Why Having a Routine During Quarantine is So Important

May 28, 2020

It finally looks like we may be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel regarding COVID-19 lockdowns. So many of us have been sheltering at home, some of us without jobs, others trying to help our kids learn at a distance, all of us wishing for positive news giving us a date for when things will be back to normal. 

Even though there are reasons to be optimistic, we are still a long way from our lives returning to the way things were before COVID-19. Coming up with a routine or a regular schedule for your life is more important than ever. It can help you and your family deal with uncertainty and put you in the best position for whatever comes next.

 

Why Have a Routine?

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Humans are naturally hard-wired to crave stability and dependability. Our brains and our bodies perform better if we can follow a regular schedule. At first, it may feel fun or relaxing to have a lot of free time that you can use however you want – especially if you have a job you can no longer go to and other responsibilities that have shifted.  

However, the decisions you make about how to spend your time cause stress. Do I go to the market or wait another day? What time should I wake up the kids? Should I look for jobs online, or should I watch TV? When should I start cooking dinner? 

Without a routine, during a single day, you could be making hundreds of decisions, and the stress and anxiety will add up. Building a routine can take this pressure off and sticking to a routine can help boost your self-confidence. 


What are Other Benefits of Having a Routine?

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Having a routine can help you become more efficient. Say, for example, you need to look for a job, but you only give yourself a few minutes, here and there. You will probably spend a lot of time online, searching your computer for resumes and other important documents, and not get that much work done. But if you make it a habit and start a routine – such as spending two hours Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – you will get into a rhythm that will make your time more productive. This is true for almost anything, whether it’s work, school, cleaning around the house, or even working out.

Following a routine or schedule every day could also help you get a better night’s sleep!


Who Needs a Routine?

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Everyone in your household can benefit from having a schedule – especially children. In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted their lives the most, taking them away from school, their friends, and all the social interactions that stimulate their young brains. There are signs that many children may already be suffering from anxiety and depression. 

The truth is, this has been hard on all of us. You don’t have to create a perfect routine that mirrors how life was before but work with your family to create structure for everyone.


How Do You Make a Routine?

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Start out by writing out all the things you need and want to get done, then list them by priority or urgency. The key is to stay busy, yet still have time for meals and personal care.

If you still feel like you don’t have a lot to do, then, look at what you can break down. For example, if one of your items is “cook a healthy dinner,” then you also might need to add “go to the store,” “search online for good recipes,” and “wash and dice the vegetables.” Breaking big to-do items into smaller tasks will help you fill out your day.

Throughout your day, it may help to include things that you used to do regularly. No, you don’t have to get dressed up, but a small thing – for example, putting on earrings or lipstick can help. If you always went on coffee break at 10:30 a.m., you can still have a cup at 10:30 – it will help you feel more normal. 

One of the ways you can help create a sense of stability is to create dedicated areas for certain activities. Identify a space in your house for working, create a pleasing environment with all the things you’ll need, and then only work there. Do the same for exercise, family time, leisure, and self-care.

However, you should be realistic about what you can get done. If you try to do too much and miss the mark, you may get discouraged and then give up.

And, just like there are great apps to help you live a healthier life, there are many free apps you can use to start and stick to a routine. More than 20 million people use Todoist, a free app that’s available for both Apple and Android. And Habitica is great for children (and those who are young at heart).It takes a game-like approach to setting goals and rewarding good behavior.


When Should a Routine Go into Effect?

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Right now! You can start by creating routines for a few days a week, or even for an entire month.

Don’t feel too bad if you go off your schedule. You can try again tomorrow. The point of a routine is to make your life better.


Don’t Ignore Your Health Routines

AltaMed is open to serve you in any way we can, and we don’t want you to forget about your family’s health routines. Children’s vaccinations are more important than ever, and we have taken steps to protect you and your family’s health so it’s safe to bring your kids in. We are also offering online and over-the-phone doctor visits so you can continue to get the care you need. Call us and make an appointment today!
 

