Have you lost that pep in your step since the economy went south? The wallet feels lighter, you’re not sleeping well, energy levels are in the pits and the prospect of looking for a job seems to drop a bucket of anxiety on your head. These are all symptoms of the Recession Flu.
Recession Flu is not caused by stress, and not by a bacteria or virus. Now, while it isn’t a legitimate disease, Recession flu is currently affecting millions of Americans and it comes with some serious side-effects.
Over the past decade, “the most common problems that emerged following no-fault job loss were cardiovascular conditions—primarily, hypertension and heart disease—and arthritis,” according to a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Additionally, over 50 million Americans don’t have health insurance and when we lose our job we may lose or have a temporary loss of health insurance. For these Americans, getting sick is not an option. Getting the processed foods out of your diet is a good start to staying healthy. With that in mind, let's focus on some additional foods that, when eaten every day, will keep the doctor away.
Inexpensive Antidotes to the Recession Flu
1. Get a Rhythm
Johnny Cash famously told us to “Get Rhythm, when you get the blues.” For anyone unemployed or underemployed, getting “the blues” is a natural consequence. This often leads to insomnia, inactivity and depression. The way to combat this is to keep your body in a rhythm. The body loves rhythm.
- So get to sleep at the same hour every night, ideally around 10:00 p.m.
- Eat your three meals around the same time each day, and exercise around the same time each day.
Sleep, in particular, tends to be the driver of the bio-rhythm bus. Creating consistent circadian rhythms allows your body to detox, repair and build energy for the next day. Allowing your body to fall out of these healthy rhythms creates stress and can lead to hypertension, obesity and diabetes.
2. Eat Real, Healthy Food
There are many ways to save money on food, and buying cheap processed foods is not one of them.
First of all, limit eating out at restaurants because they are expensive and avoid fast food because it does nothing to nourish your body or brain. You need your brain to be sharp and clear as you seek better opportunities, not bogged down with inflammatory food that drips saturated fats throughout your bloodstream.
Stop by your local grocery store and pick up some fruits and veggies as well as some healthy sources of protein; nuts and seed, meats, beans and limited whole grains. Wash and chop up the veggies and make a large salad you can eat throughout the week, prepare a soup with healthy meats and veggies like carrots, and kale. Preparing larger quantities of food will cut down on costs and keep you eating healthy throughout the week.
Vitamin C is a huge immune booster and can be found in oranges, peppers, apples, lemons, limes, kiwi and many other delicious fruits. Vitamin A produced from beta-carotene is another of the body’s favorite weapons against infection and disease. Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, peppers, kale and spinach all have high levels of beta-carotene and are great in soups and salads. Vitamin E has been linked to lower cardiovascular disease and we get plenty of Vitamin E from nuts and seeds.
Keep a small bag of homemade trail mix filled with your favorite nuts and seeds, dried fruits and dark chocolate. This ensures you will get your Vitamin E and also saves you money but not having to stop and buy food when you are on-the-go. Finally, garlic and onions not only make a delicious pasta sauce but they also fight the bugs that make you sick.
Research shows that eating these foods and limiting processed foods will both keep you healthy day to day and increase your life expectancy.
3. Get in Shape
After you finished school, you got a job and started a new life. This life was slightly less active than your childhood and adolescence and over time maybe your belt became a little tighter, your jeans started to feel like “skinny jeans” even though they weren’t when you bought them. Your excuse was work, and maybe it was valid.
Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise will give you a thinner body, new confidence and improved energy. The best exercise is a combination of cardio and resistance or weight training for a minimum of four hours per week. Getting thin means having a healthy Body Mass Index, which is a ratio of height to weight. Although this index has its limitations, research shows that “All-cause mortality is generally lowest with a BMI of 20.0 to 24.9.” Take this time, eat healthy, exercise, live long and feel great. If you want to know what your BMI is, click here.
4. Breathe the Stress Away
As I stated earlier, the cause of Recession Flu is stress. Stress on the body can come from a variety of sources but regardless of whether it’s emotional, physical or financial, the effects on the body are the same. Our bodies don’t really know the difference between overdue bills or being chased by a tiger. Immediately we shift into our stressful sympathetic nervous system and release stress hormones like cortisol.
In the short run, cortisol is a good thing. It gives us a quit shot of energy and once we kill the tiger or pay the bill we revert back to our calming parasympathetic nervous system and all is well. But if the stress doesn’t go away and we stay in our sympathetic nervous system, our body starts to break down. Excessive cortisol produces inflammation, ruins digestion, and lowers immunity.
How do we combat cortisol? Well, exercise helps but you’re already doing that. One of the most effective methods of reducing cortisol and other effects of stress is... breathing. That’s right, it’s free, effective, and you can do it anytime. If it was a pill it would be more popular than Viagra.
To maximize the benefits of breathing, follow these simple instructions:
- Close your eyes
- Breathe in a slow rhythmic pattern
- Put your hands on your stomach and push your stomach out as you inhale
- Allow your stomach to relax as you exhale
- Consider saying a mantra. This is a religious verse or inspirational saying that you repeat over and over as you breathe.
A 2009 meta-analysis review found that this type of breathing can reduce stress levels and therefore reduce all of the negative effects that stress has created.
Be Kind To Your Body During Stressful Times
Eventually the economy will bounce back as it has after every other economic downturn. Once again you will be gainfully employed and will think back on the six months or year that you were out of work and think, “Why didn’t I get in shape?”
When we are caught up in the day-to-day of finding a new job or better job it’s harder to see the big picture. It’s easy to let a sick economy infect you as well. For some, this recession will be devastating and for others it will be a turning point. The good news is that the most effective ways of dealing with stress, maintaining your health, and living a long, high quality life are pretty inexpensive. So get a rhythm, eat healthy, move that body, breathe and get ready to take on the world.