Many of us have been home for the past few weeks, and it looks like that could be the case for at least a few more weeks (or months!) to come. While staying at home can be therapeutic for some people (hi there, introverts!), prolonged periods of time indoors — with limited activity — can start to take a mental toll on many of us (extrovert, here!).
I’m inspired by many of my (toddler-less) friends I am seeing on social media, who are taking this time to learn a new language or cook a five-course meal. Meanwhile, those of us with little ones are trying to figure out how to get a minute to take a trip to the bathroom by ourselves (or as I like to call it these days… “spa day”)! 🙂
That said, I’ve been thinking about different ways I can make use of all of this unplanned time at home, and came up with a few ideas that I’d like to share with you. None of these suggestions will take hours of your time (if you’re trying to work from home while taking care of littles, like I am, I’m sure you’ll appreciate this!), but they may help you put some of the unexpected space you now have in your life to use, to better your physical and mental health.
1. Consider light therapy devices to help your “cabin fever.” Depending on where you live, you may not be able to get outside for a walk every day, or you may not be getting much sunshine in your part of the world. If you had the winter blues earlier this year, supplementing with vitamin D (the “sunshine vitamin”) may help, but you would likely have the best outcomes if you combined it with blue light therapy. A recent study published in Scientific Report suggests that exposure to sunlight may be beneficial to our immune system via mechanisms that are separate from vitamin D. The researchers noted that blue light in particular, which is produced naturally by the sun, may activate key immune cells and boost immune function.
Blue light therapy devices have also been studied in seasonal affective disorder (SAD), aka “the winter blues,” with great success. I like this blue light therapy device to reap the benefits of blue light exposure anytime, from the comfort of my home. While I recommend using it for about 15 minutes a day, you can set the timer according to your needs. This light therapy can also be really helpful if you have trouble waking up in the mornings. I recommend keeping it at your bedside and turning it on when you wake up, or keeping it in your bathroom and turning it on while you get ready. The little blue light therapy device has helped me through many dark winters in Chicago, cloudy days in Amsterdam, and long Colorado winters… and now it’s helping me get through quarantine. (Our little family was visiting southern California to get some sunshine when we got word of the pandemic. We decided to cut our trip short to come home!)
2. Improve your sleep hygiene. Getting adequate rest is crucial for healing, but people with Hashimoto’s will often struggle with insomnia, unrefreshed sleep, and multiple awakenings throughout the night. During this time of uncertainty and high stress, many of us will find our sleep especially challenged. However, sleep is also critical for our immune function, so it’s more important, now than ever, to develop healthy sleep habits so that we can get as much restful sleep as possible. Here are a few tips that I incorporate into my sleep routine:
- Maintain optimal body temperatures at bedtime.
- One way to improve sleep quality is by maintaining an optimal body temperature throughout the night (which can be extra challenging for those with hormone imbalances). I use a Sleepme Sleep System to help regulate my body temperature during sleep. It utilizes water to match your body’s heat load, which not only improves comfort, but also affects core body temperature, recovery and deep sleep. I recommend checking out this company’s Cube and OOLER sleep systems!
- You can also lower your thermostat at night or open a window. The ideal sleeping temperature is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Download sleep-promoting mobile apps and devices. Whole Tones provides frequency-based therapeutic music that can help you to relieve stress, gain more energy for your day, and even calm and soothe your pet. Dodow is a metronome-based sound device that helps to retrain the brain to fall asleep. It’s scientifically designed to soothe brain activity, slow your breathing, and relax your body.
- Create a journaling habit. Oftentimes, the inability to fall asleep stems from an overactive mind. Sometimes, just the act of writing down the thoughts that are on our mind allows us to let go, de-stress, and rest. Before going to bed, try writing down all of the thoughts in your head without judgement, making a to-do list of the tasks you need to accomplish, or starting a gratitude journal.
- Limit caffeine or move it earlier in the day. Caffeine intake can impact sleep, especially for those who are particularly sensitive to its stimulating effects. Although some may find completely eliminating caffeine to be beneficial, I understand that this is not going to be possible for some people. What I do recommend is limiting caffeine to the morning only, preferably before 2:00 pm, or at least eight hours before bedtime.
- Turn the lights down. For at least a half-hour to one hour before going to bed, try to avoid bright lights. Here are some things to consider:
- Dim your office lights if you absolutely must be working this close to bedtime, and turn off any fluorescent ones that you may have.
