As we head into another week of winter in Melbourne, and coming out of another lockdown, it once again makes it really evident that we need to look after our health in order to stay strong and resilient.
We have to take responsibility for this because we cannot survive moving in and out of lock down forever.
What can we do?
Here are my top 4 tips based on the science of physiology and psychology, at the cellular level to improve our resiliency.
1. Understand how our bodies work
At the cellular level, COVID-19 and similar diseases are characterized by the disregulation of the inflammatory response by the immune system, excessive oxidative stress, impaired blood flow and cellular function. If our bodies already have an excessive load of oxidative stress, poor blood flow and/or inflammation then we are behind the eight ball before we even start.
Blood that does not flow through the blood vessels effectively will have us experiencing:
- Low energy
- Dull skin
- Cloudy thinking
- Slow recovery following exercise
- Muscle cramps
- Bodily discomfort
Implementing strategies that play a role in improving these will help to improve our resiliency against pathogens that like to challenge us.
2. Improve your levels of nitric oxide (NO)
Exercise and nasal breathing promote the natural production of NO in the body. Nitric oxide is long recognized as one of the most versatile and key regulators of the immune system. It is involved in the control of autoimmune processes and infectious diseases and has been demonstrated to efficiently inhibit the replication of coronavirus in the lab. NO also promotes blood flow by inducing vasodilation. Optimal blood perfusion is critical for normal organ function, wound healing, and exercise performance.
Blood flow provides oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and other signalling metabolites to the cells, and is necessary to remove harmful metabolic waste products. Unfortunately, NO levels decline with age so we really need to be mindful of finding ways to increase its production.
The top foods that promote healthy blood flow and nitric oxide production include beets, apples, pomegranates, grapes and berries (cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries).
3. Decrease unnecessary body inflammation
A healthy level of inflammation is appropriate in our body as a protective mechanism but the problem arises when this level becomes too high.
For most of us, our lifestyle and environment result in:
- consuming too many omega-6 fatty acids
- eating too many processed foods
- excess weight gain
- inadequate amounts of movement
- inadequate amounts of quality sleep
- excess stress
- excess weight gain
All of which result in an increased amount of inflammation. So, by doing the reverse, like cutting out processed foods, drinks and oils, sugar and other common allergenic foods like wheat, gluten and dairy, increase the amount of daily movement, go to bed earlier, mitigate stress and manage your weight, you can help reduce inflammation.
4. Build meaningful relationships with others
Meaningful relationships between people that foster connection, kindness and support have been shown to improve our health and wellbeing. In addition to the quality of one’s social relationships, the number of relationships people have access to during COVID-19 has also been related to well-being. In a study of 902 Austrians surveyed once in late April 2020, researchers found that those who had larger social networks (i.e., a greater number of social connections) reported less stress and worry during the lockdown (Nitschke et al., 2020). These findings suggest that having a team of people to rely on for support, rather than a specific close other, may be protective of well-being during the pandemic.
Reach out to those within your existing network or join groups of similar interests and get connected to a supportive group that can help you navigate your feelings by creating meaningful relationships with others.
There are many things we can do to take control, build resiliency and happiness. All you have to do is decide what choice you will make.