The COVID-19 virus

finding balance during COVID-19.

five ways to stay active and socially connected while limiting your risk.

“The core of anxiety is the intolerance of uncertainty and fear of the unknown.”

- Thea Gallagher, Psy.D., Clinic Director at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety (CTSA) in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

A note from MDLIVE chief medical officer, Dr. Cindy Zelis.

COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives. From wearing masks and social distancing to economic uncertainty and changes to work and school life, we’re living with the effects of the pandemic every day.

With so much going on, we now face new decisions that can cause stress and anxiety we might not have felt before. What activities are safe to do? What is the best way to limit the risk of exposure and protect ourselves and our family?

This uncertainty about the future can cause people to get stuck in an “anxiety spiral” where they focus too heavily on worst-case scenarios and have a hard time differentiating high-risk from low-risk activities. And while we do need to be cautious, fear of the unknown can cause us to try to eliminate all risks from our lives. Not only is this impractical, but it can make stress and anxiety worse.

Fortunately, there are techniques that can both maintain a low risk of disease spread and counteract the anxiety and stress you may feel. Many of these techniques also help us stay active and social, which are great ways to keep yourself healthy and improve your physical and mental wellbeing.

5 ways to stay safe while being active:

A person stretches at home

1. Exercise every day (or at least most days).

Working out during COVID-19 can seem overwhelming, but just 30 minutes a day can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your stress level. You will also lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many other conditions, which can also help improve your mental wellbeing.

Even if you start small and work your way up to 30 minutes a day, the goal is to move more and sit less. There are many indoor exercises that can be done from home, and outdoor activities like jogging or riding a bike can be great ways to get a change of scenery.

a family walks together in a park

2. Go outside.

Reconnecting with nature and taking a walk in a more secluded setting can give your mood a boost and help improve your physical and mental health. Going outdoors during quarantine for as little as 20-30 minutes a few times a week can help reduce stress. Consider choosing a time of day when fewer people are likely to be around – this both reduces COVID-19 risk and provides better stress relief.

A woman and child sit together to read a book

3. Keep groups small and safe.

Seeing small groups of friends can help you stay connected and potentially provide a break from the at-home setting where we spend much of our time. Remember to wear your mask, stay six feet apart, and bring your hand sanitizer to socialize safely.

If you are concerned about group interactions, keep in
mind there are additional ways to reduce your risk, such as choosing outdoor vs. indoor settings, minimizing in-person interaction with people you don’t know, and gathering for shorter periods of time.

A person participates in a group video call

4. Stay in touch online.

With so many different ways to connect, like video chats, phone calls, text messaging, and social media, you can keep in touch with friends and family while limiting in-person contact. Being intentional about connections, including scheduling them in advance or having a regular check-in time, can help if you find yourself forgetting to stay in touch.

If you have elderly relatives or relatives with high-risk conditions, staying in contact can help give them the support they need through this challenging time. They may be struggling with some of the same difficulties you are – perhaps to a greater degree – so by keeping in touch, you can all support each other.

A child sits on a woman's lap while they read a book together

5. Engage your kids (and be patient).

Children face unique stressors during this difficult time. Online remote learning and sharing home, work, and school space have disrupted normal routines and brought people together in the same location for more hours of the day.

Parents can manage these challenges for the whole family by encouraging quality time together and limiting time on social media. Make sure you are also checking in regularly with your partner to provide support and agree on a consistent daily routine that will return a sense of normalcy.

Cindy Zelis, MD

If you need professional support, remember that MDLIVE is here for you and your family.

Our licensed therapists can help with talk therapy and coping strategies, while our board-certified doctors and psychiatrists can help with medication and other medical needs — all from the comfort and safety of home.

We look forward to caring for you.

Best in health,

Cindy Zelis, MD
MDLIVE, Chief Medical Officer

  • 1 “Deciding to Go Out.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
  • 2 “Decision-Making and Anxiety in the Time of COVID-19.” Penn Today,
  • 3 “Managing Stress during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak.” University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital,
  • 4 “Sour Mood Getting You down? Get Back to Nature.” Harvard Health Publishing,
  • 5 “Stay Connected to Combat Loneliness and Social Isolation.” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

Posted date: September 11, 2020

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