This past year was dominated by chaos, endless turmoil, and a lot of struggles that many of us never thought we would encounter in our lifetimes.
From a public health crisis to climate change to racial injustice, civil unrest, and an economic recession due to the global pandemic, it’s safe to say we’ve seen our fair share of troubles in 2020.
It’s not surprising that with all of those obstacles and during such troubling times, many of us have fallen into bad habits or have returned to old unhealthy routines as a way to cope.
Perhaps it’s a way to seek comfort or a way to distract ourselves from the harsh reality outside our doors and around the world. Still, many of us are sinking into dangerous patterns of bad habits — from poor eating to lack of exercise to lack of social connection and excessive social media use.
A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that many adults are reporting difficulty sleeping (36%), difficulty eating (32%), and increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%) in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Data from another study by Blue Cross Blue Shield shows a 23% increase in alcohol consumption and a 19% increase in smoking since the coronavirus outbreak began.
And for everyone who feels like they have been eating their feelings and seeking comfort in food, you’re not alone. The “pandemic 15” has replaced the “Freshman 15” and winter weight as the reason so many of us are packing on pounds this year.
In fact, a recent Weight Watchers survey investigated how 93 days of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic have impacted our wellbeing, and it found that 48% of respondents said they’ve eaten more, and one in three (29%) said they drank more alcohol. This explains why people are gaining weight — 42% of people have put on weight during this time.
While it’s certainly understandable that many of us have adopted bad habits this year, it’s also important to remember that those bad habits not only impact our daily lives and our overall happiness and well-being today, but they could negatively impact our future if we don’t break the cycle now.
Here are some bad habits to ditch as we kiss 2020 goodbye and move on to a better, more hopeful, and hopefully healthier year in 2021.
Neglecting Your Health
During the pandemic, many of us are so focused on staying germ-free and safe from the coronavirus that we have forgotten about the other aspects of our health.
We are postponing doctor’s appointments, ignoring ailments, skipping workouts, and neglecting our mental health needs as we try to navigate this new normal.
While it’s okay to re-prioritize our health needs to accommodate the new reality we are facing, it’s also important not to totally ignore signs that you need help.
Schedule a therapy session or time to vent to a friend if you’re feeling overwhelmed or emotionally troubled.
If something hurts or bothers you physically, talk to your doctor, schedule a telemedicine appointment, or an in-person exam if needed. And do not forget to exercise and move your body regularly — it not only boosts immunity, but it also boosts your mood.
Skipping Meals, Or Eating Your Feelings
When your day no longer has the same kind of structure it once had, it’s easy to forget to eat, to skip meals entirely, or on the flip side, to snack all day long.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that food can comfort you as you deal with pandemic-related stress or that food can fill the void you may feel from social distancing.
Prepare healthy foods, take breaks from your work or home-schooling to sit down and eat an actual meal, avoid constant snacking out of boredom or stress, and load up on fresh produce and nutritious ingredients to keep your body as healthy as possible.
Spending Too Much Time on Social Media
Since we’re not able to physically spend time together or see loved ones in person, it’s natural to turn to social media as a way to connect, to see each other, and to keep up with one another from far away. Social media can also be an unhealthy trap when you use it to excess and spend too much time going down celebrity rabbit holes.
Limit your time on social media and instead schedule FaceTime or Zoom calls with friends and family members. Connect online but in a more interactive, personal way. And don’t feel bad if it looks like everyone on Instagram is handling this pandemic better than you are — remember that filters are misleading and what you see online is often not the whole picture.
Developing Bad Posture
Working from home has its perks, but proper posture isn’t one of them. Sitting at the kitchen table or on the floor or at a desk that is not ergonomically correct can really take its toll on your spine. Invest in a chair cushion, find a more comfortable place to sit, and don’t forget to stand up, walk around and stretch throughout the day.
Not Connecting (Remotely) With Loved Ones
After a long day of Zoom calls, it can feel exhausting to consider yet another video call, but make sure you take the time to connect with loved ones to catch up and talk regularly. It’s not the same as in-person quality time, we know, but it’s more important than ever to have that face time and to engage in meaningful conversations with friends and family, whether they are thousands of miles away or just across the hall. In other words, call your mom.
Working Longer Hours and Failing to Set Boundaries
Working from home is a new concept for many Americans, and it’s undoubtedly a new routine that many people have had to adjust to during the pandemic.
Rather than having a start and end to the workday, the workday seems endless because there is less separation from our home life. We end up working longer hours with fewer boundaries, which can uproot our daily schedule and disrupt our day’s typical rhythm, resulting in a lack of focus and longer working hours.
Try to avoid letting your workday extend into your family time and stick to the routine you were used to pre-pandemic.
It’s important from a scientific perspective, explains Beth Darnall, associate professor, and psychologist at Stanford University School of Medicine. “In a normal life schedule, we have biorhythms that offer us cues that are grounding and stabilizing… As much as possible, we want to maintain those natural biorhythms” by maintaining a new routine, Darnall explains to Today.com.
Failing to Appreciate What We Have
Practicing gratitude has never mattered more. Rather than focusing on all that we have lost in 2020, from social gatherings and celebrations to the loss of freedom and loss of loved ones, we should focus on what we have.
Focus on the people you care about and those who care about you. Focus on your health. Be grateful for your safety and comfortable home. Breathe deeply and appreciate a beautiful sunny day. There’s always something to be thankful for, so carry those thoughts with you instead of focusing on the negativity that is weighing you down.
Drinking Too Much and Too Often
Just as many people are eating their feelings and turning to indulgent food for comfort, many of us are drinking far too much and far too often due to isolation and solitude induced by the pandemic.
It’s tempting to pour a drink or sip a glass of wine after a long day or to numb the fear surrounding the virus. But that increased consumption can have damaging effects on your health and become a bad habit that you definitely do not want to carry with you into 2021.
Remember that drinking within a healthy range is okay, but you need to be careful that it does not tiptoe towards excess and does not interfere with your ability to function in your daily life. Don’t use alcohol as a coping mechanism, but rather as a way to treat yourself and enjoy.