What a start to our school experience. It’s week two of reception class for my son and guess what, he’s home sick with a snotty nose and grotty cold already, and I can feel myself fighting the early signs and symptoms too 🤧😏
To be fair, it was inevitable that our immune systems, (that haven’t been exposed to anything like the normal amount of germs that they normally would in life outside of lockdowns), would get a big wake up call once we started mingling again. As frustrating as it is, I’m trying to see this early introduction to lurgy season as a good thing.
Firstly, exposure to bugs activates our immune systems. I’d rather this happen at a time when we’re still well topped up on Vitamin D and are in good health generally. We’ve got a good chance of fighting a cold off quickly and effectively without suffering from a severe infection.
Secondly, this serves as a handy reminder of all the things we can proactively do to strengthen our immune systems before winter sets in for all of us here in the northern hemisphere. If you‘re in the south it’s still well worth being mindful and proactive too - the sun and its wonderful gift of vitamin D is only part of immunity equation. If you’re in some sort of lockdown or restrictive living there is plenty you can do to support your health and wellbeing and prevent a drop in your immune function no matter how stressful life feels.
During the pandemic I collated all my knowledge, expertise and coaching no-how and designed the The Ultimate Self-Care Tool Kit as a way of supporting health, happiness and wellbeing in a truly holistic way. It provides a really great framework for us to follow when it comes to our immune systems. Let’s dive in to the first three elements, REST, RECHARGE, REPLENISH….
Many people slowed life down during the pandemic, others found it busier and tougher than ever to unwind and sleep sufficiently. The reality of it is, pandemic aside, we tend to live our lives at a fast pace and most of us are on the go most of our waking hours, attempting to cram everything in. As a result we rely on our adrenals to get us through the day, spending way too much time in ‘Flight and Flight’ and not enough time in ‘Rest and Digest’. This not only impacts the quality and quantity of our sleep, which can have an instantly detrimental effect on our immunity, high levels of stress hormones also weaken our immune function. We simply weren’t designed to produce so much adrenal and cortisol so much of the time. We’re suffering from a deficit of rest and we’re running out of steam.
So ask yourself, what can you do to build more de-stress activities into your day and week? These don’t need to take hours, even a five minute break away from work at regular intervals throughout the day is powerful. In those moments, step away from your screen and connect with the present - focus on your breath and if you can get a bit of fresh air or at least a change of scene you’ll notice even more beneifts.
How can you ensure you’re getting seven to nine hours quality sleep every night? If you’re taking time to de-stress more regularly throughout the day you‘ll already notice the benefits of this when it comes to unwinding before bed. Add in extra time to relax away from work, screens, news etc for at least an hour before you hit the sack and you‘ll help your stress hormones switch off and your melatonin production kick in which is essential for good sleep.
If you’re struggling to create a sense of work life balance it can easily start to impact your immune system. The idea of recharge time is about topping up your batteries and feeling fulfilled in all areas of life. Your hobbies, holidays and interests help you get a boost of positive emotions and engage in activities that put you in a state of flow. No matter how positive and meaningful your career is to you, it‘s still vital to take a step back and recharge. Often it’s when you’re passionate about and committed to work you‘re even more likely to get run down and even burnt out.
When we‘re creating happy hormones like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin we help tone our vagus nerve which helps us make the switch from the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) more easily, and this further supports our immune function.
So ask yourself which activities give you the biggest top of your batteries and how often do you need them in your schedule to achieve the ideal sense of work life balance?
If you‘re struggling to fit enough recharge time into your week the next question is what boundaries do you need to activate to protect your personal time? This is not an easy thing to do but without it you’re always going to find yourself stuck in the same situation.
“Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” Having been fascinated in the link between diet, health and wellbeing for as long as I can recall, I’m inclined to agree with Hippocrates on this one. I instantly notice when my usual diet of home-cooked meals packed with fresh natural ingredients gets side-tracked, (such as holidays, special occasions and busy periods). Food can nourish our minds, bodies and souls so it really makes sense that our immune system is easily impacted by the foods and drinks we consume. We each house a diverse mix of bacteria and germs within us, especially the gut. The balance between our good and bad pathogens is a fine one so the more we can eat to cultivate and support gut flora and maintain optimum levels of the good bacteria is a powerful way of supporting our immune system.
Eating a diverse mix of fresh, unprocessed foods high in fibre and low in sugar is key. Eating in rainbows means getting a good mix of micro nutrients that also boost our immune systems. It’s not just vitamin C that supports immunity - vitamins B6 and D, and minerals zinc, selenium and iron are all vital in production of the cells involved in our defence system, along with amino acids (proteins), in particular glutamine.
So now‘s the time to ask yourself, is food your medicine or simply the fuel you burn to keep you going without much thought on quality and nutritional value?
What steps do you need to take to clean up your diet to get that crucial boost of nutrients, help your good bacteria flourish and keep the bad pathogens in check?
It’s well worth remembering that whilst foods can and should be an integral part of our self-care and immune boosting plan, if the pace of your life is chaotic and you experience chronic stress, even the perfect diet is unlikely to offer a miracle cure. Supplementation can help (especially if you include nervous system support), but a lifestyle shift is really the only remedy to ensure you’re truly looking after yourself and creating optimum health, happiness and wellbeing. This means investing time and effort in all areas of life and building strategies for each of the six elements of The Ultimate Self-Care Took Kit.
Next week I’m going to reveal how the other three elements of The Ultimate Self-Care Took Kit - RELATIONSHIPS, RESILIENCE, RENOVATE will add even more power to your immune boosting plan.
In the meantime if you want to learn more about how The Ultimate Self-Care Tool Kit can help boost your health, happiness and wellbeing in all areas of your life, I’m delighted to share with you the new complimentary taster version of my online course.
You can sign up (and it’s completely free) right here. I‘ve also added in a variety of challenges and resources within the free membership area so you have plenty of inspiration and support to guide you.