The eastern states of Australia are all struggling to get COVID-19 under control, with Sydney in full runaway mode.
This comes exactly a year after Victoria was plunged into a four-month lockdown, including a curfew.
The drivers and circumstances are different – the 2021 Delta strain is more contagious, and the breakout of infection is happening in the community, not nursing homes.
But there is something that the latest breakout has in common with Victoria 2020 – it’s winter, when there are colds about, when our immunity is challenged and, with a COVID-19 focus, we need to take extra care of ourselves, physically and mentally.
Back to basics
Stress and weariness of living through a pandemic is catching up with all of us – and catching a cold or a “bug” can knock you around more than usual.
If you’re not in lockdown, avoid crowds, especially indoors – or at least wear a mask if you’re out and about.
Exercise is great for your mental health and boosts immunity – but make a habit of going for a walk or a run when the streets are quieter
Start over with social distancing practices. None of us is particularly good at it. The official advice in Australia is to keep 1.5 metres away from other people – but even then you’re still at risk of aerosol transmission.
Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your sleeve, elbow or armpit. Do not sneeze into your bare hands and then wipe your hands on your clothes. Do not cough and splutter without covering yourself. Pay attention to what your body is doing. Sharpen up
Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth. Touching the mucous membranes on your face with your dirty hands allows germs that cause respiratory infections to enter the body. This won’t be easy. It’s said that we touch our faces every minute or so.
Frequently wash your hands, for 20 seconds at a time.
Boost your immunity
As a useful explainer at The Conversation notes, “we can actively strengthen our immunity and natural defences by looking after ourselves”.
This means getting adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation increases the hormone cortisol, which suppresses immune function when its levels are elevated.
Exercise helps the lymphatic system – where our immune cells circulate – and lowers levels of stress hormones.
Eat well and drink enough water. Your immune system needs energy and nutrients obtainable from food. And staying well hydrated helps the body flush out toxins.
Research also suggests that optimism has a positive effect on recovery from illness and surgery. To see how optimistic you are, and what you can do to become more so, see here.
Go green! A 2015 study found that spending time in what we call nature – a regular walk in the park – appears to enhance our immune functions.
Access to green space has been linked to a significant lift in mental wellbeing, so the immunity boost here might be linked to optimism and mood – or simply be a consequence of some fresher air in your lungs.