Strategies to strengthen Inner Shield during COVID 19

- Janaki Parajuli

The world is suffering with pandemic of COVID 19 and Nepal is not far beyond. 57 cases are already been diagnosed with COVID 19. The health system of Nepal is weak, not enough critical beds and ventilators and insufficient health workers and already existing health situation like higher prevalence of malnutrition, poor education and lack of awareness make the people of Nepal .I being the public health worker and knowing the situation of our country, felt me worried what will the situation in future. 
To combat the COVID-19 outbreak, the government and other stakeholders have focused almost exclusively on the outer shield being the part of public health awareness. That is, minimizing spread which includes physical distancing, washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, wearing disposable masks and gloves, sanitizing table tops and door knobs. 

But there’s a second, equally important and often overlooked line of defense: the inner shield. That is, your immune system. The primary difference between a mild illness with COVID-19 and a severe one requiring hospitalization is the strength of this shield. The immune system is the microscopic army that stands guard just under the surface of your mouth, nose, lungs, skin, and gut. Strengthening the immune system is primarily done by giving your immune system what it needs to function optimally, and regulating the stress response. When you employ both shields, you’re helping everyone: yourself, your family, community, and nation and in this period of a pandemic the world. 

Nepal might be in the most critical situation, so people must make themselves strong from within to fight against COVID 19. Hope these 6 strategies will help them achieve the inner shield:

First and most important one is to nourish yourself. Proper nutrition and hydration are vital. People who eat a well balanced diet tend to be healthier with strong immune systems. Our food choices also impact anxiety levels and stress, both of which can impair the inner shield. This time when many of us are “sheltering in place” may be an opportunity to enjoy healthy food inside our home. Food like garlic, lemon, apple , fermented pickles, bone broth helps to boost our immune function but that does not mean can completely protect from diseases. A healthy diet is composed of variety of foods from different food groups: staple foods, such as rice, pasta, grains, roots and tubers; fruits and vegetables, protein sources, such as lentils; as well as moderate amounts of different animal-source foods. Our province is mostly affected by micronutrient deficiencies also known as ‘hidden hunger’. So proper balanced diet with combination of various food is required. 

Secondly move and be mindful. Infant below 1 year need to be physically active several times a days. Children under 5 years should spend at least 180 minutes a day in physical activities. 5-17 years children and adolescents should do at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity and adults over 18 years should do a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity. Older adults with poor mobility should do physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days per week. These days due to lockdown, its almost impossible to go outside the home. But we must be physical and mentally active within our home. Various indoor activities like yoga, exercise, skipping, dancing, jumping could be done which helps to move our body joints. Just make the family members and children involve with you in those activities. One most effective method of exercise I found is SURYANAMASKAR. It’s amazing techniques not just only make us physically fit but also help to boost the immune system.  

Third, get a daily dose of Nature. Natural killers (NK) specialized immune cells that stand guard, among other places, in your lungs, lymph nodes, and tonsils and help protect from viral infections. Just 20 minutes in an “urban nature”, houseplants, or photographs of nature scenes, have a calming effect. Gardening, planting or getting involve with mother’s earth these days have proven most stress relieving activities. 

 Fourths, SLEEP have strong influences on immune function. Melatonin, the “sleep chemical,” declines naturally with age and has antioxidant properties that can reduce tissue damage during viral infections. Since children have higher melatonin levels, this is one proposed explana¬tion for why they appear to have milder illnesses with COVID-19. Set a regular schedule when to sleep and to wake up. Waking up before the sun and doing your daily rituals would be beneficial scientifically and spiritually both.  Let your body feel the natural early morning natural sunlight.  If possible consider simple 5- to 10-minute stress-relieving meditations after waking. We have various Sanskrit sloks and lines which have the power to change within inside and outside. Remember our planet, our country and thank to God for such a wounderful life. 

Fifth, practice pleasure/laughter. Laughter and humor are associated with increases in immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, enhancing our resistance to infection. They can also reduce anxiety and increase relaxation.  Necessary physical distancing does not mean social isolation. Loneliness, in fact, alters the immune system and increases susceptibility to illness. So just stay connected though not physically with friends, relatives and collegues. Initiate you hobby. Listen to music, start wring a poem or song, just dance randomly, make others laugh. Go through the beautiful novel. Search random videos on internet. If you have a smile on your face and laugh from your belly, your body releases endorphins and other calming chemicals into your bloodstream. We have one best Asan on yoga called Hasyaasan (laughter therapy). It just energises our body if we practice it for 2 or 3 minutes every day or during any period of day.  

When COVID 19 pandemic ends, we can let down the outer shield. But maintaining the inner shield caring for ourselves will enable us to care better for others, too. The whats of self-care, like food, vitamins and minerals, and hygiene mea¬sures, can provide some immediate results. But the hows establish a deeper, longer term benefit. How we’re connecting to our food. How we’re moving throughout our days. How we’re tuning into our bodies. Let us live our life in a great way caring of self and family. Stay safe everyone. 

-(Parajuli is currently working as Public Health Officer in Dhangadhi Sub Metropolitan city, Urban Health Promotion Center)

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