took its toll, many of us relied on comfort foods to get by. Processed junk foods, empty carbs, and a whole lot of delivery are the norm these days. And let’s admit it, grazing and snacking sometimes replace REAL meals.
You may have put on some pandemic pounds. (Join the club.) But even worse, you might not have been giving your body all the nutrients it needs to be at the top of your game. And now that you’re asking more from it again, you need to fuel it up properly.
Start by swearing off the junk and ditching the empty carbs. Switch to a lower carb or Mediterranean diet with lots of fresh veggies, fruits, and some delicious unprocessed meats. And be sure to PUSH the proteins to help rebuild lost muscle and reenergize your body.
Check out these 5 warning signs you’re not eating enough protein.
2. Make a move:
It isn’t just our diets that went to heck during the coronavirus crisis. Despite your best efforts, there’s a good chance your exercise routine got off track too.
The lack of regular movement over the past year and a half could have serious consequences, especially if you’re a senior. You may have found you lost muscle and strength. Your coordination and balance could have been affected. And if you frequently find yourself out of breath and energy now that you’re venturing out more, you’re in good company.
It’s time to reestablish an exercise routine. Start slow and gentle, but keep it consistent. Don’t worry, you don’t HAVE to head to the gym (but if you’re fully vaccinated, feel free to if you like). You can mix up your movement with a variety of at-home routines to keep from getting bored.
I suggest checking out my free report 5 easy and effective exercises for out of shape beginners as a way to get started. Then maybe try a brisk walk one day, some chair exercises the next (I have 8 to try right here), and then a stretching routine the following day. Check YouTube for some ideas.
3. Stop dodging docs:
Many of us have delayed getting medical care and avoided routine doctor’s visits during the pandemic. And frankly, that can be downright dangerous.
So it’s time to STOP dodging all your docs. You can start by making an appointment for a routine check-up with your primary care physician. He can run all the standard tests and help you get your health back on track.
If you’re having trouble getting around or doing regular activities around the house, your doctor can refer you to physical or occupational therapy if they’re needed.
If you’ve skipped routine dental work and eye exams, go ahead and schedule those too. And if you typically see any specialists, get them back on your schedule as well.
4. Reestablish routines:
Something many of us discovered during this forced time off from normal life is how important routines are. Once we didn’t have them to guide us, it was easy to feel lost and fall into bad habits.
Plus, a lack of regular routines can be especially risky for seniors. It can harm your cognitive health and even trigger cognitive decline.
In many cases, sleep schedules and eating schedules were some of the first things to go. Go ahead and reestablish regular meal (and snack) times. And start to work on getting your sleep routine back on track too.
Sleep is CRITICAL for your health. Over the long term, lack of good quality sleep sends your risk for illnesses such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and depression soaring.
Anxiety and stress can stand in the way of a good night’s sleep. Ashwagandha, valerian, and chamomile (look for a tea if you like) can all help.
Melatonin (often referred to as the “sleep hormone”) can plummet as we age. Melatonin supplements can restore your levels and help you slip gently off to sleep.
And remember, the wavelengths of light from LED screens – including the ones on your cellphone, tablet, and laptop, as well as some TVs – can mess with your brain’s ability to recognize night from day. Turn it all off a couple hours before bed and read a book instead.
Plus, don’t forget social routines are vital too. Many of us struggled with the isolation we had to endure during the pandemic. Loneliness doesn’t just leave us feeling down either. It can destroy your health. In fact, it can even send you to an early grave.
So go ahead and fight back. Reach out to vaccinated friends and loved ones again. Have folks over for coffee or dinner. Go out to grab lunch with friends. Start or restart a book club, regular card game, or sewing circle. Visit your local senior center or take a class at the local college.
The pandemic isn’t over yet. But if you’re fully vaccinated, experts say it’s safe to start reclaiming some of your pre-pandemic life now. It’s going to be a good summer. And gosh-darn it, we sure DESERVE it.