Staying Healthy In Difficult Times
I don’t know about you but I feel like I’ve aged a couple years in the last month. And if my roots are any sign – it’s going to get a bit uglier before it gets better. We went to sleep one night and woke up in a strange new world. Our lives were put on a collective pause – social plans and travel plans shuttered; kids and husband home 24/7. And there seems to be bizarre shortages at the grocery store. But if we can look beyond the immediate struggles, there are many positives to take away after this crisis has passed
New Normal my ass.
No one expects you to be thriving at the moment with all that is happening. (Try homeschooling two kids in a language you barely understand). But that doesn’t mean your health has to suffer. In fact if this crisis has shown us anything, it is that we better stop taking our health for granted.
A unique opportunity is upon each of us – the chance to be proactive, instead of reactive about our health. Nourishing your body from the inside out will do more to protect you and your family than hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. So let’s focus on the things you do have control over, rather than those you do not.
Here’s a rundown of my Top 7 immune-supporting practices we are using to protect ourselves. The beauty of these is that they are not just for this virus. These principles can apply to warding off any sickness!
1. Just Breathe
This crisis is calling us to slow down, hit the pause button and take a big deep breath. I know for some of you that is super hard, but being in a constant state of stress is not good for anyone and is detrimental to your overall mental and physical health. In times like these, when we let anxiety get the better of us, we tend to take short, shallow breaths.
Take a moment right now to pause and take a deep breath into your belly, expanding your chest slowly for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, and then letting out your breath slowly through your mouth for a count of 8. This simple exercise can be very grounding when the world is spinning out of control. Try it several times a day when your kids are driving you crazy, or when the fate of the world is getting the better of you.
2. Support Your Gut
Your gut is where over 70% of your immune system originates. It is important to not only reduce stress but provide your body with nutritious foods that support good gut health. Try incorporating immune-boosting foods into every meal. Make a game of it with your kids. How many fruits and vegetables did you eat today? Boost your antioxidants by including brightly colored fruits and vegetables, red wine (in moderation), nuts, healthy meats, and dark chocolate. Make sure your meals include garlic, lemons, cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, fermented vegetables, leafy greens, and fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and oregano. You have control over your food intake right now, make healthier options the norm rather than the exception.
3. Cut back on Sugar (like way back)
Why is it you find yourself at the bottom of a bag of cookies asking yourself “What just happened?” Sugar is one of the only foods we can keep eating and never feel satisfied with. Sugar tricks your brain into telling you to eat more. It is more powerful than heroin. And basically, there is no ‘off switch. It’s evil that way and wreaks havoc on your immune system, lowering your defenses and making it easier for invaders to take over.
So before you start stuffing your feelings with unhealthy options, pause; drink a big glass of water and ask yourself what you need to feel better? Would a hug from your spouse do the trick? A short walk in the fresh air, a nap, or a gab session with a friend? If you are still craving sweets, opt for more nutritious ones like mixed nuts and dark chocolate, fruit with a sprinkle of cinnamon, or experiment with healthy muffins. Need some inspiration? Check out my list of healthy and delicious snack recipes here.
4. Prioritize Sleep
Lack of sleep and heightened stress means your body is working overtime and can impede your immune system. Your body is regulating hormones (hello appetite), eliminating toxins, and repairing cells, while you sleep. Honor your body by committing to a good nighttime routine. This means no screens before bed, having some herbal tea, or adding a drop of lavender oil to your pillow before bed. Make sure you are getting at least 7 – 8 hours of quality sleep each night.
5. Stay Hydrated
Even if you aren’t doing hardcore workouts these days, your body needs water to function. Your body loses water through the simple acts of breathing and digestion. It’s important to rehydrate by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water. Water is important for our brain to function as well. Lack of water leads to headaches, which leads to irritability. Drink at least your kg weight in ounces every day. Avoid drinking large amounts of water with meals, as it tends to dilute the stomach acids necessary to break down food. Avoid sugary drinks such as soda and energy drinks. Add a drop of lemon essential oil or a splash of citrus to your water for a nice antioxidant boost.
6. Move Your Body
Do not take this stay-at-home directive to mean you can sit around eating bonbons all day. Get off your butt and move. Put on your favorite music and dance. Dust off those old exercise videos and get your kids involved. Give your home a deep cleaning – you will be amazed at how many calories you burn. Moving your body allows your lymphatic system and blood vessels to circulate, getting your cells the nutrients and oxygen they need, while clearing out the junk that weighs you down. I personally exercise more for the mental boost than the physical these days. There are tons of resources online at the moment so you have no excuse.
7. Don’t Neglect Your Mental Health
The truth is we are navigating uncharted territory at the moment. There is no right or wrong way to feel. It is perfectly normal to experience a broad spectrum of emotions about this crisis. From sadness and anxiety to gratitude and appreciation. We are all riding this crazy train together, and it is hard. Cut yourself some slack, but keep your eye on what is important. Your health being one of them. Don’t be scared to call a friend for support or take five minutes of your day to cry or laugh.
You don’t want to come out on the other side of this regretting the choices you made for the last few weeks, or for this whole experience to have a negative impact on your health.
You will make it through this new season of your life, by allowing yourself to lean into the chaos and pivot a bit. Let go of your expectations and control over the situation and try to find the silver lining (extra cuddles with your kids, dusty books finally read, new recipes, etc).
May we all come out on the other end of this with a new perspective, one that includes prioritizing health and happiness. And maybe a newfound appreciation for your kid’s teachers and toilet paper.