As of June 16, 2021, 70% of King County residents 16 years and older have been fully vaccinated—what an achievement! A year ago as we were struggling to cope with prolonged Stay At Home orders, this seemed like a far-off dream, and now here we are. The state will fully reopen by June 30, and although there will still be some health restrictions remaining, it will be the most “normal” life will be in over a year. I still can’t believe it sometimes! It was a challenging year on so many levels, and most of us had to change how we did everything—how we schooled, worked, and exercised, how we cooked and ate, how we kept ourselves entertained, how we kept in touch with the outside world. Now that things are moving forward, it’s time to make some positive changes in our lives. Some of the practices we’ve picked up during the pandemic definitely aren’t sustainable for a healthy, productive life. Let’s go over pandemic habits we can now work on saying Goodbye to!
Screen time overload.
We are all guilty of this. Every human in the world aged 3-103 spent countless hours on screens: smartphones, e-readers, tablets, computers, and TVs. Many parents relaxed (or chucked out completely) any screen limits for their kids. We worked, schooled, went to the movies, saw our friends and family, had happy hours, and played games via screens—it was a link to life outside your household. If only we’d bought stock in Zoom 18 months ago! It’s time to wean ourselves and our families off too much screen time: we like Calendar.com’s strategies on doing so.
For some, working and schooling from home created an upside-down world of malleable scheduling and do-it-when-you-can options. Mealtimes were all over the place, weekdays bled right into the weekends and before you knew it, it was already Tuesday again. Get that calendar up and running, whether it’s a cute calendar hung up in your kitchen, or an online shared family calendar like Cozi. Set up a regular waking, working, and bedtime schedule that is reasonable as well as realistic. Then schedule fun stuff: Hike to Mt. Si, dinner with friends (in a restaurant, even!), a local event like Kirkland Summerfest, game night with the grandparents. Sky’s the limit!
Not getting dressed for work.
At the beginning of quarantine people were making a concerted effort to appear professional and well-groomed. After months of working from home, things definitely devolved. There were tales of co-workers showing up for the weekly 8am Zooms in their pajamas, or post-workout all red and sweaty, or in the kitchen with kids and pets running amok in the background. The feeling was, “Why bother to look business-like when you can turn off audio and video?” Let’s turn this bus around, folks! Whether you are working from home, back in the office, or doing a hybrid of that, it’s time to change gears. Doesn’t mean you need to be back in suits and heels (unless your field specifically requires this). Good Housekeeping and Vogue have some super ideas on comfortable clothes that are also professional-level, whether you’re at home or in the office.
Too much time sitting, less time up and about.
Did I already mention all the screen time happening over the last 16 months? Unfortunately most of that was also spent sitting or lying down, or something in between. Get out of this unhealthy habit by setting a timer to go off every 30-45 minutes, and take a break from sitting (or laying, or lounging) and walk around the house, refill your water bottle, use the bathroom. Take phone or video calls standing up, if you can (pro tip: set up your laptop or tablet on a dresser or bookshelf). Consider switching to a standing desk—there is one for every budget and space.
(See previous section.) Seriously, though, too much sitting as well as bad posture has led to a rise in issues with back, neck, shoulder, hip, and joint pain. Chiropractors have definitely been seeing a lot more patients with spinal issues. Shape has a detailed 30-day guide to improving your posture—check it out and avoid future visits to a doctor.
Working too much.
When your office is just down the hall or at the kitchen table, it’s hard to clock out and truly leave work. Lines get blurred between work and home, and if applicable, homeschooling. With such immediate access to your work, it became too easy to quickly send an email, or answer a Zoom invite. No bueno. According to Harvard Business School, the average workday increased by almost an hour and employees attended more meetings during the early period of COVID-19. Get your work-life balance back with these tips from We Work.
Mindless online shopping.
Since many people avoided shopping at malls and places like Target or Costco, online shopping became a salve for our collective anxiety and stress. It was not difficult to develop that “Add to Cart” habit when scrolling through your favorite retailers’ websites, with many promo codes and sales widely available. With more cashflow resulting from no travel and no restaurants during the early part of the pandemic, it seemed okay to buy all sorts of random, fun, unnecessary, and quirky things off the internet. No wonder online retail sales were up over 30% in 2020! USA Today Money has an excellent article on how compulsive shopping habits developed during the pandemic, and more importantly, how to stop.
Neglecting medical, mental health, and dental appointments.
After a year of doing minimal healthcare for yourself and your family, it’s time to get those necessary appointments scheduled. All levels of healthcare facilities have put in place excellent protocols to keep both their staff and their patients safe. We’ve got a list of self-care appointments to book, if you need some guidance. The pandemic has also taken a toll on mental health, for both adults, teens, and kids. If you have concerns, don’t wait to see a mental health specialist; many are still doing virtual appointments.
Too much takeout, alcohol, and smoking.
Raise your hand if you signed up for DoorDash or UberEats, have the local pizzeria’s app on your smartphone, or know the menu of your favorite Thai take-out place by heart. Guilty x3 is me! No judging here—we all needed a break from our own cooking, were eager to support local businesses, and frankly, after a day of WFH and homeschooling, just didn’t have the energy to make a meal. Many of us were stressed out and eating our feelings. But COVID-19 took a toll on the nation’s physical health, as reported by Weight Watchers. Consumption of food, alcohol, and cigarettes went up in 2020. This article is a great start on how to build back better health habits post-pandemic. If you get your whole household bought in, it will make it easier to get back on track!
Do any of these habits ring true for you? Then it’s time to shed them like a dirty, much-used mask! Work on getting rid of these habits at a pace that works for you, but don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need more support. It’s been 16 months of unprecedented times, and we all had our share of struggles and uncertainty. Be kind to yourself as you strive for self-care and self-improvement.
Read on for Pandemic Habits to Keep!