Strategies to Build Resiliency for Our Mind & Body
A major factor in the current situation that has me (and most people that I’ve spoken to) so uneasy is the lack of control and uncertainty. We have no control over what’s going on (I’ve spent many days/weeks in such a funk over this) and though many people are trying to predict the future, the fact is…. no one can. But as I say to all of my clients, what we CAN do is “control the controllables”
So what are those controllables?
We have the POWER to build resiliency of our mindset, our health and our relationships. All of these things build a healthy foundation so when we DO go back into the world, we can do so with a robust immune system and support system.
Seeing that May is mental health awareness month, let’s talk about our mind. Our mind is one powerful thing…it’s essentially a super computer filtering information out/in to do one basic thing: survive. During a stressful time, it is working overtime to gather as much information as it can to keep you alive. This signals our fight, flight or freeze system which pumps our body full or adrenaline and cortisol. This system responds to information that you are reading or hearing, but it is also responding to your thoughts. When we have cortisol pumping through our body non-stop, this has a detrimental effect on our immune system (the very thing we NEED to survive)
So what now?
How do we decrease our stress response in a very stressful time? It seems impossible, right? Well, here are some small changes I have made, that have made a HUGE impact.
1. Control the Amount of Information I’mTaking In
- I check the news once a day to stay informed
- I’ve deleted many apps on my phone to discourage mindless checking or deep dark black holes info gathering
- I’ve asked people to stop sending me articles and videos because I’m preserving my mental health
- I’ve been writing down 3 things I’m grateful for every day
- Write a thank you note to a friend, a mail carrier, your doctor
Gratitude has been shown to have many positive health benefits and it gives the brain something positive to focus on, not negative thoughts or fear
- Deep diaphragmatic breathing even for just 3 slow breaths can decrease the fight or flight response
- Being mindful or paying attention to your breath, even for just a few minutes can help reduce your stress response
- Meditation – I’m a definite work in progress on this one, but I do love Insight Timer for free guided meditations that focus on a wide range or topics and times
You have the power to control your thoughts, information you are taking in, who you communicate with and how you respond to that information…set yourself up for success!
I don’t know about you, but I am usually a lot more fun to be around when I’ve been sleeping well. My moods are more stable, my stress is less and I’m more motivated to make healthy choices. Adequate sleep is also essential for building immunity and reducing that pesky stress hormone, cortisol Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep!
A Few Tips on Better Sleep
- Turn off all blue light before bed…aim for 2 hours before if you can, but even 30min can be helpful
- Give yourself a set bedtime and wake time and stick to it 5-7days/wk
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine (bath, book bed…just like you’re kid!)
- Keep your bedroom cool, quiet and dark
- Limit fluid intake 2hrs before bed
Exercise & Movement
I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it…Movement is Non-Negotiable! Exercise can contribute to general good health and a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. If your choice of exercise is leaving you feeling drained (like you want to go take a nap afterwards) it might be too intense and actually fueling your cortisol response. In that case, offset intense exercise with more restorative movement (walk in nature, gentle stretching, etc). Whatever you choose, make it consistent and enjoyable.
Eat to Support Your Immunity
This isn’t rocket science, but it does work against our instincts to feed ourselves with comfort foods and drinks when life is hard. Ideally, we should limit our intake of inflammatory foods…gluten, sugar, dairy and processed foods most of the time. These foods can lead to excessive inflammation which is counterproductive to your health because the immune response will actually be less precise if you were to get sick. Focus on whole foods: lots of veggies, fruit, lean protein and healthy fats. Real ingredients made at home…(and indulge in a homemade baked good once in a while). Hydration is also important! The recommendation is 1/2 your body weight in ounces…so if you weigh 120lbs…aim for 60oz of water/day. More if you are sweating or nursing.
Health is Wealth
There’s no better time to take control of your health. It’s the only thing we can control directly with how we think, eat, rest and act. Tweaking the things we are already doing (or not doing) can make a world of difference in our wellbeing. Having trouble making those changes or sticking to your plan? Maybe you want to make a change, but are so overwhelmed at where to start, what plan to even follow. I hear you. You don’t need more information, you need to move the needle forward and have some accountability to get you there.
Looking for accountability? I am here to help! Check out the different options available to be on your way to feeling like yourself again!