The pandemic has forced people to spend more time alone than ever before. This new isolation has broadened the way people prioritize and take care of themselves. It has also redefined self-care, as our traditional methods have been put on hold. The pandemic-era of self-care is not buying a new outfit, going to a spa or making dinner reservations to get out of the house for the night. We have been forced to internalize our desire to connect with others and have spent the better part of a year grappling with the loss of these experiences. This year has put the purpose and meaning of life front and center, forcing us to reconfigure our priorities and give up our personal needs for the good of the world at large. Anxiety about longevity and real fear of mortality have become reality and have taken precedence over everything.
Post Pandemic Self-Care
Navigating life after the pandemic is over will be a challenge for all of us. Right now, using self-care to get us through this difficult time is essential. When we think about self-care, we all may think about different things. The World Health Organization describes self-care as a “broad concept” that includes hygiene, lifestyle, social habits, income levels and cultural beliefs — and, in the best cases, can “strengthen national institutions” to encourage a society’s overall health. There are plenty of activities that are considered self-care, such as meditation, journaling, organizing, singing, dancing, painting...the list goes on. Every individual is different and has different coping methods that work well for them.
Self-care is already an evolving element of wellness but we face new changes in light of this historic time in our lives. As we discover new ways to take care of ourselves after the pandemic is over, social, mental and physical wellness are going to be the priority. Starting now, as we finally see a light at the end of the tunnel, we can get excited about new ways to feel good.
Exercise at Home
While exercising at home is certainly nowhere near as motivating as hitting the gym, it is something many of us have turned to in order to maintain physical wellness. Sweating and building muscle mass and stamina has always been a form of self-care, but now we have to keep it at our homes. Getting the typical gym experience at home may not be possible for everyone, but there are many ways to work out and to get that same “gym pump” we want.
Body weight workouts are great because they don’t require any equipment. Burpees, pushups, pull-ups, crunches and planks are perfect body weight movements to get you started. If you are unsure about doing a body weight circuit workout at home, there are tons of online resources that can answer all of your questions. Workout gurus everywhere have created YouTube channels and Instagram and Facebook pages dedicated to posting workouts and other tips and tricks. The majority of this information is free, so using these online resources is a great way to learn.
Yoga is another invigorating form of self-care that does not require any equipment. Yoga movements bring peace and tranquility to both the mind and body, while using key muscle groups to give you a killer workout. Again, there are tons of free yoga resources online, including videos and how-to instruction.
Purchasing gym equipment for our homes is something many of us have done during the pandemic because returning to a “normal” gym environment is not possible for all of us right now. Gym equipment is expensive but if you can purchase a few key items, you will be able to do a variety of workouts at home. For example, if you purchase a barbell and two weight plates you will be able to strength train. If you purchase a bench as well, you can begin to increase your bench weight, row and do triceps workouts. Purchasing all the gym equipment you want would be a financial burden but getting just a few items can transform your workouts and give you the drive you need.
Fear Impacting Design
COVID-19 has sparked reluctancy to go to a hospital for any reason, for fear of catching something while in the building. This mindset isn’t going anywhere, and will influence both home care and hospital design. With people being less likely to pursue healthcare outside of their homes, there is a real need to bring them high-quality home care. And with hospitals filling up at historic rates, there is one clear lesson – modern hospitals often lack the flexibility to accommodate a sudden surge of patients. As hospital designers convert spaces for temporary use, many are identifying new opportunities for hospital systems that have traditionally emphasized lean and efficient operations.
Home care has distinguished itself in many ways during the pandemic. Caregivers of all disciplines have stepped up to the frontlines of caring for COVID-19 infected patients while continuing to serve the millions of others who benefit from home care annually. In addition, through significant media coverage, an increased awareness of the value of home care has emerged in terms of safety, clinical efficacy, convenience and the breadth of services. That awareness has grown in both consumers and the health care community.
Technology has played a huge role in home care throughout the pandemic, and experts think that these changes will continue. “We will continue to see the growth of products, services and technologies that will allow the elderly to remain in the home while being monitored by family members, other caregivers and providers. Initially, many of these products, services and technologies will be “cash pay.” Over time, as third-party payers recognize the cost savings that come with people “aging-in-place,” they will cover them,” says Jeffrey S. Baird, who is featured in Health Care Magazine as the Chairman of the Health Care Group Brown & Fortunato P.C. Home care will also evolve for younger patients as well, as they will continue to have access to telehealth and other remote options. Being able to see patients online is a positive change for everyone, as both the patients and health care providers can partake in treatment from the comfort of their own homes. Children who are not in school full-time can alter the availability of health care workers, so if they are able to see patients from home, it opens up new doors for everyone.
The way our school system has been impacted by COVID-19 can alter the home care industry and the healthcare industry overall, so we have to keep that in mind as we navigate the future.
Designers and architects need to rethink the way hospitals are designed. COVID-19 has proven that at the time of a crisis, most hospitals do not have a cohesive plan in place for accommodating an overflow of patients, and the traditional hospital design does not combat a growing need for simplistic technology, such as ventilators. Hospitals can do more for both patients and health care workers, and in the future, we are going to strive for more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed new needs for hospitals that open wards and more flexible capacity cannot address. For example, hospital designers and architects are discussing the need for touch-free control for lighting, temperature, and other building functions, to help avoid spreading diseases on these highly used surfaces. Building with materials that are less hospitable to microbes, such as copper, may also reduce the risk of surface transmission. Some hospitals have already eliminated window curtains, which can become easily contaminated, by installing windows made of e-switchable privacy glass — also known as e-glass or smart glass — which can switch between translucent and opaque and are easy to clean.
New hospital designs will also implement technology like video chat and virtual reality headsets. Throughout the pandemic, many patients have spoken about the emotional pain associated with a long, lonely hospital visit, and incorporating advanced technology is aimed to lessen that pain.
When it comes to healthcare workers, who are the heroes of 2020, hospitals need to extend sleeping quarters and increase the number and size of break rooms and rest areas. The pandemic has shown the need for giving health care workers a place to rest in between grueling shifts, especially given reports of healthcare workers sleeping in camper vehicles and avoiding their homes to protect their families from infection.
Our post-pandemic world is approaching, and we all look forward to the day we will feel comfortable visiting loved ones without masks. Until then, we can focus on self-care, our overall wellness and how positive changes in our healthcare system will save many lives in the future.