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21 Mistakes That Put Your Health At Risk During Reopening

As states relax social distancing measures, here's how to stay safe.

Our cities are reopening after a long self-isolation to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but be prepared to safely and healthily ease out of lockdown, once your local administration gives the OK. Check out these 20 things you should never do when your city reopens so you can safely transition back to normalcy. 


Don't Assume You Can Go Everywhere

Couple with face mask stuck in airport terminal

State authorities may lift restrictions in phases so you may not be as free as you think at first. Pay attention to the specific guidelines in your area. Your governor or local authority may announce that some restrictions are no longer in place, such as work-from-home orders or travel bans.

The Rx: Read your local news daily, and you should still follow social distancing guidelines in public, wear a face covering and wash your hands regularly.


Don't Go Anywhere Without These 3 Items

Medical surgical masks, tissue paper and alcohol sanitizer hand gel for cleaning and protecting corona virus.

"According to the CDC, "a cloth face covering, hand sanitizer that's made with at least 60 percent alcohol, and tissues are key items to bring along," reports Fox News. "The CDC's recommendations on cloth face coverings are in line with what it has recommended for months. In April, the CDC updated its guidelines to recommend all Americans wear cloth face coverings while in public, 'especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.'"

The Rx: Use the tissues to cough into, or, separately, to open door handles. 


Don't Stop Washing Your Hands

scrubbing soapy hand against washbasin

Washing your hands frequently removes germs, bacteria, and microbes that can cause illness. If you've been handling food, just went to the bathroom, or know you were in a situation that may have exposed you to germs, it's important to thoroughly wash your hands to prevent spreading this bacteria.

The Rx: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even before the coronavirus, you should always wash your hands before and after:

  • Preparing food.
  • Caring for someone who is sick.
  • Going to the bathroom.
  • Treating a wound.

Also, wash your hands after you blow your nose, touch potentially infected items in a public place, and after touching animals or garbage. Use running water and soap and thoroughly lather your hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing them. 


Don't Assume the Virus Is Gone

Social distancing rules in practice, alternate seating in local public food courts

Restrictions may be lifted and many cities reopened well before the coronavirus is completely gone. When local areas begin to show declining numbers of infection over a period of time, local authorities may begin to expire stay-at-home or quarantine orders. But doesn't mean we're in the clear. 

While no one is sure how long this virus will linger, according to Virginia Pitzer, ScD, Yale School of Public Health Associate Professor, "We may get into a cycle of periodic social distancing measures until it is possible to develop and mass-produce a vaccine, which experts say will take 12 to 18 months, or we can find effective ways to treat COVID-19."

The Rx: While some restrictions may have been lifted in your community, it's important to continue paying attention to these regulations and the latest orders from your local authorities. Social distancing guidelines may still be in place and stay-at-home orders may be enforced again at any time. Cooperating with these orders is the best way to help stop the spread of the virus so we can all go back to our daily lives for good.


Don't Spend a Bunch of Money

woman in a clothing store in a medical mask because of a coronovirus

With many retail stores closed, the first thing you may want to do when restrictions are lifted is hit the mall. It's easy to get caught up once you have access to in-person shopping. But it will take a long time for the economy to recover. 

It's important to keep an eye on your finances and maintain your financial health since it can directly affect your physical health. An American Psychological Association (APA) survey discovered that, "Nearly 1 in 5 Americans say that they have either considered skipping (9%) or skipped (12%) going to a doctor when they needed health care because of financial concerns."

The Rx: While you may want to buy everything you've been dreaming of over the past few months when stores re-open, consider your budget first. Don't allow yourself to become financially insecure from buying non-essential items. Consider buying one indulgent item per month to ensure you stay financially stable.


Don't Let Your Sleep Schedule Get Out of Whack

Woman Turning Off Alarm While Sleeping On Bed

With a lot of time on your hands, your stay-at-home life may have provided the benefit of finally getting enough sleep and maintaining a proper sleep schedule. When restrictions are lifted, spending time with friends, running errands freely, and other time-consuming activities may be closer to the top of your list than being in bed by 10 pm.

But it's important to maintain your sleep schedule so you can stay healthy. According to a study reviewed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), "An irregular sleep pattern may be a novel and independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), and maintaining regular sleep patterns could help prevent heart disease just as physical activity, a healthy diet, and other lifestyle measures do."

The Rx: Even when your schedule becomes more social, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night to function properly and reap the health benefits.


Don't Overindulge

Woman Suffering a Stomachache after Eating in a Restaurant

Once restaurants are open for sit-down meals, it may be tempting to order every taco combo meal at your favorite Mexican joint. But overindulging in heavy foods can lead to weight gain and can mess up your body's functionality in many ways that aren't always obvious.

According to MD Anderson Cancer Center, overeating slows your digestive process, making you sluggish and allowing your enlarged stomach to uncomfortably push against other organs. It also confuses your circadian clock, which negatively affects your sleep schedule and your body's digestive schedule. Also, "overeating can lead to unwanted weight gain, and carrying excess weight can increase your cancer risk."

