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2020 has been difficult for everyone. I have certainly gotten to the point where I am quite sick of the 2020 jokes. Of course, the current pandemic situation will not magically go away on January 1, 2021. So instead of waiting for the end of the pandemic, this article will focus on how to make the most of your time, right now, in the current ‘new normal’!
How to reduce the spread of COVID-19
Before this article gets into the details of how to make the most of 2020 and your time during the pandemic, let’s first review the importance of our actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These steps are easy but important. In order to reduce risk and still be able to enjoy some of the adventures listed below, some basic rules need to be followed.
Wear a mask!
Wearing a mask when indoors away from home or when outdoors and within ~six feet of others dramatically reduces the spread of COVID-19. If you are an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19, your mask will trap many virus particles making your likelihood of infecting someone else much lower. If you do not have COVID-19, wearing a mask will block many of the possible virus particles of others from entering your respiratory tract. If both parties wear masks, the risk of COVID is decreased exponentially.
Yes, wearing a mask isn’t what we would naturally choose to do, but I am sure spreading COVID to your loved ones is much worse. And with masks, the number of activities that you will be able to do safely will be greater.
Reduce the size of your social circle
Additionally, minimizing your social circle to a small handful of people is another recommended precaution. It is important to know all of the possible exposures of your group to avoid contact with those who may have their own increased risk. Spend time with only the handful of people vital to your life and happiness in more intimate settings such as inside a home. There are other possibilities that I will mention later for less-immediate family and friends.
Using these precautions as a framework, you can now work to focus on what you can do to empower yourself and make this time as valuable as it can be. Remember that all time is valuable including right now!
The benefits of working from home
Many people have been working from home since March 2020 and may continue to do so indefinitely. It may be difficult for some people to stay motivated while working from home full time while others may miss the socialization of the office. However, working from home offers many benefits.
Firstly, depending on how long your commute to work is, you may be saving a lot of time that can be put to use in other ways. In an extreme example, many people who live in Manhattan commute to work in multiple steps. They drive to the train station in Connecticut, New Jersey, or Long Island, take the train or bus into Manhattan at a central location, and then take the subway to a final walk to their office in New York City.
Altogether, this commute could be upwards of 2 hours each way. If this is done daily, the commuter saves 20 hours each week. For others, a ten-minute commute is one of the better case scenarios. This still saves 20 minutes daily and one hour and 40 minutes weekly.
Extra time to live well
With that extra time, sleep schedules can normalize and there will be more time for cooking and exercise. Although we now have smaller social circles to spend time with in person, there is now more time to spend with those people.
And how about that home improvement project that you have been putting off for years? Now is the time to make it happen. You can also catch up on bestseller books, movies you’ve been meaning to see, an art project, or a puzzle. We always say there is not enough time, and now we may have more time in some situations.
More opportunities to exercise
This is a great time to start an exercise program. If you have any exercise equipment at home, put it to good use. If not, everyone is able to go outside and take a walk daily, weather permitting. It is hard to start exercising initially but once in a routine, it is easier to continue. It may be best to write down exercise goals and outline when to do which exercises. You can then post this schedule somewhere you frequently look such as your refrigerator door, making it more likely to stick to it.
For example, suppose you have an elliptical machine and no other at-home equipment. Assuming no health contraindications, your schedule could include the elliptical 3 days weekly for 45 minutes and a walk outside for 45 minutes on days not using the elliptical. You can also mix in some strength and core workouts with just your own body weight. Put on the TV or some music and get on the floor for some push-ups or sit-ups.
Cooking healthy recipes
Continuing your journey to better health, the extra time available during the COVID pandemic could be used to explore new, healthier cooking recipes. I believe that everyone has access to healthy foods. Whether a trip to a grocery store wearing a mask or ordering grocery delivery to your front door, there is no shortage in fruits and vegetables and lean meats. Get the creative juices flowing and try cooking something different with fresh ingredients. The healthy eating and increased exercise will not only boost your immune system in the event of a possible COVID exposure but will also boost your mood and fight the pandemic blues.
Don’t fall into these traps
I have noted that a lot of people have used COVID as an excuse to be less healthy, giving reasons such as having gyms closed and less access to healthy foods. I believe that the COVID pandemic can actually allow us to live much healthier lifestyles.
Even if you do not work from home, there will still be more time in most people’s schedules due to the absence of certain activities that are not friendly to social distancing (certain travel, movies, going out on the town, and large gatherings or gatherings outside of our inner social circles). This time can and should be invested in healthy living.
Assessing COVID-19 risk by activity
You need not be stuck at home during the entirety of this pandemic, especially if you are someone whose morale is fed by going on adventures. In this COVID-19 pandemic, there is a wide range of rankings for activities from very low risk to very high risk. The Texas Medical Association put out the chart below for reference.
Please note that the above chart may be more specific to Texas than other states, but it does provide a general frame of reference for other areas. Several other institutions have published similar charts as well.
My thoughts on pandemic safe activities
As a precaution to stay as safe as possible, I recommend avoiding activities that are greater than moderate risk if at all possible. However, that still leaves plenty of things to do, as long as they are done safely.
Most outdoor activities are safe assuming that anyone within 6 feet of you is wearing a mask. For example, hiking or walking through nature is a great thing to do in the fall to experience the autumn foliage. Taking a walk on the beach may be a good activity too, provided you stay away from others and wear a mask when social distancing is not possible. Tennis and golf are great outdoor activities that also allow for being socially distanced.
For evening social activities with friends, many organizations are now offering online trivia. Online poker games can also be held for groups of friends. This pandemic has even given me the push to get together with friends virtually who live out of state, where before the pandemic, I would not have thought of it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the whole world for a loop. The precautions are vital for our health and safety and that of our friends and family. All of these restrictions can take a toll on mental health. However, we do not need to be resigned to this state of being. Instead, with some creativity and thoughtful planning, we can live healthier lives, take advantage of extra time to invest inside projects, spend more time with loved ones, and plan adventures that can remain relatively safe if done properly. Happy last quarter of 2020, let’s make the most of it!