During the current Coronavirus pandemic, everyone in the world is worried about getting sick. And if you’re in the healthcare industry, your concerns are probably amplified five-fold.
But the reality of the situation is that we’re all a little stressed out. Maybe even more than a little. And when we’re stressed, we’re more likely to fall into bad habits and behaviors. This is especially true when time feels like a limited resources as it does for so many healthcare workers today.
You may already know some habits that are weakening your immune system, but a little reminder might drive home the importance of getting yourself straight.
Here are five bad habits that make you more susceptible to falling ill.
It’s true that both traditional and e-cigarettes will weaken your immune system, so if you’re a smoker, it’s a good idea to think about quitting. Both forms of smoking will expose your body to nicotine, which actually increases cortisol levels while reducing B cell antibody formation and T-cell’s response to antigens.
Smoking is terrible for your immune system. But vaping may be even worse, especially if you’re exposed to the coronavirus. Vapor from e-cigarettes could cause permanent and irreversible damage to the lungs, which makes your lungs more susceptible to infection.
One study found that prolonged sitting could be nearly as bad for your health as smoking, and that was a surprise to much of the world. As it turns out, the body needs to get up and moving in order to keep the immune system functioning properly.
A 2102 American Journal of Preventive Medicine study found that regardless of age, gender or other harmful habits, a sedentary lifestyle can signal increased risk for premature death. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to an impaired immune system, inflammation and chronic disease.
In this time of stress and uncertainty, many people are turning to alcohol to help destress, but that’s a bad idea if you want to strengthen your immune system. Even one night of heaving drinking can reduce your immune response to invading pathogens.
When you drink alcohol, the body converts it to acetaldehyde, which likely impairs the function of cilia in the lungs. This can make your lungs more prone to a respiratory virus. If you abuse alcohol regularly, the effects on the body are even greater.
If you’re having trouble quitting alcohol, there may be reasons. If you have alcohol or drug-addicted parents, there may be a genetic component. Talk to someone about your drinking problem before it leads to alcoholism.
Poor eating habits
If you’re stuffing down junk food between long, stressful shifts, no one is going to judge you. But it’s a habit you may want to consider adjusting in order to protect yourself from getting sick. Stress and grief also weaken the immune system, so we need to be doing everything in our power to stay strong.
Saturated fat, salt and sugar may have negative effects on your body’s ability to fight infection, according to a 2014 Nutrition Journal review. When you’re busy and stressed, it can be difficult to find time to eat well, but remember that every little bit helps. Try prepping some healthy meals and snacks to bring with you to work. It’s a lot easier to avoid junk food distractions when you already have food in hand.
In current times, this advice might seem tone-deaf, but remember that you do have some control over your social life while in recommended isolation. Make sure you’re talking to at least one person on the phone or through video chat every day.
Check-in with the ones you love and maybe even catch up with some old friends. Just try to talk about something other than the pandemic here and there. Talking can be a good way to get your feelings out, but when it begins to feel overwhelming, turn towards lighter conversations.
Healthcare workers are especially vulnerable to contracting the virus right now, both because of stress and grief and because of general proximity to those who are sick. So even though it may be especially difficult, it has never been more important to take care of your health and immune system.