By Jim Schmaltz
If there’s a silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic it’s that people have learned the value of self-care. When all is said and done, health is everything.
Unfortunately, many people don’t practice a lifestyle that prioritizes mental and physical well-being. With the pandemic, people are rethinking their daily habits and their living environment and are putting self-care first. The goal should be to continue these habits long after the current crisis has passed.
So what practices should people put into place to optimize wellness? We reviewed advice from health experts and wellness advocates to identify what you should be doing, including guidance from Victor Conte, SNAC founder and creator of ZMA (a nutritional supplement that boosts your immunity). What he’s learned in a lifetime of both laboratory and field research while overseeing the training of world-class athletes is that the same tools that enhance human athletic performance can also be employed to optimize personal health.
Consider this when creating your at-home self-care program:
Use a pulse oximeter and measure your blood oxygen daily. This may seem a little outside-of-the-box, but blood oxygen is a critical measure of self-care, especially in relationship to Covid-19. Blood oxygen levels will tell you how much circulating oxygen you have in your blood. You can purchase a simple pulse oximeter online or in drug stores at a cost of anywhere from $25 to $70. The small device is noninvasive and measures your blood oxygen levels using your fingertip.
Why is a pulse oximeter important for Covid-19? The virus attacks the respiratory system and can cause hypoxia (low oxygen levels) even if you don’t notice any other symptoms. This effect, known as “silent hypoxia,” can be fatal if it’s not caught in time. According to one article in the The New York Times written by an emergency physician, silent hypoxia may be responsible for a number of deaths that at first weren’t thought to be related to Covid-19. Now, many health experts are recommending that part of your coronavirus defense strategy should include using a pulse oximeter daily to track your oxygen levels.
A normal reading for oxygen levels is 94% to 100%, and if your numbers fall below 90%, you should call your doctor. What’s important is that you know your baseline and notice any trends that suggest a drop in percentage. Some fitness trackers also test for blood oxygen and may be useful.
Take immunity-boosting supplements, especially zinc. As we outlined in this a previous article, taking vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can help provide a powerful boost to your immune system. At the head of the class of these supplements is zinc, a micronutrient with a powerful track record in research studies on immunity in the human body.
While zinc is commonly sold as a standalone product, research suggests that ZMA (zinc-magnesium-aspartate) is a superior delivery system for zinc and there is a synergistic effect from the magnesium and vitamin B6.
Conte also offered his suggestions on an immune boosting stack in a recent video. He recommends you try a combination of ZMA (with 30 mg zinc and 450 mg magnesium); quercetin (500-1,000 mg); vitamin D3 (5,000 IU); and vitamin C (1,000 mg). A recent article by a Canadian doctor who survived Covid-19 also listed many of these nutrients, along with the antioxidants curcumin and resveratrol.
Smart supplementation like that suggested by Conte should be used in conjunction with a healthy whole-food diet with plenty of fresh produce. And you should always have healthy snacks handy. This is NOT the time to develop a taste for potato chips, cookies, and other calorie-dense food products full of sodium and sugar. Snack Nation has an extensive list of creative healthy options that may give you some ideas about improvising nutritious treats for you and your family.
Fill your living space with natural light. In these times of shelter-in-place, you need to find ways to invite natural sunlight into your residence. Studies indicate that the UV rays can help enhance mood and support the balance of other essential biological systems. It will also help regulate your circadian rhythms, which help you sleep. If you live in a place where it’s difficult to let the sunshine inside, consider a UV light box like those designed for seasonal affective disorder. These work well to help you get the proper dose of sunlight that you need, according to health experts at the Mayo Clinic.
Stay Physically Active
There is a lot of evidence that exercise can help strengthen the immune system. Research shows that even simple activities like walking can contribute to improving multiple health markers that support improvements in mental health, energy, stress management, and sleep.
Though gyms and fitness facilities are closed down, you can still take advantage of at-home workout programs promoted by many personal trainers and health clubs that offer streaming workouts. This link provides a list of fitness studios that offer classes online. These YouTube channels are another resource for home exercise routines that don’t require equipment or machines.
Perform deep breathing exercises and meditation. Simple breathing techniques can do wonders for your immune system, according to studies. While these breathing exercises are easy, they require a steady focus.
The most effective breathing styles for activating immune response are from ancient Buddhist cultures and are often linked with mediation. One study found that combining meditation and deep breathing created an even more powerful response.
Try doing focused breathing for 20-30 minutes per day. This can also affect your stress response. Research on deep breathing has discovered that it can help modifying brain circuits to reduce anxiety. Similar findings from researchers have discovered similar benefits on stress response from meditation. Here’s a guide on mindful meditation for beginners.
Learn a new skill or hobby. No doubt you may have more time on your hands. Use it to learn a new skill, which also helps improve cognitive health, according to health experts. It could be learning musical instrument, a new language, or anything else. Keep your mind and fingers busy and enjoy the benefits. Cognitive health is an important factor in stress and immune response. Research has shown that cognitive decline is connected to immune system inflammation.
Stay Connected with Loved Ones and Use Common Sense
Don’t forget to follow regional health and government authorities in your state, county, and city to make sure you’re following local directives, like those from the Centers for Disease Control.
Also, stay connected to your loved ones. We’re all in this together. That saying has never been more true than during this crisis. It’s an irony of a pandemic that we find out just how interconnected we all are at the exact same time we’re mandated to maintain “social-distancing.” But that’s the situation we find ourselves in.
So check in with loved ones often and be grateful for your good health. But self-care first and stay well.