Aktualisiert: 26. Juni 2020
How to take care of your health - at no cost even during uncertain times
Are you unsure how to assess the current situation after the Covid-19 lockdown? Do you consider whether it is safe again to follow your old habits? Or whether the measures taken over the past few months have been somewhat excessive or even counter-productive? Are you perhaps rethinking the concept of active health care for the first time in your life? To me this situation clearly indicated how external circumstances can affect us despite our best efforts. And at the same time - which self-care measures have emerged as particularly helpful.
Self-care neither has to be a complicated nor a money-intensive affair. Not at all! Self-care primarily is a matter of attitude and of setting priorities. Furthermore, self-care begins with introducing simple wholesome habits into your everyday life. And these can be simple and free of charge.
A wise person should give up by and by unwholesome practices to which he is addicted and he should correspondingly adopt ones which are wholesome.
- Caraka Samhita [CS|Su|VII|36-37]
Shedding or incorporating habits is ongoing work
This raises the question of what is easier to do? To omit unwholesome habits or to incorporate healthy habits into your everyday life?
Ayurveda generally advises to gradually and gently discard old or unwholesome habits. Drastic spontaneous changes are often counterproductive and may even demotivate us. A practical supportive tool may be a visual schedule with realistic weaning goals.
Similarly, healthy but multi-loaded resolutions oftentimes are equally unrealistic and demotivating. Instead, a step-by-step approach and visual goals can boost motivation in the long run. At best, you do have a so-called buddy or your family supports your wholesome efforts.
The following 5 points are listed according to their effectiveness, importance and feasibility, but you may also incorporate them in different order. After all, we are all unique and health is a constant matter of maintaining or reestablishing your natural individual balance.
Five simple and free habits that will strengthen your immune system at all times
Maintain a certain routine every day
Support your body with the digestive process
Every day allow yourself a break
Make sleep your ally
1. Maintain a certain routine every day
The causes of the diseases relating to both (mind and body) are three-fold wrong utilisation, non-utilisation and excessive utilisation of time, mental faculties and objects of sense organs.
- Caraka Samhita [CS|Su|1|54]
In Ayurveda one of the primary root causes of mental and physical complaints is the inappropriate use of time. More specifically, not only the time of the day but also time in terms of all temporal rhythms, especially our biorhythms and the different seasons of the year. In modern science the field of chronobiology researches these connections.
External circumstances greatly influence our biorhythms as the past few months clearly indicated. Additionally, our work and responsibilities shape our day-to-day life, which may vary depending on the seasons.
Accordingly, a regulated daily routine with uniformly determined
breaks for sportive and recreational activities
rest and relaxation slots
your digestion including the optimal utilisation of nutrients
and provide you with the feeling of discipline, joy and motivation.
In knowing your own constitutional type you will become an expert of your own health at any given time.
One way to determine your own constitution for example is by doing a simple 'dosha test'. You can find such tests on the web and in numerous guidebooks. Oftentimes there are three types mentioned, namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha although Ayurveda recognises 7 different constitutional types in total. Our constitution is never completely static, but rather subject to constant fluctuations. This is because we do not live in a sterile laboratory. Therefore, we need to balance and adapt to all natural and environmental influences primarily with our daily habits and our way of life. Thus, it is advisable to seek professional advice, particularly since an objective view is often more accurate than your own. With the appropriate background knowledge you will soon develop a sensitivity for yourself and for your own needs again.
2. Support your body with the digestive process
Taken in appropriate quantity, food certainly helps the individual in bringing about strength, complexion, happiness and longevity without disturbing the equilibrium of dhatus (tissues) and doshas (bio-energies) of the body.
- Caraka Samhita [CS|Su|V|8]
Ayurveda attributes the root cause of all possible discomforts and illnesses (trauma and accidents exempted) to a disturbed digestion. The most obvious indications are constipation and diarrhoea, but Ayurveda also recognises many other signs including flatulence, bad breath, ... .
In addition to the aforementioned routine and regular meal times other factors are important in maintaining your health. Particularly
the correctly selected portion size
and the quality of your food.
As long as your body easily digests the food and properly absorbs all ingested nutrients this positively contributes to your well-being. However, as soon as your digestion is stressed with
too much food
and nutrient-poor or even nutrient-depleting food
your body will involuntarily react to it as a result.
While we may not always be able to influence the quality of our meals, i.e. take-away food or eating out, we can always control the right amount or portion size. This is true unless you are a guest in certain countries where refusing food is considered rude ;-)
From an Ayurvedic perspective no one is alike. Given our individual constitutional types there is no uniformly correct portion size. You may wonder how you can determine your own optimal portion size by yourself? For this Ayurveda has a great and simple tip up her sleeve.
Provided that there are no further complaints and the meals are not too heavy and fat, like meat or deep fried food, you can literally derive your own portion size using your own two hands like in the picture above. From your very own capacity you should only ingest up to
3/4 of easily digestible food
or up to 1/2 when eating heavy meals
Simple, isn't it?!
3. Exercise regularly
Physical exercise brings about lightness, ability to work, stability, resistance to discomfort and alleviation of dosas (especially Kapha). It stimulates the power of digestion.
- Caraka Samhita [CS|Su|VII|32]
A renowned proverb goes: 'A rolling stone gathers no moss'.
Especially during the lockdown period many of us committed ourselves to more exercise. I personally really enjoyed observing many parents who did sports with their children.
Just like with food, Ayurveda also recommends exercising according to your own constitutional capacity. Especially with viewpoint to the customised sporting duration and intensity.
This year, considering current uncertainties about another possible Covid-19 outbreak and other recurring diseases such as influenza and the common cold, Ayurveda cautions to act in a preventative manner. More specifically, Ayurveda advises to maintain and strengthen your immunity by avoiding any additional burden this year. From an Ayurvedic perspective, this not only includes exaggerated sports and exercises, but also strong fasting cures (such as Ayurvedic Panchakarma cures).
With regard to sports, Ayurveda therefore recommends exercising in a moderate manner. Rather than exercising excessively once every while it is recommended to gradually strengthen your body with regular sportive activities. This way you can enhance your physical health without diminishing your immune strength in favour of regeneration.
You can determine your own optimal sporting duration and intensity by yourself. Whenever you notice a slight sweat forming on your forehead and above your mouth it is time to end your exercises. This again may vary depending on your constitutional type, your current state of health, your sporting habits and the type of exercise. Even experienced athletes may notice a lower level of fitness on some days.
Particularly during these times, you can use this tip as a simple reference guideline to promote your health and immune system with appropriate exercise habits.
4. Every day allow yourself a break
Encouraging creativity by doing nothing means that we can look forward to a lot - and apologize for less.
- Lawson Ursery
During the lockdown technology has proven to be an effective tool in carrying on as before and in coping with the situation. Even so, the constant exposure to technical devices and a perpetual influx of news may alter our biorhythms. Thereby, we find it difficult to rest which is as important to our health as all the above mentioned points.
Taking breaks from digital overuse can increase your creative and productive potentials. But once again, frequent breaks are more wholesome than one lengthy break once in a blue moon.
Mere 10 minutes of daydreaming can already reactivate your creativity. Whenever you manage to loose yourself in the moment your brain mobilises itself. Thereby, you won't have to rely as much on external stimulants such as coffee or cigarettes. You may even savour them more or be able to finally omit them at all because of that. The essential point is that you must not be too focused on one particular thing like with reading.
In addition to daydreaming there are many different ways to rest and relax your mind:
Movement: some clear their mind by doing sports, walking or 'bathing in the forest', dancing
Culinary: others like to switch off when cooking or baking
Creative processes: like painting, singing, gardening allow us to feel the moment
Relaxation: some relax for example when they take a warm bath, enjoy a massage, listen to music or to their breath
Spiritual practices: in form of meditation or prayers to some are already a fixed part of their everyday life
Being in good company: at best in personally or even virtually oftentimes has already let the time pass by in a flash
Let yourself go: whether through daydreaming, or by aimlessly roaming about, or simply get on the next best train and enjoy the adventure
Never mind a specific form or duration. What is more important is that you regularly dedicate more time to being less productive and being more idle.
5. Make sleep your ally
The sleep caused by the nature of the night is the sleep par excellence; ... (that nurses all the living beings). ...
- Caraka Samhita [CS|Su|XXI|59]
According to Ayurveda sleep is one of the three most important foundations in maintaining our health and all biorhythmic processes. Sleep has a different meaning to each and everyone of us which is already well researched nowadays.
Classical Ayurveda recognises 7 different categories of sleep. Out of these night sleep is considered to be the most beneficial because it promotes both homeostasis (maintenance of all bodily functions) and regeneration in all living beings. Don't worry too much about early or late bedtime hours. Even when you go to sleep past midnight the health-promoting benefits are retained.
For a long time the benchmark of 8 hours of sleep was assumed to be the optimal standard measurement. Nowadays we know that optimal sleep depends on several different factors like age, genes, health status, and sleep routine. Moreover, more important than the length of sleep are
the sleep efficiency (= the actual bedtime of all hours spent in bed)
and the quality of sleep.
Regularity is and remains an important constant, also with sleep. Again it is dependent on several factors, but always sticking to the same times is easier said than done. Especially people who are Vata-dominant are more susceptible to irregular sleep times or sleep interruptions, while people with excess of Pitta have fewer problems with sleep and Kapha-types often feel that they need more than 8 hours of sleep.
Given the impact sleep has on our overall quality of life it is advisable to support and improve your night sleep for example with an individual sleep ritual. This may include some of the following suggestions:
Take a light supper 4-3h before going to bed
Switch off electronic devices 2-1h before going to bed and read for example
reflect on your day with a diary
take a warm shower
massage your body with soothing oils
dedicate yourself to your partner or family
listen to music
Oftentimes we can adjust our waking and sleeping rhythm more effectively if we focus more on the wake-up time rather than the optimal sleeping time. This again varies according to your constitutional type, dosha excesses and also on the current season. During the upcoming summer months the optimal wake-up times according to constitutional type are:
Kapha (dominant): between 05:00 - 05:30am
Pitta (dominant): around 05:30am
Vata (dominant): between 06:00 and 06:30
Although the weather does not show it the summer season is about to start. And contrary to all other seasons a short day nap is generally not contraindicated on really hot / summer days. The Ayurvedic exception to this is severe overweight / obesity, where a day nap is not recommended! Alternatively, you may resort to a power nap of approx. 15-20 minutes.
However, contrary to the proverb
`After dinner rest a while, after supper walk a mile´
a rest or nap should always be taken before having your meal.
You probably may have noticed that your health mainly depends on your lifestyle and your habits.
Even in times of crises you can always resort to these 5 simple habits to strengthen your immunity at any time for free - regardless of what may come. Again as a reminder:
Maintain a certain routine every day
Support your body with the digestive process
Every day allow yourself a break
Make sleep your ally
If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!