Written By Melissa Bean Sterzick
Taking care of yourself is important in any circumstance, but during highly
stressful times, it is vital to pay close attention to your physical and
mental health. The pandemic has stretched many to their limits with its
effects on activities, work and family interaction. Dr. Hardeep Chohan,
a Torrance Memorial Physician Network primary care physician, recommends
creating a self care routine that will sustain you now and in the future.
Advantage: What can individuals do to care for their physical and emotional
health during the pandemic?
Dr. Hardeep Chohan (HC): We need to make sure we are doing basics right-
good food, sleep and exercise - as they all impact our immune system directly.
It’s time to make sure we add as many colors to our diet as we can
from fruits and vegetables to get all those phytonutrients to boost our
immune systems. We need to take care of our gut by adding fermented foods
because a lot of interaction happens there with the immune system. Getting
7-8 hours of sleep is also important. Lastly, moderate physical activity
on a daily basis. All these things boost our bodies’ capacity to
Advantage: When activities and daily patterns have changed from what people
are used to, what does self care look like?
HC: To be honest, for a lot of people there was little or no self care
prior to this because we are all so busy with our daily routines, with
long commutes, and work-related travel. So, this is an opportunity to
finally make ourselves the priority and to finally have a self care routine.
Since we cannot go to gyms and do other large group activities, we can
all be creative by making some version of a home gym, or by doing activities
at home not requiring equipment, like yoga. Connecting with nature has
a huge therapeutic value for our well-being. Start gardening, no matter
how big or small, go for walks, jog or surf, etc.
Advantage: Often, the physical aspects of self care are emphasized. Things
like regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate rest are important,
but what mental tactics can be supportive?
HC: Avoid information overload, especially now as we go into an election
cycle, as it is only going to add to the stress. Also avoid ongoing emphasis
on the pandemic and speculation on when it will end. We need to cultivate
hobbies we might already have, or start something new. And I recommend
practicing mindfulness – essentially bringing the mind’s attention
to the present moment - for a few minutes daily.
Advantage: How can individuals add social interaction to their self care
that allows for physical distancing?
HC: We are lucky to have great weather and access to vast outdoor space
we can be utilize for gatherings with family and friends. Parks, the beach
and our neighborhoods are all places where we can spread out. As long
as we wear masks and practice physical distancing in an open-air setting,
the risk of contracting the virus is quite low.
Advantage: Some people might need help for depression and anxiety requiring
treatment beyond self care - what should they do?
HC: See your primary care physician right away. Don’t let the scare
of COVID-19 get in the way. You can do Telehealth visits from the comfort
of your home, if you wish. Also, it is especially important to keep a
close eye on children, adolescents and teens, as they rely on social interactions
much more heavily than adults. With schools being online for the near
future, they need all our attention.
Advantage: How can individuals support friends and loved ones in their
self care activities?
HC: Celebrate small victories together, whether it is a good eating choice,
an exercise goal, a new hobby, etc. Make an extra effort to connect with
family, friends or neighbors who live by themselves. Zoom calls can sometimes
get overwhelming, so one-on-one phone calls can be a better way to connect
for many of us. Take this opportunity to call someone you haven’t
spoken to in ages. Get creative about holidays and special occasions.
Advantage: Now that the pandemic looks to continue through the winter,
what can people do to maintain their self care practice?
HC: We need to stop emphasizing the duration of this. A lot of people are
stressing about the end date. I think we need to let go of that, because
we don’t have control if it, and make the best of the situation.
Rather, take this time as an opportunity to make self care happen - something
sustainable even after the pandemic is over. I hope we can all carry forward
these good habits when this is over.
Hardeep Chohan, MD, practices at Torrance Memorial Physician Network Manhattan Beach, 855
Manhattan Beach Blvd, Ste. 102. She can be reached at (310) 939-7858.
Suggestions for Self Care:
Ideas for self care: maintain a routine that includes time for work, regular meals, exercise,
getting dressed, relaxing and socializing daily, maintain connections
with family, develop or maintain spiritual practices that sustain you,
focus on making your living space more comfortable.
Ideas for activities allowing for physical distancing: hobbies, projects, exercise, reading, drives and day trips.
Ideas for socializing safely: outdoor movies, social media exercise challenges, recipe trees, picnics,
virtual book clubs, Secret Santa-style gift exchanges, pen pals, story
trains, online games.