Small Steps to Calming the Storm

So many changes have been forced upon us by the COVID-19 crisis. How can we reclaim a sense of self and of control in the middle of this new normal?

We must chart a new course and make the changes that are important to us, live the lives we determine to live.

One way to do this, is to look at your pain points.  Where do you feel a stab every time you encounter a thing or situation?  This could be as simple as never being able to find your car keys. It could be as complex as arriving at your job and feeling your heart sink as you see your dreams put aside for one more day.  We all have these points of aggravation.  For the most part, we stop paying attention to them and are unaware of how much energy they drain away from our spirits.  For now, when you feel those sharp jabs, stop and make a note.  We’ll get back to the list a little later.

For me, the first order of business on this fix-it list is diet and exercise.  Why do I choose to start here?  It’s almost cliché, isn’t it?  I know that, as a woman, there’s always been a fantasy that the perfect body would result in a perfect life, but I’m moving past that.  My purpose for starting here, and encouraging you to do so, is that every report about COVID-19 states clearly that folks with underlying conditions fare worse than others in recovering from this vile pandemic.  Many of the health conditions listed as “underlying” are influenced by lifestyle.  Inflammation is mentioned as the true killer with this disease, particularly a kind of inflammation known as a cytokine storm. This is a severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many of cytokines into the blood too quickly causing massive inflammation. These immune system messengers play an important role in normal immune responses but having a large amount of them released in the body all at once can be harmful.  Those with high levels of stress, obesity, Type II Diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions already have a high level of markers for inflammation.

So, it makes sense to minimize underlying conditions and inflammation as much as possible, no?  Improving diet and adding moderate physical activity are two ways to do this.

If you have a serious condition such as diabetes or heart disease, of course it is important to listen to your doctor’s advice on the best foods and exercise for you.  It goes without saying that you should not only listen to the advice but follow it as well.  Most likely those instructions include limiting processed food and sugary desserts and adding movement to your routine. Those changes will also help you to lose weight if you need to.

After a lifetime of yo-yo dieting, eight years ago I lost my excess body weight and diet obsessions by using a diet program called Ideal Protein.  By giving up sugar and feeding my body the nutrients it needs, I was able to get off the roller coaster of binging and starving and have maintained my weight on an even keel since then.  When I began to think about repairing the damage of these last few crazy weeks, my first impulse was to jump into a full-scale diet program and launch a completely new exercise regime.  Not surprisingly, this triggered my old responses:  eat more and exercise less.

Instead, I determined to keep up my good habits and be more intentional about what I eat.  I want to include more vegetables and lean protein.  Less pizza and fewer chips.  As for exercise, I already walk most days, but I added stretching and strength training to my routine in manageable increments.  For both activities I sometimes use YouTube videos.  I like Leslie Sansone videos for walking and search for 10 minutes arms, abs, or stretching videos for strength and stretching.

Small changes like these can make a big difference, especially since they are easy to incorporate into your routine with a little planning.  Ask yourself these questions to get started:

  • What changes would I like to make in my diet?
  • What might be an obstacle to those changes?
  • How can I compensate?
  • Do I want to add more physical activity to my life?
  • What kind is fun for me?
  • When can I do it?
  • What might stop me?
  • How can I stay on track?

We all start a new plan high on motivation with no thought of a slip-up.  Realizing you might hit a snag and planning for it, will help to ensure your success.

Reducing inflammation in the body is important for overall health.  Soon we will find out about more ways to calm the body and strengthen the immune system!

Be sure to leave any comments or questions!

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