By Dietitian Jill Place AKA The Good Gut Queen
You’ve heard a ton about this … I’m sure … from so many sources you’re probably sick of it! But I’m going to emphasize yet again that the first line of defense for ANY illness … especially in these troubled times when EVERYONE seems freaked by the Coronavirus … is awakening immunity.
The U.S. Surgeon General (and many others) agree. Your immunity is your first line of defense for disease … now and always.
What does that mean? Actually lots of things. First of all, it’s very important that you reduce fear and stress … as these are incredibly challenging times. I give you some tips to awaken immunity by reducing stress below.
Second of all … and this article is so long that’ll have to be in the next one … begin to awaken your physical immunity. I emphasize the word “begin” here because … if you’re immune-compromised … that may take awhile.
Like a heavily-loaded truck at the bottom of a steep hill, it’s going to take some time to creep up that incline. Because we’re healing systems, not symptoms.
Both ARE doable. But … right this minute … it might be a great idea to do the following …
Minimize Fear and Stress
I was horrified today by the sight of a screaming woman on CBS Sunday Morning (I’m a fan since the 1970’s) who had shoehorned at least eight 12-roll toilet paper packages into her shopping cart. Who was she screaming “No Way!” at? Another shopper who was begging for just one.
One of my colleagues (thank GOD!) quipped “Looking for a cauliflower toilet paper recipe”. Another … “You can tell your grandchildren about the toilet paper famine of 2020”. And … experiencing empty shelves in my market (there was a huge line at Whole Foods yesterday and … hint … none at Sprouts. I got everything I needed there … except eggs), I realized that all this was due to …
Fear of Lack of Control
Control is an illusion. But most people don’t understand that. It’s the only reason I can think of why people are hoarding water and toilet paper.
The illusion of control is a phenomenon that has been studied since the 1970’s … but has been noticed for thousands of years. Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, philosphized as early as several centuries B.C. …
The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.
The illusion of control is about thinking you have more of it over a situation than you do. And you fight like H- to gain some drop of it.
It’s like trying to get upstream in a tiny dinghy against a torrential current with a teeny tiny paddle. You can’t. As a result, you paddle harder and harder. Sometimes at the expense of your sanity. Hence the toilet paper.
We don’t know much about this virus yet. Experts say that most masks are ineffective … as are the ones worn by the people in the picture above (the Mona Lisa is too far away to judge). And I’ve seen all sorts of contraptions since this whole thing started … but y’know … the illusion of control …
Maybe this whole thing is a wake-up call … a red flag to be more flexible. Like Lao Tzu says, “She (I love it that he uses the female gender) steps out of the way …”
What Stress and Fear Do to a Body
Please step out of the way. Because stress and fear do terrible things to the body.
I’ve often said that we’re in permanent fight-or-flight mode in our modern society. And this constant stress can break down the gut (and within it the immune system) and create far-reaching problems that include (to paraphrase a recent University of Minnesota article) …
- Assaults to Physical health. Fear weakens our immune system, causing cardiovascular damage and gastrointestinal problems such as peptic ulcers and leaky gut. It can also hasten premature aging and even death.
- Memory Difficulties. Fear and worry can inhibit of long-term memory formation and even cause damage to certain parts of the brain. This can make coping even worse and leave you more anxious. So the world looks even scarier than it is (toilet paper? masks?).
- Impaired Thinking and Decision-Making. Fear can make it much more difficult to manage your emotions and understand what others are trying to communicate to you. Therefore, you’re much more likely to blow up emotionally (screaming woman?) or act impulsively (more toilet paper?).
- Eventual Mental Health Issues. Other possible problems include fatigue (NOT COVID-19-related), depression, and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
If reading about all those problems doesn’t give you pause … I don’t know what else to do. Oh yeah … I promised some solutions for awakening immunity … here they are …
Reducing Stress and Fear
I can’t suddenly wave my magic wand (although I have several) and make you less afraid. So maybe you should get one for yourself.
Whether you do or not, you have to make this change all by yourself. Because no one’s going to pry the TV remote out of your hand at 2am after a whole day of watching one alarmist program after another.
Instead … work on awakening immunity. Some of the things I’d recommend you do are 1) BREATHE! 2) Surrender, 3) Develop a sense of humor, 4) Be grateful, 5) Get a little expert information and leave the rest, and 6) Practice good fear.
If you do nothing else, practice mindfulness. It’s the easiest way I know to transform you from fight-or-flight to rest-and-relax.
With just a few deep, focused breaths, you can deal with any stressful situation. Like I did this morning when my technician busted the screen on my laptop.
It was an accident. He’s fixed the same computer quite successfully many times before. But … that disappointment plus these chaotic times tipped me into overwhelm … I almost cried!
