If there’s one thing that we learned from this pandemic, it is that good health is our most important asset. It’s encouraging to see that Canadians stay home as much as possible, observe physical distancing, maintain proper hygiene and wash hands properly (and frequently). Aside from these great habits, here are other simple things we can do now to stay healthy:
Get enough sleep
Getting quality sleep is critical for a healthy immune response. It is the period when our bodies produce and distribute key immune cells. Lack of it will not only make you more likely to get sick, it can also lead to poor energy, irritability and unhealthy weight gain. According to Dr. Charles Samuels of the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary: “As we shorten the sleep we need, it increases the appetite for calorie-dense foods. It contributes to the onset of weight gain and poor weight control.”
If stress due to COVID is preventing you from getting quality sleep, take some time to pause and relax. Meditation and journaling can help but if you need professional help, call the COVID Anxiety and Support Program at 204-925-0606.
Other tips that can help you relax:
- Stop watching the news. The amount of information we’re getting from various media channels can be overwhelming. Limit your news consumption to only what is necessary.
- Reduce gadget use. Looking at your smart phone at bedtime can disrupt your body’s internal clock and rhythm. This will make it harder for you to sleep. Stop using your phone at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Don’t take over-the-counter medication. Consult your family doctor before taking any pills. Doctors advise against using sleeping pills due to side effects (e.g. nausea or daytime drowsiness). It can also lead to addiction.
If your work schedule is problematic, find time to take naps on breaks. Sleep in during the weekends or your off days to get enough rest and make up for lost sleep.
Drink more water
Proper hydration has a huge impact on our immune system. Water helps our bodily systems function properly as it helps oxygenate blood that is pumped to our cells. When our cells are packed with oxygen, our muscles and organs perform at their best. Water also allows our kidneys to remove toxins and helps us produce lymph. Lymph fights disease by collecting bacteria and bringing it to the lymph nodes where bacteria is destroyed.
Drinking eight to ten glasses (eight ounces per) of water a day is ideal. Always keep a tumbler nearby (on your work desk for example) to remind you to drink and for easy access. If you find water boring, infuse it with fresh fruits like lemon, lime and berries or cucumber and mint. Aside from improving the taste, these will also add Vitamin C, another immunity booster.
Shake up your diet
Having a plant-based diet is the best for our health but it can be hard to adopt. Instead, introduce small changes to improve your eating habits. For example:
- Have a meat-free dinner once a week – Have Meatless Mondays with your family. These meals should feature beans, vegetables and grains. This will not only make you healthier, it will also help you lose weight if you’re trying to slim down, not to mention help the environment.
- Shop smarter – Make a grocery list and stick to it. Don’t include foods with too much sugar or processed food.
- Snack selectively – Don’t snack on chips and cookies all the time. Add variety by having dried fruits and nuts in your snack drawer. Fruits and nuts have vitamins and fiber that prevent inflammation, aid digestion and protect the body from a host of diseases.
Look at the brighter side of life
Our bodies produce cortisol when we’re stressed to help us cope. It blocks the immune system’s response for a short period of time so that our body can react to stressors. But when stress is sustained, high cortisol levels can prevent our immune system from functioning, increasing our susceptibility to illness.
It’s normal to be stressed during these times. We’re in a pandemic after all. However, worrying too much will only make you sick – and that’s an added concern. Take this moment to slow down and take it easy. If things are getting too much for you, ask for help. Go to Information and Supports for Manitobans to access support ranging from financial aid to mental health services.
Did you know that at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week can strengthen your immune system and lessen stress? Just a few minutes of cardio exercises can do wonders for your health. The benefits are compounded when you do it outdoors. Breathing in fresh air and soaking up some sun are immediate mood boosters. You can walk, jog, bike or do a bit of gardening. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and bring water with you!
Sources: 7 ways to keep your immune system healthy, Lauren Bedosky (Medically reviewed), everyday Health; 5 immune system benefits of drinking water, Fitday; How much sleep do you really need? Lisa Mesbur, Canadian Living; and Self-care: How to strengthen your immunity amid the coronavirus outbreak, Lisa Drayer, CTV News. Accessed May 7, 2020.
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