Palau's well-known Jellyfish Lake is home to millions of Mastigias papua etpisoni, a truely unique subspecies of golden jellyfish. During one of the earth's glacial periods when sea levels were hundreds of metres lower than they are today, the golden jellyfish became trapped within one of isolated marine lakes on Eil Malk island. Now famously known as jellyfish lake, a popular tourist attraction for divers, one that I have been fortunate enough to witness for myself.
Over time the golden jellyfish were forced to adapt to their 'new' environment. Through regressive evolution their long trailing tentacles once vital to protect the floating predator became superfluous with the shorter remaining tentacles now only used to capture zooplankton for food. Whether you believe in the theory of evolution or not, your can't deny that the Golden Jellyfish were able to adapt and flourish.
Why am I telling you this? It's no denying that our lives in 2020 have considerably changed and just like the Golden Jellyfish we are being forced to adapt to our new environment, our way of living, our world. I want to urge people not to look back to the past but instead focus on the silver lining a become excited about a healthy and happy future.
While it's certainly not possible to always avoid stressful situations, via building resilience we can strengthen our capacity to cope both mentally and physically with tough times enhances our ability to navigate through uncertainties, unexpected challenges and overcome new barriers. No one is immune to what is going on but being prepared, thinking and planning ahead, establishing new routines and forming new habits you can regain a sense of control and let go of some out that anxiety and tension. Remember what you spoke about before COVID-19?
Create a weekly planner with the people you live with to help create some sort of normality. Stick to it as much as possible but keep in mind it needs to be flexible for last minute challenges. Schedule time for school, study or work, exercise, news time, family and or partner time, mindfulness, relaxation, sleeping, preparing and cooking healthy meals and don't forget some fun. Think quality over quantity. If you find you (or the kids) don't focus well in the morning spend some time outside first or break up the day with a walk in your local park (remember Vitamin D is essential for healthy immune systems). You're the biggest role model kids have so if you're stressed and anxious it's likely your kids (and/or partner) will be too. Incorporate other activities into your day like some gardening, growing your own food is a great way to learn and appreciate where food comes from and learning to how to cook. Get out some board or card games or backyard cricket for some family fun, get creative with some art or crafts or learn a new skill such as language or playing guitar. This allows you to focus on something else and calm your nervous system.
Now lay the foundations for good health. Just like the Golden jellyfish who risk being attacked by their endemic sea anemone if the get too close to the edge of the lake, we must also continue to keep our physical distance. This DOES NOT mean socially isolating ourselves. Maintain close relationships by phone call, text or online catch ups. We must prioritise our mental health. To help minimise negative thoughts and stress try limiting the time spent watching news and using social media. Instead have a designated time to watch or read news from reputable sources and have family discussions about what's going on, acknowledge any new stressors that have emerged and discuss ways together that you can deal with them.
Exercise daily to strengthen your immune system, stress response and hormone function. Try and get your heart rate up at least 3 times per week as well as including some stretching or yoga practice. Use the time you would have spent driving to and from work to go for a walk outside in nature or do a home workout. Be innovative, all you really need is your body weight and perhaps some stairs or chairs to get in a decent work-out. There's loads of apps available but if you can continue to support your local gym or exercise class, most of them have gone virtual.
Food prep is also a must so that you have healthy snacks to reach for (especially when working and studying at home). Refined sugar is our enemy when it comes to stress and immune function! Planning meals in advance will take out the guess work when grocery shopping and ease feeling overwhelmed during the morning or afternoon rush. Making bulk amounts of food is a great idea so you have a nice home-cooked meal ready when you don't feel up to cooking, I try and use my slow-cooker at least once a week so dinner is ready when I get home from work and theres always left-overs for lunch the next day. Ensure you always have a few staples to whip up something in a flash like eggs, (BPA free) cans of legumes, some whole grains like buckwheat, quinoa or rice, quality coconut and extra virgin olive oils, a pack of frozen veg and some dried herbs and spices. Aim to eat as wholesome, seasonal and organic as possible, ensuring you are consuming good quality protein, lean meats, healthy fats, and an abundance of veg and fruits (TIP: brassicas & citrus are in season now). Remember the bigger variety you eat the more essential nutrients (these are the ones you can only get through diet) and antioxidants you will have ready to fight off any stress or infections. Plus load up on immune boosting and anti-inflammatory foods like garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, thyme, oregano, fenugreek, bone/veg & mushroom broths, leafy greens, avocado, nuts and seeds and if you can tolerate it some fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi or miso.
Remember to listen to your body and aim to prioritise quality sleep (see my last blog post). Sleep is a time for the 3 R's: relaxation, rejuvenation and restoration. Set a daily intention to keep positive and grounded, such as remember to breathe, eating mindfully, focus on your posture, get outside for 20 minutes or simply to laugh and remember to have fun. Give your body some love too, try dry body brushing, give yourself a facial or mani/pedi or a relaxing foot bath.
Like the Golden Jellyfish, we are forced to adapt, but we too can flourish. Slowing down and learning how to appreciate the smaller things in life like quality time with partners, family and friends, how nice is feels to be outside in the sunshine, the value of daily exercising, practicing good personal hygiene, prioritising our health and supporting local businesses and community. If you think you might be lacking in some vital immune boosting nutrients, struggling with stress or anxiety or having difficulty sleeping talk to your natural health care practitioner about getting some supplements to help you through these tougher times and cooler months.
Stay tuned for more info coming about what nutrients and foods you should be eating to support your innate immune system coming soon!