Let’s face it. You might be a little bit heavier than you were when the pandemic started. Your healthy eating habits might have stalled in the past year. And you can’t remember the last time you went to the doctor.
Now, you’re vaccinated, or you will be soon. Restrictions are lifting. And you want to get your health back on track.
First of all, be kind to yourself. Maybe taking care of your health got derailed in the past year. That’s okay. You can make slow, steady changes to get back on track, or to even get your health in a better spot than it was before the pandemic.
1. Schedule your preventative care and follow-up visits. If you’re overdue for a physical, get one on your calendar. Same goes for your dentist appointment, eye exam and any regular exams you need based on chronic conditions. You might need an appointment with a cardiologist, dermatologist or dietitian.
If these appointments feel overwhelming—if they will take too much time out of your schedule or cost too much in copays—space them out. Make sure you book your most important appointments first.
If you’re not comfortable with an office visit yet, ask your provider if a virtual visit is an option.
2. Schedule your screening exams. You may be due—or overdue—for a mammogram, colonoscopy, skin cancer screening or other exam. It’s important to get caught up on these screening tests. They look for signs of cancer, and cancer is most treatable when it’s caught early.
3. To get your lifestyle back on track, take it slowly. “It can be easy to feel distraught if you are not meeting the expectations you have set for yourself. I always suggest wading into the pool, not diving headfirst with these changes,” Dr. Redding said. “I strongly recommend setting goals on a weekly or monthly basis. Having a concrete plan of action can really help you to see if you are accomplishing change.”
- For exercise, 150 minutes per week is optimal. If you’re getting a lot less exercise than that, start with 60 minutes and work up to 150 minutes.
- For diet, set goals around eating smaller meals or fewer carbohydrates and make changes gradually. “I encourage people not to worry about the scale, as it may not be an accurate predictor of health. If you are making positive changes to diet and exercise, you will be healthier even if you’re not seeing a weight change. Trust in that and know you are doing yourself a long-term favor,” Dr. Redding said.
- If you need to improve your sleep or reduce your stress, take small steps toward making changes. And keep in mind that some of these changes will benefit you in other areas. For example, as you build an exercise habit you may find that you sleep better, and your stress levels drop.
The bottom line
If you’ve let your health slide during the pandemic, don’t be hard on yourself. And don’t expect to change everything about your life the day you’re fully vaccinated. Schedule the appointments you need, and make small, incremental, measurable changes to your lifestyle to get back on track.
For more healthy living information, check out:
- Did You Resolve to Be Healthier?
- Is Your Body Trying to Tell You Something?
- 6 Tips for Boosting Your Energy Naturally