There is no doubt that over the past 12 months, people have been enduring immense stress, with The Centre for Mental Health predicting that up to 10 million people (almost 20% of the population) will need either new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of the pandemic.
With restrictions easing and the end of lockdown in sight, this brings with it mixed emotions, with many people now feeling stressed and anxious at the thought of returning to ‘normality’. The recently launched Brain Bio Centre at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition recognises the significance of stress affecting both mental and physical health, with it crucially having an effect on the immune system at a time when we need it to be fighting fit and to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
It is therefore vital to look for ways to help manage stress and support our immune systems as we navigate the coming months. As we approach Stress Awareness Month in particular, Lorraine Perretta from the Brain Bio Centre, who is a Fellow of ION and the author of Food for Thought, provides her five top tips for supporting your immune health and combating stress.
- Limit ultra-processed food – Poor nutrition can lead to compromised immunity, so limit sugary, processed snacks and reduce your reliance on ready meals. There has never been a more important time to eat well and support your immune system.
- Supplement if necessary – For a well-functioning immune system, micronutrients should include vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6 and B12 as well as folic acid, iron, selenium and zinc.
- Take regular exercise – Meditation, yoga, walking, running and lifting weights can all help you manage your stress levels and relax. The important thing is finding what works for you and your body. Avoid over-exercising as this can increase anxiety especially high-impact exercise and running. Be gentle with yourself.
- Get into nature – Take the opportunity to get out into fresh air and nature. Not only is it good exercise but studies have shown that fresh air and being amongst nature can benefit your mental wellbeing.
- Sleep well – Studies have shown that sufficient sleep helps the immune system to work well, with chronic sleep deprivation another risk factor which impairs our immune system. Eating meals earlier, avoiding technology close to bedtime and winding down with a bath or listening to some music before bed can all help you to get a better night’s sleep.
Lorraine comments: “There is no doubt we are seeing the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the nation here at the Brain Bio Centre, with more people suffering from anxiety and insomnia than ever before. Our personalised approach is at the very heart of the work we do. Every person is different and therefore every solution needs to be tailored to their individual needs. We deal with the full spectrum of mental health issues from mild anxiety to more serious issues, but always with the same personalised approach.”