During the lockdown, many folks are at home glued to the news. Staying informed is important, but keeping our stress levels in check is critical.
This week, Feel Better Now is going to inform you of how stress affects your overall health - including immunity - and what you can do to reduce stress during challenging times.
In Psychology Today, Dr. Andrew Goliszek states, “If we’re not able to change our response to stressors, we’ll find ourselves in a constant hormonal battle that will lead to serious health issues like hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. The brain and the immune system are in constant communication in this delicate balance that can be disrupted by any kind of physical or emotional stress.”
During the current global crisis, stress is a given. Feeling scared and defeated, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of sitting at home, binge watching ominous news reports, limiting our experience of fresh air and healthy movement, and feeling immobilized by anxiety. For better health and immunity, we need to break that pattern.
If we do not change that pattern, once healthy people will become unhealthy, while those with existing immunodeficiency will worsen their situations. Something has got to give if we are going to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Here are some simple tips to help reduce stress:
Limit your consumption of news media - and be strategic about this. Mornings are a crucial time of day. What you expose yourself to when you awake establishes your mental and emotional tone for the day. That said, the healthiest choice you can make is to dedicate your mornings to the nourishment of your body, mind, and spirit.
Stressful news is not nourishing, so that is not a morning option if you really want to start the day with health as a priority.
Upon waking up, consider this:
Since your body was either lying or sitting for hours on end while you tried to sleep, it is craving movement in the morning. Your mind may not think so, but the mind is always talking us out of what is best for us, so leave it behind for a minute and tune into your body.
Your body needs optimal blood and oxygen flow for bones, joints, tissues, and organs to properly function. Movement is required to achieve that optimal flow.
This functionality is necessary for a healthy immune system. Movement increases blood flow throughout our bodies, and that blood carries oxygen throughout our bodies.
Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to every other cell in the body.
Breathing and moving will lift your spirits because the cells of your body are literally invigorated by these intentional actions.
Additionally, intentional breath and movement releases endorphins (chemicals and hormones) which are scientifically shown to enhance your mood, melt anxiety, and uplift depression. That means reduced stress, which boosts immunity.
Most people hear the word, “movement,” and think “exercise.” However, healthy movement does not require lifting weights or running. For health, we just need to move the way our bodies were designed to move.
Thousands of years ago, before the age of technology, humans were hunters and gatherers. Our bodies were designed for a life of regular movement and constant connection with the earth.
Before we had cars, chairs, and shoes, humans were always touching the earth with their feet, they were feeling the sensations of wind, rain, and sun on their skin. Our senses were always being stimulated by the natural world, which kept us in sync with our environment, and rooted in the present moment.
Stress and anxiety are lowest when we our minds and senses are rooted in the present moment.
The age of electronics has interfered with our ability to experience deep presence. As we watch television or sit on our computers and phones, our minds and emotions are being pushed and pulled by every piece of information that scrolls across the screen. This sends our minds into a cycle of overthinking, of judging what is happening in the world, of worrying about what will happen. In other words: our modern lifestyles are wiring us for stress, and stress breaks down the immune system.
Therefore, to reduce stress and boost immunity, limit your consumption of stress-inducing media and electronics to a few hours per day.
The best time of day to consume media is in the afternoon. This will help set the tone for your day by using the mornings to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.
(Avoid consuming media before bed because this will just stimulate the mind and interfere with your sleep. Sleep is so vital to health and immunity).
Move your body in the morning to boost your health, immunity, and spirit.
Try these fun ways of moving:
Turn on your favorite music and dance with your kids. If you do not have kids, just pretend you are a kid and dance your heart out.
Go for a walk. As you walk, practice dimensional breathing (see the previous installment of Feel Better Now).
Practice becoming very aware of the sensations of your feet touching the earth (even better if you are barefoot).
Be intentional about smelling the air, feeling the texture of the trees and leaves as you rub your hands on them, and sense the sensation of the air on your skin.
Touch any nearby water and notice its temperature.
Listen to the birds as if you have never heard them before.
Be still and present with these sensations. Do not rush.
If you are wheel chair bound or bed ridden, practice moving what you can move to your favorite music. This will still increase blood flow, oxygen, and endorphins.
Also, if you cannot walk, then focus on your breath, close your eyes, and imagine that you are taking a walk in your favorite outdoor scene.
Scientific studies have shown that when we engage the senses while visualizing an experience, the brain and body respond as if they are actually having that experience. Blood and oxygen flow increase and endorphins are released all the same. This can help reduce stress and boost immunity, even if you cannot move – you just have to use your imagination and engage your senses.
Engaging the senses will bring you fully into the present moment, helping to calm your mind and nervous system.
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