There is plenty we would all like to forget about the coronavirus pandemic. The masks, social distancing, time away from family and friends. And unfortunately, it’s still with us!

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, our lives were changed very quickly and in many ways. Our regular habits and normal routines were altered to protect ourselves and our families, and to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. 

Dr. Eleftherios Mylonakis is the chief of infectious diseases at Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital. He says, “As the pandemic will continue to seek and exploit our weaknesses, it is the realization that we need to come together that will guide us out of the pandemic quicker and with the least possible human loss and despair.”

Lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic

It’s been a long road, and we are all looking forward to the end of the COVID-19 outbreak. While we’re not out of the woods yet, it’s a good time to look back at what we have learned from this experience. 

Here are some pandemic practices you might want to keep as part of your regular routine.

How to effectively wash your hands  

This is the simplest method for getting rid of germs. Using soap and water and washing your hands for 20 seconds is a way to help reduce the spread of germs and keep you and your family safer. Try humming the tune to “Happy Birthday” twice while washing, and that will be 20 seconds! Be sure to always wash your hands before and after preparing or eating foods, after using the bathroom, before and after caring for an individual who is ill, after touching pets, pet food or waste, and other times as well. Learn more about handwashing here.

Skip the handshake

Speaking of germs, we might also want to make the handshake a thing of the past. Think about it. You’re placing your hand into someone else’s and grasping each other’s palms. So, it makes sense to assume that any germ that was on person one is now on person two. And so on.

In fact, Dr. Leonard Mermel, an infectious diseases specialist at Rhode Island Hospital, wrote a commentary in 2019 calling for a ban on handshakes in winter. In it, Mermel notes, “Gastrointestinal and respiratory viruses are particularly common during winter months and reducing risk of transmission is challenging. Transfer of bacteria from the hands of one person to another is dramatically reduced with a fist bump compared to a handshake. If the same is true for viruses, should we recommend this change in greeting in the winter?”

During the coronavirus outbreak, hugging and shaking hands became taboo. It is without a doubt a great way to reduce the spread of germs. So, perhaps we should stick with the fist bump or better yet, the elbow bump, and let the handshake be a thing of the past. 

Stay on top of your vaccines and boosters

Everyone can benefit from staying up-to-date with their vaccines, and not just for coronavirus. Vaccines help prevent the spread of flu, chicken pox, pneumonia, shingles, and more. Certain vaccines are even recommended for women prior to pregnancy.  

Make food at home

Once the grocery shelves were stocked again after the initial phase of COVID-19, many of us found ourselves at home with extra time on our hands. And that meant more home cooking! It was a perfect time to learn some new recipes, show the kids how to cook, and hopefully add more nutritious options into your weekly menu. There are definitely benefits to this practice – sharing meals is a great way for the family to stay connected and foods cooked at home tend to be healthier than restaurant or fast-food alternatives. Plus it doesn't have to break your budget

At-home workouts 

With gyms closed, it was time to look for some alternatives. Some of us traded the line of treadmills for the open road. Others found it a great opportunity to find a new fitness trend or a completely different form of exercise. 

The world of virtual exercise also became incredibly popular. The virtual access we have to just about any type of workout in the comfort of our own homes has made it even easier than ever to stay on track with a fitness routine or learn something totally new. Dr. Mermel said, “Many will find exercise a good stress reducer and getting into an exercise routine may help one better deal with the challenges we all face.” Switching up your routine or finding something you especially enjoy can help you stay active. That’s a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle for your body, mind, and spirit. 

Mental health matters  

As the pandemic took hold, more individuals found themselves suffering from anxiety and depression. It’s not surprising that so many of us found ourselves nervous, sad, frightened. And we should all recognize that it is alright to admit when we need help to cope. Mental health is a crucial part of overall health.

Mindfulness practices can also be very helpful during times of stress. Meditation, yoga and tai chi are all practices that can calm you and help you feel more balanced. If you are having difficulty coping, there is help available. Call our Access Center at 401-606-0606 or call 988. For immediate help for children and adolescents, contact Kids' Link RI at 1-855-543-5465.

Dr. Mermel also offers some practical advice. “Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep each night, find ways to disconnect and recharge. Maintaining friendships, even without face-to-face contact, is important,” he said.  

For up-to-date information on how Lifespan hospitals are managing infection control, visit our COVID-19 information page

Lifespan Blog Team

The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.