Health & Wellness: Lowering stress to battle COVID-19

Health & Wellness: Lowering stress to battle COVID-19
(file photo)

By Cathy Canfield

I’ve recently heard from many of the parents I work with regarding concerns about their child being vulnerable because they have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine. I’d like to share with you what you can do for your child and yourself to protect everybody while children are not receiving the vaccine. Many, if not all, of these measures boost your family members’ immune system naturally and support a healthy mood, decreasing anxiety and depression systems.

Anything that healthily decreases stress will allow for a stronger immune system. Why? Because when we are in a state of stress, our body turns its efforts toward potential defense of a threat. This stress response suppresses our immune system. Our body only has so much fuel, and it will prioritize survival over anything else.

The year 2020 was unlike any other, to say the least. In mid-2021, we are still very much living in a pending stress, long-term crisis mode. I worry that, unless we are prepared, we are going to crash both physically and mentally once we come out on the other side of this stress-inducing time. This makes it more relevant and vital than ever to support you and your child’s immune system and nervous systems.

Healthy stress relief should be part of our daily routines. We don’t wait until our teeth have cavities to start brushing them, do we? At least, I hope not. So, do not wait until you are completely stressed before you take action. It does not matter what exactly you do to relax, as long as it is not harmful to your health in other ways – excessive drinking, for example. “Have fun, relax, get lost in the moment.” That is what your body is telling you. This alone will help boost your immune system. Your body needs space created by stress relief for healing.

Some other mood and immune supporting healthy habits include getting enough sunlight every day and/or taking a Vitamin D supplement. Vitamin C, found in lots of citrus fruits, is another great supplement you can explore for yourself and your family. Even the smell of citrus essential oils has been found to be a natural mood booster.

The basic building blocks of a healthy body are not to be missed. Foundationally, we all need to be getting a good night’s sleep, hydrating and exercising.

If you are not sleeping well, I urge you to make this your top priority. We desperately need this time for rest and repair, and much of our cellular repair is done while we sleep. Muscle repair, brain detoxification and relief from stress hormones that we often experience during the day are all really important processes our bodies do while sleeping, so make sure you’re getting enough Zs.

Meditation has been proven to increase melatonin, seratonin, GABA and more. These all help with a good night’s sleep, inducing happy feelings, calming sensations and even helping to improve your immune system. Meditation is not just about the lack of stress – it is the space provided for healing and health.

I cannot write this article and not speak to the importance of connecting with nature. Be it breathing fresh air, putting your bare feet in grass, cooking with fresh food, looking at the stars or taking your activities outdoors, make sure to spend some time with nature. Dopamine, a feel-good hormone, is released just by seeing plants, and dirt releases dopamine when it touches our skin.

If you are just skimming to the end, here it is for you: hydrate, meditate, spend time in nature, have fun and research foods and supplements that upgrade your mood and immune system. Be good to yourself. It could make the difference for you and your children in the fight against COVID-19.

The writer is director of Counseling of Alexandria, a small counseling practice that has served the Alexandria community since 2011.