- Don’t stare at your TV, phone, or other devices until you’ve dimmed their screens down all the way. You can also use a blue-blocking app, use the “night mode” setting on your phone, or opt for blue blocker glasses. (Truedark makes some fun glasses that block out blue light!)
- If possible, avoid screens entirely. Even five minutes of white light from a screen shuts off your melatonin production and can wreck the quality of your sleep.
- Avoid your second wind. Between 10:45 pm and 11:00 pm, we naturally get tired. Depending on the season, time changes, etc., this window may move a bit. (Hint: the best way to know your personal “tired” window is to listen to your body.) If you decide to not go to sleep during this window, the body essentially gets a “second wind” of energy, and before you know it, it’s 2:00 am and you’re still awake! Going to bed when you feel tired (i.e. before 11:00 pm) will also allow you to get better sleep and feel more rested upon wakeup, than if you went to bed later and still got the same amount of sleep.
- Sleep in a dark room. There are a few ways to make your room darker:
- Use blackout blinds. (These blinds are usually fabric, and are lined with a material that blocks all light.)
- Turn off all lights (including nightlights and salt lamps).
- Try wearing a sleep mask.
- Cover any blinking or tiny lights in your home. Use black tape to cover lights on smoke detectors (be sure that you check regularly to ensure the smoke detector is still working), or on anything else that has a small light that is always on.
- Ensure that you have an alarm clock that allows you to shut its light off.
- Ensure that your phone does not blink throughout the night if you have it on.
- Create a quiet sleep environment. Creating a quiet space that is free from disruptive noises, will help you stay in restful sleep all night long. Here are some things that can help create a peaceful sleep space:
- Consider melatonin. This sleep-cycle hormone can help you get back into your circadian rhythm routine, by providing either an immediate release of melatonin for bedtime-only insomnia, or melatonin in a delayed-release form to help with later-in-the-night awakenings. I recommend taking melatonin at bedtime.
- Dose: Take between 0.5-5mg at bedtime, starting with the lowest dose, and increase your intake until you find a dose that works for you.
3. Detox your laundry routine. If you’re following me on Instagram, you’ll know I’ve been spending some time on my son’s eczema. We’ve seen a lot of improvements with food sensitivity elimination (eggs seem to be a big trigger), treating yeast overgrowth with S. boulardii, and using nutrients (including zinc and fish oil) — but he was still having random flare ups behind his knees and on his elbows. I’ve spent some time recently investigating ways to improve the health of our laundry routine, to determine if our laundry detergent was contributing to his flare ups. I was using our pediatrician’s recommended laundry detergent, and even considered making my own recipe, but realized that sulfur, sulfites, or sulfates (likely reactants that can cause skin flare ups) were present in some form, in most organic detergents and homemade recipes.
I then stumbled on the Magnetic Laundry System (which was actually sitting in my laundry room since 2017, when my friend David Sinick, CEO of Paleo Hacks, recommended it). I washed a few of Dimitry’s PJ’s and outfits in it, and his skin has since dramatically improved — yay! It still looks a bit dry, but it’s no longer red. We live in Colorado where the weather is dry, so that makes sense. He also used to love when I gave him lotion, but now I can only put it on when he’s asleep, lol. I know that there are other reasons for eczema flares, but I feel like I at least have the detergents ruled out.
The Magnetic Laundry System uses magnets, instead of detergents, to clean clothes safely and effectively. It has completely changed our laundry routine. It turns out that many of the ingredients in laundry detergent aren’t listed on the label, so eliminating this source of toxins from our household was a huge relief. The same toxins in detergents that cause skin flares, can also contribute to an overall toxic load in a person with Hashimoto’s.
You’re going to do laundry during the quarantine anyway, right? 😉 I recommend using this time to look for ways you can eliminate common household toxins from your home, and start a new, safe, and clean routine!
So far, I have used the magnets for washing everything, and I would say that they seem to work as well as my regular detergent. (It has handled poopy baby pants, dishrags, towels, sheets, you name it!) I found that some rags that I used to mop the floor with, were clean after using the Magnetic Laundry System, but still looked grey after washing. I decided to use my regular detergent and give it a second wash, but they actually still looked the same, so I think our new laundry system is pretty effective!
