FEW believes the U.S. government should be a model employer and progress will allow members to appropriately care for themselves or their families without worrying about job security. FEW supports paid leave for federal employees so you can care for your family. Most agencies have also adopted internal policies for employee COVID-19 leave. Please check with your agency’s human resources department for their COVID-19 leave policy. Several U.S. government websites also provide updates about frequently asked questions pertaining to COVID-19.
Schools have gone virtual. Events are cancelled. Businesses have enacted work from home policies and travel bans are in place.
Every aspect of your life, including your daily routine has been significantly altered. It’s completely normal to feel unsettled or anxious.
How can you cope with the disruption and find a “zen” mindset while keeping safe during the coronavirus pandemic?
According to the World Health Organization, the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to avoid exposure by steering clear of the 3Cs—spaces that are closed, crowded or involve close contact. Every day preventative actions, such as social distancing and wearing a mask also help to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Here’s five tips to cope with the stress and protect yourself from COVID-19:
Tip #1: Wear a mask the right way
Although masks keep people who are infected from spreading respiratory droplets when they cough, sneeze or talk, they are not a substitute for social distancing. Always wear a mask in public and when around people who don’t live in your household. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that in addition to protecting others from the coronavirus, wearing a mask also offers protection to you from breathing in the virus. The CDC is currently studying the effectiveness of various cloth mask materials.
For maximum protection, be sure you are wearing your mask the right way—put it over your nose and mouth and secure it against the sides of your face. It should fit snuggly. Try not to touch your mask while wearing it, but if you do, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. When removing your mask, handle only the ear loops or ties. Of course, be sure to wash and completely dry your cloth mask each time you wear it.
Tip #2: Maintain an exercise routine
Not only is exercise essential for your well-being during the pandemic but getting your heart pumping for 150 minutes a week can also reduce stress, prevent weight gain, boost your immune system and improve sleep. Afterall, physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand. Exercise helps regulate your immune system, which may also reduce severe symptoms of COVID-19. In fact, several studies have linked moderate exercise with decreased rates of influenza and pneumonia, as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Tip #3: Take care of your mental health
During these uncertain times, your mental state can impact every aspect of your life, exacerbating an already challenging situation. That’s why it is important to identify ways you can look after your mental health. Follow trusted news sources, exercise, meditate, take on a new hobby and maintain a daily routine. If you are missing social interaction, consider new, “virtual” possibilities—join a yoga class, take a cooking lesson, find a book club or socialize with FEW. However, if you need additional support during this challenging time, make an appointment to speak with a medical professional.
Tip #4: Run errands safely
When heading to the grocery store or running essential errands, disinfect the handles of your cart or basket before shopping. If possible, do your errands during off hours—early in the day or later in the evening. While shopping, maintain a safe distance from others, preferably six feet apart and only touch items you plan to purchase. Of course, wear your mask, pay using a touchless method that doesn’t require a card, money or touching a keypad. Be sure to sanitize your hands when you are finished shopping. Once you get home, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Then wash them again after putting away your items. When possible, take advantage of online ordering or curbside pickup.
Tip #5: Stay safe at home
Although COVID-19 spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces, there are several ways to keep your home free from germs. Clean high-touch surfaces (doorknobs, light switches, countertops, phone screens and bathroom surfaces) daily by cleaning the surfaces with soap and water and then using an EPA-registered household disinfectant. A recent study found that the coronavirus can remain in the air for up to three hours and live on surfaces such as cardboard for up to 24 hours and plastic and stainless steel for up to three days.
Although you are likely taking every precaution to stay safe at home and in public, it is a good idea to plan ahead in case someone in your household becomes infected. If possible, the sick person should be isolated to a separate room and bathroom.
For more information, visit few.org.