Taking care of yourself during the pandemic, from head to toe

It’s been more than a month since many of us have been to work, the gym or the hairdressers. We’re still not sleeping well, our hands are dry from too much hand sanitizer, and our brains are foggy from reading too much about covid-19. Take a step back and pay attention to your mental and physical needs during this time. You’ll be glad you did.— Suzette Moyer

Head/Mental state

Reduce anxiety

Change some of your habits. Do something fun and new with your family. Stay physically active. And curb any rash decision-making.

Ask for help

The reluctance to reach out for help is a common tendency, but it’s an important one to unpack during a pandemic.

Go easy on yourself

Some people might want — and be able to — use their time while social distancing to get things done around the house. But it’s perfectly understandable if you aren’t one of them.

Seek therapy if you need it

You should consider professional help if you are: feeling tense or angry all the time; unable to relax; experiencing panic attacks; or having difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

Cope with social isolation

Waking up at the same time each day, setting a bedtime or adding a shower can incrementally improve a person’s goal of being functional again.


Get to the root of the problem

You aren't the only one bothered by that gray. Here’s why it troubles us, and what we can do about it, whether it’s drugstore color, making a pickup from your stylist, or asking for a Zoom call and tutorial.


Get better sleep

Maintain a consistent bedtime, limit caffeine and alcohol intake, remove visible alarm clocks, exercise and get at least some exposure to daylight each day, if possible.


Differentiate allergies and the virus

Seasonal allergy sufferers should treat symptoms as they normally would. Don’t confuse them with coronavirus symptoms.


Don’t touch your face

Coronavirus can spread if you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Here’s why touching your face is such a tough habit to break, and some strategies for doing so.


Avoid dental emergencies

Keep brushing and flossing, but steer clear of popcorn and pen caps.

Take a deep breath

Regulated breathing can help you stay calm. Try a 4-7-8 pattern: Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 and breath out for 8.


Continue the love

For partners who have to be apart, video chats and calls will have to do. But that first hug will be so much more special.

Allow yourself to date

FaceTime and Skype have become the new first-date hot spots. The virtual first date keeps people distant, but it also can enable more intimacy.

Heart patients, prepare

Stock up on medications. Make sure that basic medical equipment, such as a thermometer, a blood pressure machine and a weighing scale, is accessible.


Moisturize your hands

Are your hands painfully dry and cracked because you’ve been following the widespread advice to frequently wash them? If so, moisturize as well.

Avoid the hand dryer

Think twice before using hand dryers in public places. They can suck bacteria from the air right onto those newly cleaned hands.


Start a new routine

This is the perfect time to lace up your sneakers and start a run-walk program. Or start strength training or practicing yoga. It’ll help your mental state also.

Do some squats

Squats help develop and maintain lifelong functional fitness by strengthening your legs, glutes and core — and you can perform them anywhere.

Add intermittent workouts

Mini-sessions performed periodically throughout the day — such as push-ups every time you stand up from your desk — might do more for you than hour-long gym visits.

Don’t overdo it

It can be tempting to use extra time to exercise more (while physical distancing, of course). Intense exercise can harm the immune system.

Deal with aches

Working from home can hurt your back, neck, shoulders and more. Tips to avoid and soothe those pains.

Get dressed

If you spend an entire day in loungewear, it is easy to lose yourself and your sense of purpose and focus. Our clothes create boundaries. They mark time.


Don’t overeat

To stop emotional eating, do a gut-check before you reach for a snack: "Am I about to eat because I’m physically hungry, or because I feel stressed or sad?"

Don’t try to ‘boost’ your immune system

Loading up on citrus fruit, sipping herbal or green tea, eating yogurt for the probiotics or taking vitamin or zinc supplements won’t supercharge your immunity. 

Eat healthful food

Rest assured that even if you need to rely mostly on canned or frozen foods as you remain at home, you can create delicious and nutritious meals for your family.

Watch the happy hours

Drinking memes and "quarantini" recipes abound, but keep in mind that traumatic events can lead to alcohol abuse.


Step on up

Taking 8,000 steps — even when you’re stuck indoors — is linked to lower mortality. So take that walk or hike. Or even take a virtual dance class.


Illustration by Eugenia Mello for The Washington Post. Design and development by Elizabeth Hart and Madison Walls.