We’re all looking for ways to be healthier and help strengthen our body’s natural line of defense against illness, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak. While practicing social distancing and good hygiene remain the best ways to protect you from coronavirus, several lifestyle changes can help strengthen your immune system and keep you safe and healthy.
1. Practice Smart Sleep Hygiene
Sleep is essential to your overall health. Your body uses the time you spend asleep to repair and renew itself from the inside out, regulating essential hormones and helping restore your energy levels. If you don’t get enough quality sleep, you’re depriving yourself of one of the best ways to enhance your immune system.
Experts recommend healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best. If you’re one of the many people who struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, try the following tips.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help make you more energetic during the day, but it can also allow you to sleep more deeply at night.
- Create a pre-bedtime routine: Devote some time to relaxing activities such as drinking a soothing mug of chamomile tea, taking a bath, meditating or doing a series of yoga stretches designed to help release tension from tired muscles.
- Ban technology from your bedroom: We spend a significant amount of time looking at screens. However, the blue light emanating from your phone, computer and TV can play havoc with your sleep-wake cycle. Power down tech at least an hour before bedtime.
2. Manage Your Stress Levels
Chronic stress can suppress the effectiveness of your immune system because it floods your body with hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Though these “fight-or-flight” hormones evolved to help you react to dangerous situations, the cumulative effects of long-term stress can lead to a variety of severe health issues. If you’re experiencing high levels of anxiety in your daily life, consider seeking a therapist who can teach you specific relaxation exercises and healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress.
3. Follow a Fitness Routine
People who regularly work out tend to be healthier and happier overall. Exercise encourages the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which reduce pain and create pleasure. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, mixed with weight training at least twice per week. If you’re short on time, remember that even brief spurts of activity can offer benefits. For example, when watching TV, use the commercial breaks to sneak in some crunches or jogging in place.
4. Go Outside
For an even greater immune system assist, take your workouts outdoors to reap the benefits of spending time in nature. Even 20 minutes of time outside each day can lower your stress hormone levels, boost your self-esteem and improve your mood.
5. Eat More Plants
The nutrients we get from food are an essential part of keeping our immune system healthy and resilient. When it comes to a diet that supports good immune health, focus on incorporating more plants and plant-based foods. Try to make fresh fruits and vegetables part of every meal. Carrots, broccoli, spinach, bell peppers, apricots, citrus fruits and strawberries are all rich in antioxidants such as vitamins A and C. Some types of mushrooms, such as shiitake, are not only tasty, but are also immune-boosting superfoods.
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