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No Ka Oi Health

The new coronavirus (COVID-19) is concerning most of us, and we are now either under quarantine or practicing social distancing. To prevent becoming infected with COVID-19, please stay home, practice social distancing, avoiding ill people, wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your face. It is also important to improve your immune system, as a healthy and strong immune system can help you avoid becoming infected with an illness even if you are exposed.

Here are eight ways you can improve your immune system to avoid getting sick from COVID-19.

• Manage stress. Managing stress is at the top of the list because excess stress can be harmful to your immune system. One example of excess stress includes watching constant news feeds about worrisome events, such as COVID-19. While it’s important to stay informed about the current situation, it’s not healthy to watch constant news feeds, as this behavior increases stress and anxiety. Rather, stay informed by watching a maximum of one to two news feeds a day and then get prepared and move on with other parts of your life.

Another important skill for managing stress is deep belly breathing. Take a few minutes a day to sit still, close your eyes and breathe deep into your belly. This type of breathing provides added oxygen to your body and brain and helps reduce physical, mental, and emotional symptoms of stress. You can add a pleasant visual while you breathe deep, such as seeing yourself at your favorite beach or doing your favorite activity.

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars,” said Martin Luther King Jr. It’s also helpful to focus on the things we are grateful for, even during challenging times. While practicing deep breathing, focus on aspects of your life you are grateful for.

• Eat plenty of healthy foods. Fueling your body with healthy food is vital for a healthy immune system. Try cutting back on fast food that is calorie rich and nutrient poor and replace your snacks and meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, lean meat, and grains. Also cut back on high sugar foods and drinks, as added sugar can lead to a weakened immune system.

• Include supplements. A good daily vitamin, along with added antioxidants and vitamins B, C and D, will help fuel your body with essential vitamins and minerals that are important to a healthy immune system.

• Move your body daily. Moving your body improves your immune system by exercising your lungs, heart and muscles. Moving your body also helps to manage stress and anxiety. You don’t need any special equipment or gym membership. Go for a walk for free or do online classes while practicing social distancing.

• Get plenty of sleep. To improve your sleep, cut back on TV, work, exercise, eating and drinking alcohol a couple of hours before bed. Read a book, meditate, or write down your thoughts in a notebook to help with getting a good night’s sleep.

• Cut back on tobacco products (including vapes). Tobacco products include nicotine, which is highly addictive, and offer zero benefits to your body and immune system. Call the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline at (800) QUIT NOW (784-8669) for free help.

• Cut back on alcohol. Alcohol is not helpful for your immune system. As a healthy replacement, try sparkling water or herbal tea.

• Laugh and enjoy quality time with family and friends. Laughter is great medicine! It helps to reduce stress and brings moments of positivity into your life. Do activities that you love with your family at home (who are not ill, of course). Watch funny movies, listen to music, and play games together, spend quality time with friends by phone, FaceTime, Skype.

It’s important to practice social distancing and also to boost your immune system. These skills can help your body be stronger and can bring much needed enjoyment into your life. For more information, feel free to call Public Health Education at the Maui District Health Office at 984-8216.

* Kristin Mills is public health educator with the state Department of Health’s Maui District Health Office. No Ka Oi Health is published on the fourth Thursday of the month by the state Department of Health.

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