4. Learn to cook a new recipe. You may be someone who loves to cook, and you may be using this extra time at home to whip up your favorite recipes. Or, you may be used to eating out… and you find this quarantine challenging, as you aren’t used to cooking for yourself. Either way, you are probably finding yourself cooking every meal from home these days, and could use a new recipe to inspire you! Much of what you are able to cook will, of course, be dependent on the ingredients you are able to source right now, but to give you some inspiration, you can download my Thyroid Bundle Cookbook for free! All of the recipes in this collection are both Hashimoto’s-friendly and tasty. (You can also check out my cookbook Hashimoto’s Food Pharmacology: Nutrition Protocols and Healing Recipes to Take Charge of Your Thyroid Health for 125 more delicious and healing recipes!)
I also recommend picking up the Always Pan by Our Place. My husband and I are loving how diverse it is for cooking all of our favorite recipes. Plus, it is a sustainable cookware brand that sources from ethical factories, uses compostable packaging with zero plastic in sight, and uses a proprietary non-toxic coating that has been deemed the safest option by experts. It even comes with a nesting spatula and steamer basket, so you have everything you need to cook delicious, thyroid-friendly food at home. (Please note: This pan is made of metal, and uses a non-toxic protective coating to prevent the metal from leaching into food. As with all pans, it is recommended to replace your pans if you scratch them.)
I’ve personally added a bread maker to my kitchen ensemble. My next challenge will be to make egg and yeast-free bread that’s also gluten-free…
5. Clean up your water. Our drinking water is one of the major sources of toxins that can challenge our health, and I recommend that everyone look into installing a home filtration system to purify their tap water. I recently discovered Clearly Filtered, and I have been very impressed with their products. They produce a variety of filtration systems, including water pitchers, shower heads, and under-the-sink filters, that are able to remove up to 99 percent of fluoride and other toxins from the water. Their website provides links to independent testing results from EPA-accredited laboratories, that show the levels of contaminants their products are able to remove from the water source. My science brain loves seeing these tests and knowing that the filter I’m using is doing what says it will do! (You can get 10% off their filtration systems using code DRWENTZ10 at checkout!)
I also love that this filter can be ordered online and is really easy to install! My sweet husband Michael was relieved that installing this filter was so easy. It took him under 15 minutes to install (and without any complaints :-)). His honey do list can get a bit long these days, so I try to be super courteous of what I ask him to do. So, even if it’s hard to get large house projects accomplished with kids running around, most of us can find 15 minutes to tackle a home upgrade that will improve our health!
6. Start a yoga practice. Whether you have 10 minutes to yourself, or a full hour, this could be a great time to begin incorporating a yoga practice into your daily routine. I began my own yoga practice a few years ago, and it has become one of my favorite ways to strengthen my body, sweat out toxins, and ground myself mentally. In fact, many controlled studies have found benefits from yoga for mental health. Plus, the combination of meditation and physical movement involved in yoga, provide two important elements for relieving depression: meditation allows a person to clear their mind, while controlled, focused movements help strengthen the body-mind connection.
Yoga is easy to do from home, as all you need is a mat (if you don’t have one, the floor will do!) and a video to follow. You can sign up for online yoga and meditation courses from Glo. Their videos can be watched from the comfort of your home — no studio required!
7. Pick up a book. I usually find that I have a long list of books that I have been meaning to read, but rarely find enough time to get through it. This extra time at home might be a good opportunity to start making your way through your own list! I admittedly don’t have too much time for this, but if you do, here are a few suggestions. 🙂
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause
- Hashimoto’s Protocol: A 90-Day Plan for Reversing Thyroid Symptoms and Getting Your Life Back
- Hashimoto’s Food Pharmacology: Nutrition Protocols and Healing Recipes to Take Charge of Your Thyroid Health
8. Create a vision board. Since I’ve been home for the past few weeks, I’ve had some time to think about the future… and what to add to my vision board! Vision boards are a great way to see your goals and set them in front of you. If you’ve never created one before, I highly encourage you to do so. (They’re a great way to reduce stress, too!) Here’s how you can create your own:
- Write out all of your goals (short and long term) on a sheet of paper.
- Find a backdrop — bristol board, foam board, cork board, bulletin board, etc.
- Gather supplies — magazines, scissors, glue, embellishments, a printer, etc.
- On a piece of paper, write out your “why’s” — Why are you creating this vision board? What are the important things in your life that you want to create these visions (goals) for? Are your goals for yourself, your kids, family, career, etc.? When you are in a rut or can’t remember why you’ve created this board, you can re-read your “why’s” and remind yourself why you have created it.
