The A Word: Easing Lockdown – Week 1

The easing of lockdown has started but it hasn’t made any difference to our daily life, we still can’t see our family which is frustrating.  Whilst I accept the strategy and understand why this is the case, it did make me smile when the gradual return to school was announced;  the youngest children returning first who are notoriously good at not touching things they shouldn’t and maintaining personal space 😊. 

Jamie and I continue to do our gym workouts and long walks and whilst we can now do unlimited exercise, I already feel like a fitness freak so doing more exercise isn’t on my agenda.  I do, however, like to dress up once in a while; when you wear the same “comfort” clothes every day you adopt the characteristics of your clothes whereas putting on a dress or a different pair of jeans and a little makeup can make you feel more positive. 

Dressing up is important to me from a work perspective too.  I’ve always been a very nervous presenter but presenting to an audience has been a necessary part of my job.  I gave internal company presentations on our performance in sales as well as external presentations to clients when we were bidding for business.   I often felt ill beforehand and my legs would shake, so on those presentation days I would make an extra effort to “power” dress and I’m sure it helped me psychologically.  I still present today although not as much and I still dress up as a means of boosting confidence.  Currently, in Covid world, I try to intersperse the comfort days with clothes to boost energy and mood levels which certainly fluctuate during these difficult times. 

I write my blog to raise awareness of autoimmune disease and I’ve placed a lot of emphasis on how we can help ourselves to live our best life.  I get a lot of questions every week on this subject from readers who want to understand more about my self-help daily regime and I’m really pleased to hear that my blogs are helpful.

People like me who suffer with autoimmune disease must deal with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and the many other side effects daily.  To add to the chaos there’s the additional problem of stress which can induce flare ups making things worse.   Autoimmune disease can complicate everything, even trying to motivate ourselves to eat well and exercise.  There are many barriers to self-help too, including accessibility of exercise equipment, cost, and time so it’s often easier to talk about self-help than to put it into practice.

Last week we discussed the concept of “clean eating” but as I pointed out, it does take a huge amount of time and effort to adopt this way of life.  This week I want to discuss the importance of Vitamin D which doesn’t have the same cost or time barriers.

Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to our skin being exposed to sunlight.  It’s one of the few nutrients we can’t get enough of from food. Our bodies are designed to make Vitamin D from sunlight, yet modern life has made that difficult. The result is a worldwide deficiency in Vitamin D, even in sunny locations. 

As we know, Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and deficiency has traditionally been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralise, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities.   But increasingly researchers have been focusing on the consequences of Vitamin D deficiency in other areas and have found an alarming number of health issues outside of its role with rickets. These include skeletal diseases like osteoporosis, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, and psychological disorders.

I know from my regular blood tests that my Vitamin D levels are too low, and research is concluding that people with ankylosing spondylitis or other chronic inflammatory diseases do have lower Vitamin D levels than the normal population.  I suspect my avoidance of the sun exacerbates my deficiently too.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the sun, but in order to protect my skin, I wear a factor 50 sun cream on my face every day (even on rainy days and in Winter).  I don’t expose my skin to the sun during the high sun index hours of 10am to 4pm and even on holiday I love to sit on the beach but under the shade of my umbrella.  I use an umbrella when sitting in the garden and I wear a cap or hat and sunglasses when out walking to protect my face.  I have taken this approach since my late 30’s when I saw first-hand the damage the sun can do to your skin.  I am also aware of the risk from skin cancer which is another good reason to protect our skin from UV radiation.

So, what can we do about this Vitamin D deficiency? Apparently only 20% of our vitamin D is meant to come from our diet with the remaining 80% provided by our skin from UV-B exposure to the sun.  A simple blood test can determine Vitamin D levels and the amount of Vitamin D that is needed to correct any deficiency will depend on the severity of the deficiency and your individual medical conditions. The time of year will also impact your needs. For example, if you are on the low end of normal blood levels and heading in to the winter months you would need a bit more than if you were heading in to the summer months if you like to spend time out in the sun.

I’m definitely going to investigate Vitamin D supplements to see if they make a difference to my levels of Vitamin D before my next blood test.  I’ll keep my readers informed of any improvements in my well-being too.  My understanding is that supplements should be taken with a meal that contains fat. Studies have shown that when taken on an empty stomach versus with a meal containing fat, there was an average of 32% more vitamin D absorption in the fat-containing meal.

On a final note, the new government message #StayAlert resonated with me as the “alert” message was a big part of my sales training.   It was good remind myself of the definitions of “alert”

  • Adjective – quick to notice any unusual and potentially dangerous, vigilant
  • Noun – the state of being watchful for possible danger.
  • Verb – warn (someone) of a danger or a problem.

Working in sales, we needed to be “alert” every day.  In order to win business, it was important to be at least two moves ahead of the client and the competition.  By being alert and quick to notice any unusual circumstances or changes in our clients buying behaviour we could identify challenges or problems and act upon them before they became “show-stoppers”.  Selling complex software solutions worth millions of pounds into banks required you to think about every possible scenario and act on it before anyone else.

A good example of this is a racing car driver.  They know that the fastest path through a tight turn is to begin the turn just a moment earlier than most people would think to do so.  Those fractional advantages make all the difference both on the racetrack and in our everyday life.

Every move we make, every step we take, we should think about the outcome.

Until next time, keep safe and keep alert xxx

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