Staying Safe and Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic
BY GARY W. SMALL, M.D.
Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging
Professor of Psychiatry & BioBehavioral Sciences
Director, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry
Director, UCLA Longevity Center
I hope that all of you are safe and healthy during the challenging coronavirus pandemic. The Longevity Center has transitioned the Senior Scholars program to online learning, while all other educational programs have been temporarily suspended as we look to the feasibility of moving to offering our programs online using video conferencing platforms (e.g., Zoom).
With the uncertainty and evolving impact of COVID-19, it is natural to experience anxiety, and like any emotion, anxiety can spread from person to person. Moreover, many of us are following current recommendations for social distancing, which will limit the community spread of the virus but also presents its own challenges with isolation and loneliness. You may wish to keep in mind some of the following tips to reduce the mind health risks during this incredibly challenging time:
- Be cautious about unreliable sources of misinformation in the media. Rumors and distortions increases stress and anxiety levels. Turn to trusted sources of information so you can remain up-to-date on emerging situations.
- Anyone overwhelmed with emotions should contact a mental health professional for assistance. Our UCLA clinics have rapidly shifted to telepsychiatry to respect social distancing efforts and continue to deliver mental health care.
- Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be unnecessarily upsetting so taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, especially on social media, will help to reduce illness worries.
- For those who are sheltering in place, keep in mind that it can lead to isolation and loneliness, which increases the risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. To overcome isolation, stay in touch with friends and family by phone, or even better, use social media and videoconferencing platforms (e.g., Skype, Zoom, Facetime).
- Keep to your daily routine as much as possible. If you are telecommuting for work, be sure to take your usual lunch break and maintain your daily habits.
- Try to remain positive. Just as anxiety can spread from person to person, so can optimism and a positive outlook. Rather than focus on worse-case-scenarios, keep in mind what you are grateful about during these trying times.
- If you are feeling anxious, take deep breaths, stretch, do some yoga, or meditate.
- Try to eat well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid excessive alcohol use.
- Staying physically active is important. Below are some resources you may find helpful, but be sure to check with your doctor before starting new exercises, which may need to be modified if too difficult.
- Chair Exercises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BcPHWGQO44
- Gentle Chair Exercises: Sitting Only https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCTYAFTAaU0
- Gentle Chair Exercises: Sitting and Standing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qK3EDJC_HZI
- For the latest information on COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) please check the following resources.
- Talk about your concerns with people you trust: sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the true risk to yourself and people you care about will reduce your anxiety.
- Follow CDC recommendations to help prevent the spread of symptoms through social distancing; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; not touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; covering coughs and sneezes; cleaning and disinfecting touched objects and surfaces; and washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- With our Longevity Center memory and healthy lifestyle classes temporarily suspended, check out some of the computer programs and websites for improving memory and other cognitive abilities, inluding Dakim Brain Fitness (www.dakim.com or 310-566-1350), Posit Science and Brain HQ (www.brainhq.com or 866-599-6463), and Lumosity (www.lumosity.com).
- If you haven’t already, consider reading about how to keep your brain and body healthy as you age. I have written several books (e.g., 2 Weeks to a Younger Brain, The Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Program, The Small Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease) and there are many other excellent books on these topics (e.g., Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer, Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being by Andrew Weil).
- You may benefit from relaxation practices that could help reduce levels of stress. The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (http://marc.ucla.edu/) provides education and support for people interested in learning methods to pay attention to present moment experiences with openness. Several apps that provide meditation can be downloaded to a smartphone as well (e.g., UCLA Mindful, Insight Timer, Calm, Insight LA).
- To keep your mind stimulated, take a virtual field trip by visiting zoos, museums, mars, and more online and check out some of these web cams for an adventure from home:
- National Park Service: Hawai’I volcanoes https://www.nps.gov/havo/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm
- Iceland: Hekla: https://www.livefromiceland.is/webcams/hekla/
- Borcay Beach, Philippines: https://www.earthcam.com/world/philippines/boracay/?cam=boracay_hd
- Philippine coral reef cam: https://www.calacademy.org/learn-explore/animal-webcams/philippine-coral-reef-cam
- Venice Italy: https://www.webcamtaxi.com/en/italy/veneto/bacino-san-marco.html
- Northern Lights: https://www.webcamtaxi.com/en/canada/manitoba/churchill-northern-lights.html
- Nagasaki Harbor: https://www.webcamtaxi.com/en/japan/nagasaki/nagasaki-harbor.html
- Audubon Society https://explore.org/livecams/national-audubon-society/
- Animal/wildlife cams and Zen cams
- Africa: http://www.africam.com/wildlife/
- Puffin cam: https://explore.org/livecams/national-audubon-society/puffin-loafing-ledge-cam
- Bald Eagle: https://explore.org/livecams/national-audubon-society/puffin-loafing-ledge-cam
- Zen: NASA Space Station Cam: https://explore.org/livecams/player/zen-den/international-space-station
- Zen: Tropical Reef Cam https://explore.org/livecams/under-the-water/pacific-aquarium-tropical-reef-camera
- For more information from trusted resources visit: