As of this writing, more than 1 out of every 3 people are in lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the US, over 75 million citizens are on partial lockdown. The impact of the pandemic will not just be felt economically; the mental health of millions of citizens is at stake.
Although being stuck at home for an indeterminate amount of time is unprecedented and taxing mentally and emotionally, it’s vital to stay in good spirits to keep your immune system balanced.
So with this in mind, here’s a holistic health checklist for staying as content as possible during these challenging times…
Limit Your Intake of News
One of the worst things you can do for your mental health, spirit and immune system is being glued to your phone or the TV, reading or watching the news.
Scanning a couple local news headlines to keep abreast of the latest developments in your neighborhood is practical. But it’s another thing to frequently check the latest COVID-19 statistics and watch viral videos (no pun intended) of critically-ill patients suffering in overcrowded hospitals. Doing so can make you more fearful and anxious, which weakens your immune system.
Use Adaptogenic Herbs To Balance Your Immune System
A healthy immune system is a balanced one. When a potentially harmful pathogenic agent invades your body, you certainly need enough natural killer cells and other components of your immune system to wage war and defeat the viral (or bacterial or fungal) enemy.
But you don’t want your immune system waging a blitzkrieg attack at the expense of your own health. And that’s precisely what happens when SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes the COVID19 disease, overwhelms the immune system. In severe and fatal cases of the disease, an overreaction of the immune system called a “cytokine storm” occurs.
Cytokines are proteins involved in cell communication. In the immune system, cytokines coordinate the body’s response to an infection by triggering the inflammation response. (One way to think of a cytokine storm: thousands of lifeguards frantically jumping into the ocean to rescue one swimmer.)
Adaptogenic herbs (which constitute a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of medicinal plants on Earth) help your body adapt to stress of all kinds, and bring the body’s various systems back in balance, including the immune system.
If you’re very stressed out, adaptogenic herbs can help your body adapt to that stress by helping the adrenal glands produce more cortisol—without causing physiological damage to any tissues, organs or body systems.
If your immune system is weak, adaptogens may also help bring your immune system into balance by stimulating your immune response. Adaptogenic herbs help achieve this by activating white blood cells, promoting cellular immunity and assisting in detoxification.
Get Fresh Air
Even if you live in a city that’s on mandatory lockdown, it’s vital for your health to get adequate fresh air, and if possible, sunshine.
As this study in The American Journal of Public Health reveals, a combination of fresh air and sunlight (along with “scrupulous standards of hygiene, and reusable face masks”) appears to have substantially reduced deaths during the so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19.
The study mentions a mid-19th-century doctor, George Boddington, who had noticed that people who spent their time indoors were much more susceptible to tuberculosis (TB), in comparison to those who worked outdoors. Farmers and shepherds, the doctor observed, were usually free of TB.
Boddington reasoned that patients should copy the lifestyles of those who appeared immune to TB. “They should live in well-ventilated houses in the country and spend much of their time outside breathing fresh air,” Boddington reasoned, adding, “The application of cold pure air to the interior surface of the lungs is the most powerful sedative that can be applied, and does more to promote the healing of cavities and ulcers of the lungs than any other means that can be employed.”
In addition to being exposed to fresh air, try to practice deep breathing at least for a couple minutes every day. Not only does deep breathing promote relaxation, it’s scientifically proven to support the immune system as well as the brain.
Slow, deep, breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps induce relaxation.
Expose Yourself…To The Sun
As for sunshine’s role in maintaining a balanced immune system, it’s all about vitamin D. The role vitamin D plays in human immune regulation was actually determined relatively recently (within the last 35-40 years). Since then, numerous studies have demonstrated the link between having adequate serum levels of vitamin D and healthy immune regulation. Much is still unknown about this link. However, one thing is clear about vitamin D’s role in normal lung function (a topic of much interest to the global community these days)….
According to this research in International Journal of Molecular Sciences, a precursor of Vitamin D (1,25(OH)D) plays a role in the maturation of type II epithelial pneumocytes and stimulates the innate immune response in bronchial epithelial cells. In other words, having adequate levels of vitamin D is imperative for normal lung function.
Most people can safely expose a majority of their skin for 10 minutes to the sun to synthesize adequate vitamin D levels. You need to get a blood test (you can order a self-test online) to determine if your vitamin D levels are optimal. Most people are deficient in this steroid-like hormone. And unless you live in Southern California or the Deep South, from November 1 through March, you should consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement; the sun’s UV rays are too weak to synthesize adequate levels of D3.
If you’re concerned about UV damage from the sun, this is the best supplement on Earth to counteract the effects of ultraviolet light.
This seems like a no-brainer. But there are some people who exercise every day, eat a healthy diet, refrain from alcohol yet smoke. Due to the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana, the rates of marijuana use are on the rise, especially among young adults. Even taking one little toke of pot, regardless of the paraphernalia used (including vaporizers) can weaken lung function. COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, attacks the lungs. If you need to alter your consciousness, do so with edibles, not through direct lung inhalation.
You can find at least one silver lining during this pandemic by taking this time to quit smoking.
Eat A Healthy Diet (Here’s What That Means)
What exactly does eating a healthy diet mean? With so much conflicting nutrition advice (one year butter is bad for you, the next it’s heralded on the cover of Time magazine), it’s difficult for some people to know what to eat.
One thing is for sure when it comes to nutrition: sugar suppresses the immune system. In fact, when you eat a sugary snack or down a sugary energy drink, your immune-fighting cells slack off for several hours.
In addition to avoiding added sugars, eat a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead of the typical American breakfast, eat a big plate of steamed broccoli for your first meal of the day, along with an adequate protein source (eggs) and a small serving of natural dietary fat (avocado).
Some preliminary research indicates intermittent fasting (going several hours, e.g. 12-16 hours in between dinner and breakfast) can boost the immune system. A paper in the International Journal of Health Sciences says that prolonged intermittent fasting can reduce proinflammatory cytokines.
You can keep your body’s inflammatory response in check via intermittent fasting and by avoiding snacking. Try to eat only one or two big meals a day and also try to go several hours in between your meals.
Staying at home has the potential to breed sedentary activities such as TV binge-watching. If you’re going to watch TV, kill two birds with one stone by walking in place, stretching or lifting weights.
Set a timer on your smartphone to go off every 2 hours. When the timer goes off, do something active for 5 minutes then get back to your work. Just doing 3-5 mini-workout sessions a day may be more effective than one prolonged session.
Read & Be Creative
In addition to keeping your body in shape, you also need to keep your mind sharp, especially if you’re out of work. Read books. Learn how to play guitar or chess. There are tons of free resources online.
If you’re single and feeling isolated, seek out a Facetime penpal. Check in with old friends from high school or college. Host a virtual party.
How To Be Joyous During Coronavirus Quarantine: Conclusion
By avoiding watching the news, keeping your immune system balanced (with the help of adaptogenic herbs), getting fresh air and sunshine, eating healthier than you ever have in your life, reading and being creative, you’ll find that your spirit can be elevated even during a pandemic.