We all know to wash our hands and maintain social distancing. These go without saying now. But how else can we bolster our immune system? How can we maintain our health whether we are healthcare workers rushing into the front lines of battle, or those stuck at home and suffering from isolation and likely facing major economic challenges?
The are many herbs under investigation for potential help with relief of COVID symptoms, but many of them are hard to come by in the West, and even in the East, there have been runs on these similar to toilet paper and eggs in the US. But there are more accessible approaches you can take, often without having to spend much money.
Go outdoors. Science indicates that when we spend time in nature, we have better immune functioning as well as a range of benefits for hypertension and diabetes. In Japan, they have coined the phrase shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing to formalize the activity. If you live in a densely populated urban area like New York, this may be challenging. Perhaps simply opening a window or taking a stroll around the block when few people are out would help. But elsewhere, there are plenty of open spaces where you can keep social distance but still take in fresh air and sunlight.
Do note- if it’s still cold where you are, it’s important from a Chinese Medicine perspective to protect your wei qi. This is your natural defensive energy and it’s thought that cold and pathogens can enter when we leave the back of our neck exposed. I’ve been rocking a scarf probably later in the Spring that most, without any shame. Serving you my best scarfy duck-face below!
Move your body. Incorporate a daily routine of qi gong, yoga, or some other fitness activity. Doing these outside if possible doubles the benefit. Caution- don’t do anything too daring like extreme sports. This isn’t the time to need to go to an ER with injuries!
Connect virtually with others. Studies show that human connections improve immunity. A few weeks ago (e.g. an eternity ago), I forgot people had long conversations on the phone. Now it’s part of a regular daily practice. Social isolation and depression are spiking. Doing the right thing for public health can have negative individual mental health consequences. But taking the opportunity to have more regular phone dates can be a great way to maintain a sense of community. If you need a daily dose of mental health inspiration, follow the Holistic Psychologist on Instragram.
Connect with yourself. Try meditation and once you get the hang of it, make it a daily routine. Dust off your old books on spirituality you forgot about years ago. If you are furloughed or fully out of work, take some time to do the self-care you may have neglected. Think on what your next move will be when this is all over. Were you burned out before? What are your passions? What work can you do in the new economy to come which will have more telework options?
Try to build in some routine, including establishing consistent sleep and wake times. Insomnia is spiking acutely, even as it is well established as a critical factor in immune health. Follow our advice on how to improve sleep and reach out to us if you are struggling.
Adaptogenic Herbs: Many stores (and Amazon) still have relatively affordable teas and tincture with herbs known to reduce stress and ease inflammation (adaptogens). Perhaps the most accessible of these is turmeric, which can also be used in cooking. I have been drinking tulsi tea and ashwaganda tea daily. I like to pair them with citrus as a great vitamin-C containing snack. I generally hate fruit (I know, bring your judgement), but a daily orange has been a staple since the start of this wild time.
There’s no sugar coating the hard times ahead (or already here in some places). We will see great loss both from a humanitarian and economic perspective. No amount of tea or yoga can prevent the challenges ahead. But they can help us try to stay grounded and as healthy as we can during the storm. With love and hope, hang in there, y’all.
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