“A journey of a thousand steps must begin with a single step.” Lao-tzu
In light of the current situation with the COVID-19 viral scare, a piece about healthy habits – and specifically keeping healthy habits during a pandemic – is just what the doctor ordered. As a PhD Biochemist, I am up to date on the available literature regarding the virus and know a lot about viruses in general. Without going into the mechanisms of viral infection, I would love to remind everyone that the best defense is a great offense–especially in the case of a virus. If you are healthy, your job is to stay healthy. If you are unfortunately in the midst of an illness, especially cancer treatment and any and all respiratory illness, please follow the orders from your attending physician. This blog is not intended to be a cure recommendation; it is a reminder to maintain or begin or keep healthy habits that support your immune system.
What can you do right this second to create the conditions that support optimal health?
- Get the appropriate quantity and quality of sleep every single night.
- Drink half your body weight in ounces of filtered water every day (if not more). If you weigh 170lbs, drink 85 ounces of water.
- Do not travel. Do not fly. Do not change time zones.
- Eliminate sugar.
- Eat only organic whole foods.
- Limit caffeine.
- Eliminate alcohol, nicotine, and any recreational drugs, especially anything inhaled.
- Practice meditation and/or breathing exercises.
- Get physical exercise.
- Limit stress: physical (exercise enough but not too much), chemical (eat organic food, avoid synthetic drugs and pesticides), electromagnetic (get enough sun but no sunburn), psychological* (create positive goals and positive mental outlook–avoid “stinking thinking”), nutritional (again, eat whole, organic foods, avoid eating too much or too little, avoid fast food or packaged foods).
* Check your fear level! If you are worrying about a trip because of possible illness or potential quarantine, cancel the trip. Unload the psychic stress of worry. We cannot predict the future. Make choices from a practical, confident mindset; make choices that don’t elicit fear.
One of the best healthy habits is to reduce stress. The body accumulates stress from not doing everything on the above list, and this stress creates a cortisol response in the body. Too much cortisol—or inappropriate cortisol release–depresses the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which in turn activates catabolic hormones that increase fatigue, increase heart rate and blood pressure, increase sweating, reduce digestion, depress the immune system, and decrease the ability of the body to grow and repair tissues. The ultimate effect of this chain of consequences is that it becomes easier for any virus to co-opt the cellular machinery of your body, thereby infecting you. How can you reduce stress in your life? Again, see the list above. While uncertainty can never be eliminated, having fear about uncertainty can–and eliminating that fear will have a positive effect on your immune system.
If you are a person who has already established healthy habits, including maintaining lifestyle factors such as sleep, nutrition, scheduling, and finances, the balance of the SNS and the PNS operates optimally, and you will already be producing the hormones required to do effectively digest food and regulate metabolism, including the growth and reparation of your body’s tissues. Congratulations are in order! Embrace the healthy habits knowing you are doing what you can to support your body.
Healthful habits are not difficult to create, but they require planning. Think ahead about your day and your week and make sure you won’t have to resort to fast food, or skipping a meal, or rushing in general, or staying up too late. Take your water wherever you go, and even just for this spring, fully eliminate sugar and alcohol so your body will have more resources to draw upon.
Most of us already know what to do, but we don’t do what we know. Seize the day. Make this scare around Covid-19 an opportunity to begin the habits you have been wanting to implement but have been resisting. Take this opportunity, here now, to become the best version of yourself. If you could use a trusted advisor on this journey to becoming, please contact me for a free consultation with a professional coach who happens to have a PhD in Biochemistry.
At Coaching by G, we believe that balance comes from creating wellness through fitness and nutrition (and not letting the scale dictate the attitude).