Maintaining Well-Being During Social Distancing When You Have Diabetes

diabetes and social distancing

As the coronavirus pandemic runs its course and increasingly intrudes on life, nearly everyone is affected. Authorities are suggesting or requiring measures to promote social distancing in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19. What, though, does “social distancing” really mean? Does it apply to you, and how do you participate? What does it mean when managing diabetes?

Everything can seem confusing during this topsy-turvy time, but one thing is certain. Regardless of how backward things may feel, your health still comes first. Lark can help you continue to manage your blood sugar with healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating well, being physically active, and taking medications. Since diabetes is a high-risk condition for COVID-19, it is more important than ever to manage blood sugar as much as possible. For emotional and mental health, staying connected with others can help fight anxiety, loneliness, and depression.

What Is Social Distancing?


Many people are choosing to participate in social distancing, and some states and local authorities are establishing guidelines for reducing gatherings. You may have heard about it on the news. 

The purpose of social distancing is to slow the spread of coronavirus. The theory is that the slower it spreads, the less strained the healthcare system will be. That is particularly relevant for people with diabetes, since diabetes increases the risk for infections and for getting more serious cases of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been warning that person-to-person transmission of the virus can occur when people are less than 6 feet apart [1]. Social distancing is the strategy that helps people carry out that recommendation. As of March 15, the CDC recommended that “for the next 8 weeks, organizers … cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.” [2]

In addition, authorities are recommending or enforcing decreased interactions. For example, the CDC recommends that events with more than 10 people be canceled or postponed. Schools and non-essential businesses are closing in increasing areas of the country. Some people are voluntarily staying home as much as possible, and many others are limiting their outings to the essentials.

“Group” Workouts While Flying Solo


Coronavirus outbreak or not, exercising is still one of the best tools for lowering blood sugar. Attending gyms and group fitness classes is out of the question while practicing social distancing, but there are other ways to get the motivation, fun, and challenge that group workouts can deliver.

These are some tips for staying accountable and passing the time more quickly without coming into contact with others.

  • Workout buddies can still be possible if you set a mutual time to walk and talk on the phone with each other as you walk, separately, each in your own neighborhood or park, or you use your home elliptical or treadmill.
  • Many classes are available online. Some are even streamed in real-time so you can follow along at home while the instructor is talking to you. Necessary equipment may include good shoes, weights or resistance bands, a mat, or an exercise bike, for example.
  • Many personal trainers can work with you live through video chat so you can have two-way communication during the workout. Trainers can still correct form and listen to your feedback during the workout.

Lark can help you keep track of your activity so you can be sure to keep getting it in even while your daily routine may be different than usual. It is also important to monitor blood sugar, as carefully as ever, before and after exercise, so you can stay safe.

Working from Home


Many businesses are shut down. Among those that remain open, many employers are encouraging employees to work from home as much as possible during this time. This may not be possible for many industries and jobs, such as cleaning, car repairs, and other service jobs, but it is an option for many. 

Working from home can actually boost productivity, but it has challenges. Employees can start to feel isolated. They can also have trouble balancing life and work with the new environment. These tips may help people who are working from home stay happy, healthy, and productive.

  • Using video chats and instant message systems can help coworkers continue to feel connected. 
  • Setting aside a specific “office space” in your home, even if it is not a true office, can set the tone for a workday and reduce distractions in the home.
  • It is best to let family members or anyone else who is nearby know expectations for how much noise they can make and what they expect from you during the workday.
  • Taking breaks to stretch, move around, or take a walk can boost productivity and help control blood sugar.
  • Coworkers and HR departments may have specific tips on how to thrive in your home workspace.

During this particular time, if you are working from home because of COVID-19, there may be additional challenges for reasons such as children being home from school or needing to take care of or shop for an elderly parent or friend. Communication with bosses and colleagues is key.

Entertainment


What do you do when bars are closed, there are no more concerts, amusement parks are closed, and producers are no longer even filming television programs? You can do something else…many other things! Here are just a few options.

  • Clean your house. This is a good time to be clean anyway to fight germs.
  • Tidy up and clear out old clothes and anything else you do not need.
  • Visit a museum, virtually. Google has partnered with the New York Museum of Modern Art, and the Louvre has its own virtual tour [3].
  • Travel the world. The Great Wall of China is at your fingertips, virtually.
  • Read a book.
  • Try new diabetes-friendly recipes. During the time you would have gone to a restaurant or a bar and possibly thrown your blood sugar out of whack with alcohol or unhealthy food, you can come up with new homemade favorites that support lower blood sugar.
  • Reconnect with friends via social media, email, phone calls, or video calls. If chatting on the phone, don’t forget to walk around the house to get in some extra physical activity.
  • Join an online book club or start your own with friends.
  • Teach your children something and ask them to teach you something.
  • Catch up on old TV shows, ideally while exercising or with stretch breaks during commercials.
  • Plan a trip for when traveling is easier because this will pass eventually!

This can be a good time to focus on a positive attitude. Just like eating healthy, when it helps to think about what you can eat instead of what you should not, it helps to think about what you can do rather than what you cannot. For example, how many years have you been waiting to have time to refinish a cabinet, play games with the family, or clean out a closet? Now may be your chance!

Religious events


Whether you visit a house of worship only on holidays or once a week for services, or your church, synagogue, or mosque is a second home, losing the ability to worship, volunteer, or socialize in person can create an empty feeling. If your local religious home is closed for in-person visits, there may be the option of “attending” services with your own pastor, rabbi, or religious leader, through online broadcasts. 

Online resources can still help continue to foster a sense of community, if not normalcy. For example, churches and synagogues can set up online sites for donations instead of in-person ones. Congregation members can use video chats to hold their usual social gatherings, such as having coffee and chatting, or each making quilts or putting together bags of food to donate to food pantries. You can also think of each other as a support system to share resources.

Healthy Lifestyle


Your mind and body still need nourishment, love, and care. Now more than ever, using Lark may help you stay healthy and strong for yourself and for others. Though groceries may be harder to procure and you may need to change your eating habits a bit, keeping it as nutritious as possible will support your immune system. 

In addition, these are some ways to stay active at home or outside without breaking the 6-foot distance rule.

  • Walking, hiking, jogging, or running.
  • Doing exercise videos with weights or for aerobics.
  • Dancing to songs on the radio.
  • Playing tag with your kids.

Lark can also coach you on getting good sleep and on managing stress so you can make smart decisions as life changes daily. 

Social distancing can be a shock and challenging, but it is temporary. There will be an “after” when crowds are allowed and hand sanitizer and toilet paper are abundant again. Until then, keeping yourself happy and healthy, while doing your part for the community around you, can be important goals. Lark is there to help.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How it spreads. March 4, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/transmission.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get Your Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events Ready. March 14, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/mass-gatherings-ready-for-covid-19.html
  3. https://news.yahoo.com/social-distancing-six-virtual-tours-182950971.html
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Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health

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