Make a plan

There hasn’t been a time in my life that I’ve been more aware of my health and mortality than the past two years. I’m sure most of us felt that way.

The covid-19 pandemic has forced us to realize how much life is beyond our individual control, and clinging to old, comfortable – and sometimes bad – habits is one way to maintain a sense of control.

It might seem odd to talk about New Years Resolutions during a global health crisis that has made survival challenge enough, but I suggest that in this New Year we decide to move from survival to prosperity. Let’s commit to taking more control of our lives through physical well-being, mindfulness activities, and attention to interpersonal needs.

There are several areas in which we can seek to thrive, including stress relief, nutrition, and physical activity.

Stress relief

Stress was already a health problem for many before the pandemic, but the public health emergency has exacerbated the problem.

According to a survey by the United States Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, about one in three American adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in September 2021, while only about one in 10 adults have reported these symptoms. in 2019. At the end of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency for children’s mental health, and the U.S. surgeon general issued a warning regarding youth mental health.

Mindful activities like meditation and breathing exercises can help with stress. Keep in touch with friends and family as best you can while taking reasonable precautions against Covid-19, but politely decline invitations when you need time for yourself. Talk to your children about what they are going through.

Talk to your doctor if you think stress is affecting your health, and be prepared to seek help from a counselor or therapist. If you need help finding a mental health care provider, call the University of Arkansas AR-Connect Program for Medical Sciences, (800) 482-9921.

Online Resources:

The Mayo Clinic offers stress management counseling at mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987 and mindfulness counseling at mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle / consumer-health / in-depth / mindfulness-exercises / art-20046356.

Johns Hopkins Medicine has advice at hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/how-to-relieve-stress-a-6-step-plan-to-feeling-good.

Nutrition

The typical American diet is terribly unhealthy. We tend to overindulge in foods high in calories, saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium. And why wouldn’t we do it, when we’ve created an environment where unhealthy eating is the easy choice? Fast food, heavily processed foods, and sugary snacks and drinks are inexpensive, don’t require us to spend time on preparation, and satisfy our cravings for fats and sweets.

In times of stress, we give in to our cravings even more than we normally would. It’s no wonder that 32% of American adults and 36% of adults in Arkansas are obese in 2020, according to the CDC.

Slowly introduce healthier foods into your diet; making one diet change per week is a good approach. Increase your water intake instead of sugary drinks. Find out what healthy foods you like and fill your cupboards and pantry with them. Keep healthy, hearty snacks on hand. Build a healthy diet and monitor what you eat with a food journal or app.

Online Resources:

Dietitian Cecilia Snyder has advice at healthline.com/nutrition/14-ways-to-stick-to-a-diet.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, offers tips for building a healthy diet at nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/calories.htm.

The US Department of Agriculture has a meal monitoring app. Visit myplate.gov for more information.

Physical activity

We know that physical activity is crucial for good health, but according to the CDC, 24% of American adults and 30% of adults in Arkansas said in 2020 that in the previous month they had not exercised. no physical activity outside of work. The pandemic has likely increased the time we spend sitting in front of screens, but we should take the time to be physically active and enjoy Arkansas’ beautiful outdoor spaces when the weather permits.

Gradually increase physical activity, especially if you are just starting to exercise. Think of the exercise as a date and do it on a set schedule. If you have a health problem or injury, see your doctor before continuing.

Online Resources:

The Mayo Clinic has advice at mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20048269.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has guidance at health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf.


Joe Thompson, MD, MPH, is President and CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement and was Arkansas Surgeon General under the direction of Govs. Mike Huckabee and Mike Beebe.


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