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COVID-19: Taking Care of Your Mental Health Matters More Than Ever

April 27, 2020

Human beings are creatures of habit: we crave routine, dependability, and stability in our daily lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped a lot of that out, with many of us having to adjust to being with our families or completely isolated, 24/7. The fear of the health and economic effects, and not knowing when things will get back to normal, can result in stress, anxiety, and depression.

At AltaMed, we want to encourage you to think about your mental health and provide the support you may need. We understand that many people do not feel comfortable admitting they’re having problems, but the more we talk about what we’re going through, the more obvious it becomes that these issues are a normal part of life. There’s no shame in asking for help! 


We’re All Grieving for the Lives We Used to Have

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 Unfortunately, none of us know what the future holds. With the fear that we’ll never get back to “normal,” there can be a sense of loss. 

Many of us are also struggling with our schedules being disrupted, which can lead to a feeling of loss of control. Those feelings can spiral into anxiety and depression. If this sounds like you, it may help to create and stick to a routine. 

Aim to go to bed at the same time every night, and try to get a minimum of 7 – 8 hours of quality sleep (kids need even more) so you can start each day right.  In addition to work and home responsibilities, build in time for exercise, socializing with friends online or over the phone, and self-care

And don’t forget the little things – especially brushing your teeth three times a day. It may be more difficult to get dental appointments, so give yourself and your family one less thing to worry about.


You Don’t Have to Be Strong All the Time

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Many of us are trying to set a good example and be strong for our children, our partners, and those who depend on us. It’s OK to admit that you’re scared, too. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, don’t bury these feelings. Reach out to those you’re closest to and tell them how you feel. 

Do whatever you can to maintain your close connections and then lean in – the risks of loneliness and isolation during times like this are great, and so are the consequences.


Find a Way to Deal with Stress

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Living through long periods of stress can trigger bad behaviors – for example, drinking too much or using drugs. Too much stress for too long can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and more. It’s more important than ever to find a healthy way to deal with stress

Adults aren’t the only ones experiencing stress during the pandemic: your kids, being out of school and away from their friends and relatives, are going through stress, too. Talk to them honestly about it and listen to what they have to say. Then look for activities you can do together to help take the pressure off. Maybe it’s having a virtual dance party or going for a walk or bike-ride – just don’t forget to maintain your physical distance from others and wear a mask.


Give Yourself a Break 

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Most of us have never been through anything as intense as the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s taking a lot out of us, physically and emotionally. It may be harder to keep up – with house cleaning, working out, achieving personal goals you might have made like losing weight or exercising more. And that’s OK – you don’t have to be perfect, and you’re not a failure. It’s still important to set goals and expectations, but think about revising them or think about breaking them down into small steps.

For example, if you’re frustrated because your house has gotten messy, instead of aiming for perfection, figure out a way to enlist your family in a chore every day. If you had the goal of losing 15 pounds, put the scale in the closet but continue to focus on eating healthy foods and moving as much as you can during the day. Concentrate on what you achieve every day and celebrate your success.

However, there’s one goal that’s more important than ever: quitting smoking, vaping, or any tobacco use.


If You Smoke, Now is a Great Time to Quit

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Even if you think having a cigarette or two can help you get through the day, here’s why there’s never been a better time to quit. Smoking or vaping makes you even more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infections, and there’s evidence that secondhand smoke puts your family members at risk, too. 

We know it can be difficult, but you can do it, and we can put you in touch with resources that can help.


We’re Here for You

It’s natural to feel worried, sad, and lonely right now, but if these feelings start interfering with your ability to get through your daily life or start making you feel bad physically, it may be time to ask for help. To learn more about our Behavioral Health Services, call us at (855) 425-1777

If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255

 

Busting Myths Around Screen Time: Balance is Key During Quarantine

May 06, 2020

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, many of us are now working, playing, socializing, and going to school online. That’s a lot of screen time. And you may be wondering if all of that time spent looking down at a laptop, cellphone, or tablet is good for you.