The Rx: Once lockdown restrictions are lifted, you may want to visit every restaurant in town for every meal. But it's important to only allow yourself to overindulge occasionally. Stick to a diet that's full of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, and stop eating when you're full.


Don't Neglect Your Home

Disorder mess at home

You've been spending a lot of time at home so once restrictions are lifted, you may be tempted to get out and stay out. But your home has a huge influence on your mood and the way you view your life. 

A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin analyzed how couples perceived their home based on cleanliness and organization. Those who talked more about unfinished home projects and clutter were found to have fluctuating levels of cortisol, an indicator that they suffer from chronic stress. 

Participants who described their homes as organized and clutter-free showed decreased depressed moods throughout the day. Spending all your time out and about may seem like it would lower your stress levels but neglecting your duties at home may add to your stress.

The Rx: You're bound to spend more time catching up with friends and running errands when restrictions are lifted. However, remember how good and calming it feels to know your home is in order. Be sure to spend some time each week restoring your home until you're satisfied to reduce your stress levels.


Don't Stop Spending Time With Family

Family On Hiking Adventure Through Forest

If you've been in quarantine with your family members, it's normal to look forward to the day when you can get away. However, once restrictions are lifted, don't ditch your family and let your close relationships suffer. According to a study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, participants "who experienced positive adolescent family relationships had significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms from early adolescence to midlife (late 30s to early 40s) than did those who experienced less-positive family relationships."

The Rx: Once it's safe to engage in other social activities outside of the home, you may not need to eat every single meal with family members or play a four-hour Monopoly game every night. But don't let life activities completely take over so you're neglecting these relationships. Continue to bond with your family members and spend time together to nurture these special connections.


Don't Forget About Your "Me" Time

Relaxed happy young man resting having nap on comfortable couch breathing fresh air

If you were staying at home alone through this pandemic, you probably can't wait to see your friends and family when restrictions are lifted. Social time and connections are crucial and you may feel isolated after a few months in the house alone. But it's also important to not give up all your "me" time.

According to Psychology Today, "Time to be alone can be an important developmental stage. Positive reactions also stem from solitude." Time alone also provides a relief from social pressures and can allow introverts to "recharge."

The Rx: Before you say "yes" to every event and get-together, ensure you'll have fun and nourish strong and positive connections with friends and family members. If you begin to feel worn down or lose touch with your feelings and needs, take a break from social activities and spend some time alone so you can reconnect with yourself.


Don't Over Serve Yourself

Hands of a bartender at bar restaurant with glass whiskey drink

If you were a barfly before COVID-19 put us on lockdown, you may be fiending for the socialization and atmosphere of your neighborhood bar. When restrictions have been lifted, go get yourself a drink. But be careful not to get carried away. 

Drinking too much is dangerous and if you make it a habit after lockdown is over, you're heading down an unhealthy path and, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, "heavy drinking can take a toll on the body. It can cause inflammation of the liver (alcoholic hepatitis) and lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), a potentially fatal disease."

The Rx: There's no single definition for "moderate drinking," but it generally means only one alcoholic beverage per day, which equates to "12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of spirits."


Don't Overbook Yourself

iphone calendar Apps View check with on laptop

You can finally begin to add social activities and community gatherings back into your schedule. But no matter how excited you are for restrictions to lift and to get out and about, it's important not to overbook yourself.

According to a study in the Journal of Marketing Research, anxiety is common with those who have demanding schedules. Participants in the study admitted to feelings of extreme guilt when they had to choose between social events. The study concluded that "Feeling pressed for time can have many harmful consequences, such as poorer health, trouble sleeping, and depression."

The Rx: If you push yourself to overcommit to events and social gatherings, you may not even enjoy these experiences due to stress and guilt. Slowly ease back into booking your social calendar and don't put pressure on yourself to do everything at once.


Don't Ditch Your Projects

woman records a music blog with guitar

If you're like many during quarantine, you may have started a new project or picked up a new hobby to pass the time at home. If you were learning how to play a musical instrument or working on an arts and crafts project, don't give up on it just because restrictions are lifted. 

The Rx: When restrictions lift, it'll be easy to become distracted by hanging with friends or heading out to eat. Consider sticking with the new hobbies you dusted off during your time at home. If you felt satisfaction when you were painting birdhouses or gardening, continue weaving these projects into your daily schedule.


Don't Stop Reaching Out to Friends Far Away

Group Friends Video Chat Connection Concept

One of the positive outcomes of social isolation is the growing popularity of video chats. Many people have been reaching out to friends and family members living far away far more often than they used to. Connecting with loved ones who don't live close is important for your health and their health. 

According to a study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, "Social support and feeling connected can help people maintain a healthy body mass index, control blood sugars, improve cancer survival, decrease cardiovascular mortality, decrease depressive symptoms, mitigate posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and improve overall mental health."

The Rx: Continue to reach out to loved ones who live far away, even after restrictions have been lifted. You may have scheduled a weekly video chat charades game with your aunt in Tulsa or a Saturday night virtual happy hour with your cousin in NYC. While the frequency of these virtual get-togethers may decrease when your city reopens, these connections are important. Create a new schedule that helps you maintain them.


