If you’ve been feeling a little unsettled or anxious during the current COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. It’s certainly an epic situation, the likes of which most of us have never seen before. It’s affecting people across the world, from all walks of life in many different ways – from aggression in supermarket aisles over toilet paper and rice to random acts of kindness to those in need, it’s brought out the best and the worst in humankind.
Television and social media coverage have generated their fair share of panic and worry and whilst the COVID-19 is a serious infectious virus, it’s worth noting that the majority of people who contract the virus go on to recover from it. The outbreak has caused many people to question what they can do to keep their immune system supported to reduce their risk of infection. I’ve been fielding these questions day in-day out and wanted to share some of my immune supporting tips with you.
Get a good night’s sleep
Good sleep may help protect against infectious diseases but it’s a catch 22. If you’re feeling anxious in the current climate, it may be affecting your sleep but quality sleep and getting enough of it plays a powerful role in healthy immune function.
Sleep is your body’s first line of defense against infectious disease. When you’re asleep, your body produces cytokines that fight infection. When you’re exposed to infectious agents, your body increases production of cytokines to fight off illness but if you’re sleep deprived, your body’s ability to naturally fight off the infection is hindered.
Practice these sleep tips to support your immune system:
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule – go to bed and wake up around the same time every day.
- Get to bed well before midnight because it’s around this time that cortisol (stress hormone) is replenishing.
- Increase your exposure to sunlight – spending more time outside during the day blocks the sleep hormone melatonin so that it can peak a night, making it easier for you to fall asleep.
- Stay active during the day – exercise promotes good sleep.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and big meals before bed – caffeine may impair sleep if consumed less than six hours before bed and whilst alcohol may help you drop off initially, it can cause disturbed sleep through the night.
- Clear your head before bed – if you’ve a lot going on in your head, get it down on paper to help clear the mind. Mindfulness and guided meditation can work a treat for unwinding.
- Don’t underestimate the power of convalescence – the benefits of sleep are both preventative and restorative. If you feel unwell, get lots of rest.
- Set up your sleep environment – turn your room into a sleep sanctuary by making sure it’s cool, dark, quiet, peaceful, comfortable and clean.
Manage your stress levels
In the middle of a pandemic, it’s easy to feel stressed and anxious. Just the thought of going to the supermarket is enough to have you rocking in the corner. When you’re stressed, stress hormones can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system and leave you vulnerable to infection and illness.
Much anxiety stems from the mind projecting into the future about things that might not even happen. Mindfulness practices like meditation and deep breathing help to focus your attention on the present moment, therefore counteracting churning thoughts and worry. Use your time at home in self-isolation for self-care and help your mind adapt to the challenging situation we’re currently in. Check out some of my favourite guided meditations.
Consider natural medicines for your immune system
Making healthy lifestyle and dietary choices are key to keeping the immune system healthy year-round. Where supplementation is needed, there’s some well-researched nutrients and herbal medicines that may help bolster immune system defenses including:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
- Medicinal mushrooms
Herbal medicines can exert specific therapeutic effects such as antiviral effects against upper respiratory tract infections, enhanced immune system response and anti-inflammatory action. Herbal formulations can be tailored specifically to your individual health requirements. Want to discuss support for your immune system? Book an acute appointment with me.
Remember food is medicine too
A healthy, balanced diet plays a vital role in keeping your immune system robust. This infographic on How to Support Your Immune System outlines foods that provide immune boosting nutrients
This is a difficult time with many people feeling isolated, uncertain and overwhelmed. All very normal. Remember that this situation is temporary and we will come through this. Use this time to engage in healthy activities you enjoy and find relaxing. Stay connected with your friends and loved ones online or over the phone – we’re fortunate to have technology on our side.
And most importantly, stay safe and well.