by Paula M. Anderson
The desperation over when things will return to normal is slowly fading into resignation as the COVID-19 numbers rise by tens of thousands in the US. We have to face it. It’s going to be around for a while.
It is a mistake to look to a vaccine as the total salvation here, because as always, it’s also about how individual choices affect public health. The message to wear a mask is finally starting to stick, but there are other things we can do to help us to ward off illness.
It has everything to do with our level of immunity ~ or energy. For most people, those choices can make a significant difference. So let’s take a look at what takes away from that energy reserve.
Well, eating processed foods, for one thing. I’m quick to add that the current economic situation and reduced job opportunities make it more difficult for families to afford the best food choices, but it doesn’t have to be “all or nothing.” Even if you can just add an apple a day to what you regularly eat, and drink water rather than sodas or power drinks, that’s a start. Not only that, for most people those changes are affordable.
So, as you make food choices, does what you’re choosing add energy or does it take it away? Pop quiz: What delivers more energy – a brownie or a helping of blueberries? Answer: Blueberries. A sugar spike like the one you’d get with a brownie doesn’t count as energy because you end up losing more ground then when you started. But things that are alive, like plants, feed your cells. It’s energy.
Another thing that stifles energy is not moving. That’s a tough one. If you’ve spent your days with TV news in the background and with a sense of malaise that makes it too hard to get off the couch, that’s an energy drain. Add having the family more confined over the past five months, it can be hard to summon what it takes to even get out and take a short walk.
We want a “normal” day where we go out and interact with people, give hugs, go to lunch or get a haircut; where the kids are off to activities or to do things with other kids. A day when you can “take a minute.” A normal one. But the parameters of this virus won’t allow that. Not yet.
So, part of our mental health, also key to our immunity, is to look around and see what’s good about our lives. Feeling grateful about just a few positive things in your life every day can made a difference. That’s energy.
Can you change the fact that we’re in the middle of a pandemic? No. That’s a fact and to stress over it is a waste of your precious energy. But what’s also a fact is that you can shore up your energy, or your immunity, by taking advantage of what’s available to you. A 10-minute or 15-minute walk away from the family, or maybe taking the time with a different family member each time you walk, can result in heart-warming insights. That’s energy. It builds your immunity.
On the other hand, don’t spend time with toxic people, or worse yet, try to change them. That’s an energy drain. Put another way, it sucks (your energy). But defining your own personal boundaries, that shores up your energy. If you try it, you’ll feel it. And, yes, it’s an immunity builder.
Harvesting energy, which translates into immunity, or even a sense of well-being, goes far beyond exercise and diet. Taken alone and out of the context of “what matters to you” is rather bland territory. I have noticed that when I can hear TV news, I feel drained. It’s depressing. So I now include Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke or Gunsmoke as part of my regular viewing. It also occurred to me, as I unloaded the dishwasher for the umpteenth time, that I am now only going to do it once a week. Why? It drains me. Maybe it’s because it feels like this particular chore goes on forever. So now, most days I wash the dishes and let them drain dry on a dish towel. It gives me energy to just do it differently.
But I also get together with friends for backyard visits (wearing masks, of course). That feeds my soul. It gives me energy.
So does a hike in the desert with my dog.
So does reading a good book or watching a funny movie.
Lately, so does cutting my own hair!
Paula M. Anderson is a Certified Health & Wellness Coach, most recently serving patients of Primary Care Partners. She has written and presented on health-related topics in the Grand Valley for many years.