Every time I've gotten together recently with friends or go into the office, someone is fighting off a cold or the flu. Being susceptible to these diseases is bad enough when one has to deal with a long daily "to do" list (a job, family, school, etc.), but when you're a caretaker, you often have extra reason to feel that you don't have time to get sick.
So I was interested in the November issue of body+soul, which features a story entitled, "Stay healthy this season." This article by Courtney Humphries encourages readers to focus on key daily habits that can help to build immunity. She also encourages readers to learn about the immune system.
Not surprisingly, stress is identified as a key factor to be avoided. Humphries noted, "...in a preliminary study published in August, researchers studied people caring for family members with chronic illnesses (a long-term stressor); compared with a control group, the caregivers' white blood cells were less responsive to cortisol and more responsive to a pro-inflammatory compound - leaving their bodies in a state of chronic inflammation."
The body+soul article suggests six steps to boost immunity:
- Manage stress by thinking about how you react to unpleasant events. Then find ways such as developing a practice of meditation, yoga or tai chi that will help you relieve tension.
- Eat well by trying for a 70-percent plant-based diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts as well as protein-rich foods that are low in saturated fat (beans and low-mercury fish such as wild salmon, anchovies and herring. Use garlic, onion, ginger, and spices when you're cooking.
- Exercise for 30 minutes each day.
- Try to eat probiotics such as yogurt with active cultures, miso soup or sauerkraut.
- Choose supplements carefully.
- Get your sleep.
These six steps don't sound like that difficult to implement, but together they can help caregivers enhance their immunity. And maintaining your health during the winter months is one of the best presents you can give not only to yourself, but to the loved one to whom you are a caregiver.