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Eat Well, Sleep Well, Be Well: How To Stay Safe And Sane During The Coronavirus Pandemic

According to Northern Westchester Hospital experts, what you eat and your stress levels have a big impact on your immune system.
According to Northern Westchester Hospital experts, what you eat and your stress levels have a big impact on your immune system. Photo Credit: Northwell Health

Many things affect your immune system adversely. Two key factors among those? What you eat and your stress levels. Both are more important than ever as you fill your grocery cart in preparation of hunkering down under the threat of coronavirus.

Comfort food, especially in this unprecedented time, has its place, but your shopping cart shouldn’t only contain chocolate chip cookies, ice cream and potato chips. While the best defense against colds, flus and other illnesses is a year-round offense of eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep, several nutrients do play a role in enhancing your immunity. Mild deficiency of even one nutrient may weaken your body’s ability to fight infection.

So be sure to enjoy foods rich in Vitamins A, C and E. Dark leafy vegetables and bright carrots, citrus fruits and almonds—these are but some of the foods that can help boost your immune system. Protein is vital for your body’s growth and repair so throw in eggs, lean meats and fish. And finally, add in a can of chickpeas, bag of lentils or bottle of milk to get your zinc. This mineral facilitates proper immune system functioning and helps to fight infection.

It’s easier to control what you put in your body than the uneasy thoughts that invade your head. But science has shown that the higher the stress, the greater the potential negative impact on your immune system. These are stressful times, but you can mitigate your stress levels.

Consider a news detox. "See how you feel after taking a pause from the news for a few hours, or a day, and go from there," suggested Rachel Merchan, LCSW, Social Worker. To start, turn cable news off and stop checking your phone every two minutes. If it works for you, do it periodically, even briefly. Otherwise, do what de-stresses you: listen to music, read a book, do yoga, call your best friend.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about coronavirus. It’s OK, normal and expected to feel uncertain and scared. However, staying in that scary, uncertain space long-term isn’t good for us. "If you’re feeling overwhelmed, unable to manage your emotions or struggling to function, it’s time to seek help," said Merchan. "Let friends and family members know you’re having a hard time and seek professional support."

For more information on these topics and many others related to coronavirus, please visit Northwell Health’s Coronavirus Digital Resource Center. And don't forget to wash your hands!

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