It’s official – The World Health Organization just declared coronavirus a pandemic.

Major events being cancelled everywhere (including our last Art Show in Florida, which is a real bummer).

But I’m happy that there is more information available now about the facts of the virus – and why the immense disruption to our lives is worth every moment of uncomfortableness. And while still scary, the facts definitely put the disease into better perspective.

And hopefully relieves a bit of the frenzied reactions we’ve seen the past few weeks.

As a professional in the health field, I felt it was time to add my 2 cents to the conversation. 
And those 2 cents are to focus on your immune system.

Because in times of illness, your immune system is your best health defense!

Not contracting a virus, or being able to weather a virus you may have contracted without aggressive issues, is all up to you. If you make some very basic choices, you can be your own vaccination.

So, other than washing your hands, not touching your face, using sanitizer in public places and knowing how to cough and sneeze so you don’t impact those around you (hint: cover your mouth and nose with your elbow), what else can we be doing for our bodies and minds to stay strong and healthy through this pandemic (oh, and other normal times of year when viruses can wreak havoc on our health)?

We can support our immune systems with sleep, stress relief, healthy eating and vitamins. Let me tell you more about each one, and how they can help you ward off illness.

Please note: These recommendations will not eliminate the potential we all have for contracting the virus. But they may help to mitigate, support and keep you healthier than you might otherwise be during times of contagious illness.


You know how I feel about sleeping. I LOVE everything about sleeping! 
You also know, if you’ve read any of my blogs on the topic, how important sleep is to our ability to perform at our highest levels, our mood, and our overall physical and mental health.

So how exactly does sleep impact our immune systems?

There is some interesting research out there on the topic of sleep and how the lack of sleep can impact our immune systems. One example: Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and Carnegie Mellon University monitored the sleep of participants for one week. Test subjects were then given nasal drops containing the common cold virus. Those who had slept less than six hours a night the week before were four times more likely to catch the cold compared with those who got more than seven hours of sleep. 

When we get overworked, stressed or panic, and our sleep hours dwindle, we put ourselves in the precarious position of not being strong enough to fight illness. We are shorting ourselves on the time needed for our bodies to not only recover, but to build the resources we need to fight on another day.

Research has also shown us that sleep supports our ability to fight off illness if we fall sick. It has to do with our T cells – as explained in this article much better than I could ever explain the concept to you!

Trouble sleeping? Take a look at my recommendations here.

Stress Relief:

Is all of this news, social media attention, various school and event cancellations related to the coronavirus stressing you out?

Me too!

Seriously, I have been spending a lot of time with the voices in my head talking myself off of the panic ledge. Reminding myself that in our world today, news and social media can make things seem much more dramatic than truth.

And that school and event cancellations are being overly cautious to protect themselves.

And while I understand that logic – I find myself spending more time calming myself down.

But let me put stress and immunity into perspective for you with a real life situation we have all experienced.

You are heading on vacation next week. And there is a lot to be done before you go! At work and at home. So we book ourselves from before sunrise to way after sun down with all the things that need to happen.

Get the team ready for covering you while you are out. Finish off that last big project(s) at work. Answer all of your unread emails from months ago so that you have room in your mailbox for all the new emails that will pile up while you are gone. Laundry. Packing. Final trip to all the stores to get your last minute items needed for the time away from home.

You are exhausted. You are overspent. You are stressed out crazy busy. But you think, “I’ll just sleep on the plane!” or “I’ll relax when I get to my destination”.

And then it happens. You get on the plane. You get to your final destination. And you let yourself finally relax. Physically and mentally.

Then BLAMMO! Your body says, “Oh nice, we’re letting our hair down and finally relaxing. I think I’ll let all our defenses down as well! We all need a break!”.

And we get sick. Maybe a cold. Maybe just pure exhaustion. Whatever hits us, we’re down for the count.

Because we overloaded our circuits the week before. And eventually the circuit breaker had to break.

Right? We’ve all been there. We all have that story in some form or another. This is the perfect example of why it’s important to maintain some baseline of relaxation in our everyday lives.

