In a dream world, we’d kill it at our jobs, constantly offer love and support to our friends and family, pursue what makes us happy, and never once get sick in the process. In reality, our bodies don’t always let us work that way. Situations change, environments change, and yes, the weather changes—and as a result, our immune systems can get compromised.
Thankfully, if we recognize the situations that may throw our health for a loop, we can make time for self-care practices that can prevent a downward spiral from happening. Here are three common situations that can weaken our immune systems, plus a natural self-care solution that can give you a much-needed boost.
Immune system threat: Stress
Self-care strategy: Breathing exercises
Why it works: As research continues to reveal the harmful impact that stress has on our immune system, such as suppressing immune cells that are needed to fight infection, it’s important to carve out time to relieve that stress. Here’s where breathwork comes in: True, it’s having a bit of a movement in the wellness world right now, but numerous studies have proven that deep breathing practices can lower your stress levels dramatically. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and relaxes your gastrointestinal tract.
What to do: You can find a yoga class that focuses on pranayama—i.e. controlled breathing—if you prefer a guided instructor to take you through the process. It’ll give you a better idea of how to practice breathing off the mat, too. But these breathing exercises to help you lower your stress levels are also a good place to start.
When to do it: Most breathing exercises only take a few minutes, which means it’s easier than other wellness practices to actually fit into your day. If you’re going the class route, try to work it in a few times a week to get familiar with the process. Then, once you understand the basics, practice your breathing exercises once or twice a day at the same time to help you get into a routine.
Immune system threat: Seasonal changes
Self-care strategy: Herbals
Why it works: The cold, flu, and allergy seasons pose some of the worst threats to a healthy immune-system. What can we do to prepare for, and thrive during this time? Getting the right nutrients in our system to help strengthen our immune response, is a great place to start. Vitamin C is probably the best known way we help our bodies build up resistance. But there are some other powerful nutrition secrets out there. For example, Oil of Oregano (a concentrated extract from common, culinary oregano) is a potent antioxidant that helps support your body’s healthy response to inflammation and build up a healthy immune system. And, when you’re in the thick of the season, look for a clean, highly concentrated dose of the amazing Elderberry fruit, together with zinc and Echinacea root. You can find these ingredients in Garden of Life's mykind Organics herbals, which has specifically formulated its Elderberry Immune Gummy, Elderberry Immune Syrup, and Oil of Oregano to strengthen your immune system naturally when everyone’s catching something.†
Elderberry has been used for centuries as a traditional herbal remedy, and Garden of Life’s formula is made primarily from organic black elderberry, echinacea, rosemary extract, and zinc—plus vitamin C from organic fruit, full of bioflavonoids. Similarly, Oil of Oregano liquid drops from Garden of Life is concentrated for two major components, Thymol, a natural fungicide with antiseptic properties; and Carvacrol, which is also an effective bacterial.† Most importantly, both herbals are Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified and don’t contain any artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, or chemicals.
What to do: To be sure to take the right amount of each herbal, simply follow the instructions on the package. The Elderberry Syrup comes with a serving cup, and the recommended dose is 6.5 mL two times per day. Children under 13 should take ½ serving once a day. The Elderberry Gummies serving is 4 gummies per day, and should be chewed thoroughly (they’re recommended for children four years and older). The Oil of Oregano formula, on the other hand, is not recommended for children. Garden of Life recommends that adults dilute six drops in water daily, and take between meals. Bonus: All three formulas have no added sugar, so you can rest assured that you’re treating your body right.
When to do it: Though especially useful when the seasons change and during back-to-school time when the kids are exposed to more new germs, the great thing about herbal remedies is they can (and, in many cases, should!) be used year-round.
Immune system threat: Travel
Self-care strategy: Restorative yoga
Why it works: As much as we love to travel and know the profound impact it can have on our mental health and overall well-being, we can’t deny that the dehydrating airplane air, jetlag, and changes to our routine diet can all wreak havoc on our immune systems. Go for “R&R with benefits” by fitting in a restorative yoga flow, if and when you can. Multiple studies have shown that yoga helps activate your body’s relaxation response, which is especially necessary when you are experiencing the common stressors of jet setting.
What to do: If you’re on the road, use an app like MindBody to find a restorative yoga class near you, or find a class online. If you don’t have time for a full class, try these restorative yoga poses in a sequence at home to release stress in just a few minutes.
When to do it: If you’re feeling especially stressed, a few minutes of mindful stretching at the end of your day can help counteract the negative impact. But honestly, the best time to practice is whenever you can fit it in.