I find conversations about the current global pandemic to be difficult on this platform. On any typical week, this blog reaches over 200 different countries. Can you believe it? I mean, over 80 people from Zimbabwe in the last week alone. Crazy.
As the pandemic evolves and expands and contracts across the globe, a blog post appropriate for one country may not be appropriate for another. As a result, I’ve been left wondering a bit on how to talk about it.
But there is a conversation I feel burdened in my heart to share with you. My guess is that the subject matter will resonate with many of you. But if it does not, maybe there is still something worthwhile you can pull from it. I hope that is the case.
I’m noticing an important trend, at least in America—the increase of unhealthy habits during this crisis.
- Television viewing has increased to 41 hours/week on average (up almost 30%).
- Americans spend twice as much money online shopping since the pandemic began.
- For 8 consecutive weeks, beer sales have topped $1B—the highest ever.
- Cigarette smoking has made a comeback during the pandemic.
- Video game usage has increased 50%.
- Unhealthy sleep patterns have emerged for 67% of Americans.
- And 76% of Americans have gained weight from mid-March—up to 16 pounds so far.
Catherine Price, author of How to Break Up With Your Phone and contributor to Simplify Magazine, made an important observation in a recent interview for Freedom. Speaking about the current pandemic, she said this:
It’s hard to focus when your anxiety is high—and this is a time of high anxiety. Physiologically speaking, this is partially due to the effects that stress has on our brains—namely, the part of our brain that is responsible for rational decision-making tends to be less active when we are stressed out (it sort of hides under a rock), leaving us less able to resist our impulses (for example, to check the news again and again and again when we are supposed to be working).”
Catherine was speaking, in this context, about why it is hard to focus during times of high anxiety. But the connection can also be made to healthy habits, which typically require focus and intentionality.
I have learned that when we are not intentional with our time and focus, unhealthy habits emerge. In fact, I have seen them emerge in my own life over the last several months. My guess, based on some of the statistics above, I am not alone.
This is a period of high anxiety for all of us. And as a result, unhealthy habits are beginning to emerge and take root in our lives. It is wise for us to notice that, and begin nudging ourselves toward healthier ones.
How then, do we keep healthy habits part of our lives? Especially as the anxiety continues to loom.
How to Keep Healthy Habits Active
1. Remember that your life is valuable.
The crisis that surrounds us, at times, reminds us of our smallness—there is little that most of us can do to stop the anxiety on a global scale.
However, that should not detract from the inherent value of your individual life. You are unique and special and bring a joy into the world that only you can bring.
Remind yourself how important you are to the people around you and allow that fact to motivate you to make the most of every day and every hour.
2. Count every day precious.
The days for you may be long or short, extra busy or extra lonely. Or maybe they all run together so that you hardly remember what day of the week it is.
Regardless, every day is still precious. Every sunrise is a gift and opportunity to make the most of your day ahead. Remind yourself to not waste any of them.
3. Be firm with yourself.
Do take note, on regular occasion, how you are going to be responsible with your days and energy and focus.
At some point, we need to step outside ourselves and evaluate if we are allowing unhealthy habits to take root in our lives. If so, we must be firm with ourselves in identifying those unhealthy habits and committing to be intentional in removing them.
4. Be patient with yourself.
The times, indeed, are new. And as Catherine point outs above, there are very real physiological changes taking place in our body because of the increased stress levels. So it is smart to be patient with ourselves as we seek to remove any unhealthy habits that have emerged in our lives.
5. Embrace a 3-item to-do list for healthy habits.
I discovered the 3-Item To-Do List several years ago and have loved it ever since.
In a workplace, the 3-item to-do list seeks to recognize the 3 most important tasks to complete each day. The 3 tasks, when completed, allow you to feel accomplished about your day.
In the same way, trending toward healthy habits can be encouraged by applying the 3-item to-do list approach. What are the three actions (or non-actions) you most want to incorporate into your day?
For example: 1) Read 30 minutes; 2) Call one friend; 3) Eat two servings of vegetables. Three items, three habits, to incorporate each day to keep your life trending toward healthy habits.
I recommend a daily routine that includes a physical habit (exercise), a mental habit (reading, mind puzzles), and a social habit.
6. Look for opportunities to control what you can.
When the world feels out of control is when it is most important to take back control wherever you can.
You have little control over a virus outbreak on the other side of the world, but you do have control over what time you go to bed, what time you wake up, and whether you take a shower in the morning.
To help overcome anxiety and regain rational decision-making, control what you can. You may discover it is more than you think.
7. Ask for help.
Community and accountability are important, especially in a time of increased isolation. And many of your friends are struggling to keep healthy habits as well, so include them in your nudge.
Challenge your friend to exercise when you do, become your pen pal, or trade some healthy recipe ideas. When you share your journey and plans with others, you become more accountable to accomplish them. And you end up encouraging others to live their best life too.
I am noticing in my life, the longer the abnormal nature of life persists, the more difficult it is to stay healthy and focused on my habits.
However, despite the pandemic, tomorrow is no less valuable than a day last year. And your one life is no less important to the world than it was before. So keep living your best one.
Consider this just a loving nudge toward healthy habits in your life.