Chronic stress depresses the immune system and increases the risk of several types of illnesses making you more susceptible to viral illnesses including respiratory conditions like colds, flu, and the novel coronavirus infection. There is a wealth of research showing that some of the same strategies proven to reduce stress also strengthen the immune system.
The key is to regain control in ways that – intellectually – we know will make us stronger not just give us an emotional hideout. Here are five choices you can make each day to give your emotional and physical health a boost:
Give your body the best fuel you can. Fill your diet with Immunity boosters like foods high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Citrus fruits and red peppers are at the top of the list, but broccoli, spinach, almonds, and mushrooms are loaded with all kinds of nutrients that will give you a fighting chance against the virus. Elderberry is an old folk remedy, but it’s loaded with beneficial nutrients. In some lab studies, an extract from the berries appears to block flu viruses. Click here for 16 foods that boost the immune system.
Find old ways to connect with others. Facetime, Zoom, and even text messaging is a great place to start, but going “old school” by dropping a few cards in the mail each week will give you a boost knowing that you’re surprising someone with a positive moment. Many people isolate themselves when they’re stressed or worried. Social support can be a simple as saying, “I’m thinking of you.”
Create new routines. One of the most disconcerting things about this “new normal” is the lack of structure and routine. The more unstructured blocks of time we have, the harder it is to focus. Try to establish a consistent sleep pattern to give your worried brain an opportunity for restful sleep. Schedule time for a physical activity even if it’s just a walk around the block. Add relaxation events to the calendar such as 30 minutes of reading time or gardening. Creating and maintaining a daily routine can help create a sense of normalcy and certainty.
Look for choices. Stress that feels out of control can be overwhelming. But when we are able to gain some sense of control – even in a small way – that stress feels more manageable. Simply acknowledging opportunities to make personal choices each day can raise your sense of autonomy and normalcy.
Give your worried brain a rest. Be intentional about giving your brain a few minutes each day to rest. Push the anxiety aside for 30 minutes to garden, read, listen to music, whatever works for you. Mindfulness is a great way to regain a sense of calm and control. Mindlessness – giving yourself permission to turn off your thought stream for a few minutes is also a great way to manage the worry.
Use Lemongrass. Lemongrass is a lovely little plant that smells like lemon and has a mild taste. It’s also high in many immune-boosting vitamins like vitamin C, folic acid and zinc. Lemongrass aids in digestion, cleanses and detoxifies the body, and helps to fight cough, fever and flu symptoms, thanks to its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Lemongrass tea contains no stimulants and it has a calming effect that promotes deep restful sleep and combats insomnia.
Tap into Solar Power. Sunlight allows our bodies to produce vitamin D. Over 40% of Americans are deficient in the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D deficiency makes us more susceptible to upper respiratory infections, osteoporosis, heart disease, depression.
Doing all five things on a regular basis reduces stress, strengthens the immune system and restores a sense of control. And remember… we are in this together.