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.
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“Get a massage”. “Spend time with people” ?? Outdated info.
@ees1 You're absolutely right that these tips have to be adapted for the current COVID-19 environment. I look forward to a time when we can go out and get a massage and mingle with people in a café. For now, we have to adapt those practices and still get the benefit of "Pamper yourself" and "Feel socially connected".
How might we do that in these times of social distancing and increasing social isolation?
Canceling my massage was a bummer since it's one of my big health promoting activities. But, so be it. Find some inspiring yoga utube, and other good instructors helping us with body movement. I have a body builder niece who is rather upset that the health clubs have closed, fortunately, the apartment building has machines. You just have to adapt.
I have a vibrating pad on my rocking chair I keep so busy, reading the bible, Luck12:22 is my favorite right now. The older the Bible the better, because you have to think. I like KJV the best For socializing, I text my daughter's everyday I want to get all of my parenting in while I can I paid for a search website and now keep in touch with my oldest and dearest friend I wrote letters to anyone that I felt that I still had unsettled conflict with, for closure I also text many friends thru-out my whole life I found a lot of them on facebook. And, in Michigaan, spring is coming. So, my re-hab has ended because of COVID-19 which was my main social activity, I'm going for a walk I hope that this helps. I have to mention Netflix, movies take me away for a little bit terrena
I made a decision to try and contact my friends via message or email with news , joke, gossip, or just a funny GIF everyday,; rotating my contacts.
It is certainly difficult to do these things in the conventional ways right now. It's also frustrating to know that we need some of these things for our body and spirit in rough times. For massage, if you are self-isolating with a family member, be sure to take care of each other with simple back and shoulder assistance that can help to relax. If you are alone, there are many resources online to help you with self-massage techniques to loosen those tight muscles and relieve anxiety. For spending time with people, set up phone call times, and if you have smartphone capabilities to do so, set up face time talks with your friends and family. We hope you stay safe and healthy.
@lwallenfeldt @healthytoday @engelee @trina09 @ees1 these are all great suggestions. Please follow the COVID-19 support group and share your ideas there: https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/covid-19/
I invite you to browse through all the topics. Here are some that I think will specifically interest you:
– Taking our minds off things, what are you watching?? https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/taking-our-minds-off-things-what-are-you-watching/
– How are you getting together with others virtually? Zoom etc. https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/zoom/
– Just want to talk: What are other seniors doing while staying home? https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/just-want-to-talk-1/