Don't Touch Everything


The fear of COVID-19 during quarantine may have led you to be extremely cautious about what you touch when you're in public. Even if restrictions are lifted, it's still important to be aware of germs and bacteria you may be exposed to in public. 

According to a study conducted by National Sanitation Foundation International (NSF), the germiest items in public places included water fountain spigots, cafeteria trays, sandboxes in public parks, theater video controllers, and school musical instruments. These items had an aerobic plate count (APC), or general bacteria population, that measured over 100 in every square inch.

The Rx: Be careful to not touch your face or put your fingers in your mouth if you've been touching public surfaces until you've thoroughly washed your hands.


Don't Forget Nature

Senior caucasian woman sitting on the beach outdoors

When your city reopens because the threat of coronavirus has decreased, you may want to rush to bars, restaurants, and shops. We've all missed having these establishments as a part of our daily routine and social schedule. 

But don't forget about state parks, community hiking trails, local lakes, or beaches. Our connection with nature is a crucial part of our mental health and can boost your mood instantly. According to Dr. Jason Strauss from Cambridge Health Alliance, "Having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry."

The Rx: Make nature a part of your daily life, no matter how much you miss your favorite bar or clothing store. Dr. Strauss recommends, "Anything from 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week, to regular three-day weekends in the woods is helpful. The point is to make your interactions a part of your normal lifestyle."


Don't Stop Staying Updated


With restrictions lifted in your city, you may think it's okay to tune out and stop paying attention to the latest updates. However, it's important to continue knowing what's going on with the COVID-19 situation and how other local news may impact your life.

The Rx: While you may not feel the need to access a 24/7 news source, stay updated on the latest restrictions in your local area so you know you're following the rules. With a quick 15 minutes with a trusted news source everyday, you may also learn about other important topics, like your weather and local events.


Don't Ditch Your Workout Routine

Asian women exercising in bed in the morning

With so much time on your hands in self isolation, you may have picked up a healthy new habit: daily exercise. When your city reopens, it's easy to go back to your old habits and busy lifestyle that didn't include physical activity. 

But moving your body everyday is so important for your health and wellbeing. According to the CDC, daily physical activity is good for "improving your brain health, weight management, reducing disease, strengthening your bones and muscles, and improving your ability to do everyday activities."

The Rx: Incorporate physical activity in your daily routine so you can continue to improve your health. The CDC concludes that, "Adults gain most of these health benefits when they do the equivalent of 150 to 300 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week."


Don't Stop Cooking Meals at Home

Woman cooking vegetables in the kitchen

In most areas on lockdown during the pandemic, you can still order takeout or delivery food from many restaurants. However, most families found themselves cooking at home more often while social distancing than they previously did. Indulging in a meal at a restaurant or grabbing a quick bite while running errands is bound to be more common when restrictions begin to lift.

But don't lose your motivation to cook at home. Showing off your culinary skills may keep you and your family members healthier. According to Julia A. Wolfson, Ph.D., MPP from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, "When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, and less fat than those who cook less or not at all—even if they are not trying to lose weight."

The Rx: A study published by Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and conducted by Dr. Wolfson found that those who cooked at home six to seven nights every week also consumed fewer calories when they did go out to eat. Your schedule is bound to get hectic when your city reopens, but making it a point to cook from home at least a few times per week may be the best decision for your health.


Don't See Live Music Without Earplugs


One day soon, live music will be a thing again, even if it requires socially-distanced seating. However, it's important to protect your hearing when you're in any situation that includes loud noises or music. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, the average "sound levels from discotheques and rock concerts was 103.4 dBA." Workplace sound levels average about 85 dBa (decibels).

Exposure to these elevated noise levels over a period of time may cause hearing loss. A study published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery concluded: "Earplug use is effective in preventing temporary hearing loss after loud music exposure."

The Rx: Even if you only see live music or visit loud nightclubs occasionally, use earplugs to protect your hearing. If you want to enjoy concerts for years to come, it's important to always protect your ears.


Don't Stop Taking Your Vitamins

vitamins and supplements on white background with a brown bottle.

Beefing up your immune system and ensuring your body had all the vitamins it needed to combat the virus was probably at the top of your mind in isolation. During stay-at-home orders, many turned to vitamin supplements to assist their immune systems in fighting the coronavirus.

When restrictions are lifted, you may still want to consider keeping your vitamin-taking regimen in place. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, "Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients required by the body to carry out a range of normal functions. Multivitamins can play an important role when nutritional requirements are not met through diet alone."

The Rx: Try to get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals from food sources. Vitamin D deficiency is common and according to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapuetics, about 50% of the population doesn't get enough of it everyday. "Traditional multivitamins contain about 400 IU of vitamin D, but many multivitamins now contain 800 to 1000 IU." Talk to your doctor about vitamin supplements that may be right for you.

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Kelly Hernandez
Kelly Hernandez is a health and wellness writer and certified personal trainer. Read more about Kelly
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