It’s June 2020, and there isn’t a household around the world that hasn’t heard the name coronavirus or COVID-19. The residual impact of the virus has left a changed world, a confused population and the lingering effects of uncertainty. While we enter a phase of rebuilding everything around us; from our societal norms to our economy – we remain changed.
But, how are we changed?
Some countries are enforcing the mandatory wearing of masks, the CDC advocates cloth masks to minimize the spread while used in conjunction with frequent hand washing and disinfectant. Anyway, this is the stuff that’s in your line of sight, whether you hear it on the news or see it on social media, it’s there.
Since the lockdown took effect for major countries in the west and parts of Europe, working from home (WFH) has been highly recommended. If you’re used to working remotely, it’s probably not much of a change for you. But, if you’re used to hopping on Q train towards 14th St and heading to work in a densely populated area like Manhattan, WFH for at least two months will be a huge shift for your mental and physical state.
I Feel Fine, What Do You Mean Physical Health?
For many people, myself included, the lockdown has given a bit of breathing room in a super fast-paced environment that I’ve built around myself. I’m accustomed to visiting the gym several times a week to blow off some steam after a long and treacherous day or week. Not only does it give me the energy to keep going but I also want to look and feel good.
As I’m getting older, the pounds don’t keep themselves off like they used to, so if I want to fit comfortably into all of those lovely suits, I need to keep myself in shape. The quarantine forced the gyms to close and working out became more difficult. Also, the lack of motivation to workout decided to kick in because I was working from home more often. It’s really tough when you don’t have a dedicated place to exercise and the work piles on as thoughts of “oh well, who’s gonna see me anyway?” swim around your mind.
It’s not all doom and gloom since the lockdown went into effect, I have been spending more time walking and running outside. So, there’s that. Alongside physical activity, it’s easy for eating habits to shift and also degrade. Like many others, I’m used to routine and structure, I do things at set times in accordance to planning around my business, work and social life.
Eating late at night has become more frequent and consuming more sugary and filling foods. When working prior to the lockdown, I’d always eat light to keep my mind focused and always ready to tackle the day. There’s a lot of controversy about eating at night, midnight munchies are considered a sure way to gain unwanted weight. An old perspective is that any late-night food intake will cause weight gain which could eventually lead to obesity and diabetes. This is true for many because late-night eating is often related to poor food choices or poor quality supplements.
More recent studies on the health impact of nighttime eating suggest that small portions of nutrient-dense foods in close proximity to sleeping show unchanged body weight and actually support your health. So, the bottom line, it’s all about your physical activity and what you eating during the quarantine.
My Back and Neck Hurt After the Quarantine
If you’ve been experiencing back or neck pain during and after the quarantine period, despite not using suffering from it, you may be experiencing “tech neck”. Often related to the use of smartphones, tech neck diagnoses have also extended to people that frequently work from home. When working in an office, you’re likely to have the correct back support and a desk that’s the right level for you. However, quarantine forced us into using furniture of all shapes and sizes because we had to adapt.
Tech neck can be painful, cause bad posture and make your neck seize up with pain at the base of your skull. Sounds delightful, I know. Tech neck happens when the nerves of the back of the neck are compressed for prolonged periods of time and the spine gradually develops a curve at the top. Whether you’re hunched over filling out a spreadsheet on your coffee table or have a makeshift desk, having your head tipped forward and chin down can be detrimental to your physiology.
Our skulls weight roughly ten to twelve pounds, our human physiology is designed to easily support that weight. When we tilt our head forward, it adds weight onto the supporting structure of our head with every degree of angle. What was once head weighing twelve pounds, may become a sixty pounds head and now imagine that over a large portion of the day for two months.
It’s important to look out for the symptoms and signs of tech neck, it can be treated through posture correction and relieving the pressure from the nerves and spine. Over time, tech neck can cause severe damage, causing a disc to slip and herniate, pinched nerves extreme cases of inflammation.
Support Your Mental Health
Mental health awareness and being mindful of how to self-care is essential in a world full of triggering moments and trauma. Coronavirus is a crisis, while it may have been loosely predicted, no one expected the world to shut down in a matter of days and weeks. Bearing that kind of weight on the mind is going to have some kind of effect, whether it’s taken a toll on your job, family life, or because of the people closest to you.
It’s easy to get into a slump during the lockdown, watching Netflix, working from your bed and lack of exercise can all lead to altered mental states. Spending an increased amount of time in an environment that limits physical activity doesn’t just have physiological effects, it can also cause negative psychological effects.
Data suggest that sedentary behavior can lead to internalizing problems, increasing stress, anxiety and depression. Scientists and psychologists theorized that sedentary lifestyles and depression go hand-in-hand. In short, evidence supports the idea that depression is a risk factor for a lack of physical activity.
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, prolonged periods of social isolation can really take their toll on your mental health. When in social isolation, your ability to combat and cope with stressful situations is lowered. Furthermore, you’re experiencing more stress and without an available support system, it can be difficult to self-soothe.
Social isolation and quarantine can drastically lower your self-esteem, this can affect your relationships on all levels, whether it’s a romantic partnership or workplace relationship. Lower self-esteem can have a known-on effect that shifts your eating and exercise habits. It’s important to be mindful of how much time you spend isolated and the quality of people you keep around you. Developing a support network, whether it’s online or in-person can distinguish how you show up for yourself mentally, too.
Even though coronavirus has isolated us in so many ways, it can bring us together in others. For me, it has brought about a great period of reflection, which direction I want to take myself and the vehicle I will use to get there. It’s always important to be grateful for everything you have and always be mindful of how much this crisis has taken a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing.