You’re likely seeing and hearing a lot about the novel coronavirus and the associated respiratory disease that it causes, COVID-19. Much of the news focuses on useful preventative measures that include washing your hands, using sanitizers and avoiding close contact with those that are sick, but it often ignores another important part to staying healthy — boosting your own immune system!
While educating ourselves about the situation, it’s important to manage any stress or anxiety that may come up, as stress is shown to lower your immunity to illness. The good news is there are many things we can do to lower stress and give the immune system a boost.
Below are eight easy ways to ensure our bodies and minds are best prepared to fight the virus if we come into contact with it.
- Engage in meditation — Meditation increases expressions of genes that are beneficial to the immune system. In addition, stress hormones can reduce the effectiveness of immune cells, so by reversing the stress response with meditation, we support our immune function.
- Breathe — Doing some slow, belly breathing can calm the mind, which in turn strengthens the immune system. When we slow down the breath, we calm the stress response that can weaken the immune system. Try counting to 4 or 5 with each inhalation and exhalation to slow down your breathing. You’ll notice the effects right away!
- Get good sleep — Sleep has been known to boost T-cells which help us fight disease, especially viral diseases. Get at least 7-8 hours of natural, restful sleep.
- Eat well — Eating a healthy, organic, plant-based diet gives us the phytonutrients we need for healthy immune function. Plants are full of the healthy vitamins and micronutrients that keep our cells healthy, like Vitamin C, Vitamin A, zinc and other trace elements needed to support immune cells.
- Get regular exercise — Simple daily movement, such as walking, can keep your stress levels down, which in turn supports the immune system; however, if you are not feeling well, give your body the rest it needs by reducing activity. Try doing some gentle yoga at home to keep yourself moving and reduce stress.
- Use social media mindfully — It’s important to stay informed, however checking your phone every two minutes to see if there is another development in the story will only serve to put you on edge. Instead, when you get an urge to grab your device, try acknowledging the impulse and taking a deep inhale and exhale and repeating this simple mantra to restore peace and harmony: Shanti (shan tee).
- Connect with loved ones — As schools shut down and people stop shaking hands, it’s important to maintain connections with those that we trust and love. Interpersonal connection has been shown to reduce stress and increase happiness. As much as possible check-in with those you love even if it’s just a video chat, call or text.
- Consider supplements — If you’re constantly on the move, or don’t have access to fresh-cooked meals, supplements can help provide vitamins and minerals essential for a robust immune response. Additionally, many herbs can help to support. I recommend taking herbs such as ashwagandha, amalaki, holy basil, echinacea, and elderberry. Although we don’t know some of the exact mechanisms of action, many of these herbs have been known to increase the activity of immune cells that help us fight infection or can reduce the severity of symptoms if we do become ill. Of course, always be sure to check with your practitioner before beginning any regimen of supplements.
Lastly: Stay Positive
Governments are hard at work to get us a vaccine and specific antiviral treatments for this virus. Until then basic preventative measures, and the immune-boosting activities detailed in this article, can help you feel empowered and less stressed during this time of uncertainty.
You can keep up to date with COVID-19 by bookmarking this CDC website.