Life screeched to a halt this spring, courtesy of a pandemic.
Although “unprecedented” described COVID-19 circumstances, stressful seasons -- physical, emotional, or both -- can happen anytime. How do you prepare for them?
If you’re looking to manage stress better or build your immune system, San Jacinto College instructors offer some ideas.
Fitness: Aim for realistic
Exercise. It not only busts stress and depression symptoms but can also reduce sickness.
See your home and nature as your gym. Start with a walk around the block. Then build to 30-60 minutes of daily moderate exercise, breaking into chunks, if needed.
Trenton Denton, physical education professor, shares this adaptable rotation:
- Monday: Cycling
- Tuesday: Strength training
- Wednesday: Yoga
- Thursday: Walking
- Friday: Strength training
- Saturday: Water aerobics
- Sunday: Recovery/flexibility
Most importantly, choose doable goals.
“Discipline is the key to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Denton said. “Focus on the benefits of exercise and set and achieve realistic goals.”
If you rarely exercise, consult your physician first.
Diet: Plan to win
Partnering with exercise is a healthy diet, which fuels your body and mind. Whether you’re grabbing takeout or opening the fridge, plan ahead to avoid unhealthy food traps.
“Let’s face it: we eat whatever is the fastest solution once we reach lunch and we’re hungry,” Andrea Huerta, culinary arts program director, said.
Leave chips and cookies at the store. Instead, focus on moderate portions of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean proteins, and good fats (nuts, coconut oil, etc.). Huerta cooks freezable food in bulk for easy meals later.
“A favorite of mine is charro beans cooked in a crockpot on low overnight,” she said. “I use dried beans, and in the morning, I divide into portions for the freezer.”
Immune system: Listen to body
Help your body by preventing infection and recognizing when your immune system is playing defense.
Protect your skin, nose, and mouth from pathogen entry. Also, improve your immunity with self-care:
- Get adequate rest
- Drink plenty of water
- Pursue stress-reducing activities
- Take probiotics to support good bacteria in the gut
- Take vitamin C and zinc to suppress viral replication
Listen to your body. Feeling unwell? Experiencing inflammation and fever? These are the immune system’s natural responses as it fights infection.
“Often the feeling of malaise is the beginning of an immune reaction,” said Dr. Lindsey Douglas, medical laboratory technology program interim director. “Provide your body with extra rest, stay hydrated, and hopefully your immune system will successfully fight off invaders.”
Mental health: Choose joy, accept reality
Cayman Tirado, mental health services program director, calls it like it is: “Who doesn’t feel stressed?”
Rather than avoiding stress, she suggests managing overwhelming emotions. Tackle your thoughts head-on since thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected.
“We can choose a helpful thought that moves us toward wellness or a non-helpful thought that moves us away from wellness,” Tirado said. “Processing the emotion we’re feeling rather than acting from the emotion can make a huge difference.”
Focus on “radical acceptance” -- allowing and accepting what is.
“It’s OK to feel scared or worried. Rather than push those feelings away, acknowledge what you feel,” she said. “Then ask yourself what you need right now to best manage those feelings.”
Challenging seasons will end
Life won’t stay this way forever. It will get better.
Overwhelmed? Go for a walk. Eat healthy food. Rest. FaceTime your grandkids. Pretty soon, these habits will become a lifestyle.
“Maintaining good health happens by checking in with yourself and addressing your needs in a proactive, healthy way,” Tirado said.