Building Immunity - Self Care in Times of Difficulty
Building Immune Resilience - Tips and thoughts from Amit Sood, MD MSc FACP
Dr. Amit Sood, one of the world's leading experts on resilience & well-being, offers advice in the wake of COVID-19 to help us remember that, when things seem like they are getting out of hand, there are some factors in our control that can help us in this difficult time.
He says, "Many are asking, 'Beyond hand hygiene and following the news, what else can I do to take care of myself?'"
To this he offers compelling, peer-reviewed research tips in implementing self-care strategies to strengthen your immune system and limit inflammation:
- Correct micronutrient deficiency – Micronutrients include vitamins A, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, C, D, and E, iron, selenium, copper, and zinc. While the best source of micronutrients is a healthy diet, if you are senior, or limited in your food intake, taking a supplement might help. Also consider adding a few ingredients to your diet such as blueberries, grapes, broccoli, garlic, ginger, probiotics, and turmeric as part of a healthy diet
- Get adequate sleep – Fairly conclusive research supports the immune-suppressive and inflammatory effect of sleep deficit. Prioritize getting good seven hours, particularly during times when you need a resilient immune system to protect you.
- Do moderate physical activity – Physical activity in moderation is better than a sedentary lifestyle. Consider Yoga and Tai Chi that have independently shown anti-inflammatory and immune-enhancing effect.
- Manage your stress better – Excessive stress is a pro-inflammatory state and weakens your immune system. Consider creating a “Not-to-do list” cutting down on your cognitive and emotional load. Practice self-compassion.
- Build resilience – Cultivate a stronger attention and build a resilient mindset using the five principles of gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning, and forgiveness.
- Practice meditation or another mind-body practice – Meditation has been shown to lower inflammation and enhance your body's anti-viral response. Invest at least 10 minutes in deep breathing or another meditation practice.
- Feel socially connected – Perceived loneliness hurts our immune system. The less lonely and more connected you feel, the better your immunity and less your propensity to inflammation. Minimize adversarial connections by cultivating kindness and nurturing hope.
- Practice a personally meaningful spiritual activity – Practicing spirituality correlates with lower levels of inflammatory markers.This is a great time to think about what matters most to you, and engage with it.
- Laugh more – Laughter is a great mini workout for your body, improving your immunity and decreasing your inflammatory response. Spend time with people who make you laugh, watch funny videos, read books that make you giggle, and create your personal humor.
- Get a massage – There is a surprising amount of studies that have looked at the health (and immune) benefits of massage. Take time to pamper yourself.
- Add music to your life – Music can reverse the harmful effect of stress on your immune system. Music that adds social connection, such as choir, drumming, and others, can be especially beneficial. Add music to your day and spend some moments savoring your favorite tunes.
- Stop smoking – If you smoke, take steps to quit. Smoking is a detriment to your immune system and predisposes you to pneumonia and other infections.
- Avoid excessive alcohol – Watch your alcohol intake in this time. While mild to moderate consumption may not hurt your immune system, heavy alcohol intake is definitely harmful.
Dr. Sood reminds us that nurturing from within can build our resilience to the adversities of the outside world. May you all stay safe and well.
What are your favorite self-care practices?
Dr. Amit, Sood is the Executive Director of the Global Center for Resiliency & Wellbeing and a former professor and Chair for Student Life and Wellness at Mayo Clinic. For more in-depth tips visit: https://www.immuneresilience.com/ which has been adapted from Dr. Sood's book, Build your Immune Resilience.