Staying healthy during a pandemic: It all starts with our emotional wellbeing

Posted on 05/19/20 by Rafael Ayuso

“It’s okay not to be okay,” says Erin Perez, a palliative care nurse practitioner from San Antonio and a guest in AARP’s new Facebook Live series on May 19. “Anxiety comes from the fear of the unknown, but there are things we can control during these uncertain times.”

Responding to a question by host Tina Tran, AARP Texas state director, Perez said self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic starts with being kind to yourself and to others. This includes having a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, exposing ourselves to Vitamin D from sunlight, enjoying guided imagery through proper breathing, going out to our own backyards for relaxation, and “finding joy every day.”

In addition to maintaining our emotional health in check, Perez said it’s important to check in with our health care provider at the first sign that something doesn’t feel right, and ideally even before that, to maintain optimum health. She said many older adults and those with compromised immune systems have been afraid to continue their visits to their health care providers during the pandemic, and thus are not getting the preventive care they need.

In her San Antonio practice, Perez strives to provide a therapeutic presence to what are often very critically ill patients, often involving “literal hand-holding and trying to meet them where they are.” But the graduate of UT Medical Branch at Galveston also has some concrete advice for those venturing out of their homes to go to places like grocery stores.

One of them is wearing a mask, a sign of respect for the health of others. But to be effective it must be done right. Many masks have small openings on the sides that allow air particles to come in, so the best mask is one that has a snug fit. In addition to other time-tested advice such as thorough hand washing and not touching your face, Perez said she carries zip lock bags with her to store items like IDs and credit cards, and even soap, to keep them separate from her other belongings.

Disinfecting door handles, keeping windows open for added ventilation when possible, and storing used clothes in a separate dirty linen rack when returning home are other good ways to keep the nasty virus at bay. For more good advice, she recommends visiting

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