Have you made a commitment to your health and well-being? Are you keeping yourself healthy?
While your answers to these questions have always been important, they’ve taken on extra meaning since the start of the pandemic, as we moved from our workplaces to our homes, and in and out of lockdowns, closures and pauses. Not to mention masks.
Our health, both mental and physical, has been a topic of discussion for many of us since the pandemic began in March – but it isn’t being talked about enough.
It’s not easy to stay home all, or most, of the time. Nobody prepared us for this. And it may be affecting us in ways we aren’t even aware of.
On the one hand, we are doing the right thing by following the advice of responsible government officials, religious and lay leaders, doctors, scientists and others. Most of us are staying safe by staying away from others, who might be carrying and spreading COVID-19.
But, on the other hand, we are social beings. To not see family and friends, to eliminate group activities and to worry when we do go out all takes a toll.
So how can we mitigate the effects on our mental and physical health until vaccines beat back COVID-19? I’ve crafted a list to give you some ideas of how to protect – and maybe even enhance – your physical and mental health in 2021:
Don’t give up on staying safe. Isolating, or even keeping our “pod” small, is tough. We’ve already been through the hardest part – Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and school breaks – often without our loved ones or trips to warmer or beloved places. It’s easy to feel like you can’t take it anymore. But stay the course. You can do it. Stay home. Stay away from crowds. Don’t gather with crowds indoors. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. We can do this – after all, it won’t be forever.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. If you are feeling down, depressed or chronically out of sorts, get help. Talk to someone. See a mental-health professional. There are many options inside and outside the Jewish community. Jewish Collaborative Services is an excellent resource where you can get help or get pointed in the right direction for whatever help you need. Reach out to JCS at JCSRI.org.
There are many other options in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts for mental-health help. Or turn to a friend or family member. Just remember, it’s OK to ask for help. These are unusual times and the added stress it is causing all of us is real.
Get some exercise. Getting up and moving does wonders for your whole self. Often, I walk up and down the stairs and around my house. That really can be a cardio workout! I’ve also taken long walks outdoors; there are many trails that are accessible even in the winter. Or just do a lap around the block – any movement is better than nothing, and maybe you will meet a new neighbor.
Another option is the endless supply of online exercise classes and videos. And the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center is now offering a wide variety of classes online, as well as a virtual membership to take advantage of all these classes.
Learn something new. Join a Zoom class. It will do your brain good. Local congregations and Jewish organizations have a wide variety of online learning opportunities. And virtual recreational opportunities abound: cooking classes, book groups, armchair travel, music lessons. If you want it, you can find it online.
Pray. Don’t forget that you can still pray in a congregational setting. Locally, there are plenty of opportunities for worshipping virtually with others. Attend services at your own temple, or try something new: Find the schedule for services at a different temple on its website and join in. Or perhaps you are a transplant and want to reconnect with your childhood synagogue. Chances are you can do that through a streaming service, such as Zoom.
Rabbi Mark Elber, of Temple Beth El in Fall River, told our reporter Seth Chitwood that his synagogue is seeing people who have moved away join in online services. And it’s not the only congregation experiencing this. Virtual services are a way to connect, or reconnect, on a never-before-seen level.
You can read Seth’s article about virtual services on page 18.
Reconnect with what brings you joy. Back in March, we heard a lot about bringing joy into our newly-isolated lives. But that’s faded. Let’s bring it back as we slog through the dark days of January.
You don’t usually have time to sit down and read a novel? Do it. Rarely have time to bake? Make cookies or a cake or bread. Do your closets need sorting? Take the time.
If you’ve been living and working at home for nine months, you may need to rethink some of your spaces to introduce more joy. I know I sure do. Anyone who has seen me at a video meeting knows that I have way too many piles of papers on my desk. These are on my to-do list for this month. Just writing about it should keep me accountable!
Statistics show that many people begin January with resolutions to exercise or diet or do whatever they think will help their health and wellness. But by mid-February, 80% of those resolutions have been abandoned. Researchers say that has to do with failure to emotionally commit to the goal, as well as the fact that it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit.
Of course, the statistics were collected during what we think of as normal times. This year, all bets are off. But it is important to consider how you will keep yourself healthy for the next few months, until spring – with its promise of more outdoor activities and widespread vaccinations to knock down the virus that has so disrupted our lives.
If we can bear up this winter, and do our best to stay healthy mentally and physically, perhaps we can emerge from this stronger. We’ll certainly appreciate each other and the joy of a simple hug like never before. And that is a beautiful thing.
Fran Ostendorf, Editor