And BREATHED. My Micro-Mindfuls are a great way to ease into mindfulness. They’re geared more to eating mindfully … but the first ten or so give you the basics.
I’ve been breathing all day. If that’s not awakening immunity, I don’t know what is! It got me through … and also spurred on …
The best spiritual lesson I ever learned for awakening immunity (and, at 74, mine is pretty strong) was to surrender. My favorite mantra has become … “It is what it is … ”
This is the reality … and it changes every moment as I’m a health care professional and keep getting calls/texts several times daily about changes in procedure in my health care facilities. Quite simply … We have a problem.
It’s not going to be solved overnight. We’re in it. So we must acknowledge it. Not only acknowledge it … embrace it …
And be charitable about it. I saw that in some country they were leaving packages of food for the poor on the street. WOW!
I myself experienced great charity when I stood on line at the market for an hour in the very beginning of all of this. And decided to self-check out as the line had moved a mere 100 feet.
“You can’t self-check alcohol”, a kindly clerk said, “But … come here … I’ll check you out!” Oh … and did I mention that I sang (and got the whole line singing) through this whole ordeal.
Get over it! This is real! Stop hoarding and realize that there are others in the world that need food more than you do. By the way … I’m still looking for eggs … if you know of any place …
Develop a Sense of Humor
I know this is difficult for some. I grew up in a humorless house. And became a comic actress and improvisor (I’m an original Groundling … people are always impressed by that). I just have a great ear for timing.
And I’m still puzzled about that as I didn’t learn it from my family. But I’m convinced that my capacity to find the humor in things has saved my life. When I think of the toilet-paper quips of my colleagues that I shared above, I still laugh.
So stop … like one of my colleagues … with what I call “The Poor Me (it’s terrible … I don’t know what to do … I’m scared!) Dance”. And start to find humor in the way people look wearing masks. Or how your nails look without a manicure.
It would be difficult to laugh at the screaming woman. So instead take a moment to laugh at little things … like your cat playing with his toys …
And by all means … Sing … even if you think you can’t!
When my computer technician broke my computer screen yesterday, I found out that I have to send it in to be fixed … and wait about five days to get it back. Because, as of today, there’s no more on-site technicians.
I was a little overwhelmed. But am so grateful that I work in a psychiatric hospital and have access daily to therapists. I ranted to one of them … and a close friend … and was grateful for them.
And that I have this other computer that I’m typing on right now. It’s older … but it works. I am so grateful for it, as I’m working mostly from home these days and need it.
I don’t know anything that changes attitude more than being grateful. So sit down with a journal or a piece of paper and list 100 things you are grateful for. And post the list somewhere where you’ll see it often.
I usually write in front of the T.V. But now I can see videos I haven’t seen in ages. Right on this screen. I am so grateful …
Get a Little Expert Advice … and Leave the Rest
Someone was saying on T.V. today that they just can’t stop watching … But the reality is that the “news” is really meant to sensationalize situations these days. And that watching all this stuff will just make you crazy. And more fearful.
So stop it! Get information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and similar places that are up to date. And follow it. And turn off the T.V. and computer otherwise.
I was struck by the statistics from China … 80% have mild symptoms, 14% need to be hospitalized, and 4% are critical. 4% … that’s a lot less than people who die from the common flu every year. The Chinese should know those statistics well … after all, it started there. And it’s slowing to a halt there too.
Actually, I’m so grateful that I’m watching videos instead of the T.V. No constant updates or inflammatory notices. I get enough of those from my facilities. Next … the entire two seasons of “Smash” …
Practice “Good Fear”
These days it’s important to be prudent. My advice … follow the simple recommendations from the CDC. Recommendations may change tomorrow, but at this moment it’s the best prevention (and most sensible) that we have.
These are almost verbatim from the CDC … There is no vaccine to prevent this currently … and … to contradict President Trump (don’t get me started … he also told everyone to eat out less than a week ago) a safe vaccine might be months away.
They are now saying that “respiratory droplets” can spread the disease. And that it’s spread by people in close contact (within 6 feet). The best way to avoid it, obviously, is to minimize exposure.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (I make my own with essential oils).
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if you haven’t washed your hands.
- Avoid close contact if the virus is spreading in your community.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- You should wear a facemask ONLY IF YOU ARE SICK! If you’re not, don’t. The exception is when caring for someone who is.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. Thank goodness for my essential oil cleansers. More on that next week …
That’s it! Not a tall order … and when you see all the recommendations in a small list like that … hopefully … it’ll put things into perspective.
Oh … and I may never get those eggs … so I’ll just eat the bananas I was lucky to scam for some Paleo banana bread I was making for you. My final advice … be creative with what you’ve got!
NEXT WEEK: How to Strengthen Your Physical Immune System