Your #1 Defense: Social Distancing & Hygiene (Everything Else is Secondary)
Practice Social Distancing
I cannot emphasize this enough. Even if you do not have any symptoms, the likelihood of you carrying the virus and passing it to others is very high. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not go out, meet with other people, including family, unless necessary. Stay home and help flatten the curve.
Sanitize everything before bringing it into your home.
“The authors of the Journal of Hospital Infection study noted that human coronaviruses could be ‘efficiently inactivated’ on surfaces within one minute if they’re cleaned with solutions containing 62% to 71% ethanol alcohol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite.” (How Long Can Coronavirus Live on Surfaces)
Wash your hands frequently.
Especially if you must go out. Keep hand sanitizer in your car and wash your hands as soon as possible. Don’t forget the 20 second rule – sing the birthday song!
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
If the virus is on your hands and you transfer it to your face, your risk for getting sick increases exponentially.
Supporting Your Immune System In Other Ways
In addition to practicing social distancing and good hygiene, you can do many other things to support your immune system. Fair warning though – there are no magic pills listed below.
#1 Stress Management
I know stress levels are high for everyone right now, with so much uncertainty and fear around the pandemic. But stress weakens the immune system.
First thing to do to reduce stress: Turn off the TV. Listening to COVID-19 news 24/7 is not going to help with your anxiety levels and definitely not your immune system.
General Considerations for Stress Management
- Practice self-compassion. Your normal has been turned upside down essentially overnight. Try not to have high expectations for yourself as you navigate and try to figure this out.
- Journaling – work through your thoughts around the fear and uncertainty this pandemic is bringing up.
- Consider therapy. Growth Work is an amazing therapist and has been sharing some great resources on her Instagram page. If you’re in Virginia, she is also offering tele-therapy now.
- Talk to a friend or family member. Social distancing, itself, can be very stressful for most people (after all, we are designed for social interactions). Video chat your loved ones!
- If you are social distancing with kids or other family members at home, schedule routine breaks and times that are just for you.
- Lastly, if spirituality is important to you, don’t forget to pray. Sometimes we spend so much time trying to get control of a situation, that we forget to pray about it.
#2 Sleep & Circadian Disturbances
Sleep and circadian rhythms (also known as biological clocks) strongly influence how well our immune system works. They also work hand in hand. Changes in our routine can easily push us into poor sleep habits. For some of us though, this may be a chance to improve our sleep habits by building a better sleep schedule.
Aim to get about 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Try to fall asleep between 10 PM and midnight. Sleeping past midnight decreases the quality of our sleep, even if we sleep for 8-9 hours.
Tips for Better Sleep and Supporting our Circadian Rhythms
- Get as much daylight/sunlight exposure throughout the day as possible. Especially in the morning.
- Reduce your exposure to blue light after sunset. Click here for some tips on how to do this.
- See if the way you’re eating is impacting your sleep quality. Click here for nutrition tips for better sleep.
#3 – Sunlight & Vitamin D
This is a struggle right now in Maryland, where it has been raining every other day. Wherever you are, get as much sunlight exposure as possible.
Not only to support your circadian rhythm, sleep, but also getting enough vitamin D. We make vitamin D in our skin when exposed to UVB rays. Getting about 15-20 minutes of sunlight exposure on our arms, hands, legs, and face between 10-noon or 1-3 PM at least 3-4 times a week can help make sure we have enough vitamin D. The sun’s rays are strongest around noon, which means you need less exposure to make the same amount of vitamin D.
If getting out in the sunlight is difficult or it’s just too gloomy for any real vitamin D production, a supplement can help (use code NOS406 to get 5% off). However, it is NOT an adequate replacement for all the benefits of sunlight. As much as possible, get outside in the sun to support good sleep, circadian rhythms, and vitamin D production.
#4 – Nutrition Tips for Boosting Your Immune System
Eat a Variety of Foods
Fruits, vegetables, seafood, dairy, and liver (eaten once a week) will give you the most bang for your buck in terms of nutrients. Each category has nutrients that support proper immune function, like vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, etc.
Frozen produce is a great alternative to fresh, which can last much longer and reduce the number of trips we take to the grocery store. To make fresh vegetables last longer, consider blanching and then freezing them. To make fresh fruit last longer, consider cooking it down and freezing it.
Take a Vitamin C Supplement
While you may be hearing about the crazy list of supplements that will boost your immune system from many practitioners right now, I think there are very few supplements that actually work. Vitamin C is one supplement that I feel comfortable recommending for supporting immune function.
Taking more than 1,000 mg a day is unnecessary and the most amount you should consume in a day is 2,000 mg. While the daily recommended amount for vitamin C is only about 100 mg, I do think the body’s need for vitamin C are higher. This is because most people nowadays have higher oxidative stress.
I recommend a non-GMO, non-corn based vitamin C. Ecological Formulas has a good product, although it is out of stock on pretty much every website I’ve checked. If you’re looking to order in the near future, consider purchasing from iherb.com and using my code NOS406.
Avoid Stressful Diets
If you’re currently on a low carb, low calorie, low-younameit diet, consider slowly coming off of your diet (if you want to avoid weight rebound). You can also consider coming off of it overnight. Whatever works for you!
The point is: cutting out entire macronutrients or forcing our body through low-calorie diets is STRESSFUL. And remember what I said about stress at the beginning of this blog? It suppresses the immune system.
The best thing we can do for ourselves right now is to create a sense of physiological safety for our bodies. Eat enough food so that you are not hungry. Eat a variety of foods, to make sure you’re hitting all your nutrient needs. Sure, there is nuance for people with specific conditions. But for the average person, this is the most sound nutrition advice any honest person can give you. Right now is NOT the time to be cutting calories or entire food groups from your diet.
Practice Self-Compassion Around Food
Although eating a variety of foods is important for supporting the immune system, stressing about how we’re eating is much more damaging. So, try not to stress about the food choices you are making right now. Stress levels are at an all-time high for many people. Stress increases demand for energy. Energy in simple terms = food. Wanting more food, especially foods higher in sugar, is actually a natural response the body has when it’s dealing with more stress. Try your best to eat balanced meals (protein, carb, fat) and eating enough to feel full.
Some people may be on the opposite spectrum: they are skipping meals entirely or forgetting to eat! Eating at least 3 meals a day that are balanced in protein, carbs, and fat is going to be the biggest support you can provide for your body. Going too long without meals can put our body in a stressed state, which combined with all the psychological stress we’re dealing with right now, is not good news for our immune system.
So there you have it, my top tips for reducing your risk for COVID-19. Stay healthy and safe y’all. And PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE STAY HOME!
If you are motivated and ready to make big changes to your health, schedule a free information call to talk about your health goals and learn how I can help!