Get Well, Stay Well

As the winter season advances on, the flu seems to advance from person to person simultaneously. But don’t lose heart because there are things you can do to stay healthy when it seems like everyone around you is sick.

Getting sick is not completely up to chance and you do not have to blindly fall victim to the flu. You can take control over your own health.

First, let me remind you of some ways to battle sickness that you probably already know. You have heard it before: wash your hands or use hand sanitizers as much as possible. Although it may be hard to consciously think about, it is important to refrain from touching your face if you do not want to get sick. Also try disinfecting things you regularly touch such as your desk, faucets, computers, phones, doorknobs, counters, etc.

Another sure defense to sickness is adequate nutrition. Make certain to include specific nutrients in your diet to help build the immune system and ward off those little bugs. These foods include omega 3 fatty acids, phytochemicals (in fruits and vegetables), vitamins, and minerals.

I would recommend taking a multivitamin to ensure you get the necessary nutrients. It is also helpful to eliminate inflammatory foods to take away “distractions” for the immune system; inflammatory foods are different for people but usually include gluten, sugar, fried foods, dairy, and artificial additives.

We all are told that reducing stress will help stave off sicknesses, but why? This is because the needed defenses of the immune system to fight pathogens are actually altered by emotional activation and stress. Bodily functions of the immune system and brain chemistry are just different expressions of the same biobehavioral process, so negative emotional states and distress do inhibit the immune system.

In other words, being stressed pretty much wipes out the immune system and causes you to be very vulnerable to sickness. This is why during, or after, finals week there is a surge of colds.

Consequently, it is important to reduce stress in your life and on your body. Ways to reduce stress—and therefore fend off sickness—include getting enough sleep, taking time for yourself, eating well, exercising, relaxation techniques, laughing, listening to music, being thankful, and staying positive. Positivity—having optimistic emotions, strong relationships, and self-efficacy—can actually be used to counteract the bad effects of stress and build up the immune system.


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