During times of uncertainty, it can be helpful to find things that we can focus on controlling. We have control over certain aspects of our lives, including building habits that will promote a healthy lifestyle. This is not only helpful for giving us something to focus our energy on but will also help us create a stronger immune system. Personal Protective Lifestyle (PPL) is a term being shared from the Human Performance Resources by the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) to increase resiliency during the times of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is defined as “activities of daily living that enhance immune and metabolic resiliency to reverse disease and optimize performance.” In addition to the personal protective equipment (PPE) we use to protect ourselves and others from the spread of infection, we can also develop habits that will boost our immune systems through the practices of PPL!
Here are some helpful reminders from my dog, Buddy the Therapy Dog, for creating habits to develop your PPL and help boost your immune system (information adapted from the PPL infographic and webinar created by the Task Force Resilience):
Time in Nature
Make sure that you are giving yourself enough breaks from technology, social media, and the news. If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your news feeds, set time limits for your apps to monitor how much time you are spending on your devices!
Spend some time outdoors through various activities, whether it is walking, gardening, or playing fetch! When you are outdoors, make sure that you are being mindfully present – look around at your surroundings, pay attention to how the sun feels on your skin, see if you can find shapes in the clouds…find ways to enjoy being outdoors for a natural happiness boost!
Make sure you are getting daily movement! A healthy goal to aim for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity 5-7 days per week, with two non-consecutive days of strength training to get the most health benefits – but any movement is better than none. Exercise helps to boost not only your immune system, but can also reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress – so you get the physical and emotional benefits of movement!
Eat more plants! In addition to PPL, CHAMP has also shared the term “Personal Protective Nutrition (PPN)” as a tool for boosting immunity through eating healthfully. PPN is defined as using “food and nutrients that enhance immune and metabolic resiliency to reverse disease and optimize performance.” Recommendations for healthy eating to promote a strong immune system include a wide variety of fiber-filled, nutrient-dense, and antioxidant-rich whole plant foods with every meal. It can be helpful to aim for “eating the rainbow” by selecting fruits and vegetables that create a variety of colors on your plate. For additional information about PPN, please visit the link to the CHAMP webinar or download the American College of Lifestyle Medicine’s COVID-19 Resources.
Make sure you are getting enough restful sleep. On average, most adults need 7-9 hours of restorative sleep per night. Keep an eye out for our Sleep Hygiene Blog Post for some quick tips to promote healthier sleep habits – coming soon!
If you are having difficulty falling asleep quickly, staying asleep through the night, or waking up too early, make sure to see your physician to rule out any pre-existing medical conditions (such as Sleep Apnea) and if your sleep problems persist, Melyssa may be able to assist you with our cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia program.
Practice stress management strategies regularly and consistently to make them more effective over time. A few helpful strategies are:
Practicing the emotional self-regulation STOP technique (Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed).
Reflect and express gratitude through journaling, meditation, or prayer.
Prioritize and plan for activities that bring you joy.
Volunteer for a cause that is important to you or perform simple acts of kindness.
Participate in our virtual Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) group program to help you better identify, recover from, and cope with stress. Advanced registration required, so email [email protected] today or call 407-622-1770 to reserve your spot in our upcoming group starting in October!
Practice a Resilient Mindset
What you focus on, you find more of – so practice focusing on the good and change your perspective to use challenges and barriers as opportunities to grow.
Practice positing thinking – it’s easier said than done, but over time with a lot of practice you will be building that mental muscle to help you focus on the positives!
Change what you can and learn to find peace with what you cannot change.
Remember to SMILE and LAUGH often! Even when it feels forced sometimes, our bodies can still give us the benefits of a mood boost. If you need some additional assistance, find some funny animal videos to watch or check out a virtual laughter yoga class like this one from Orlando Health!
Find the courage to ask for and to accept professional help when it is needed – we are here to help you in whatever ways we can!
Connect with friends and loved ones!
Find creative ways to stay connected with your friends and family! Whether you can connect in person while continuing to stay safe and practicing physical distancing or if it is setting up a video conferencing game night, it’s important to stay social during these challenging times. Find ways to build your community or begin a new community through sharing experience and stories together.
Help each other adopt these healthier habits by sharing meals, workouts, or walks and creating accountabilities buddies!
Melyssa Allen, M.A. is a trainee for the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, an organization dedicated to promoting health through therapeutic lifestyle interventions to prevent, treat, and occasionally reverse noncommunicable chronic diseases. She has extensive experience with health behavior change through her work as both a certified fitness professional and health psychology intern. If you need additional assistance in adopting these health promoting behaviors, please feel free to contact her at [email protected] or call our office at 407-622-1770.
Melyssa previously worked as an animal trainer before attending graduate school to pursue mental health counseling, and has volunteered as a Pet Therapy team with her dog, Buddy, over the past four years. She works with clients to identify their strengths and sets therapy goals with clients that simultaneously helps them build confidence in their abilities while challenging them to grow. She also incorporates a lifestyle and mind-body focus to help clients promote physical, mental, and emotional wellness. To learn more about Melyssa visit her full profile here.