Expert Opinion:

ABCs of immune health with Nurse Practitioner Candice Sockett

Fall is almost here, which marks the beginning of the cold and flu season, making it even more important to protect ourselves from getting sick, especially as our busy routines pick up the pace. I’m sharing my four tips to help your family build immune health into their everyday.

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Enrichment

When you choose your foods look for local fresh ingredients that are in season, and it’s a good reason to check out your local farmer’s market. The Canada Food Guide recommends you aim to fill half your plate at each meal with fruits and veggies. (https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/ and Government of Canada (2019): https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/healthy-living.html)

I have a two-year old and balancing nutrition with him can be hard. I make sure to offer him choices from at least two food groups during meal and snack times, which include apple slices with peanut butter or cheese with fruit.

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Exercise

Staying active should be a part of everyone’s everyday routine. It can help prevent developing chronic diseases, increase your energy, decrease your stress and help to boost your immune system. Life is busy, but being active doesn’t have to be work. Try to integrate activity into your day-to-day routine at work, school and home. A key to success involves setting goals that are attainable for yourself. For example, committing to walking for 10 minutes every day is much more attainable than telling yourself you are going to walk for an hour every day.

Start small and work your way up as you achieve your personal goals. Some other tips for getting more exercise include:

  • Taking the stairs when possible
  • Getting off the bus or subway a stop early and walking the rest of the way
  • Going for a walk during your work break
  • Have fun with whatever exercises you choose

I integrate exercise into my daily routine by waking to and from work every day. This way I know that I am getting at least 45 minutes of walking in per day.

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Quality sleep

Getting enough healthy sleep is important to ensure that you have the physical and mental ability to take on your day. We know not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. However, it is important to gauge how you feel when you wake up, and then decide if you need more or less. On average, most adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night; and children and adolescents need a lot more than this.

The National Sleep institute has identified some strategies to optimizing your sleep quality at night. They include:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends;
  • Create and practice a relaxing bedtime routine;
  • Exercise daily;
  • Make sure your bedroom environment isn’t too warm or cool, remove any distracting sounds or light sources;
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows;
  • Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine;
  • Try not to take electronics to bed with you.

My favorite sleep routine includes making sure I have all of my things ready for the next day (my toddlers daycare bag cleaned out and repacked, clothes laid out, and any other items that might cause me to worry overnight) followed by reading a book for a few minutes to settle my mind.

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De-stress

In this modern age, we are always go-go-go. We put so much pressure on ourselves to try to do everything. But all this pressure comes at a cost to our mental and physical well-being. Stress affects the immune system by slowing down the release of our immune cells that fight infection. This is why many of us might get sick after a really stressful event.

Try these tips:

  • So slow down and be kind to yourself
  • Do something for you and only you
  • Try to get back to doing the things that make you feel relaxed
  • This is personal for each person and can be something as simple as taking five minutes to meditate in the morning, reading a book or doing an exercise class

Whatever your way of de-stressing; it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you take care of yourself so that you can be your best self both inside and out.

With a busy life and household, my favorite way to de-stress right now is carving out time for myself in whatever way I can find it. Whether that be a quick shower, walking to work, leaving for work a few minutes early so that I have time to enjoy a hot coffee or taking my little one to the park.

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