- Paste your “why’s” in the middle of the board.
- Group your goals (from step 1) into different categories. (Examples: Self-care, Career, Travel, Health, Spiritual, etc.)
- Find images, words, etc. that accurately display what it is that you are envisioning.
- Place your vision board where you will see it daily.
9. Clean up the house “Marie Kondo style.” While we’re all stuck indoors for a while, it might be a good time to tackle those organization projects you’ve been meaning to get to since… well, you moved in. 🙂 I personally haven’t had large chunks of time to reorganize my whole house (see note above about active toddler), but I have been finding little projects around my house that I can tackle during nap time, to create more of a sense of order and serenity in my home. This is especially important during these uncertain times, when stress levels are high and the world can feel chaotic. Bringing a sense of organization to our own spaces can help us feel more at peace and “spark joy” as Marie Kondo, the creator of the KonMari method, likes to say. 🙂
You can fire up Netflix to binge-watch Marie’s show Tidying Up with Marie, or pick up a copy of her best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing to learn her strategies for home organization. Here are a few simple tips to help get you started right away:
- Decide if an old garment sparks joy. Sort through your drawers and closets, and only keep the clothes that make you feel great when you wear them.
- Get rid of the paper clutter. Most important documents can be found online these days, and you can use a scanner to scan in those that don’t exist digitally. This can help you get rid of those stacks of paper, and even the need for filing cabinets!
- Ask yourself “why?” Why are you holding onto that old t-shirt from high school? Why do you still have that painting your grandma gave you in the back of the hall closet? Getting some clarity around why you have a hard time letting some things go, will help you decide what to keep and what to donate.
- Tidy by category, not location. Rather than picking a room to tidy up (which can be overwhelming), pick a category. For example, if you are tackling your clothes, then get all the clothes out of every closet and drawer in every room. Then, focus on sorting, discarding, and organizing those items, before moving onto the next category.
So far, I have gotten rid of all of my old frying pans that no longer spark joy, and got this new one I love!
10. Start an elimination diet. Having some extra time at home, when you are most likely cooking all of your own meals, can be a great time to try an elimination diet to uncover your own food sensitivities. (It’s also a great way to turn lemons into lemonade if your favorite foods are currently difficult to get.)
The elimination diet is the most accurate test and is the “gold standard” for discovering the foods that are causing your symptoms, as it allows you to experiment with the specific foods that you suspect are causing a reaction. It also allows you to notice first-hand the symptoms that disappear and reappear when you consume that food. Most people with Hashimoto’s do have sensitivities to several foods, and eliminating those foods from your diet gives your gut the chance to heal. (It often removes many symptoms of Hashimoto’s as well.) I have even seen people go into remission, simply by removing the foods they were sensitive to!
There are three important steps to the elimination diet:
- Decide which foods you are going to eliminate. Ask yourself questions, like: What foods do I crave? What foods feel like they’d be hard to give up? What foods do I eat the most? Sometimes the foods we are most drawn to or eat most often, are the ones that are causing us the most symptoms.
- Avoid the foods you are eliminating. This step is crucial! Again, even the smallest amount of a food that you are avoiding, could cause a reaction, so it is important that you are vigilant and avoid all traces of the food for three weeks.
- Reintroduce the challenged foods. If your symptoms have improved after three weeks, you can start adding the foods back in, one at a time. Paying attention to any reactions you may have to particular foods, will help you identify your personal food sensitivities.
While there may be some challenges with changing your diet during a time when certain foods are scarce, the elimination diet does focus on removing foods you’ve been eating, rather than adding in new foods, and will be doable for most people. Additionally, since eating out at restaurants, or gathering with family and friends, are not currently options for us, this could be a great time to do some work on your own diet, without those distractions or “cheat” meals. Check out my article to learn the details of doing an elimination diet, and maybe you will come out of this quarantine with improved health and a relief of your own symptoms!
I hope you found this list inspiring!
If you’re interested in learning more about your thyroid condition, I have many articles full of helpful information on my website. Now is a great time to catch up on any posts you may have missed, and spend some time as your own health advocate! You can also pick up digital or audio copies of my books Hashimoto’s: The Root Cause and Hashimoto’s Protocol instantly! (You don’t even need to leave your home and sanitize any packages. :-))
I’d love to hear your ideas for keeping yourself healthy and sane during this quarantine. Please share them with me via my Facebook page!
I hope you are staying safe and taking care of yourselves!