When I went off on maternity leave in late 2019, I never imagined that our entire world as we knew it would be turned upside down in a mere few months.  I never imagined that it would result in a change in work life/school, that we’d be locked down and that everything we knew would be different. 

This pandemic has left people feeling a roller coaster of emotions. In times of uncertainty and change, it is more important than ever to put your own health and wellness at the forefront so that everyone can continue doing their part to stay safe.  As I prepared myself to re-enter the workplace after being away for nearly 2 years, I focused on the 4 pillars of the immune system to get my immunity in peak condition and give myself the tools I needed to manage my own anxieties. 

The 4 pillars of the immune system are:

1. Nutrition

For our body to work at peak performance we need to fuel ourselves with the vitamins and nutrients it needs. This includes eating a balanced diet that is rich in healthy foods every day. Some recommendations from the Canada Food Guide include:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grain carbohydrates and protein sources.  
  • Limit processed and refined foods. 
  • Make water your drink of choice.

2. Exercise

Staying active goes beyond making you feel and look good. Research suggests that exercise can help to protect your immune system from some illnesses by flushing out bacteria from your lungs, improving circulation, and mobilizing immune cells, which gets them ready for a fight. Exercise has also been shown to reduce the negative effects of isolation, including stress and anxiety, which tend to weaken immunity.

Try to work exercise and movement into your everyday activity. The CSEP recommends doing a variety of types and intensities of physical activity, which includes moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activities with a goal of at least 150 minutes per week, and muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week. 

3. Stress Reduction

Given the year that we’ve had it is reasonable to feel stressed.  So, let’s give ourselves permission to acknowledge that feeling and develop the tools to overcome it. 

Stress can manifest itself in many ways. It can alter sleep, diet, activity, mental cognition/functioning and overall has been seen to negatively impact health and our body’s ability to protect against illness. Fortunately, research shows the benefits of stress reduction through practicing mindfulness as having a positive effect on our immune system. Next time you are feeling stressed:

  • Focus on your breathing and feel your lungs fill and empty
  • Focus on how your body is feeling limb by limb
  • Try to be aware of welcoming in things that benefit you and letting go of things that do not

4. Sleep

It is well documented that sleep and immunity are closely linked. When we are well rested, our immune system is able to work at its top performance. When we are sleep deprived, we leave our immune system vulnerable

More than ever before, we need to slow down and listen to our bodies when they tell us that we’re tired or at our limit. And this is even more prudent when we are going through times of uncertainty and change. A well-rested mind and body sets you up for success in your day, making you better able to handle any challenges that are thrown at you.

As you prepare to return to the office or back to school, try to work components of the immune health pillars into your daily routine. That way you have the tools you need to better handle life’s challenges, and cold and flu season.