For most of us, this is a challenging time both mentally and physically. For myself and my family, our new “normal” certainly requires more from each of us. We’ve tried to focus on daily movement, finding time for mindfulness, and preparing clean meals.
Here’s some information and resources I found to be helpful during this time when our current day-to-day is much different from our usual routines.
How to Naturally Boost Your Mood, Immune System & Overall Health
- Staying Active & Working Out: “It causes your body’s antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more rapidly, which means they may be able to detect and zero in on bugs more quickly. Being active this way also lowers stress hormones, which reduces your chances of getting sick”.
- Eating Clean: Eating a “diet rich in diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, found in foods such as fatty fish, nuts and olive oil”. This “Mediterranean” style of eating ” is high in nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc and other antioxidants shown to help reduce inflammation and fight infection”. It also helps keep your gut healthy which is key to fighting off infection.
- Eliminating Stress: “When you’re under chronic stress or anxiety, your body produces stress hormones that suppress your immune system”.
- Getting Enough Sleep: Your body needs time to rest and repair which includes your immune system. When we aren’t getting enough sleep “your body churns out stress hormones like cortisol to keep you awake and alert, which can suppress your immune system”.
Staying Active & Working Out
While living in quarantine, the one thing that has helped me feel the most “normal” is movement. Our family’s goal is to get our heart rates up at least once a day. We also take a long walk together through the neighborhood. Getting outside has been very beneficial for us and I would highly recommend it for overall mental health and for the vitamin D.
Online workout videos have also been a great way for us to find movement during this time. You can go to Youtube and search for pretty much any type of workout you like. Also, a lot of places are offering free online classes. Here’s more information about the free yoga classes Kelly Jean Moore and her colleagues at Mission Yoga are posting to their Facebook page daily.
There are also lots of things you can do inside your home that I would consider multitasking. Like going up and down the stairs a few extra times when you’re taking up the laundry. Doing squats, jumping jacks or lunges while watching TV or waiting on that pot of water to boil. And my personal favorite, dance parties in the kitchen while making dinner. I put on music every night while making dinner and we dance and cook together. It’s great, mindless movement but also good for the soul.
We’ve all heard that food is medicine. I can’t think of a better time to truly look at what we’re eating daily and ask ourselves, is this helping or hurting my health? This might also be a good time to start a food journal, especially if you’re working from home. It’s too easy to grab a sweet or salty snack from the pantry. A food journal can help you track exactly what you’re eating. One helpful tool is the free MyFitnessPal app.
For tips on eliminating stress, I went straight to the source and asked Lyn Tally, from the UNWIND workshops, for some pointers. Here was her feedback:
When things get stressful, most people switch into their fight or flight stress response mode … usually unintentionally. It’s a normal response, but not the most helpful. When we react from this place, physiologically your body goes into survival mode by bringing all of your human capability into protection reflex. When this happens, your brain literally shrinks. Which means you lose the capacity to think clearly.
Awareness is key in this type of situation. When you find yourself feeling super stressed-out, overwhelmed, anxious, worried, and all the uncomfortable feelings that come along with uncertain times, you can find calm.
For me, there are three essential things I do to help stay calm during chaos so I know that I will be able to make supportive, clear-headed decisions even in the most stressful moments. Plus, I will feel better too.
- First, I ground in my body. When you are in the fight or flight stress mode, you want to escape. You may not be able to escape physically, but mentally you’ll be pulled out of the moment. It’s very helpful to bring yourself back into your body. Why? Because when you feel connected to your body, you feel back in control. Because most of the things we are worried about are things we can’t control. The most effective way to feel safe is to connect back to your body, in the present moment, right here, and right now. There are several ways to do this.
- Take deep breaths. You’ve heard this over and over again. When you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed out, take three deep breaths. This is why–it helps get you back into your body.
- Do a body scan where you say “hello” to each part of your body. “Hello, right foot. Hello, left foot. Hello, right leg. Hello, left leg.” Do this all the way to the top of your head. It may sound cheesy, but it works.
- Literally go outside and lay on the ground. Feel the connection to the earth. This will support you feeling stable, back in control in your mind and body.
- Second, get ahead of it. Multiple times a day I take a moment to remind myself, no matter what happens, I will know what to do. I will know when to do it. I will have resources to take care of myself and those around me I love. I allow myself the experience of being in control, which is ultimately what you want. This helps reduce anxiety.
- Third, and this one is probably the most important… I find times to laugh! When we get too serious we engage in our sympathetic nervous system which triggers the fight or flight response. Let yourself have a few belly laughs throughout the day. How? I google youtube funniest videos. Here’s one of my favorites (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnEHMAhqUZM). Also search comedy on Netflix, your favorite podcast app, or go back and watch The Carol Burnett Show (that’s my mom’s personal favorite). Laughing is also a great way to ground back into your physical body and return to the present moment.
Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is the time when the body repairs itself. There are so many good reasons to make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep with reduction of inflammation, improvement of immunity and overall mental health being at the top of the list right now. Here is some information from the last newsletter where I shared some tips for good sleepy hygiene. I thought it might be worth sharing again:
During sleep our bodies “restock hormones, process significant toxins, repair damaged tissue, generate vital white blood cells for immunity, eliminate the effects of stress, and process heavy emotions”. So, it’s kind of a big deal. Sleep begins when the pineal gland produces melatonin which “suppresses the activity of other neurotransmitters and helps to calm the brain”. How does it know to process melatonin, you might ask! Well, based on circadian rhythm and lighting (or lack of light). Here are a few tips for improving sleep quality:
- Turn off full-spectrum lights (screens) 1-2 hours before bedtime (computer, phone & TV)
- Choose relaxing activities (reading a book, taking a bath, folding laundry) instead of stressful ones (budgeting or balancing your checkbook).
- Avoid caffeine after 2pm and food for a full 3 hours before bedtime.
- Make sure the temperature is not too hot or too cold in your bedroom.