There’s nothing like an international health crisis to wake people up to the fact that they are not in great health. This is happening everywhere. If you are stuck at home, “non-essential” in the workforce, not allowed to go out and socialize, you may be taking this time to evaluate your risk of suffering significant harm in the current situation. Are you over 65? Are you a smoker? Are you already a sufferer of allergies or asthma or another lung condition? Perhaps you are one of the millions of people who is reflecting on your state of health and now really motivated to improve your health looking past the current situation.
Food and Drink
The first place people often look when evaluating their health (and rightfully so) is by examining what they are eating and drinking. As we have been shopping in the last few weeks and taking stock of what is in our pantry and what is available in the stores, what do you notice? A lot of the staples, canned goods, rice, and potatoes are sold out but the kale and spring greens are still sitting there. Do we really know what constitutes healthy food? Most people know we shouldn’t be drinking soda or eating ice cream and cookies, but what is good for us? Nutritionists, medical doctors, and naturopathic doctors don’t all see eye to eye on this subject, but we can find some common ground. Everyone agrees that the foods that are best for us are the ones without labels; not found in boxes, cans, jars, and plastic. Look for color: blue, green, purple, orange, red. These are your salads, berries, beets, carrots, oranges, melons, peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. All the colors represent your phytonutrients. When you eat them raw, you get the nutrients and enzymes which would be destroyed by cooking. Doctors recommend limiting starches, especially when trying to lose weight or when blood sugar is an issue.
Of course, adding empty calories from sodas are not beneficial to health. Refined sugars and isolated fructose in juices, soda, and sports drinks raise blood sugar and lower your immunity. This happens as a result of changing the microbiome in the gut which is a major part of your immune system. Probiotics and especially prebiotics help us optimize and feed our gut bacteria which in turn support us in many ways.
An Active Life
Being stuck at home indoors is no excuse to become a couch potato. Along with making healthy food choices, we can also choose to be active. If you have a yard, get outside and get fresh air and sunshine. Plant something (if you don’t have seeds, use seeds or parts from your food…a carrot top, pineapple top, or pumpkin seeds that haven’t been roasted are good examples) Do you have stairs in your home? Take a few extra trips up and down. Carry laundry, vacuum, sweep, mop, scrub things! If you don’t have a yard or can’t go outdoors, there are many workouts at home programs available online. Many are free. One I like is a You-tube account called calisthenic movement. They provide complete body workouts that can be done in 5 minutes. There are many bodyweight exercises that don’t require any weights or special tools through a set of exercise bands is helpful to have on hand. You can do squats, pushups, dips, lunges, and planks. Learn a few moves and discipline yourself to do something every day. A short workout is all that is needed to keep your heart and lungs healthy. If you want to look like you were at a health retreat instead of quarantine, step up your game and do more. By thinking about incorporating activity into our daily life, it will be easier to maintain that habit after things return to normal.
One of the biggest things that people have had to deal with during this crisis is stress. The short term stress is normal and natural. Our bodies are well programmed to respond to short term stress. The sympathetic nervous system, also known as fight or flight gives us a proper and needed response to an emergency. Just like animals that are running from predators, or when people are involved in a critical situation where superhuman strength is needed, adrenaline is provided by the adrenal glands to make us faster and stronger. Long term that is not healthy. That kind of stress can cause us to have high blood pressure, ulcers, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and weight gain. When we are in a job we hate or worrying about loss of income, stress can become chronic. This can exhaust your adrenal glands and cause you to pack on weight around your midsection because of continual exposure to the stress hormone cortisol. While we may not always be able to control our circumstances, we can learn to control our response to stressors. Relaxing breathing exercises, positive self-talk, meditation, and prayer are good techniques to develop. Exercise, warm baths, massage, and PEMF therapy can also help reduce the effects of long-term stress on the body.
Sleep like a Baby
Sleep is important to health. Healthy people sleep well. Sleep is the time that the body does its cleanup. It is like the custodial crew coming in and sprucing up the office overnight while no one is working. Chinese medicine has an understanding of the overnight cleaning process. Each major organ has a two hour period where it eliminates toxins and restores itself. For instance, the liver is cleaning the blood and going through its restoration from 1-3 am. If you are waking at the same time every night, it may be a sign that you need to support that particular organ. Taking notes before bed can help get tomorrow’s concerns off your mind. Eliminating blue light exposure in the hour before bed allows your body to make the hormone melatonin which is suppressed by blue light from computers, cell phones, and television. Although alcohol in the evening can make you sleepy, it doesn’t help with a full night of deep sleep. Keeping the bedroom cool and dark is conducive to good sleep. Waking often at night to urinate? This could be a sign that you are low in vitamin D or (if male) need some prostate support. Certain PEMF devices can help improve sleep. Blue light blocker glasses, herb and essential oils such as lavender, vetiver, and cedarwood are helpful for relaxation, quieting the mind, and melatonin production.
Keep it Clean
Avoiding toxic exposure and assisting our body’s natural detoxification processes is crucial in this day and age. Our grandparents were just starting to use artificial fertilizers and pesticides, but they didn’t have cell phones, cell towers, and wifi. Fancy cosmetics and personal care products with names you can’t pronounce, smog, and even hand sanitizers can become toxic in our bodies. We need more help than ever to detoxify our bodies. The sheer volume of toxins that we are exposed to in this day and age, whether indoors or outdoors can be overwhelming to our bodies. We must be diligent to avoid as much as possible and at the same time support our lymphatic system. For further details on what that means and what we should avoid, check out this related blog: http://gracefullwellness.com/index.php/2018/11/05/take-out-the-trash-please
Create a Habit
The first step toward creating a better, healthier life is taking stock of your current situation. Focus on what you can do to optimize your health during the current crisis. Take advantage of the extra time to make a plan and set goals. Utilize these suggestions to create a better sense of mental well-being and a healthier body. By implementing better food choices, activity, and mindfulness, you can begin to create new habits. These habits can become your new normal. Instead of a future of disease, discomfort, and dissatisfaction with your health, create change. Create health.