Self-isolation has turned our normal daily routines on their head and with everything that’s going on, it’s no surprise that we’re feeling a little more stressed than usual. And so, it’s more important than ever to ensure we are keeping our immune systems up to the job of protecting us and keeping us safe from illness!
Nutritionist Sarah Green is the Deputy Chair of the British Association of Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine. She aims to help people stay healthy using a balanced and nutrient filled diet. Here are some of her top tips for staying healthy during self-isolation, through food, sleep, movement and stress management.
With many of us stuck at home and watching lots of TV, we might be more tempted than ever to reach for those unhealthy snacks. Being out of a regular routine might mean we’re eating differently to how we normally do, but we still need to get those veggies in! Sarah recommends having half your plate as veggies and salad twice a day, and lots of fruit. Aim to “eat the rainbow” so that you can get as many different colours on your plate as possible (Sarah explains this concept more in her Food & Nutrition series).
If you’re a meat-eater, eating grass-fed/free-range meat and chicken, and sustainably caught fish is the best way to get your protein, which is essential to help our bodies function properly.
Plus, Sarah recommends trying to avoid sugary, refined foods and “white and beige” foods. Wholegrain varieties of carbohydrates are a much better option, which is something to keep in mind with most of us purchasing more non-perishable foods like rice and pasta. Instead, consider buying pantry items such as tinned beans, peas, salmon, sardines and tuna.
Sleep is extremely important in keeping us healthy and able to deal with whatever daily tasks or challenges we face.
Sarah suggests 7-9 hours as the optimal time to sleep per night. A top trick for getting the best night sleep possible? Turn off your screens (phone, laptop, computer) as early as you can! These screens confuse our bodies by making them think it’s daytime and thus preventing the production of Melatonin, which is a very important and powerful repair molecule…
If you were looking for an excuse to get some more sleep, this is it. It is absolutely essential to your health.
3. Movement and nature
In case you didn’t know, the government says that we can go for one walk or run a day, and we should all be making use of that! Fill your lungs with fresh air and stretch your legs, as gentle exercise boosts immune functions.
Sarah suggests that even moving within your own space, your home or garden with the windows open, is conducive to helping us feel better.
4. Stress management
Keeping stress under control is essential for keeping our immune systems strong! The immune system drives stress, so we don’t want to keep it occupied with that, but rather in reserve for “fighting bugs”.
This is, of course, is easier said than done when you’re shut inside all day or worrying about your job or relatives.
Luckily Sarah’s shared her top tips for managing stress. Breathing techniques like 4, 7, 8 or 4, 4, 4, listening to music from your childhood, practicing yoga or watching a funny show can all help us take a step back. You could even give an app a try, as Headspace and Calm have lots of different breathing exercises and guided meditations to help you switch off and just breathe! Journaling can also be a great relaxation technique.
Taking a little extra care with your diet, sleep, movement and stress management is the most powerful tool to help you stay healthy while staying home.
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