Make health your top priority during the pandemic



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2020 has not been our year.

In the midst of a global pandemic affecting billions of lives, violent wildfires and a fight for social injustice, many students started this school year feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Students often forget that simply exercising or getting rest are solutions for helping with overall health. Therefore students must be mindful of the importance of maintaining physical and mental health, especially when the world is undergoing these unprecedented times.

Since quarantine started, students increased their screen time in order to study or communicate with friends. According to a “Progress in cardiovascular diseases” study, after lockdown guidelines were in place, physical activity in people ages six to seventeen decreased 81% while screen time increased 384%, indicating a lack of physical activity in youths. Health problems linked to extra screen time include difficulty sleeping, eye irritation or damage, poor posture, more distractibility, inability to finish tasks and weight gain due to lack of exercise. While nothing is wrong with wanting to talk to friends or using the internet for school, you also have to remember that constant use of digital devices can affect their health.

While in quarantine, it might be difficult to find the motivation to exercise.  However, the World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of both, to maintain physical health. According to Irvine Virtual Academy counselor Amy Klamberg, physical health is important because students need to get up and move because when they do it results in increased self-esteem, improved concentration, reductions in depressive symptoms and improvements in sleep. So remember to get up periodically, walk around, stretch and be mindful of what you eat; it helps the body and mind stay healthy.

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Besides physical health, mental health is just as important for us to maintain. In a study from the University of Valladolid in Spain, 21% of students experienced moderate to extremely severe scores of anxiety and 34% experienced depression during the first weeks of self-isolation. According to Mental Health Specialist Nancy Lê, mental health is important because students need to be an active participant in their life, and to be able to thrive and move forward. It also teaches resiliency, good self-esteem and self-confidence, and good ways to boost mood and cope. Maintaining mental health helps aid in academic success and retention along with maintaining relationships, and knowing when to seek help. Doing things that you enjoy, going outside, and talking to friends and trusted adults are ways to stay mentally healthy and help develop healthy stress coping mechanisms.

Even with so much going on in the world around us, we must remember to be mindful of our mental and physical health. Take breaks and catch up with loved ones. Attend virtual calming rooms hosted by the counseling department. Sit in the sun, start a new hobby or continue with an old one. Take this time to do things that make you happy, and don’t be afraid to reach out, whether it’s to a teacher about an academic question, a counselor for guidance, or to someone new and unfamiliar. Be proactive in maintaining the health of your loved ones and yourself— it’s important.