As much as many of us talk the vitality talk (and obviously walk it, too!), we have been suddenly thrust into a global health crisis few could ever imagine. It’s progressed quickly, and many of us feel unprepared, helpless, isolated, and afraid for the future … with good reason. Which is why we need superb wellness practices NOW, more than ever before.
It goes without saying that all the practices recommended by the CDC (as well as other health and government officials) are of the utmost importance, and should be heeded with gusto. So, a big yes to hand-washing, disinfecting, social distancing, not hoarding toilet paper (!), self-isolating if you feel sick, and whatever else your local city ordinance advises. Nothing we recommended here will replace the value of those priorities.
Still, there are additional proactive steps we can take. So, here are nine things you can do that can help turn this unprecedented global situation into an opportunity to support the best (and healthiest!) version of yourself.
1. Eat whole foods.
Many individuals have stocked up on “comfort” snacks, and frozen or canned ready-made meals that are highly processed, citing shelf-life and/or cost as an excuse. In truth, this is precisely the very worst time to consume empty calories – your body needs all the nutrients it can get to stay strong. Some excellent (and inexpensive) options to stock up on include whole foods like dried beans, lentils, grains, rice, frozen vegetables, fresh (or dried/frozen) fruit, and nuts and seeds. Garlic, lemons, turmeric, as well as most herbs and spices are very beneficial to have on hand too.
2. Prioritize sleep.
If you find yourself suddenly working at home (or off work entirely), take advantage of the lack of morning commute to ensure you get a solid 7-9 hours of slumber each night. Studies show that an inadequate amount of sleep can weaken your immune system and inhibit your ability to fight infectious diseases, leaving you more likely to get sick if exposed to a virus. Plus, better sleep equals better brain function and mood, meaning you’ll be able to cope with the ongoing life transitions that much better.
3. Put superfoods to use.
If ever there was a time for the health-boosting qualities of superfoods, it’s now. To be clear: no superfood or herb can prevent a COVID-19 infection, but many can bolster immune response. In other words, if you contract the virus, you potentially will have additional immunological support to fight it. But the trick is to consume superfoods before you get sick, so stock up now. Some of the most powerful immune-boosting and anti-viral superfoods* include both reishi and turkey tail mushrooms, goji berries, camu berry powder, astralagus, alma, oil of oregano, holy basil, and spirulina. Though we don't know how long these deals will last, some of our most trusted companies are even offering generous discounts in the wake of the pandemic, such as 40% off at Navitas Organics (we're big fans of their Daily Immunity Blend).
4. Dial-in your supplements.
If you’ve fallen off of your supplement routine, now is the time to get back on track. Supplements cannot replace a healthy diet, but they can be used in situations of need to mitigate deficiencies or as preventative measures. Supplementation* will be different for everyone based on lifestyle and diet, but I’ll share with you the immune-boosting capsules I’m personally taking every day: Algae-based Omega 3, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and probiotics.
5. Clean, clean, clean.
Beyond just disinfecting surfaces, hidden buildups of dust and dirt (and even mold) can put stress on your immune and respiratory system, provoking allergies, histamine responses, and more. Now, as many of us are spending more time in our homes than we’re accustomed to, there has never been a better time to deep clean our personal living space. Remove the dust bunnies from under the bed, wipe down top shelves, take out some frustration on couch pillows outside, etc. Freshen up your space and you’ll not only feel better physically, but mentally too!
6. Avoid sugar.
Refined sugar doesn’t just pack on the pounds, it has a bomb-like effect for pretty much every aspect of your health, especially your immune system. In the words of Scientific American, “eating sugar may put your white blood cells into a temporary coma.” Needless to say, a pandemic is no time for our body’s defense system to be asleep on the clock! Keep your sweet tooth satisfied primarily with fruit (or natural sugar-free sweeteners like stevia and monkfruit), and steer clear of high-sugar treats.
7. Get moving.
Exercise relieves stress, and can cause positive changes in immune response, too. But even for the already active among us, a home-bound lifestyle can present a new kind of challenge: how to workout! If weather and city-ordinances permit, a walk, run, or bike-ride are excellent ways to get the blood moving. You can also find many home-formulated workouts online, including strength training, yoga, and mobility, which can be followed even without equipment. (These specially-designed daily "corona" workouts [free] are the ones we’ve been doing at home – they're challenging but feel great!)
8. Engage in non-screen activities.
As we become more physically isolated, the urge to keep in touch with the world becomes stronger, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of spending a lot of extra time on our phones, social media, and online. And while reducing excess screen time won’t boost your immune system, it will definitely improve your mental well-being. The “happy” chemicals in your brain are actually stimulated when you participate in hands-on tangible activities, such as building something, painting, playing a (physical) game, cooking, etc. So to promote a better state of mind, look to incorporate more of these healthier habits – it’s a fantastic time to complete that half-finished home project!
9. Look for ways to help.
There has never been a more important time of “we.” If you are fortunate enough not to be a part of the vulnerable population, reach out to those you know who are, and help in any way you can (picking up groceries, assisting in online orders, sending a supportive email, etc.). And if you’re considered more at risk, let those that offer to safely help, help! The coronavirus does not reward bravery or pride.
But most of all, we all have something to give that can brighten someone’s day, or provide a little comfort during this universally difficult time. Are you a musician? Video a mini-concert for your friends. Are you a teacher? Share an exercise/project that’s a proven favorite amongst your students for at-home parents to use. Are you a human? Send out personal messages of care to your friends and family.
We're in this together. And though we need to take care of ourselves first, we also have the opportunity to make a bad situation at least a little bit better for those around us. So stay protected. Stay proactive. And stay positive.
*Note on superfoods and supplements: many of these are quite powerful agents, so if you are currently on medication or following a prescribed immunological protocol already, check with your doctor to ensure these new choices are right for you.