Making Your Home Safer and More Comfortable Because of COVID-19 and Other Health Concerns
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all, with 24 million cases (and counting) of coronavirus around the globe. While some communities may have seen the worst of it, many Americans are still following stay-at-home orders. That means you’re probably safe at home, waiting for the danger of COVID-19 and other health concerns to dissipate. The problem now, though, maybe more about how to spend your time while you’re staying at home and waiting for the world to wake back up.
While the home routine might have already gotten a bit old months ago, there are real and present dangers when you leave your house or apartment and venture out. If you’re at risk because of health considerations, age, or other reasons, it’s of even more important that you find ways to be as safe and comfortable as you can in the safety of your home. That means that you need to create a COVID-19 plan for you and your immediate family.
Clean for Protection
It’s possible that we will all remain a bit germophobic after all this COVID-19 chaos is over. The Centers for Disease Control has released a whole list of recommendations to follow to help you better keep your house clean, disinfected, and ultimately more comfortable.
Cleaning is an important protection, too. There is a distinction between that and disinfecting, however. Cleaning doesn’t kill germs, but it does remove grime and dirt from surfaces. Disinfecting involves the use of chemicals — Environmental Protection Agency-approved ones are your best options — to kill germs that can linger on surfaces. It’s not the same as removing dirt and grit. Ideally one should wipe surfaces clean, and then follow that with disinfectant, to reduce the likelihood of spreading any potential infection. Be sure to read the directions on the label, too, to ensure you’re getting the spic-and-span result you want.
When scrubbing any surfaces in your home, be sure to give extra attention to those heavily trafficked and frequently touched areas. Think doorknobs, tables and countertops, chairs, handles, phones, faucet fixtures, toilets, light switches, keyboards, and literally every other surface area you can think of. And when you do clean, be sure to use the right cleanser for the job. (The rules will change for whatever item it is that you’ll be cleaning, be it cloth, electronic devices, or hard surfaces.)
Gloves, face masks, and sometimes eye protection (in case of splash hazards) will make cleaning safer, and make it less likely that skin suffers irritation from caustic or drying products. Just be sure to throw away disposable gloves when you’re finished with scrubbing, and if you’re utilizing reusable items (gloves in particular), keep them stashed in their own separate space so you don’t risk their contaminating other nearby items.
You also should regularly wash your hands, using soap and water, and for a minimum of 20 seconds. If your hands look clean — no obvious dirt or grime — then hand sanitizer is fine for killing germs. Just be sure to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol. Anything less than 60% may kill some germs, but it’s not going to do as thorough a job. And with COVID-19, you want to be thorough, just in case.
It’s also a good idea to wash hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; after visiting the bathroom; before or after preparing food or eating; after touching pets and animals; and also before and after providing care for a child, elderly person, or someone with compromised immunity.
Lockdown can make it easy to want to throw your hands up in the air and just order something deep-fried. It’s called comfort food for a reason, after all.
And people have been. One study found that three-fourths of Americans admitted to gaining weight — up to 16 pounds — during the peak weeks and months of lockdown.
That’s not the best route, however. An indulgence is nice now and then, but you’ll keep your body and mind feeling better by choosing a healthier lifestyle.
Stocking the freezer, refrigerator, and pantry with nutrient-rich foods is a good start. Think whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. When your body gets enough of what it needs to stay healthy (and less of what it doesn’t), you’ll only be doing yourself a favor, both in terms of warding off both short- and long-term illness.
Other ways to keep healthier include avoiding some bad habits entirely — like smoking cigarettes — or limiting the amount of alcohol you consume. Getting enough sleep will also do your mind and body a lot of good.
Exercise will, too. It’s great for building strength and endurance, lowers blood pressure, improves mood, and can help slash stress. It’s not going to be a guarantee against catching COVID-19 — nothing except perhaps complete isolation is — but it does wonders for overall health and well-being. Plus, being in better health usually makes it easier to ward off sickness or to overcome it. (It’s no guarantee, and COVID-19 carries a lot of unanswered questions, but it sure can’t hurt.)
Plan for Connection
Loneliness can be one of the most ongoing and severe complications of home-bound living. In this modern era, however, there is no reason to be isolated or disconnected.
Make a list of people who you want to stay in contact with, and then make a concerted effort to stay connected with each one of them via phone, Skype (or other video calls), and social media. Start a virtual book club or start up a trivia or game night. Websites and apps make it easier to play interactive games, even from afar.
Meeting outside in a park makes it easy to socialize but still maintains a bit of space. Or consider going old school by mailing a letter or package; those add some variety and shake things up a bit.
Even sharing something on social media can spark up conversations. Post old photos, invite people to share some random memory, or answer a few oddball questions. Anything to potentially get the conversation going will do. You never know what people will open up about.
Even when staying at drug or alcohol inpatient treatment or other care or rehab centers, you can find a way to stay connected.
Make a Cheat Sheet
List all the organizations or services that you could contact if you need help in any way, or if you need answers, during this time. That could include:
- A grocery delivery service, or suppliers of any other needed items, like pet food
- Virtual banking solutions (with direct contact information)
- Your doctor’s office (with details on how to schedule a telehealth call)
- Pharmacy shipment solutions
- Delivery options from your favorite restaurant
- Online live-streaming workouts
- Religious services
- Schools or teachers (if you’re a parent or guardian of a child or teen)
- Your employer
- The local public health department
- Your veterinarian (if you have a pet)
Develop Your Network Map
Beyond connections and the organizations that you rely on for quality-of-life and lifestyle maintenance, create a network map of the people you rely on. It could be close friends, teachers, family, neighbors, or even the nurse at your local clinic. Write down their contact information and keep your list handy. Who can you rely on if you need something in a pinch? Your network map serves several purposes. It could cross-pollinate your plan for connection, so it’s a way to remind you that you’re not alone.
Your network map is a group of people who are there when you need them. That also means that you have a network of essential individuals who will offer support services if you do get sick and you need even more intensive care and understanding. The plan should always be to hope for the best and plan for the worst. If you don’t have to go out, you should not. Your home is the safest, most comfortable location that you can be. The goal, here, is to ensure that you’re safe and happy at home with everything that you need to be comfortable while you wait out the pandemic.
While we’ve all (hopefully) laid in our year’s supply of great novels, short stories, poems, movies, and TV shows to read and watch while we await the end of COVID-19, there still remains a real need for connection right now.
We are positive forces in each other’s lives. We can (and should) make a difference, even in what sometimes feels like limited ways. Instead of looking at the darkness and loss all around us, we can find comfort in what we still have. It’s right in front of us, just a phone or video call away. Lest we forget, now more than ever, we need each other — even if it’s just via that virtual hug or a smile across the miles of a Zoom call. Perhaps that’s what COVID-19 will teach us all: We’re better together.
Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.