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'Now is the perfect time to focus on who we are:' How to improve your physical and mental health during a pandemic

Tips from a lifestyle medicine physician on how to use self-quarantine to your advantage.

Being at home around the clock can feel suffocating, but you can be using this time to better yourself physically and mentally, according to Dr. Heather Hammerstedt.

“By night, I am an emergency medicine physician and I take care of people all across Ada, Canyon county, and into eastern Oregon,” Hammerstedt said. “My other hat is that I am a lifestyle medicine doctor. 

We use the evidence behind food and sleep and exercise and mindfulness for the prevention and reversal of disease,” she added.

Hammerstedt said that right now is the perfect time for us to focus on who we are, how we move our bodies, and being aware of the way we think about ourselves.

“As I always tell my Wholist clients, there are three things we can control right now,” she said. “What you can put in your body, how you move your body, and what your thoughts are on the circumstance you’re currently in.”

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The lifestyle physician said she believes the most important of the three is focusing on what you put in your body.

“What you eat can actually slug your brain with neurochemicals that can actually make you happy – or not,” she said. “The more unprocessed our food is that we eat, whole real food, things that are grown, not things that come in boxes—that’s the most efficient way we can treat our bodies and brains the best we can.”

When it comes to mental health improvement, Hammerstedt says it begins with recognizing your thoughts – all of them.

“We have about 60,000 thoughts a day and we are only aware of 5% of them, because if we were aware of more of them we would just be laying around thinking about thinking,” she said. “What that means is that we’re often not aware of the things that we think about ourselves.”

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Hammerstedt said it will be uncomfortable confrontng our subconscious thoughts, but it will provide clarity as to what you can and cannot control.

“A lot of people have lost their jobs, some people are part-time, we’re stuck at home, we’re trying to figure out how to homeschool,” she said. “We’re all doing the same things.

If we control what we’re thinking about it, and we shift it, even if it feels sort of forced at first, then you begin to get different feelings, which lead to different thoughts, which will produce different results,” the doctor added.

Hammerstedt said you cannot control whether you are going to get sick or not, but you can change your current physical and mental health.

“What you can do is make yourself the healthiest that you possibly can so you can your family can fight off the virus if you actually get it,” Hammerstedt said.

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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