The previous two articles on COVID-19 covered some basic information on preparing for the virus, such as how to reduce your exposure, how to prepare for the pandemic, and what to do during sick days when you live with diabetes. This article will continue with diabetes care, and just as importantly, how to take care of our emotions during the crisis.
Continue with your usual diabetes care
The COVID-19 pandemic and orders to stay at home can turn thousands of lives upside down. In addition to taking all of the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of contracting the virus, taking care of yourself, it's crucial that people with diabetes continue their regular diabetes care routine such as eating healthy and staying active.
During this difficult time, healthy eating might prove a little more challenging than normal. If you can, try your best to make healthy food choices. Eat foods that are whole grains, high in fiber, low in saturated fats, and that have minimal or no added sugar.
If it works with your blood sugar levels, eat small, frequent meals and snacks during the day instead of having one or two big meals. When staying hydrated, make sure you’re choosing unsweetened drinks. If you can’t access fresh produce, try eating frozen or canned foods, but remember to rinse off any of that added sodium found in cans. Use this time to experiment! If you like, try to find new recipes using the foods you have on hand.
Government agencies have schemes in place to help people in need with limited access to food. If this is a concern for you, try looking into national and local food assistance programs and services. Shopping for groceries has become more difficult as we’re all taking efforts to avoid exposure and spread of the virus. If it’s risky for you to leave the house, consider asking family members or friends to help. In addition, some restaurants and supermarkets offer home delivery or have special shopping hours for high risk populations. There are also companies that provide grocery delivery services. If you need help looking into the options in your area, consider asking family members or friends to help check them out for you.
It’s well known that physical activity is an important part of staying healthy and has tons of health benefits, including helping to control blood glucose levels and boost your mood. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has presented some new barriers to fitting in that regular physical activity. We can’t go to the gym and we need to avoid our exposure to the virus, so exercising during this time is particularly challenging for many people! Most adults are working from home now, and many children and teens are taking online classes from home. This can lead to too much sitting and long periods of inactivity. While working or studying, remember to get up and take a 3-5 minute break every 20-30 minutes. Try walking up and down the stairs in the house or doing some simple stretches.
It’s essential to set aside some time for physical activity every day. You can also encourage everyone in your household to be more active by picking a time to go for a daily walk together. This can make for some quality bonding time too! Just make sure that when you’re outside, you practice the proper social distancing as the government requires.
If an outdoor workout doesn’t suit your fancy, there are many indoor exercises you can do, like squats, sit ups, push ups, or lifting weights. Don’t have any weights? Try using full bottles of water or canned foods instead! You can also try out some free online exercise programs, or try out an exercise app such as Fitness Buddy.
Even doing chores in the house counts towards that important physical activity time!
Here are few additional safety considerations to keep in mind when exercising during the COVID-19 pandemic:
-If you have a cough, fever, or trouble breathing, do not exercise. Get medical attention as indicated.
-If you leave your home to exercise outdoors, remember to follow the proper hand hygiene and social distancing guidelines.
-If you don’t usually exercise that much or have a chronic health condition, consult with your doctor, ease into your new plan, and start with shorter durations of light exercise.
Taking care of your mental health
The concern of COVID-19 in our country and around the world can be very stressful for many people. Those with diabetes might feel heightened levels of stress and anxiety as they deal with the extra preparations, the extra guidelines on top of their usual care, the precautions taken to minimize risk of exposure to the virus, and the fear of more complicated health outcomes if the virus is contracted.
Therefore, this is a crucial time to take care of our mental health. If watching the news makes you depressed or scared, take a break from it. Try doing some exercise or activities that you enjoy, like gardening, painting, or cooking. Maybe take this time to do a spring clean of your house! If you notice feelings of anxiety, it could be helpful to make a list of what you can and cannot control. Connecting virtually with friends and family can also relieve stress. Reach out with phone calls, emails, or video chats, share your concerns and thoughts, and provide support for one another. Keep in mind that social distancing does not mean social isolation. We’re lucky that the modern world provides us with the technology to stay virtually connected.
Remember that you’re not alone! Everyone needs support to get through this critical time. Parents, children, the elderly, people with other health conditions, medical workers, and emergency response teams all need support. Call your healthcare team and seek professional help if you realize your stress or emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety have been persistent, getting worse, and affecting your daily activities. Mental health is just as important as physical health.
The Disaster Distress Helpline is also available for those with emotional distress in need of support and crisis counseling. This is an unprecedented time, but we can get through this together by connecting with and supporting others, and helping out wherever we can.
Use credible sources
When you look for information about the pandemic, be sure to use credible sources such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USDA Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and local government authorities. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is an excellent source for diabetes care.
Beware of any rumours or fake news from the internet or social media, as they may not be accurate and can create unnecessary panic and chaos in the community. Stay safe out there!
Note that the COVID-19 guidelines and official recommendations have been quickly evolving, so please refer to the websites listed above for the most up to date guidelines. In the next article in our series on COVID-19, we’ll look at your workplace rights during lockdown and answer some other common COVID questions. Take care, and we wish you all good health!
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