FOR THOSE OF US USED TO HEADING OUT TO WORK EVERY DAY, the past few weeks have been an adjustment, to say the least. We feel lonely, cooped up, out of sorts, and tempted to sit in front of the TV eating carbs. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Samir Becic, the fitness czar for the city of Houston and an expert on healthy living, says it’s possible not just to maintain our health and fitness, but to improve it, even as we’re hunkering down. “The ultimate excuse for not being physically active is not having enough time,” he says. “Now everyone has time.” Here are his recommendations for self-care during this stressful period:

Get plenty of sleep.

“Turn off your alarms for a week or two,” says Becic. “Find your natural clock and sleep as much as you need.” And if you feel like it, go ahead and grab a nap. “The more you sleep, the more energy you will have.”

Eat healthy and drink lots of water.

“People need better nutrition to improve their immune systems,” Becic says. If you’re already at home, why not cook more? Use whole grains and vegetables as much as possible. Just as important, replace that coffee with water, and lots of it. “Don’t let coffee destroy your sleep.”

Go to the park, or just walk around your neighborhood.

When the skies are clear and the park is open, get out and breathe some fresh air. “Even prisoners are allowed outside an hour a day,” Becic says. Going for a walk is not just good for you physically, but important for your mental health. 

Or exercise inside the house.

As a long- time personal trainer, Becic believes in making staying in shape convenient. “Exercise doesn’t require any machines,” he says, pointing to simple calisthenic routines like running in place. “Run with high knees for a couple minutes,” he says. “Even athletes will be worn out.”

Take time for yourself.

One of the best ways to reduce stress and center yourself is simply to be alone. Take a few minutes to meditate or just breathe deeply and clear your mind. “I spent four years in quarantine in Bosnia during the war,” Becic says. “If anyone understands how important it is to keep mental positivity, I do."

Enforce quitting time.

At-home workers may be tempted to open their laptops in the evenings or bring their phones to bed. That, says Becic, is a recipe for disaster. “Follow the same schedule you always follow,” he says. “Otherwise, you’ll lose the concept of personal time, and that will take a mental toll.” Close off your work area from the rest of your space, and treat your office as if it’s your work building. When work is done, go downstairs home.

Involve the kids.

“We can use this time for family bonding, to reconnect,” says Becic, adding that he exercises with his son twice a day. “Otherwise, he will drive me and my wife nuts!” Becic recommends simple games like tag or a game he calls “squat relay,” in which everyone runs to the center of the room, does three squats, high fives, and then runs back.

Use this time for personal growth and gratitude.

Despite the terrifying global pandemic, Becic believes we can use this time to become better people. “This should be about family and humanity, supporting each other and respecting each other,” he says. Take a moment to be thankful for the good things in life, and to be grateful for all those who are working to protect us. “Doctors and first responders are putting their lives at risk for us,” he says. “They are the heroes.”

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