Photo courtesy of Dr. Burns

Moving forward


Though slowly but surely making its way into more conversations, the coronavirus expedited the idea that physical and mental health are fundamentally related. “To me, this is just a good time for all of us to think about our health. Especially as we’re opening up and we start phasing into more of us being out and about and more things are opening, I just think it’s important,” Dr. Kaley Burns, owner of Big Sky Natural Health, said. We have been told to get outside, eat well, exercise and stay hydrated when feeling sick or feeling down. In addition to noticing the connection between physical and mental health, considering connections inside the body is also important for overall wellness.

“Seventy percent of our immune system is in our digestive tract,” Dr. Burns said. More inflammation in the digestive tract makes it harder for the immune system to respond to pathogens. Dr. Burns noted that fiber-rich foods, fermented foods and healthy fats—avocados, nuts, seeds— help balance natural bacteria in the body, keeping inflammation down. “I do think our food goes a long way when helping that balance and replenishing all the good bugs we want in there,” Dr. Burns said.

Transitioning into new phases does not return us to the way things were before. “I don’t think it’s something that we can take lightly,” Dr. Burns said. People may need to check in with themselves more regularly. Taking sick and mental health days seriously will help combat the coronavirus, but also prepare us for the flu season that will inevitably come around again in the fall. All of the coronavirus precautions are, “things we know we should be doing but we haven’t really paid attention to until now.”

These same precautions will help guard us against the flu. Dr. Burns hopes employers will be able to be lenient with sick and mental health day requests going forward to make the process easier. “I’m hoping we’re starting to learn that we don’t have to push through everything,” she said. As things start to feel more hopeful, Gov. Bullock said in the press call announcing the three phases that this is not a time for celebration. We may not be able to hug everyone we see on the streets or sit close to our friends in a restaurant. Continuing to take hygiene seriously and abiding by social distancing guidelines will help keep case counts down and reopening on track. “We kind of have to reframe our mind frame to I’m grateful just to be standing near this person,” Dr. Burns said.

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