You might wonder what this topic has to do with health coaching. The answer might surprise you - because health coaching is about a lot more than what you put in your mouth and how much you exercise.
Right now, the issue that is top of mind for most people isn't "How can I lose that last 10 pounds?", or "How can I get in the best shape of my life this year?". Nor is it even "How can I get my triglyceride levels low enough that my doctor doesn't insist I start taking a statin drug?".
No, the issue on most people's minds right now is more like "Will there still be toilet paper on the shelf when I get to the store?" and "What happens if my medications run out and I can't get to the pharmacy for a refill?"
It's interesting how societal behaviour patterns can change, almost overnight. People who, just a few weeks ago, might have paid lip service to the idea of minimalism (which I will define here as owning 'just enough' to meet one's daily needs), have suddenly turned into hoarders, buying up far larger quantities of anything and everything, as if they'll never have another opportunity to re-stock.
Underlying all of this, is fear. And yes, it's perfectly normal to feel a certain amount of fear at a time like this. But the media frenzy and conflicting sources of mis-information on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms ramp up that fear to exponential levels. Just like the exponential spread of the virus itself, in some quarters, fear has its own viralocity.
Not only is this detrimental to our social safety (with the hoarding of masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other essentials that should be reserved for health care workers and first responders), it's also detrimental to our own physical health.
In an acute 'fight-or-flight' situation (for example, if you are being chased by a bear), the sudden release of stress hormones triggers a temporary boost in all of your vital systems, including your immune system. Everything is primed to give you the best chance of surviving the situation.
However, many people today actually live in a state of 'chronic inflammation' where their body thinks they are in continuous 'fight-or-flight' mode. That immune system boost doesn't happen in this situation. Quite the reverse, in fact. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol, the 'stress hormone', actually suppress immune function, making one more susceptible to disease and less likely to be able to fight it off if we are afflicted.
Regular, excess carbohydrate consumption, resulting in a series of blood glucose highs followed by subsequent insulin crashes, is one of the key reasons for this chronic state. Another is the pervasiveness of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in our modern diet - oils such as canola, corn, soy, sunflower and safflower, as well as the myriad processed foods made with these oils. These oils oxidize extremely easily when exposed to light, heat or oxygen. Most are rancid in the bottle before they even leave the grocery store shelf, and cause damage to our immune system when ingested.
Now add an extended period of fear and panic to the mix, and you've just made the situation even worse.
So, what can we do about this?
The obvious fix is to remove sugar and PUFAs from your diet. Making these two changes alone will certainly help your immune system to heal itself and get stronger. It's probably not realistic to make major dietary changes like this in the middle of a pandemic, particularly if you've already bought a 6-month supply of your usual non-perishable foodstuffs. But it's definitely something to consider putting on your goals list.
But to get those cortisol levels back down where they should be, you also need to deal with the underlying, pervasive fear. We'll never be able to completely eliminate worry in these difficult days, but there is a lot we CAN do to reduce it.
In last week's blog, I offered up 18 suggestions to this end. Please do check them out, as I think they'll be helpful to you. Today, I offer the following additional tips:
Just the facts, please - Get your COVID-19 information from official and reliable sources. Government websites, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the WHO (World Health Organization), and interviews with leading epidemiologists and scientists who actually know what they're talking about.
Don't watch the news - The mainstream media tend to sensationalize and focus on the most dramatic and horrifying pieces of information, in a bizarre sort of schadenfreude. Whether on TV or a video clip on the internet, these sound bites are rarely informative and usually only serve to ramp up our fears.
Stick to your usual routines as much as possible - You may be working from home, or you may be temporarily out of work as a result of the pandemic. Don't fall into the trap of staying in your jammies all day. Get up at your usual time; follow your normal morning routine (you can also add elements to it that will make your days even better, as I outlined last week). Eat your meals when you normally would. Go to bed at the usual time. The framework and structure of daily and weekly routines will help keep you grounded and less inclined to obsess over what's going on 'out there'.
Focus on a new (or existing) goal - It may seem counter-intuitive, but now isn't the time to put your goals and dreams on hold. There will come a day when we are on the other side of this pandemic. When that day comes, the world will need us to step up and to be ready. Ready to rebuild our economy. Ready to live healthier lives. Ready to hit the ground running and not lose this opportunity for growth.
If you have a goal, but you're struggling with moving the needle, I can help. Because I know it's tough out there right now, and there's a lot of financial uncertainty for many people, I've decided to offer ALL my coaching services for FREE until the end of March. Whether you're struggling with a health-related issue, a career decision, or some other big life change, I would be honoured to be your coach. Nothing gives me more joy than helping someone reach a breakthrough. Click here to book a complimentary 15-minute strategy session to get started!
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Meanwhile, I wish you wellness, safety and peace.
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