So that when the day comes to really stress out, we are able to bring ourselves back to baseline before we overload those circuits.

Similar to ample sleep, stress management keeps our bodies working at their best levels. We aren’t taxing valuable body/mind resources on fear, panic or obsession of how much worse things could possibly be.

Stress and anxiety take a toll on our immune systems. How? This article is a great resource as to how anxiety impacts so many things around our health – including our immune systems. 

Keep your stress in check – and you keep nasty viruses at bay.

Eat Healthy Food / Supplement:

Please tell me that you ALL understand that eating healthy food will strengthen your immune system without me having to go into too much detail.

Your body needs good proteins/fats/carbs/vitamins and minerals to work at it’s best. The healthier you eat, the better your body is prepared to reject any crazy virus that may want to attack you.

Need more science around this? Read this.

I want to focus on supplements. Vitamin supplements are a tricky topic for a health blogger because everyBODY is different. What works for me may not be what works for you. So, while I will share my routine here, I want to make sure to caveat this with the recommendation to always consult your doctor for the best ideas specific to your personal body.

I do believe, however, that a good multi-vitamin is a necessity for every single one of us. I take one specifically for 50+ men/women (from WholeFoods). A multi-vitamin is, to me, just a really good foundation to have. I don’t know any ‘normal’ human being who can eat a regular diet that provides all the needed vitamins/minerals we need in our bodies daily. So a multi-vitamin helps to fill in around the edges.

In addition to a multi-vitamin, I regularly take:
~ Fish Oil – heart health and joint health
~ Turmeric – immune system
~ Vitamin D – healthy bones
~ Chondroitin, glucosamine and MSM – bones and joints
~ Black Cohosh – this is a menopause thing…and I love it!

During the winter, and times when I need a little more immune system boost, I add an extra Vitamin C capsule to my list.

When I travel, I find it cumbersome to bring all of my vitamins with me, so I use Emergen-C. I know there are some mixed reviews on this product, but I’ve used this for years when I’m on the road, and have never been let down. 

I believe that taking vitamin supplements is a necessity for good health. AND, I believe that by taking these you are helping out your immune system, thus positively impacting your ability to ward off illness or, worst case, recover from illness more quickly.

But, as I said, on this topic, we are all different – so talk with your doctor about what might be good for you.

And at least start taking a multi-vitamin if you don’t already! That one is pretty much a no brainer – I think your doctor will agree.

I am a firm believer that preventative care for your body/mind is the BEST way to stay as healthy as you can for as long as you can. To arm you against crazy virus times. To get you through the basic cold/flu system. To keep you strong.

Don’t panic and react – take care of your immune system on a daily basis!

And wash your hands, sanitize yourself in public places, learn how to catch your own sneezes/coughs and not share them with others. I kinda hope all of that goes without saying…


  • Gayle Hilgendorff

    Executive Health and Leadership Coach, Thrive Global Facilitator, Author and Aspiring Blogger

    Gayle Hilgendorff Executive Health and Leadership Coach / Thrive Global Facilitator / Aspiring Blogger (corporate2carny) / Author of Live More, Work Better: A Practical Guide to a Balanced Life (Bascom Hill Publishing Group, 2015) Gayle Hilgendorff is a certified executive health and leadership coach who left her Managing Director of Human Resources position at Accenture in 2011 to found her own business focused on helping corporate executives achieve their best, professionally and personally, through better health. While at Accenture, Gayle was responsible for executive career coaching and leadership development programs for a global organization of 30,000 people. After a turning point in her own career, she realized that true leadership and professional success were founded on being a healthy person – mentally, physically and emotionally – not just working harder. Gayle’s health passion became a platform for her consulting work with corporate executives. Working with participants across the globe, she incorporates holistic health concepts into her leadership coaching. Gayle integrates basic knowledge about how eating better, moving more, and finding ways to manage stress are the true foundations for a successful personal and professional life. With science backed concepts, and easy to integrate actions, Gayle’s programs have received high praise and tangible results. Gayle’s background in the corporate world combined with her likable, easy style make her a believable, relatable coach/presenter/author who has proven success in helping people make big change.