Most of us are feeling it during these times of uncertainty - a heightened sense of anxiety and chronic low-level stress. Unfortunately, this constant 'fight-or flight' response we are experiencing keeps our cortisol levels raised in our bloodstream and suppresses our immune system when we need it most. We asked our Naturopath Liezel for some self-care tips (in addition to the recommended health guideline) to support our body and mind.
Disarming the "fight-or-flight" response
We are social beings and it is important for our health to stay connected to other people - it makes us feel good and relaxed when we connect. We are so fortunate to have technology like social media, messaging and video chat services to connect us with our loved ones.
On the other hand, it's imperative to set restrictions on our use of technology to deactivate our flight-and- fight response. Try to limit your exposure to the news and social media to once or twice a day and be selective about your information sources.
Be kind and help other people, especially the more vulnerable or elderly in our community. Helping others is a win-win situation because it makes both parties feel good.
To be compassionate is not only a good feeling, there’s some hard data that shows that practising compassion towards others decreases anxiety.
Tip: Practice compassion for others when washing your hands
Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds can feel like ages and it is suggested to sing "Happy Birthday" twice to help count down the time. How about practising compassion by repeating the traditional phrases of Loving Kindness Meditation while washing your hands?
May this one (or I, we, he, she or they) feel safe.
May this one feel happy.
May this one feel healthy.
May this one live with ease.
It takes about 20 seconds to say these phrases twice.
If you don't feel comfortable with saying these phrases, how about just bringing into mind someone that is vulnerable to the COVID 19 virus while washing your hands? It could be someone elderly, someone with heart or lung disease, diabetes or suppressed immunity. By just reminding yourself that you are doing it for not only your own benefit, but theirs as well, will help to reduce your own anxiety. That is just the way most humans are wired!
Other proven methods to push us into our ‘rest-and-digest’ nervous system are daily meditation and breathing practices, gratitude journals and maintaining regular routines.
And above all, remember that everything is temporary, this too shall pass.
Supporting the immune system
You may have heard it many times before, but you may need to hear again – the three pillars of health are restful sleep (7-9 hours per night), exercise and a nutrient-dense diet, with sleep being the most important aspect for good health and a strong immune system. As a sidenote, don’t worry if your sleep is interrupted during the night, if you can get 7-9 hours of sleep in total in a day, your immune system will thank you for it.
Make sure to get your daily dose of Vitamin D to support the immune system. If you regularly use sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun, make sure to supplement with at least 1000IU Vitamin D3 per day.
Herbs such as echinacea have long been used as a preventative supplement to support the immune system. A recent meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials on echinacea and recurrent respiratory tract infections found that treatment with echinacea extract halved the risk of recurrent respiratory tract infections in susceptible individuals and significantly reduced the risk of complications including pneumonia, middle-ear infections or tonsillitis, as well as the associated need for antibiotic therapy. Echinacea may work by increasing the response of natural killer cells and other immune system fighters, and by blocking the action of some viral proteins. Because of echinacea's good safety profile, it can be used as a preventative supplement over the long term.