By Amy Fox, Manager of Product Nutrition & Quality at Navitas Organics
Over the past few weeks, we've all been waking up in the morning to new realities. Our world has changed significantly, and in some cases, permanently. Some have lost loved ones or their sense of security due to lost income. Others are completely reimagining their businesses in order to stay afloat. Some are adjusting to working from home for the first time. Others are trying to do this with kids at home. We may, at times, feel isolated at home alone, and other times, may get stir crazy surrounded by others at home. The gamut of thoughts, fears, and emotions is large, and I’m sure we’re feeling all of them in turns. We empathize with all of these things. We digest so many things every day—not just the food we eat, but the media we consume, the movement or activity we gift ourselves (or don’t), the narratives we choose to mentally fixate on rather than compost or throw away. As we on Team Navitas continue to share pieces of wisdom with one another while we all do our best to stay well, we wanted to extend some of these thoughts and tips to you. The secret? The most effective way to support your immunity is to support your whole self.
For those of you who are familiar with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this story may sound all too familiar (keep reading if you’re not, I'll explain)—as Harry, Ron and Hermione are out hunting Horcruxes, avoiding Voldemort’s minions and listening to the constant stream of radio updates for any update on missing loved ones, they begin to go a little mad with all the stress and negativity. I’m feeling a bit like that right now. Many of us have been spending far more time tuning into our news outlets than we normally do. Yes, it is important to stay up to date on the continuously changing information from our health experts like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as instructions from our local government about what is happening in our area. It is equally important to take a breather from the constant stream of what is largely bad news right now. This probably looks different for everyone, but the overarching theme is limit (non-work-related) screen time. Check in with your news outlet of choice once or twice a day, spend less time scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and more time engaging with your loved ones and pets or taking a walk outside.
There are an overwhelming number of studies that show stress can inhibit our immune systems. Both acute and chronic stress can lower our bodies’ production of our immune system’s natural killer cells, which fight viruses (the COVID-19 illness is caused by the virus SARS-Cov-2), among other things. This is a stressful time and it may not be possible to completely escape that; it simply means that consistently practicing self-care and stress management techniques—every day, if possible—is more vital now than ever. So where do we begin?
Acknowledging that you are feeling stressed is an important first step. From there, you can select any or all of the following practices to help keep your mind and your nervous system more at peace—which will help your immune system stay strong rather than taxing its resources to manage your stress.
Get adequate sleep! Most of us need seven to eight hours of sleep per night. While we most often associate sleep with providing energy for the next day, our bodies also need deep, restful sleep in order to facilitate repairs. Without this regular maintenance, we’re much more likely to get sick when exposed to viruses and bacteria. Our time and quality of sleep also affects how quickly we recover because our infection-fighting antibodies are reduced when we aren’t getting enough sleep.
Taking deep breaths is one of the simplest ways to reduce stress—and it’s more restorative than we even realize. Breathing with long, slow inhales and exhales literally sends signals to the nervous system telling it that you’re safe, which, in turn, limits the stress chemicals (like cortisol) that your body releases. This is hugely important in maintaining immunity! Make time to be still and quiet or meditate with free apps like Insight Timer. There are some great guided meditations available at your fingertips!
No, you probably can’t go to the gym right now, but you can still keep your body moving. Go outside for a walk, hike or run (alone or with the person/people you live with) and breathe in the outside air for a refreshing change. If you prefer to stay indoors, there are countless streaming services that offer yoga or other group exercise classes online. Clear a space in front of your computer or TV and stretch or do body-weight exercises along with others who are also at home. If you own fitness equipment or have a home gym set up, use it! We will be posting yoga from teachers we work with on our social media channels over the next few weeks if you need a place to start.
4. Be Intentional About Your Content Consumption
If you are going to be in front of a screen, watch something light, funny or uplifting. The Chicago Zoo is currently streaming videos of penguins wandering around the empty zoo, checking out the other animals (it’s pretty entertaining TBH). Also, cat videos (nothing more needs to be said here). Or whatever makes you smile!
5. Pamper and Play
Take a long bath and/or make yourself a face mask (there are tons of DIY recipes online that use pantry staples that are great for skin, including oats, chickpea flour, Cacao, and Turmeric!). Try out new recipes. Start a puzzle with your family. Read books. Journal or draw. Do your best to make your time at home feel more like a staycation than a quarantine.
6. Stay Socially Connected
Connect with your people! Studies have shown that loneliness is a predictor of poor health, as well as poor outcomes during recovery from illness and injury. Take time to talk to the people at home with you, but really talk, not just day-to-day task-related conversations. Reach out via FaceTime or other video chat to see people outside your home. Call the elderly people in your life and give them some connection, too! Remember, just because we have to physically distance ourselves from others right now, doesn’t mean we can’t still stay socially connected.
Okay, since we are a food company, I would be remiss if I failed to mention food and its relationship to our immune health. Certain types of foods like sugar and alcohol can reduce the ability of our white blood cells to fight infection. Other foods, especially those rich in vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats (what we call superfoods!) help build the components of our immune system. With extra time at home, we encourage you to try new things in the kitchen. Test out new recipes, taste different fruits and vegetables that you wouldn’t normally eat, or make warm, hearty foods like soups and stews. And, of course, Navitas Organics superfoods like Vanilla & Greens Essential Blend, Camu Powder, and Immunity Boost are great shelf-stable options to have on hand and offer powerful immune support, thanks to their impressive vitamin C content. They make perfect smoothie add-ins or can even be incorporated into simple recipes like those found on the Navitas website. For an even simpler way to get those healthy fats, plant protein and fiber, Chia Seeds and Hemp Seeds make great salad toppers and yogurt or granola mix-ins.
The majority of our team (with the exception of our field sales team members) has always worked together as one close unit at our headquarters in Novato, California, but we have all been working from home since mid-March. This makes our workday look dramatically different than it did before. We’re trying to remember that even when we were in the office, we weren’t at our desks eight hours a day—we’d get up, walk around, interact with our peers—so do the same at home. Can you IM or video chat with your co-workers? Do it!
Pay attention to when your body is telling you it’s time to get up and stretch or get something to eat. Do a few push-ups or jumping jacks to get your blood flowing in the middle of a long stretch of calls or emails. You can even dance it out to your favorite song (no one’s looking!). Even a few minutes of movement will do wonders for your body’s health and your mind’s ability to focus on your work once you return to it.
Some of you have young kids at home and need to flex your work hours around their needs, so communicate with your employer and your work team about what you need to do to make working from home feasible for you.
I’m noticing that where I used to have a long commute, I now have free time. I can sleep a little later, take more time to cook a meal than I would normally have during the week or read a book I’ve been wanting to read. Relish the newly freed up time you may find in your days and choose to do something intentional and meaningful with it—and that includes rest and play!
Of course, these are all just thoughts and ideas. Please take what resonates with you most and leave what doesn’t. But whatever you do to pass this time, stay well, stay socially connected and stay physically distant.