Tap into your self-healing power and boost your immune system (COVID-19 crisis)
During this time of crisis, anxiety about the COVID-19 virus and concern about possibly losing your loved ones, keeping your body healthy is more important than ever. It is increasingly clear that, as individuals, we actually have a huge amount of influence over this. How do you make sure your body is switched on? How do you keep viruses at bay? How do you give your body a chance to recover? These are all questions that we answer for our employees as part of the WEMO Vitality Programme, by bringing in experts and offering enriching and enlightening experiences. We thought some of the answers might be useful for you too, so we’d like to share them here.
Taking a cold shower
Taking a two-minute cold shower every day helps to turn your body on and boosts your immune system. This has now been shown in a range of different studies. The number of white blood cells increases because taking a cold shower briefly exposes you to increased stress. White blood cells recognise harmful substances and pathogens and destroy them. The more white blood cells you have, the stronger your defences. The blood vessels also narrow, which raises your blood pressure. This stimulates your heart and your blood vessels, which is really good for you. It helps get your circulation going.
And there’s another benefit. Cold water is good for your skin and hair too. If you end your shower by rinsing yourself with cold water, it helps to protect the natural oils in your skin and hair, which is much healthier than always washing them off with aggressive soaps and/or shampoos that often contain a lot of chemicals. It makes your skin firmer and smoother.
A five-minute shower challenge or an ice bath once a week would be another step in the right direction. This coronavirus quarantine period might just be the perfect time to organise a remote cold bath challenge with your colleagues. You can read all about our employees’ recent Cold Experience in this blog, where they share some of the valuable lessons they learned.
Did you know, for example, that taking cold showers makes you less likely to catch a cold? Your lymph system actually starts to work better and that increases your protection against diseases. Your muscles contract when you take a cold shower and the movement of your muscles causes movement of your lymph fluid too. Waste products are carried away. The same thing happens when you exercise, so that makes you stronger too.
In terms of the mental benefits, cold exposure contributes to building your willpower. You have to really prepare yourself for a cold shower. It takes focus and willpower. And it therefore improves your emotional resilience too. A cold shower trains your nervous system and helps to combat depression, for example.
Breathe through your nose
The nose plays an important role in filtering and blocking viruses and bacteria. The microclimate in the nose is made up in such a way that it can block foreign invaders and prevent them from getting any further inside the body, particularly into the lungs. So you could say that the nose has a sterilising function. The mucus in the nose traps smaller dust particles and bacteria, so that they can be swallowed down into the stomach and destroyed by the acid there. Nitric oxide is also produced in the nose. This supports your immune system when tackling infections. Making a conscious effort to breathe through your nose can help to carry nitric oxide from your nose to your lungs, where it has an anti-inflammatory effect. So breathing through your nose is important for your general health. In comparison with the nose, the mouth has a less active defence system at its disposal and it is therefore intended primarily for speaking and eating, rather than for breathing.
Thanks to the affluent society that we live in, we can sometimes find ourselves eating large amounts of unhealthy food all day long. It’s actually good to fast every now and then though. This is known as intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It doesn’t tell you what to eat and focuses instead on when and for how long you do or don’t eat. This is done by setting so-called ‘eating windows’. The best-known eating window is now the 16/8 method. When using this method, you eat for 8 hours a day and fast for the other 16 hours (including sleep). Not eating anything for a long period results in a process called autophagy, among other things. This process ensures that the energy in your body is not always being used to digest external food sources but can instead be used to repair cells or remove waste materials and defects from the cells in your body. Another health benefit of intermittent fasting is the fact that it improves your sensitivity to insulin, which is very important in our fight against type 2 diabetes, a disease of affluence that is caused primarily by a person eventually developing an insensitivity to insulin or responding poorly to insulin made by the body itself.
People who practice intermittent fasting say that they really do experience better rest. There is no rule that you must eat in the morning, instead you can focus on your work (and even exercise) on an empty stomach. Another advantage of intermittent fasting is the fact that, when you start thinking about your first meal at the end of the fasting period, usually lunch, your body understands that healthy food is just what it needs, not the kind of quick-release simple carbohydrates that we can so easily fall back on during an energy dip. You will also notice that your sense of taste improves a lot when you try intermittent fasting, which makes you enjoy your food even more.
A good night’s sleep
Your body and mind recover while you sleep. Too little sleep at night can make you up to 70% more susceptible to viruses. Make sure you have a routine and a regular bedtime. Quieten your thoughts and start to focus on your breathing. During this quarantine period in particular, there is a temptation to be switched on all day long. You get up early for that first video call or to help the kids wash and get dressed, you have breakfast, throw yourself into homeschooling, reply to emails, catch up on your Teams requests and messages. And all in an environment where you’re not used to doing any of those things. If you then pick up your phone at the end of the day to read yet more bad news, trawl through all the hilarious coronavirus jokes that have been shared in your groups, ring your loved ones to ask how they’re getting on and quickly pop online to order your shopping for the next day, you can’t really expect your mind and body to get a restful night’s sleep. You sleep lightly and poorly. A disturbed night’s sleep is due to this tendency to be switched on all day long. So, from now on, try not to watch TV or look at your phone for at least an hour before you go to bed. We know it’s easier said than done, but this is the perfect time to challenge yourself. Focus on breathing softly before you go to sleep. By keeping your breath soft and quiet, whilst breathing through your nose, you lose less CO2 and your body starts to relax, which promotes a good night’s sleep.
We all need to keep moving. This helps to ensure our immune system is working as efficiently as possible. Inactivity reduces the function and number of white blood corpuscles. If you don’t get enough exercise, white blood corpuscles begin to stick together in your blood. In the Netherlands, we sit for an average of nine hours a day. On average, we’re the most sedentary population in the world! Move more and combine movement with going outside more as well. For now, that walk through the woods will have to be replaced with time spent in your garden, but remember that you do need to get fresh air. Being surrounded by nature stimulates our immune system to work more efficiently.
All of the elements above are essential to keeping your body healthy and your mind balanced. A boost for your immune system, making use of your body’s own ability to heal itself.
Take care of yourself!
Bart Eigenhuis – cold and breathing coach
One of the experts WEMO likes to work with is Bart Eigenhuis. Bart is certified cold and breathing coach. We have completed a range of breathing and cold courses with him at WEMO. He became interested in the Wim Hof method in 2015 and he has been a certified Wim Hof method instructor since 2016. His company, Bridge2Cross, offers courses and workshops focused on breathing and cold training.
Sebastiaan de Ranitz, Subtraining
For WEMO Sebastiaan organizes weekly bootcamp and box trainings. These are fun, challenging and motivating.
In these times of crisis, all kinds of workouts are offered within the community and we receive a personal workout from Sebastiaan every day at 16.00 hours via a recorded video. https://www.subtraining.nl/