As COVID continues to mutate, a strong resilient immune system is our best defense against the virus. While getting at least 6 hours of sleep a night, staying hydrated, spending time outside, exercising and eating a healthy diet all help. There is one simple thing that you can do that will give your immune system a big boost, reduce stress.
Numerous studies have shown that long term stress inhibits the numbers of infection fighting cells and causes an inflammatory response. As one of the main complications of the COVID virus leading to hospitalization is runaway inflammation, it becomes immediately apparent that reducing your stress is critical to staying healthy.
That said, the media is constantly hammering us with infections numbers and other information designed to make us afraid. As CNN has said, fear sells. Add the stress that comes from being afraid of getting sick, concerns about paying bills, supporting kids schooling from home and worry about loved ones getting ill and you have enough stress to compromise even a healthy person's immune system.
To make things worse, many of our usual stress coping techniques are no longer available to us. You can't go to your gym, get a hug from your mom or hang with your grandkids. Going to the pub with friends is a big no, so are concerts, dinners out and going to the movies. One day seems to roll into the next and there appears to be no end in site.
How do you combat stress when it is blanketing every aspect of our lives? First you have to turn off the news and stay away from social media. As we have seen this week, our Premiere uses the emergency response system to let us know when there have been changes to restrictions. So really, there is no reason to listen to the news. As for social media, text or call your friends and family to stay in touch. Visit websites and Youtube directly to find the information you are looking for. The important thing is to remove yourself from the engine of fear that media has become.
If you want information on what is happening with the virus, visit primary sources of information. Those are the places the media goes to get their data. The World Health Organization website, your local healthy authority website and your national health authority website are good places to go. Look at all the numbers. Not just infection rates. Compare death rates before and during COVID. Look at flu data and compare it. If you are going to look a the data, make sure you look at all of it so you have a realistic picture of what is going on in the proper context. That way you can decide what you need to be concerned about, instead of having the media do it for you.
Now that you are armed with knowledge and have unplugged from the fear engine, how do cope with all the added stresses? Start by letting yourself grieve for what you have lost. Yes, I am talking about grieving because you can't go to the gym. Grief happens anytime we lose something that is important to us. It is important that you allow yourself to feel the loss, accept it and let the hurt go. Carrying around grief adds to our stress. By working through it, we can let it go and make room in our lives for something new. Take a few days and just process what you have lost, be sad, be angry and then let it go.
Once you have let go of the things that you cannot change, then you can focus on those things that you can. This is the time to be creative. Really think outside of the box. The best way to approach this is to look back at what you used to do and analyze why you did it. If you went to the gym to keep your body healthy, then how else can you get your body moving again. If you went to socialize, then how else can you connect with those people. No it's not the same. Yes you will still miss what you had before and you will still be sad. However, by taking steps to improve the situation you are empowering yourself which reduces stress. Remember that is our main goal, stress reduction.
While we can't do anything about COVID, we can decide how we are going to cope. Grieve what you have lost, empower yourself with knowledge, focus on what you have control over , breath and move. these simple things will not only reduce your stress and improve your mood, they will also build up your immune system and reduce your chances of getting seriously ill. You can feel confident that you have done all you can to stay healthy. ll you can to stay healthy. l you can to stay healthy. ll you can to stay healthy. l you can to stay healthy. you can to stay healthy. you can to stay healthy. ou can to stay healthy. u can to stay healthy. can to stay healthy. can to stay healthy. an to stay healthy. n to stay healthy. to stay healthy. to stay healthy. o stay healthy. stay healthy. stay healthy. tay healthy. ay healthy. y healthy. healthy. healthy. ealthy. althy. lthy. thy. hy. y. . all the way into your lower back. Notice how those three breaths made Grieve what you hst by adjusting how we breath we can reduce tension and stress.
Get into the habit of checking your breathing several times a day. The easiest way is to set an alarm on your phone. Just by checking your breathing regularly and taking three deep breaths, you are boosting your immune system.
How about your muscles? Is there tension in your back, neck, shoulders or chest? Are your legs wrapped around your chair? Are your legs crossed? Are you squeezing your legs together? Now try standing up and stretching. Shake everything out. Walk around the room a bit. How do you feel now? Movement is one of the ways we release tension from our muscles. When we release the tension, the stress goes too. That is one of the reasons why you feel so relaxed after a massage or reiki session.
Make moving a regular part of your day. As little as 10 minutes of walking, especially if done outside, reduces stress and boosts the immune system. Taking a quick 5 min stretch between Zoom meetings or talking a walk with friends helps even more.
While we can't do anything about COVID, we can decide how we are going to cope. Empower yourself with knowledge, focus on what you have control over , breath and move. These simple things will not only reduce your stress and improve your mood, they will also build up your immune system and reduce your chances of getting seriously ill. You can feel confident that you have done all you can to stay healthy.
That said, if you are having difficulty coping and continue to find life overwhelming, please seek the help of a mental health professional.