Autoimmune Disease and COVID-19
Updated: May 16
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To my fellow autoimmune-rs living in the COVID-19 pandemic,
I know that having autoimmune disease(s) and dealing with the symptoms that come along with that are tough. The rest of the world right now adds an extra layer of anxiety during this time in the form of emotional triggers, not sleeping well, neglecting self-care, weird schedules and anxiety about how to maintain your health in a global crisis. I am sure you have been told many times how stress negatively impacts the immune system. Does anyone else have a similar thought process that occurs in your brain? For me, it goes something like this: Stress is not good for the immune system --> shit, I am stressing, that is bad for my immune system, I am hurting my body--> stop stressing!! --> repeat.
Obviously, this is not a healthy thought process but it is an honest one. If this is you, you are not alone. And it makes total sense to be experiencing stress and anxiety right now. One of the greatest things I have learned (and continue to learn because this is not natural for me) is to accept the anxiety and stress. Not try to push it away. Acknowledge it, allow it to be here, and then try to return to the present moment.
So, as someone with autoimmune disease/diseases, how can you take care of yourself during COVID-19?
1. Feel the Feels. Reach out for support. Most therapists are offering telehealth services. If you are in Tennessee, here are some therapists offering online services and work with clients who have chronic illness and pain:
2. Support Groups. Seek out online support groups. There are many free or discounted groups online.
3. Connect with Friends. Make phone calls, facetime, zoom, etc. to friends and family. Yes, we are social distancing but let’s not socially isolate. I’ve even heard people start to refer to it as physical distancing instead of social distancing. I think I like that better.
4. Routine. Try and create somewhat of a routine for yourself. Do your normal pre-work or pre-day routine to keep things as normal as possible.
5. Movement. Moving is great for the immune system and emotional health. Exercise looks different with those with autoimmune so I encourage you to do what you can. Even if it is 5 minutes at a time. Walk, yoga, dance, jump, workout video. Find something that works for you that is low/moderate impact. Here is a great resource for autoimmune specific exercise:
6. Laugh. I know it can be hard to laugh during a time like this but we do need to keep some balance and laughter is SO good for the immune system. Some of my favorite Netflix comedy specials include : Tig Nataro, John Mulaney, Trevor Noah, Fortune Feimester.
7. Sleep. This is hard. I find myself having a hard time falling asleep and then waking up to heart racing and anxiety. Not to mention the schedule changes have caused us to be inside more and isolated. Some tips for better sleep:
a. Have a sleep routine
b. Make sure your room is dark, cool, and comfortable
c. Avoid screens at least 1 hour before bed (and avoid social media/news at night).
d. If you are on your screens, try using amber tinted glasses to help mimic light/dark cycle to aid in proper circadian rhythm. There are reasonable ones on amazon like these
8. Breaks. Take breaks from social media and news. This is essential for mental health.
9. Self care. Now is the time to up the self-care. Here is a list of some of my favorites:
a. Grounding: barefoot in the yard
Try out some guided meditations:
c. Deep breathing
e. Doing something creative—drawing,
dancing, a new project
f. Call a friend
h. Trying new recipes. Some of my favorite websites for recipes:
ii. Unbound Wellness
10. Nutrition. I know the grocery stores are running out of things and so you may be limited on what you can buy, but try and nourish your body as much as you can. Avoid letting food be another area of stress.
a. Do not skip meals
b. Drink water, aim for ½ your body weight in ounces
c. Include multiple servings of vegetables/fruit in a day
d. Balanced meals: protein, carb, veggie, fat
e. Decrease sugar and alcohol. I know it might be tempting to increase intake of these during quarantine, but these do put more stress on the immune system.
f. Mindful eating. Put down the phone (and definitely avoid social media and news while eating). Eating while stressed has negative impacts on your ability to digest and absorb nutrients.
g. To increase your vegetable consumption and limit exposure, try delivery produce services (like Misfit Market) or support local farmers through signing up for a CSA near you.
11. Supplements. Disclaimer: This is merely educational and should not be taken as advice. Always discuss with your practitioner before starting any supplement. Some supplements that *could* be beneficial right now are vitamin D3, vitamin C, Omega 3, and probiotics. These are some of my favorite ones on Wellevate Dispensary: Orthomolecular Vitamins D3 K2 (liquid), Pure Encapsulations Buffered Ascorbic Acid and Nordic Naturals Omegas. As for probiotics, here are two of my go to spore based ones that are usually well tolerated: Microbiome Labs Megaspore and Just Thrive Probiotic
12. Find resources that are helpful and informative. Here are just a few:
If you want to know more about any of these topics, message below.