Taking Care of Ourselves in Another Pandemic YearPosted at January 19, 2022
As members of a global community, we have been gripped in a state of pandemic for about two years. Over this timespan we’ve thrown money, social distancing, and varying forms of government intervention at the situation, and yet here we are: cases of the virus continue to climb, various forms of lockdown are being implemented, and our worries of infection remain. While it’s easy to get lost in the daydream of some genius in a lab solving this pandemic in a test tube after a moment of mythic inspiration, reality demands that we do the best we can to protect ourselves in what sometimes feels like less of a solvable situation and more of a new–hopefully temporary–normal.
Over these last two years where the idea of “normal” has been grasped as less of a state and more of a spectrum, the things that we are lucky to have and the condition of our bodies have been weighing deeper in our consciousness. That we have our loved ones around us, food on our tables, things to do, things to learn, friendships to nurture–these wonderful sparks of life find our renewed sense of gratitude as we look only so far as the news to find stories of people lacking these same sources of light. Every new feeling in our bodies is a source of worry, every cough a catalyst for panic, and every moment of feeling fine in our bodies a moment to be grateful.
Now as we collectively transition into yet another year in the pandemic as humans, family-members, professionals, and runners, we do so not only with renewed gratitude, but with a hopefulness that asks how we can flourish in this new year.
For starters, getting vaccinated if you aren’t
In The Philippines, we’re lucky to live in a society that is far less polarized about vaccinations than many others. But while we aren’t seeing riots and walkouts of “anti-vaxxers” on the local news, Our World in Data reports that only 50.3 percent of the population is fully-vaccinated.
Being outside for lunch with your friends, each of whom you’re aware is vaccinated, is a fantastic feeling, but there may be a few of us reading this who aren’t vaccinated or who know people that haven’t gotten their jabs. While your and their preferred medical professionals should rightly weigh in on the matter, consider this your sign that it’s definitely time to get the vaccine–if it is available to you.
Keep your masks on and keep your distance
Importantly, consider adjusting the masks you’re using too. To be candid, I’m a double-masking guy myself–a surgical mask under a cloth mask covers my nose and mouth whenever I’m out of the house. And yet, I managed to catch COVID-19. I’m not saying I wasn’t protected and I very well could have been infected with the virus causing the disease in one of those inevitable instances of mask removal, but it is best to at least know which masks experts say work best.
Dr. Abraar Karan, an infectious disease physician at Stanford University told NPR that N95, KN95 and KF94 respirators are developed with materials containing electrostatic charges, which, “[pull virus particles] in as they're floating around and [prevent] you from inhaling those particles”. READ MORE HERE
For those looking to get a good run in, you’re bound for discomfort using one of the respirators but should use a fitness facial covering at the very least–and avoid crowds while doing so.
But then again, we should be avoiding large crowds in general. A study from University of Bristol’s Aerosol Research Centre READ MORE HERE found that the virus loses 90% of its contagion capacity 20 minutes after becoming airborne. Most of this loss happens within 5 minutes of its being in the air. The point: it’s still in the air. You should hence remain distanced from crowds–be it while you’re out running or on an unavoidable grocery run.
Nurture and listen to your body
This is a daily meditation that begins with delivering proper nutrition to your body and allowing your body the gift of exercise, especially once you’ve set yourself up with a safe environment to do so. While I couldn’t quite bring myself into a gym of sweating bodies whose facemasks are dribbling with sweat and snot, I can certainly see myself lacing up a pair of running shoes before or after work for a run around the block.
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine recommends regular physical activity. “Consistently meeting physical activity guidelines was strongly associated with a reduced risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes among infected adults,” write the researchers. While those facing a bout of COVID-19 should probably avoid exercising, those looking to further protect themselves from serious infection can look to exercise as a way of keeping well.
The University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry website suggests that, “physical activity and exercise can be effective treatment strategies for symptoms of both depression and anxiety”. Surely something of which we’re all aware at this point, but another reason to hop out of bed just a bit earlier in the morning.
Practice taking care
While we say it a lot, how much do we really take care? Do you ever catch yourself caught in a million things that need doing without any awareness of how your body is feeling? Or what really needs to be done now? What might be done later? It requires an intentionality to move through life with ample care invested in all the right things–and we inevitably make mistakes along the way. But as we enter another year in this pandemic, let’s try to draw a little bit more intentionality up from our well for investment in ourselves. For our families, while we’re at work or relaxing, and when we’re running.