Supporting your Health during COVID-19 Isolation

As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve and we are doing our parts by practice social distancing in our homes, feelings of uncertainty are understandable. Outlined below are some resources and tips to help you better understand and adapt to the changing circumstances.  

Let’s Talk Eating at Home… 

The Immune System: Your immune system is a complex network of cells and tissues constantly working to defend your body against infection from harmful pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses.  

With the novel Coronavirus, there has been elevated concern and discussion around “boosting” the immune system with specific foods, vitamin supplements or herbal concoctions. As Leslie Beck, RD states, there is no evidence supporting such theories that can improve the body’s immune system to the point that you have extra protection.  

To maintain a strong immune system, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, protein foods, and whole grains is important. Refer to Canada’s Food Guide for more information on the balanced plate model. Along with a balanced diet, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, such as exercise, not smoking, adequate sleep, and managing stress are essential to maintaining a strong immune system. Here’s a few tips and ideas while you’re practicing physical distancing at home:  

Staple Foods with a longer Shelf Life: As you limit your access to public spaces and gradually stock up on food items as preparation for self-isolation foods, here are a few food items with a longer life that can help reduce food waste:  

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Some fresh produce have a long shelf life when stored properly including squash, apples, carrots, cauliflower, citrus, beets, carrots, garlic, potatoes, turnips and more. Frozen vegetables and fruits are another great option and are just as nutritious as fresh fruits and vegetables and convenient!  
  • Proteins: A few shelf stable protein ideas include canned tuna & salmon along with nut butters, nuts and seeds, along with dried and canned legumes including beans, lentils, chickpeas. Many milk substitutes are also shelf stable including soy milk.  
  • Grains: Many grain products have a long shelf life including rice, noodles, oatmeal, quinoa and other ancient grains. Bread tip: freeze it and toast it as you need it! 
  • Did you know there are local pick-up, and delivery options you can use if you can’t get to the grocery store? You can support Kingston’s local Memorial Farmers Market through their online ordering, and for a list of take out locations in Kingston, visit downtowkingstonLoblaws and Walmart are two other options.

Sharpen your Culinary Skills: As you practice physical distancing at home, take the time to try out new recipes or practice your culinary skills. Here are some tips:  

  • Start small! Try out some simpler recipes and work your way up. Check out UnlockFood for some recipe ideas 
  • Use this time for bonding! Use this as an opportunity to bond with your family or housemates. Cook together or surprise them with a dinner!  
  • Use FIFO for reducing waste! To reduce food waste, use the First In First Out (FIFO) method. Food that has been in storage the longest (‘First In’) should be the next food that is used (‘First Out’). This helps reduce food waste and keeps older food from being forgotten.  

Protect yourself and your housemates: As per Public Health, recommendations for eating at home during COVID-19 include: 

  • Wash your hands before and after cooking and eating  
  • Do not share eating utensils and other personal items  
  • Members who are feeling ill should distance themselves from other members of the household for up to 14 days 

For a review of safety precautions while grocery shopping and delivery, visit Dietitian Abbey’s Kitchen blog.  

Distant Socializing!Physical distancing does not have to mean you cannot socialize with your friends and family. Try distant socializing! As promoted through Canada’s Food Guide, a healthy eating habit includes eating meals with others:  

  • Share a meal with your friends virtually through phone calls or video chats  
  • If you are home with family or friends, cook and eat together. Explore new food you may not normally try! Check out Unlock Food for some recipe ideas  

Let’s Talk Working from Home… 

Staying Productive at Home: As classes have been moved online and new methods of remotely evaluated assessments are being introduced, staying productive and motivated can be difficult. Here are some tips to keep you on your game.  

  • Create or continue your routines  
  • Create a positive workspace  
  • Dress for success  
  • Get up and move  
  • Maintain healthy eating patterns and drink plenty of water  
  • Stay visually connected with people  
  • Take breaks for your mental health and wellness  

For more ideas and details, check out the Queen’s Gazette article on staying productive from home here

Aiming for Adequate Sleep: In a Queen’s Gazette article, Judith Davidson, a Queen’s University Researcher and one of Canada’s leading sleep experts, says it is normal to have some degree of sleep difficulty in times of uncertainty and when our routines have been suddenly altered. In the article, she recommends four things to help improve your sleep, without having to resort to medication: 

  1. Accepting that it is normal to have some anxiety, uneasiness, and perhaps some temporary sleep difficulty.  
  2. Keeping your routines in place and having structure in your day. Keep up with regular times in your schedule. Avoid going to bed at later times and sleeping in; at the same time, avoid going to bed earlier than usual  
  3.  If you’ve been awake for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room and do something until you are sleepy again.  
  4. Give your brain a break from the news and thinking about what’s happening in the world – especially in the hour before going to bed.  

Staying Active in Isolation: As you stay home, remember to make time for physical activity and get some fresh air from time to time! The average adult is encouraged to aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week. This helps to improve your health, fitness strength, wellbeing, and your mental health.  

Here are a few ways you can incorporate physical activity into your self-care routine while maintaining a physical distance of 2 meters (6 feet) with others:  

  • Take a walk in between meetings or classes – bring your pup if you have one!  
  • Go for a hike  
  • Get a head start on yard work  
  • Exercise in your living room – give yoga a try!  
  • Throw a frisbee/ball in your backyard with your housemates 

Check out the Queen’s Athletic and Recreation’s page for more tips here and follow their social media accounts @QueensARC for daily Get Active Photos.

Social/Physical Distancing and Self Isolation: To limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep all members of our community safe, it is encouraged for everyone to practice physical distancing and those who are suspected of contracting the virus to self-isolate for 14 days.  

Social/Physical Distancing: A public health strategy that limits the closeness and interactions of people, so diseases spreads less. 

Self-Isolation: Any individual returning from any travel outside of Canada or any individual who has been in contact with someone who has travelled outside of Canada is asked to self-isolate for 14 days and to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.  

For details on how to practice Physical Distancing and Self Isolation, check out KFL&A Public Health’s page here.  

There are a variety of resources you can access on campus during this time. Queen’s Student Wellness Services and Health Promotion staff are here for you.

  • Counselling appointments are available remotely via Therapy Assistance Online.  
  • To connect with Counselling Services, please email counselling.services@queensu.ca. 
  • Students are also encouraged to access Empower Me, a 24/7 phone service for both crisis situations and scheduled sessions that allows students to connect with qualified counsellors, consultants, and life coaches for a variety of issues. Empower Me is available 365 days per year and is confidential, multilingual, culturally sensitive, gender inclusive, and faith inclusive.  
  • Health Promotion Office has a variety of resources on their page.

The World Health Organization also has a great resource on coping with stress during this time.  

For up to date information on COVID-19 at Queen’s University, visit the following pages: 

Queen’s COVID-19 Resource Page  

Queen’s Hospitality Services Updates 

Queen’s Residences Updates 

Jaspreet Multani is a 4th-year undergraduate student at Queen’s University completing her Honours degree in Global Developmental Studies. Jaspreet is currently the Student Health and Wellness Marketing Intern at Queen’s Hospitality Services. Her main interests are sustainability, food waste, food security, and nutritional and sustainability-oriented marketing.

Article reviewed and edited by Hospitality Services Registered Dietitian.

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