by Lindsey Millerd | photo by Manuel Diaz, Jr.
Chances are that you are cooped up in your room reading this. With everything going virtual and wearing a mask everywhere you go, it sure is a strange time to be alive. But the state is slowly opening up again, and hopefully, we continue down this path. So, how do you come
out of an isolated period stronger than ever?
With flu season around the corner, alongside the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is the perfect time to start paying more attention to your health. While mask-wearing, social distancing, and other hygiene practices are essential precautionary steps, there is the less talked about the issue of improving your immune system and overall health. While proper hygiene is very important and proven to dramatically decrease your chance of infection, you can’t overlook your personal health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with pre-existing health conditions are more affected by COVID-19 than those without them. In a majority of COVID-19 deaths, there was some kind of underlying illness like heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes that made it hard for the individual to fight the infection.
Even if we take all the steps to avoid contact with a virus, there is always still a chance of catching COVID-19 or another infection. But there are ways to ensure your immune system will be ready to take down any harmful foreigners that enter your body. Here are a few tips to improve your mental and physical health to help fight sickness and maintain your overall well-being:
Proper hydration is probably the easiest and most important way to keep your body healthy. Through urination and bowel movements your body releases waste and toxins that can otherwise build-up and wreak havoc on your body. Water also lubricates joints and keeps nutrients flowing to their right destinations. Water, fruits, and vegetables are the best way to keep your fluid levels up. Also remember that if you sweat or breathe heavier than usual, like during an intense workout, you will need to increase your water intake. Chapped lips and a dry throat are signs of dehydration, so be sure to drink water if you feel either one.
Fuel your body with nutritious foods
Try to get lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other minimally processed foods into your diet. These foods are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that help your body function properly. You may also want to lower your intake of refined carbohydrates, excess sugars and salts, trans and saturated fats, and other things commonly found in ultra-processed foods. These foods do quite the opposite of healthier foods, where they can actually cause damage and stress in many parts of your body. So try your best to consume foods that are densely packed with nutrients, and treat the less healthy foods as occasional treats. Not only will your immune system thank you, so will your digestive system, energy levels, mood, and so much more.
Quit smoking and vaping or don’t start any time soon
Since COVID-19 is a virus that attacks the lungs, you want to keep your lungs as strong as possible. The most common cause for lung damage is smoking, and according to WebMD, the aerosols from vaping cause similar destruction to lung cells and tissue. Your lungs were made to breathe clean oxygen, not the long list of harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke and e-cigarette vapor. Visit hawaiiquitline.org for resources and contact information to help you or a loved one quit smoking and vaping today.
Move your body daily
Exercise has countless benefits for both your body and mind. Regular physical activity is proven to reduce stress, improve quality of sleep, and reduce body fat. These benefits dramatically reduce your chances of type-2 diabetes, depression, cancer, and keep your immune system functioning well. A balance of both cardio and strength are important to reap the full benefits for all parts of your body. Even if it’s a quick stroll around the block, remember anything is better than just sitting down all day.
Get your rest
While exercise is important, it is also equally important to let your body rest. Sleep is when your body is able to repair itself, something essential when you undergo mental and physical stressors like a challenging exam or tiring workout. Sleep is something often overlooked as a part of your health, but it is one of the most essential. You could be doing all the right things, but if you are sleep deprived your body will be in a constant state of fatigue. Aim for 7 hours of sleep every night, and more if you feel that you need it. You may even want to review your schedule and figure out if there are things you can change so that your sleep isn’t compromised.
Practice deep breathing and other calming activities
Let’s face it, we’re all stressed in one way or another these days. Whether it be about school, work, relationships, or the ongoing pandemic, there are several easy ways to manage your stress. The allostatic load (wear and tear from chronic stress) placed on your body will go down and not only will your mood improve, but all of your body’s functions will also work more smoothly with this decreased stress. One simple breathing exercise you could try is the 4-7-8 technique. It is best to sit upright while doing this exercise and clear your mind of any other thoughts. Activities like this or other things like meditation, journaling, or spending time outdoors are all great ways to calm down. Try different things then find something you enjoy doing and can easily fit into your daily routine.
So remember, everything in your body is connected and it’s important to cover all the bases to ensure the best health. Keep up the precautionary steps to prevent an infection, but also try to keep your body’s defense system ready for anything. Stay safe and stay healthy!