The answers aren’t always easy. In a nutshell, spending 6, 8, or 10 hours online every day isn’t great for you, but you may be able to undo some of the harmful effects. Read on to learn more about common screen-related problems and how you can fix them.

 

The Myth: Increased Screen Time Can Lead to Weight Gain, Diabetes, and Other Health Problems

man playing video games

The Truth: There’s scientific evidence that too much sitting – whether it’s in front of a screen, on a couch, or behind the wheel of a car – can lead to heart disease, a shorter life, weight gain, increased risk of dementia, and many other health problems.

With increased screen time, you’re probably seeing more online ads and commercials for fast food, snacks, and other unhealthy products. These ads can stick in your brain and influence what you buy later.

Finally, there is a connection between lack of sleep and weight gain. If your device use affects your ability to get a good night’s sleep, then you may be eating more, moving less, and gaining weight.

The Solution: Include more movement in your day. Even if you’re having a difficult time with vigorous exercise, just start moving as much as you can. At least once an hour, get up from your computer and walk a lap around your house. And read on for tips to keep your devices from keeping you up at night.

 

The Myth: Too Much Screen Time Interferes with Your Sleep

woman writing a document

The Truth: This is true, for a number of reasons:
1.   First, your devices give off a light that may keep you up or make it harder for you to shut your brain off.

2.   If you spend too much time reading the news and worrying about the day’s events, that can also cause you anxiety and make it harder to sleep.  

3.   Finally, if you find yourself consistently binging content or texting in bed when you should be asleep, you could be throwing your schedule off, making it more difficult to get restful sleep.

The Solution: Put your devices down at least an hour before bedtime, but if you absolutely, positively need to be on your phone, switch your apps over to dark mode, which is easier on your eyes, your brain, and your phone’s battery life. Also, set limits on the amount of news you see.

 

The Myth: Staring at a Computer All Day is Bad for the Eyes

boy using an smartphone with his father

The Truth: Finally, some good news! Increased screen time won’t permanently ruin your eyes, and no one has ever gone blind just by staring at their phone all day. But you can get temporary eye strain, discomfort, and even headaches. 

The Solution: You can take steps to correct the strain and protect your eye health. One easy thing you can do is simply to blink more often! This will help refresh and moisten your eyes. If you wear contact lenses, try switching to glasses (if you have them) or working without your contacts. A few simple changes to how you work at your computer can prevent eye strain as well as headaches and backaches, too. Believe it or not, sore, dry eyes can lead to an achy back, so try these stretches and exercises to keep your spine mobile

 

The Myth: Too Much Screen Time Hurts Kids’ Brains

back of a kid watching tv and wearing headphones

The Truth: An excess amount of screen time can harm young, developing brains. Studies have found too many hours in front of a device can lead to developmental delays, poor social skills, behavioral problems, and a general feeling of unhappiness or a lack of well-being. 

The Solution: For younger children, limit their screen time to the absolute minimum. The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed these guidelines:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, no more than one hour per day.
  • For children over the age of 6, set limits on the time as well as which devices and content, and make sure this time doesn’t interfere with getting enough sleep and physical activity. 

Work with your children so they’re doing as much schoolwork offline as they can. Encourage physical play and exercise – get outdoors as much as possible, while still being safe. Make screen-free family time a priority, and do as much IRL (“in real life”) socializing as you can safely, paying attention to the latest recommendations from our mayor and governor.

 

Set a Good Example for Your Family

mother and daughter speaking at the table

We understand how essential phones, tablets, and computers are right now, but as so many of us are battling isolation and loneliness, do what you can to connect with those in your household.  Create device-free times throughout the day – and even no-phone-zones throughout your house (for example, at the dinner table).

We’ll get through this – and until we do, AltaMed is here for all of your family’s health needs. We’re even offering appointments by phone to help you grow healthy, no matter what.