Boosting your immune and emotional health can keep you healthier

As COVID-19 cases plateau across the U.S. and shutdown orders begin to loosen, we’re entering a new phase of COVID-19 prevention. This stage is strange and delicate; if we’re not careful, there could easily be another spike in COVID-19 cases. Although some businesses are reopening, it’s still vital to wear masks and take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. This may be more stressful if you’re immune-compromised since it’s hard to determine what you can and can’t do. Your immune and emotional health are closely linked, however, so self-care remains a vital part of protecting yourself from COVID-19.

Here are 10 self-care tips to help you improve your immune and emotional health as you learn to navigate the changing restrictions.

1. Get enough sleep.

Whether or not you’re able to go back to work, make sure you’re getting between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. You might have to adjust your schedule a little to achieve this, but it’s worth it; regularly getting enough sleep is proven not only to boost your mood and decrease anxiety and depression, but it also boosts your immune system by allowing it to function properly.

2. Stay socially engaged.

You may not want to throw a huge party just yet, but it’s important for you to get a healthy amount of social interaction. Your friends and family are a great source of emotional support; whether you vent to them or just share a laugh on the phone, talking to your loved ones and knowing you have a support system has a wide range of benefits. It boosts your mood and helps you feel loved, as well as less anxious or depressed. Social engagement also boosts your immune system, helping you fight off illnesses, from the common cold to COVID-19, more effectively.

3. Practice top-notch oral hygiene.

Your oral health impacts your overall health on many levels, especially when it comes to gum disease. Severe gum disease allows bacteria to enter into your bloodstream, which can cause infections throughout your body and may even target your immune system, weakening it and making it harder for you to fight off illnesses like COVID-19. This can be a huge problem if you’re already vulnerable to the illness, so it’s vital that you dedicate yourself to practicing great oral hygiene. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day, use mouthwash daily, and floss at least once a day. Certain illnesses make you more susceptible to periodontitis; if this is the case for you, talk to Dr. Allred about what extra steps you can take to prevent or treat gum disease.

4. Keep your mind busy.

Stress can hinder your immune system, so if you’re not quite able to go back to work yet, you can lower your stress levels by keeping your mind busy. Take advantage of the free lessons that many companies, like LinkedIn Learning, are offering to improve your work-related skills or learn a new hobby.

5. Eat a healthy diet.

Your body needs certain amounts of vitamins and minerals to function at its best. If you’re not sticking to a balanced, healthy diet that gives you enough of these nutrients, your mood, energy levels, and immune function will be negatively affected. You don’t have to swear off sweets entirely, but you should stick to a balanced diet with lean proteins, plenty of fruits and vegetables, dairy, and whole grains. Additionally, you can help keep the gut bacteria that aid your immune function healthy by eating foods naturally high in probiotics and prebiotics.

6. Perform an act of kindness.

Whether you pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line, wash your spouse’s car, or cook a special meal for a loved one, performing an act of kindness can make you feel happier, reduce stress levels, and improve your self-esteem while reducing negative emotions like anger, depression, and anxiety; as a result, it also boosts your immune system. Small, simple acts of kindness, like letting someone cut in line or helping them pick up items they dropped, can give you this boost just as well as large ones can—and you’ll likely make someone else’s day in the process!

7. Go outside every day.

Dozens of studies have shown that spending time outside lowers stress levels, boosts your immune system, and lowers your blood pressure; making time for it regularly can even have long-lasting health benefits, such as helping you sleep longer at night and reducing your risk of developing heart disease or type II diabetes. As a result, it’s important to find the time to spend at least a few minutes outside each day, even if you’re busy.

8. Exercise daily.

It’s well-known that regular exercise is great for your overall health, but it also boosts your immune system and benefits your emotional health. Exercising aids your immune system by raising your body temperature enough to potentially disrupt harmful bacteria in your body and encouraging white blood cells to circulate through your body more rapidly, helping them detect invading bacteria faster. It also lowers the levels of stress hormones in your body and triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin, which boosts your mood, reduces your stress levels, and helps you feel accomplished. Exercising regularly allows you to benefit from these effects daily, improving your physical and mental health in countless ways.

9. Prioritize your to-do list and learn to say no.

Lower your daily stress levels by setting realistic expectations for how much you’re going to get done each day and prioritizing tasks in order of urgency; this saves you from rushing to finish vital tasks at the last moment. No one can do everything, so turn down commitments you don’t have time for. Managing your time like this will help you be more productive and efficient, improving your emotional and immune health while potentially helping you have more free time at the end of each day.

10. Let yourself relax and have fun.

One of the best ways to improve your immune and emotional health is also one of the simplest: Let yourself relax and have fun! Take a little time out of your day to relax and have fun; read, watch TV, watch comedy sketches, or have a good laugh with your family. Relaxing and having fun—especially laughing—is proven to improve your mood and stress levels, which, in turn, will benefit your immune system.

Although it may seem strange that your immune and emotional health are so closely linked, recognizing this fact can help you protect yourself against COVID-19 as restrictions begin to lift across the nation. Additionally, building and sticking to these healthy habits can benefit your physical and mental health for the rest of your life.

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