As the COVID-19 pandemic, with all of its emotional and physical challenges, continues, most of us are just doing the best we can. Just about everyone could use a break. One of the best ways you can give yourself that break is to practice self-care. That includes avoiding things that can imperil your health without you even realizing it, so when it's possible to once again live life to the fullest, you'll be ready and able. These are five ways you might be unconsciously ruining your body right now. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Purposely Trying to Catch Omicron
Experts are warning against anecdotal reports that people are purposely trying to catch the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 "just to get it over with." The World Health Organization slammed the concept as dangerous. "Deliberately seeking to become infected is like playing with dynamite," said Dr. Quinton Fivelman, chief scientific officer at London Medical Laboratory on Friday. "It can rapidly escalate into a life-threatening disease, particularly for people with pre-existing conditions." Additionally, even mild COVID illness can result in "long COVID," a chronic fatigue syndrome that can linger for months and be debilitating.
Not Getting Enough Quality Sleep
Several studies have found that not getting enough sleep increase the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, obesity, and dementia. Lack of sleep also seems to accelerate the biological process of aging, which can show up on your face. "If you are not getting an adequate amount of sleep, it can definitely lead to early signs of aging such as increased wrinkling and sagging of the skin as well as bags and dark circles under the eyes," Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell, a physician and certified sleep specialist in Virginia, told the Today show last week.
It's not just what you eat, but whom you eat with, that may be hazardous to your health. Several studies have found that eating by yourself can lead to consuming fewer nutritious foods, eating faster (which is associated with higher abdominal fat and blood pressure), and a higher risk of illness. The latest: Research published in the journal Menopause found that older women who eat alone were 2.58 times more likely to have angina, a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart.
Drinking Too Much Alcohol
As the pandemic drags into its third year, studies suggest that more Americans are drinking more alcohol to cope with stress and boredom. But the pandemic isn't permanent, while the damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption can be. According to the CDC, excessive alcohol use can increase your risk of
High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems
Several cancers, such as breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum
A weakened immune system, which can lead to more frequent or more severe illness
Learning and memory problems, including dementia
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
To avoid these alcohol-related risks and others, experts recommend drinking only in moderation, meaning no more than two drinks a day for men and one daily drink for women.
Stressing Out Constantly
Chronic stress can wreck your body from the inside out. Constantly stressing out elevates your heart rate and increases inflammation. "The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and the elevated levels of stress hormones and of blood pressure, can take a toll on the body," says the American Psychological Association. "This long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke." Your move: Manage stress by getting more exercise, practicing relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, or breathing exercises, and consulting your doctor if you can't smooth out your frazzled state.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.