COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that is more potent and deadly than its predecessors. COVID-19 has undoubtedly wreaked havoc all over the world. At the time of writing this article, the United States has a total of 332,000 deaths and close to 20 million infections. There are almost 100 million coronavirus cases all over the world. For local health communities treating severe cases of COVID-19 has been difficult due to the lack of resources and the mental and physical toll on healthcare workers. Although most infected individuals improve with no intervention, for people with underlying chronic conditions such as lung ailments, heart disease, or obesity, the virus can be deadly. Individuals with obesity have the added risk of hospitalization and worse outcomes due to inflammation, the risk of respiratory depression, and the increased risk of embolism (traveling blood clots).
Although there is a new vaccine for COVID-19, it is currently limited to frontline workers followed by nursing home residents, therefore, the risk of infection is anticipated to continue for the majority of Americans. To combat the spread of this virus, people all over the world are social distancing in order to reduce the chances of the airborne spread of the disease. It is thought that the droplet particles for coronavirus can travel approximately 3 feet before falling to the ground, or up to 6 feet if forcefully propelled by a cough or sneeze. For this reason not only have individuals been asked to stand at least 6 feet away from each other but to also use frequent hand washing and wear a facial barrier, such as a mask.
The isolation, unpredictability, mortality, and morbidity of COVID-19 has been devastating; however, in the face of adversity the lessons learned provide a small glimmer of hope.
Ways that COVID-19 has made health and wellness a priority:
You are not alone if you can admit that your hand washing routine prior to COVID-19 needed some work. Forty percent of Americans, pre COVID, admitted to not washing their hands after using the bathroom. In addition, many Americans fail to wash their hands before eating a meal or touching their face. Proper handwashing has become a priority because COVID-19 is spread from person to person and has demonstrated an ability to live on certain inanimate surfaces. The good news is that now Americans are washing their hands more often throughout the day and also focusing on proper hand washing. The CDC recommends wetting hands first and then adding soap until it creates a lather and rubbing hands together at least 20 seconds before rinsing and drying hands.
Businesses have followed suit by employing proper cleaning techniques on a more routine basis such as cleaning surfaces and contact areas between customers, wearing gloves and masks, and using quality disinfectants such as Bleach, Lysol, and other supplies.
Many Americans have finally learned to shield their coughs and sneezes. Coughing and sneezing on your neighbor without covering your nose and mouth has always been rude and unpleasant but now people are taking extra precautions to shield their germs from potentially infecting others. Masks partially help with the spread of respiratory viruses but an elbow (recommended) or at least a hand is helpful as well. As an added incentive, some states such as Virginia have made deliberately coughing or sneezing on someone else a punishable offense that can result in jailtime and fines.
Overall Americans have become much more cognoscente of cleanliness, using soap, water, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes more than ever.
We appreciate "REAL" Connection
It's true that you don’t know what you've got till it's gone.
Although the explosion of social media with TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube videos has helped the world connect, it does not take the place of in-person human interaction. COVID-19 has taught us to value interpersonal relationships and being with one another.
Text messaging, email, facetime, social media likes, and direct messages (DMs) have taken the place of phone calls, in person meetings, and quality time. Being forced to interact with distance or through virtual means has been an inferior substitute. We miss birthday celebrations, meet ups at the coffee shop, and happy hours at the end of a long work week. We miss hugs and physical demonstrations of affection. Events and networking are on hold or altered to avoid handshakes and close contact.
The way we communicate has changed, eye contact has been replaced with a camera lens and we've been reduced to seeing people either behind a mask or from the waist up only.
COVID-19 has taught us that humans cannot survive in a vacuum and no matter how introverted one may be, we are best when we connect with each other. It is essential to our existence and mental well-being.
The Return of the Routine
What does the school system and the in-office work environment have in common?
Many parents learned quickly that their children are in a structured environment that when disrupted leads to chaos and an inability to learn and retain new information.
For individuals new to working from home, the struggle with structure and routine led to poor habits such as overeating, inactivity, low productivity, and boredom.
Regardless of the changes in the environment, it is necessary to establish a home routine. Structure and routine are strong success keys for weight management as well. Establishing a routine requires time management and planning for core activities like waking, sleep, meal times, and work, as well as wellness activities such as self-care, breaks and time off, and physical activity.
Cooking and Meal Preparation
As home based hobbies continue to emerge there is no greater pastime than cooking and meal preparation. Cooking serves several purposes such as exploration of a new skill, sustenance, and healthy weight management. To add, cooking is a form of love and consideration that has allowed families in quarantine to spend quality time sharing meals together.
As diets such as keto and low carb continue to evolve, new essential tools to shorten cooking time also emerged such as the Instant Pot and air fryer. New culinary tools to simplify the cooking process has allowed for more people to explore cooking and share these adventures through online videos, social media posts, recipe blogs, and businesses geared at selling meal prep and pre-packaged food mixes.
Emphasis on Mental Health
There are unfortunately many reasons for mental instability in 2020. Uncertainty, fear, and death are sad and hard to cope with. Many admit to depression, boredom, and even hopelessness. Millions are unemployed and the division of the country has been disheartening. What makes 2020 unique is that quarantine has removed distractions and the ability to escape from reality.
Mental health apps, virtual visits with counselors, and faith-based programs have heeded the call for compassionate self-care. COVID-19 has provided a heightened awareness that healing emotional trauma and mental toxicity is imperative to moving forward and it is refreshing to see more avenues for mental health explode in 2020.
The Art of the Pivot
Perhaps one of the most essential lessons from COVID-19 has been how to survive less than ideal circumstances. One of those survival tactics is the art of the pivot. We have witnessed the pivot in various areas ranging from business to personal to education and health and wellness. We have leveraged technology to find alternate ways to connect and knitted fabrics for face coverings when simple masks and n95s were obsolete. We have learned to problem solve, trouble shoot, and course correct in order to reach the best solution.
The lessons from COVID-19 have been life changing making 2020 a year that most will never forget. We mourn those who were lost and have learned patience, resilience, endurance, and gratitude.