We are living in such unprecedented times. Two months ago, we were still going to our favorite restaurants, making our way to the gym, and gathering with family and friends for celebrations. Now we are tuning into daily pandemic updates, and “sheltered in place.” Most of us are fearful that we will become sick from the coronavirus and are taking preventative measures. We have all learned that we should be washing our hands, wearing masks, and keeping social distance, but many people wonder what else they can be doing to protect themselves and strengthen their immune system in natural ways. The following tips will give you some practical things you can start doing right now to keep yourself physically and mentally strong during this time.
Just like a plant that needs water, sunlight, and good soil, our bodies require the same care to remain healthy with optimal function of the immune system. Making sure that you are staying hydrated with water or your favorite herbal tea, and eating unprocessed foods (hint: if it has a label, or has more than one ingredient, it’s probably processed!) will help supply your body with the ingredients it needs to strengthen the immune system. Legumes, nuts, and seeds are rich in zinc; broccoli, kale, and oranges are rich in vitamin C; and salmon, eggs, and mushrooms are rich in vitamin D — all of which help to optimize your immune system.
Time spent moving your body is also important — bonus points if it’s outdoors! Movement both strengthens your immune system and produces the feel-good chemicals that help alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression. There are many free online resources for a workout routine, however something as simple as going for a brisk walk will do the trick. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new like yoga, or dancing! If it’s enjoyable, you are more likely to find the motivation to do it, and it’s a very important stress reliever.
COVID-19 has sadly brought more stress into our lives, and I don’t know too many people who would have said they weren’t already stressed to begin with! Our immune systems are unfortunately vulnerable to the toxic effects of stress. Our bodies weren’t made to be in fight-or-flight mode all the time! It’s vitally important to build as many things as you can into your day to help manage your stress. Besides movement, things like gratitude journaling, deep breathing, and meditation can all help calm down our sympathetic nervous system, reducing the toxic effects of prolonged exposure to these hormones.
Prioritizing sleep is also vitally important to the function of your immune system. During sleep your immune system releases proteins that help fight viruses. Try aiming for at least 7–8 hours of high quality sleep at night.
Lastly, just because we are physically distancing and not engaging in social settings does not mean we have to be socially isolated from our loved ones. Maintain the relationships you have built using the technology we have available — schedule time to connect over the phone or other online platforms. Also, focus on finding ways to deepen your connections with the people that are living in your household. Play a game, cook one of those new nutritious recipes together, or go for a walk around the yard and talk about what you are grateful for.
These habits will help add health to your life during a time when we need our bodies to function at their best, but also long after we get through this pandemic…and we will get through it with habits that bring us strength for today, and hope for tomorrow.
QUICK TIPS for SELF CARE DURING COVID-19
- Eat nutritious meals with lots of vegetables and unprocessed foods that support a healthy immune system
- Find fun ways to move your body every day
- Manage stress with movement, meditation, and deep breathing exercises
- Maintain your social connections while keeping your physical distance
- Prioritize sleep
Make sure to talk with your doctor before beginning any new exercise, nutrition plan, or supplements.
For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Sarah Cawley is a Functional Medicine Practitioner with Practical Healing LLC in Sharon Center, OH. After spending most of her career in Emergency Medicine her own health challenges led to a passionate search for what makes us truly healthy. The Functional Medicine approach to wellness helped turn her passion into a mission to share this knowledge with others. She completed her formal Functional Medicine training at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, and in 2019 became certified by the Institute for Functional Medicine. Sarah believes that healing is possible when you honor the entire person and their unique story. She has helped many people reclaim their health, and believes there is nothing more fulfilling than to help empower patients to heal mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. To schedule a consultation, visit practicalhealingcenter.com.