Even as we socially distance due to the pandemic, good personal hygiene is essential to promoting positive mental and physical health. Poor hygiene can also be a trigger to negative personal feelings, overall discomfort, irritability, depression and anxiety, and can negatively impact your daily activities, mental focus and class participation.
Viruses and bacteria that develop from tooth decay, cold, flu, scabies, ringworm, athlete’s foot or chronic diarrhea often create an environment where infections and illness can weaken the immune system and make us sick. Routine habits, such as keeping your scalp, hands and body clean, help to maintain health by decreasing exposure to viruses and bacteria which can lead to infections and illness.
Good personal hygiene can also help to improve your mood. Healthful hygiene practices can help boost confidence, self-esteem and socialization, generally making us feel good about ourselves. When we feel good, our body releases those “feel good” endorphins, which minimize discomfort and boost our immune system, which also may help protect us against disease and infection.
While taking online classes at home and socially distancing, it is important to establish and keep a daily routine. The goal with establishing a routine is to help foster the good habits we already have while eliminating the bad ones. This can also help with maintaining structure and a sense of control.
Here are some recommendations and reminders of why it is important to maintain mental and physical hygiene, especially during the pandemic:
Take a shower/bath: Washing with soap and tepid water helps to cleanse sweat and dead skin cells, which can create odor. Make sure to dry your skin thoroughly after bathing to prevent fungal growth and odors.
Wash your hair: Wash and shampoo your hair at regular intervals that work for you based on your hair type/texture. Using shampoo and water is important to wash away the oils and sweat that can build up in the scalp and lead to dandruff, odor and fungal infections.
Keep your fingernails and toenails clean and trimmed: Grooming your nails helps to prevent hangnails and infected nail beds. Clean and dry feet are important to prevent foot fungal infections and odor.
Brush and floss your teeth: Brush twice daily and floss at least once a day. Brushing and flossing helps to minimize oral bacteria growth and tooth decay.
Wear deodorant/antiperspirant: Deodorant/antiperspirant should be applied immediately to the under arms after showering/bathing. It blocks body odor caused by bacterial breakdown during perspiration.
Wear clean underwear and clothes: Change your clothing and undergarments daily to prevent the buildup of sweat and body fluids that can cause bacterial growth that generates odor.
Wash your hands/using alcohol-based sanitizer: Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap routinely throughout the day before preparing and eating food as well as after using the bathroom. If access to soap and water is not available, alcohol based sanitizer should be used.
Get a good night’s sleep: Sleeping for at least 7-8 hours a night is essential to maintaining good physical and mental health. Proper sleep aides in fighting off invaders, healing and general physical and emotional rejuvenation. Lack of sleep or poor sleep hygiene can leave one's immune system vulnerable to mood imbalances, illness and infection.
Make time to socialize with friends and family. Poor hygiene can create situations where individuals may want to withdraw from socializing with others. Socialization, even via social media, is important in maintaining mental, emotional and physical health and stability. Maintaining healthy physical hygiene, even for a video call, can make feel more energetic and committed to the task(s) at hand. It can also create a sense of enthusiasm and a feeling of normalcy, even when just catching up with family and friends during a virtual hangout.
Designate some “me time." Carve out some personal time during a busy day. Taking some time for oneself is refreshing, boosts energy and creates clearer thoughts. It also facilitates self-care activities, such as daily grooming. Activities such as watching a favorite TV show, taking a walk, and listening to music are examples of socially distant “me time” activities.
Focus on positive thinking. Speaking positive daily affirmations helps to maintain physical and mental health overall. Positive thoughts help to reduce stress, eliminate depressive thoughts and overcome obstacles, thereby improving your energy.
Positive affirmations to get started:
There is no one better to be than myself
I am enough
I am an amazing person
My challenges help me grow
I am perfect just the way I am
The journey to health often takes a balance of the mind and body. There are services available to help students get there. To make an appointment, please call Kean University Health Services at (908)737-4880 and the Kean Counseling Center (908)737-4850. Students are encouraged to reach out, especially during this concerning time.
This article was written courtesy of Student Health Services.