Illness dominated our discussion in 2020 and early 2021, but if you were lucky enough to avoid COVID-19 during that time, you might have observed a notable silver lining to all those lockdowns, masks, and hand sanitizer: you went a shockingly long time without getting sick.
The protocol we followed for COVID-19 helped wipe out the flu last year and even made the common cold far less common. But all that changed in late 2021. While many of us are vaccinated, and some still wear masks, we are out and about a lot more this year — and less inclined to douse ourselves in hand sanitizer.
As we return to normal life, we’re dealing with a huge resurgence of the illnesses we managed to avoid last year. Those familiar sniffles may cause us to panic and take COVID tests — but when those tests return negative, we get a faint reminder of what pre-COVID life was like: the never-ending possibility of coming down with the flu or stomach bug.
Ultimately, the goal is to return to a somewhat normal way of life — illness and all. As we begin to reintegrate back into society, we will need to learn how to deal with the various sicknesses that sometimes result from spending quality time with others. Keep reading to learn how to manage this difficult, but necessary transition:
Focus on Boosting Your Immune System
At the outset of the pandemic, we committed ourselves to improve our health in quarantine. Often, however, the opposite transpired: the more time we spent locked away, the more we neglected essentials such as exercise and healthy eating.
As we’re able to return to the gym, we can start fresh with healthier habits. Research suggests that diet and exercise significantly impact immunity, so it’s never too late to start eating clean or get our bodies moving. If you need inspiration, download a few healthy living podcasts or subscribe to fitness magazines.
Sleep is also crucial for a properly functioning immune system. It was often difficult to regulate sleep as we dealt with more stress and screen time. However, as COVID eases up, we can establish healthy sleep habits and actually create, and maintain, a calming environment conducive to rest.
Keep Getting Vaccinated
Those flu shots remain just as important in a COVID world as they were previously. While it remains to be seen if we’ll need to continue getting COVID boosters indefinitely, it’s well-known that the flu requires a new vaccine every year.
Any efforts you can take to limit the spread of illness will be significant going forward, especially given the very real possibility that COVID will be endemic — and that it will continue to flare up from time to time. The last thing you’ll want is to simultaneously deal with the strong risk of both COVID and the flu.
Build Masks Into Regular Life
Before COVID-19, masking was a normal part of flu season in Japan and many other nations. This was regarded as considerate behavior — protecting those in close contact. The pandemic has, in fact, normalized mask-wearing all around the world. This could be a personal strategy for dealing with sudden spikes in illnesses that are primarily transmitted by air droplets now and into the future. While you might not need to wear masks in perpetuity, be prepared to bring them back from time to time.
Don’t Skip Hand Sanitizer or Hand-Washing
Remember the early days of the pandemic, when we constantly used hand sanitizer? Once research revealed that COVID-19 was more likely to spread via droplets than surfaces, a lot of people ditched the hygiene habits they’d so recently improved. Moving forward, however, it’s important to remember that many other illnesses do spread via surfaces. As such, hand-washing will be essential. Sanitizer can also be helpful, particularly when you’re on the go.
Summing it Up: Finding a New Normal
Like it or not, there’s no going back to 2019. Life might return to some semblance of normal as the pandemic finally ends, but some changes are bound to remain permanent. Whether you find yourself newly committed to masking, vaccination, or remote work, you can integrate these habits into a lifestyle that also allows you to enjoy concerts, parties, and so many other activities you gave up in 2020. A few simple steps will keep you safe as you embrace this new normal.
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