Give your immune system a boost
Updated: Jan 19
How are you? Life has changed so completely since my last post it’s hard to believe. Like me, I suspect you’ve been dealing with a host of complicated emotions during the last few weeks including fear, disbelief, shock, anger, sorrow, confusion, helplessness, panic and quite a few more. It feels a bit like the world is grieving, as we say goodbye to an old way of living and have to try and embrace the new normal. Whatever that may be.
These are very difficult times and our global health has suddenly become a priority. Whether you’re in isolation at home or a keyworker putting your wellbeing on the line every day, it is now more important than ever to do everything you can to try and protect your health and wellbeing. But although life may feel like it’s completely beyond our control at the moment, there are actually lots of little steps and practices that most of us can introduce into our lives, which when combined together can help keep us as healthy as possible during the current situation.
Nurturing your immune system
Chinese medicine has focused on the importance of nurturing a strong immune system (Zheng Qi) as the natural opponent to illness and ill health for hundreds of years. And to nurture your immune system, it is suggested that you concentrate on the following key areas:
For those people confined to home, you’ve probably noticed you’re eating more. Boredom somehow leads you to the fridge or the biscuit jar. After just a couple of weeks, pyjamas feel much more comfortable than those trousers that are beginning to feel too tight already.
Of course, it’s important to treat yourself now and then. But now, more than ever, it is also important to think about what, when and how you eat. Try and ensure you are getting a good mix of fruit and vegetables, that cover all the colours of the rainbow for maximum nutritional benefits and help build up the healthy bacteria in your gut. Make sure you plate is well balanced – not too many carbs or too much protein and try to avoid rich, or overly sweet food.
It’s all too easy when we’re working from home to get into the habit of grazing. You get up from your work to stretch and end up having a nibble. But try and think about when and how you are eating. Avoid large, heavy meals late at night and be mindful as you eat. Eat slowly, chew carefully and be aware of the flavours and textures of your food.
Chinese medicine also considers particular foods to be good for lung health and these include mushrooms, garlic, onions, leeks, herbs, ginger and lemon, so try and introduce a good balance of these into your recipes and diet if you don’t already.
It will come as no surprise, that according to Chinese medicine exercise is important when it comes to building a healthy immune system. At the moment, we’re all still allowed out for our one exercise a day, which is great, but there is also lots you can do at home.
Yoga is a great form of exercise that you can practice inside and will help nurture your body, your breathing and your mind. With so many complex emotions swirling around us at the moment, taking a moment to focus on ourselves can be enormously beneficial.
Chinese medicine also recognises the importance of simple and basic breathing exercises (Qigong) to help nurture lung health. The bottom of our lungs is rich in blood vessels which means that breathing deeply can really help oxygenation. Unfortunately, many of us have got into the habit of taking shallow breaths. Practice taking soft, deep breaths in through your nose and right down into your lower abdomen. If you’d like details of some specific breathing exercises recognised by Chinese medicine as beneficial, please contact me and I will direct you to the best resources.
Meditation of course is a form of both exercise and rest for your brain and can be combined with yoga or practised completely separately. If you’ve never practiced mediation or mindfulness before, you’re welcome to contact me, and I can direct you to some great resources to help you get started. At a time when the news is so bleak, being mindful and grateful for the positives in our lives can be a lifeline.
In the normal course of life, our diaries are full and flowing over and we plan many months ahead. Suddenly this has all been taken away from us and we can’t even plan what we’re going to do next week and have no idea how to start planning for the future. This can leave us feeling alarmed, frightened and insecure, but by practicing daily gratitude and focussing on each day at a time, it can help us feel more anchored, calm and secure. Spend a few moments each morning and evening thinking about the positives in your day and what you are grateful for. And remember, it doesn’t matter how small something may seem if it brightens up your day in some way.
Sleep and rest
It may seem ironic when you’re stuck at home for weeks on end to talk about getting enough rest, but these are anxious times and it’s very easy to lie awake at night worrying. Or maybe you find yourself staying up late watching Netflix and then spending your mornings under the covers.
However, tiredness is never good for either your mental health or your immune system and it’s important to have a sense of Ying and Yang in your days, a clear difference between day and night. That means trying to establish a routine. Evenings should be calm and soothing and in my last blog https://www.aculives.com/post/it-s-time-to-wake-up I shared some tips for getting a good night’s sleep. By contrast, try to establish a good morning routine, perhaps scheduling this time for a coffee on the balcony or in the garden to get some fresh air and a morning exercise routine.
Be kind …to yourself
Sticking to a routine is harder for some than others, so perhaps the most important message to take away is to be kind to yourself. You will have days when you feel full of motivation and purpose, and that’s great. But you may also have days when you just want to curl up in a ball, when you don’t manage to get anything done or when you eat an entire packet of biscuits and then move on to the crisps. When that happens, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are living through possibly the most challenging period of the last 80 years. There is no right or wrong way to deal with it. You will have bad days, but you’ll have good days too.
If you would like more advice about anything discussed in this post, if you’re struggling to cope or have suggestions that you think may help others, please get in touch, either by posting a comment or by way of email. And above all else, stay safe!