How to Prioritize Your Health and Develop Healthy Routines - Integrative Family Medicine of Asheville

How to Prioritize Your Health and Develop Healthy Routines

During this stressful time, you may be wondering “what can I do to stay healthy?”  The good news is that most of us find ourselves with a little extra time these days. You can take advantage of this time and make small lifestyle adjustments which have the potential to yield enormous dividends in both your mental and physical health. With a little regularity, positive habits you develop now yield improved health for the long-term.

Please keep in mind that the recommendations below are in addition to the current recommendations that emphasize regular hand washing, social distancing, stopping non-essential travel, and reaching out to your provider if you develop symptoms.

MOVEMENT IN THE TIME OF “STAY HOME, STAY HEALTHY”

In a perfect world we would get our exercise and quiet / meditation time in the morning. If you tell yourself that you will wait until later in the day, there is a good chance that multiple things will get in your way. Put yourself first, at the beginning of the day!

    • Set a goal for yourself to get up every morning and move your body. We know that you can no longer go to the gym or your favorite exercise class, but there are now multiple online options to do online class or you can get outside for a lovely – walk, hike, run, or bike ride out in the fresh air.
    • Here are a few online workout options: Fitness Blender, Yoga with Adrienne, The Fitness Marshall. Also, check with your local gym/coach as many people have moved to online platforms for their members.
    • Moving your body on a daily basis will keep your immune system and mind WELL
    • New habits require repetition: Practice makes permanent, not perfect!
    • Moderate, regular physical activity helps to boost immune system function and decrease stress hormones. Establish and follow an exercise program to not only help prevent respiratory infections, but also to improve cognitive and physical resilience.
    • Movement enhances feel good hormones like dopamine and endorphins; this helps to improve mood and reduces stiffness, aches and pains. If possible, work out near nature.

SLEEP

    • Sleep is your body’s first defense against infectious disease. Shorter sleep duration increases the risk of infectious illness. Adequate sleep also ensures the secretion of melatonin, a molecule which may play a role in reducing coronavirus virulence.
    • Try to get 6-8 hours of sleep nightly
    • Make sure you have a nightly routine to alert your body that it’s time to go to bed. This can include:
      • Turning off screens 1+ hour before bed
      • Dimming the lights around the house
      • Drinking calming tea and/or meditating for several minutes
      • Reading a fun or calming book, either in bed or in a chair
    • Melatonin: Melatonin has been shown to be anti-inflammatory. It also reduces oxidative lung injury and inflammatory cell recruitment during viral infections. Dose ranges from 5-20 mg/24 hours. Take before bed.
    • Please see this comprehensive list of recommendations for improved sleep.

STRESS MANAGEMENT

    • Chronic stress and anxiety make you more likely to catch a cold or become ill. Reducing stress isn’t just good for your mental health, it also improves your body’s immune response.
    • Avoid Information Overload: Set appropriate boundaries for researching, take deep breaths and acknowledge that no one has all the answers.
    • Practice Gratitude: In times of uncertainty or worry, negative thoughts can dominate. Practicing gratitude can help your mind remember the positive elements of your life and, if your gratitude is shared, may have a ripple effect of increased positivity.
      • Tip—write an email, text, or letter to someone who has had a positive impact on your life
      • Tip—keep a running list of things you are grateful for on a daily basis
    • Try Meditating: For some people, daily mindfulness meditation has an enormous positive impact not only on mental health but also on physical health.
    • Please read this blog post for more insight on working with stress and anxiety.

EAT NUTRIENT-DENSE WHOLE FOODS

    • Now more than ever is time to eat a whole-food, nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet. Vegetables and fruits provide a repository of flavonoids that are a cornerstone of an anti-inflammatory diet. Aim for 10 servings per day and include fermented vegetables or other probiotic containing foods.
    • Eat the Rainbow! Here is a helpful guide to remind us of the different kinds and colors of food we can get in our diet. Aim to eat one item from each color each day. And, you may be able to get creative depending on what’s available at your local grocer.
    • Avoiding hyper-processed foods, sugars, and alcohol will help keep your immune system focused and primed to battle inflammation and keep you vibrant.
    • Inflammation is the #1 common denominator between all chronic disease!

STAY CONNECTED

    • Numerous studies have shown that connection to others is vitally important to our overall health, including a healthy immune system.
    • Studies on the Blue Zones (communities around the world with the highest percentages of people who live to 100+ years old) show that people live longer when they are connected and supported by a community.
    • Healthy connections, or those that are uplifting and positive, bolster our immune systems, while those that are non-supportive can hinder our abilities to fight off infection.
    • The elderly are at an increased risk of isolation. We encourage virtual visits with friends, family, or faith/spiritual communities.

GET OUTSIDE AND ENJOY NATURE

    • Research shows that humans thrive in nature; sunshine decreases risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stress.
    • Sunshine increases active Vitamin D in our bodies, which helps signal our immune system to fight off infection
    • Stress Reduction: time in nature means more time focusing on yourself and allows a disconnect from the go, go, go of our daily lives.
    • Improved Sleep: sunshine exposure helps with the production of melatonin, which promotes a natural circadian sleep rhythm.

CREATIVITY

    • When was the last time you didn’t smile while dancing? Turns out, tapping into that creative energy can actually improve your overall health.
    • Being creative is essential for human health — it increases happiness (think flow state), reduces dementia, anxiety, depression and stress, boosts your immune system AND keeps you smarter!
    • Creativity can take many shapes, and the point is to explore new ways of doing or looking at things. Try not to be attached to the outcome when you’re experimenting and being creative. Whether you’re trying out new recipes, learning a new craft or art skill, growing a garden, starting new house projects, or learning a language, the important thing is that you’re trying something new; if won’t be perfect right away and that is OK!