You’ve watched the news and heard the reports. We’re going to be dealing with the COVID-19 global pandemic for a while, so it’s time to get smart, be safe and practice self-care.
First and foremost – take a deep breath. Repeat as necessary until a sense of calm washes over you.
You just practiced a little self-care! More on that below…
Now that we’re a little more centered, let’s talk about what we can all do to stay healthy during this stressful time.
The best thing to do right now is to be informed. Contradictory updates and opinions on COVID-19 are coming at us from a variety of different sources, so knowing where to get reliable information is essential. We’re talking about science-based sources you can trust.
Cook for Your Life is actively monitoring updates from the CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the WHO: World Health Organization, as well as from our parent organization, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. We will continue to update this article and our community as we receive further guidance from these sources.
Fred Hutch News recently published Coronavirus: What Cancer Patients Need to Know, an extremely helpful article which gives vital information and advice for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers from two top Fred Hutch doctors, Dr. Steve Pergam, infectious disease clinician and researcher, and Dr. Gary Lyman, oncologist and health policy expert.
Yes, you are now well aware that continual hand washing is crucial and that you need to stop touching your face, which is easier said than done, but what else?
We turn to the CDC and their Steps to Prevent Illness roundup, which gives you tips on protecting yourself and others, including:
- Details on avoiding close contact with others
- When to stay home and when to get help
- The proper way to handle sneezing
- Wearing a mask if you’re sick (and skipping one if you’re not)
- How to properly clean and disinfect your surroundings
For the cancer-affected community, there are further, more specific guidelines you should follow, especially for those over the age of 70 and patients who are currently in treatment. The aforementioned Fred Hutch article does a great job of addressing these concerns, plus further information can be found at SCCA, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and their COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Update, a detailed FAQ for their patients and the general cancer community.
While Cook for Your Life is all about healthy cooking and following smart nutritional guidelines, your diet is only one defense against this virus.
You’ve already got the deep breathing technique down, now it’s time to add a few more immune system-boosting, stress-busting items to your repertoire.
Getting a proper amount of sleep – most adults require about 7-8 hours per night and children need more – will not only boost your immune system, it will also make you more mentally strong and help you remain calm during this stressful time. According to Dr. Gary Lyman at Fred Hutch, “If you’re not getting a minimum of six or seven or, ideally, eight hours of sleep a night, there’s demonstrable scientific evidence that the immune system may be compromised.”
The level of aerobic exercise that you can handle is individualized. For some it might be a short walk, for others, it’s a long, hard run. The point is to get up, get outside, if possible, get your blood pumping and get those endorphins going. Not only does regular exercise help calm you down by dissipating stress, according to Dr. Cornelia Ulrich, a former cancer epidemiologist at Fred Hutch, now Executive Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute, “it’s been shown that just a 30-minute walk can increase levels of leukocytes, which are part of the family of immune cells that fight infection.”
Dr. Lyman also weighs in on why now, more than ever, it’s important to eat well. “It appears that 70%-80% of our immune system is in the gastrointestinal tract and [it is] directly impacted by the food we eat and the microbes that thrive in our gut. A balanced diet, eating fruits and vegetables, is very important.”
Since 2007 our founder Ann Ogden Gaffney and the Cook for Your Life team have been teaching healthy cooking to people touched by cancer. With over 1,100 healthy recipes, 300 instructional cooking videos and 400+ articles, we have just about covered it all. Staying safe and cooking in the time of this Coronavirus outbreak introduces different challenges that we’ll be tackling from different angles going forward.
Read more about COVID-19 and cancer from our parent organization Fred Hutch: