Maintaining Optimal Health & Immunity During COVID-19

By Zenergy Personal Trainer, Cory Duffy

When discussing health and fitness, it’s easy to overlook what I believe is the key to your overall health: your mindset.

Your mindset is even more important during difficult times like we’re experiencing now. Our lives have been turned upside down, and many of us feel stressed and unnerved. Our routines have been disrupted and we have new roles and tasks to juggle, plus all the added worry about our health, our jobs, and our community.

Who wouldn’t be anxious and stressed? But what does that stress do and how do we mitigate it?

As you may know, our bodies have two major systems (in the Autonomic Nervous System) composed of our Sympathetic (Fight or Flight) and Parasympathetic (Rest and Digest)systems. When we experience acute stress, our Fight or Flight system is engaged, releasing powerful hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol to prepare us to either stay and deal with the threat or run away to safety.

These “fight or flight” hormones can make you near superhuman, but this acute stress response comes at a price and can put your body out of balance if you remain there too long.

To make us faster, stronger and more alert in times of stress, our body takes resources from other important areas, like our reproductive and immune systems. After all, who really needs them when we are running from a tiger?

What’s more, the elevated levels of cortisol in our system can dramatically impact our sleep. Typically, you end the night and go to sleep with low levels of cortisol and, throughout the night, those levels slowly increase, and you wake up. But if you go to bed with elevated levels due to daily stressors, you will reach that waking phase way too early and have a very difficult time getting back to sleep or getting the deep sleep needed for recovery.

Why does that matter now? Well, losing just two hours of sleep in one night has the potential to reduce the efficiency of your immune system by nearly 30 percent.

Not good, especially right now. So what to do?

FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES

Begin with your mindset and find some balance. Of course, there are things to worry about in the world, but there are also tons of opportunities and good things to focus on. Ensure you give them at least as much attention as the 24-hour news cycle.

STICK TO A SCHEDULE

Put your mind to work with daily tasks and get back into a routine. Simply creating a list each day or blocking out times in your calendar for the daily tasks helps you get back onto a schedule. We are creatures of habit, and simply getting back to any routine will help ease our minds and help eliminate some daily stress.

ADAPT YOUR ENVIRONMENT

You’re at home more now, which may seem foreign. Take this time to redesign your environment so it is less stressful and works with your new reality. Set up your new home office, have relaxing music on (or noise cancelling headphones) and anything else that puts your mind in a positive frameset.

ESTABLISH A SLEEP ROUTINE

Add sleep to your daily routine list and schedule in a solid 8 to 9 hours each night. I personally recommend taking it a step further and creating a sleep routine about 30 minutes prior to bedtime. This could be anything from no electronics one hour prior to bed, reading for 30 minutes, journaling, aromatherapy, cooling down your bedroom, taking a bath or anything else that helps you relax and get ready for a good night of deep, restorative sleep. Sleep is the foundation of building the anti-fragile body and mind, and once you have set that foundation, you are ready to build.

EAT THE RIGHT FOODS

Be sure that you eat a healthy diet, which right now could be more challenging. I work with clients around the globe and have found that there are incredible meal delivery services available almost anywhere. If you are lazy or pressed for time, like me, this is a healthy and easy option.

MAINTAIN AN EXERCISE PROGRAM

Daily exercise is key to maintaining good health. It’s also a great stress reducer and mood enhancer. While the gym may be closed, you can do online classes (check out the offerings at Zenergy to Go) or get out for social-distancing bike rides and hikes. Developing a modified workout program that fits into your lifestyle and reaches your goals is essential.

REDUCE YOUR STRESS

Mental stress is not all bad but too much can affect your sleep and more importantly right now your body’s ability to protect itself. There are some great mindfulness strategies out there such as yoga and meditation. Beyond that there are also some incredible natural supplements that help reduce stress and anxiety.

This is a new routine for all of us. While there are things that we may miss about our old lives, it gives us the opportunity to look at our old routines and optimize them. Things will get back to normal eventually, and when they do, remember to take the chance to optimize your life again. Improve each and every day.

-CD