As President Roosevelt once said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”  The true virus pandemic right now is FEAR.  Many people are terrified right now, not about the corona virus, but how they are going to survive financially.  Everyone is talking about taking precautions and ways to prevent the dreaded corona virus.  But one thing that is not being much discussed is probably one of the most central and important considerations. Reducing or managing fear and anxiety enhances the functioning of the immune system. The stronger the immune system the higher probability that you won’t contract the corona virus.

The fear virus not only impacts the immune system, but each of us in high stress infects those around us as well.

  •  Internet communications easily transmit the fear virus sometimes without verification.
  •  News organizations locally and nationally sensationalize information.
  •  We report drastic stories and worse case possible scenarios.
  •  People talk about fears and anxiety over and over.
  •  The more attention that is kept on these emotionally charged communications the more the fear is fed and kept alive.
  •  The fear virus spreads faster and further than the corona virus.

Through these multiple routes of infection, stress is fueled throughout the community. The situation appears to escalate daily as a result.

Stress is about survival. 

Fear and anxiety are emotions of stress. These emotions arise from the anticipation of possible events that actually have not yet happened and perhaps may never happen. This is a projection into an unknown future based on a predicted trajectory of current circumstances.  When we are in survival mode we are in high alert and arousal trying to predict, control, and protect in any way possible to maximize best outcomes to survive.  The more stress that is experienced there is anxiety, fear, worry, impatience, aggression, competition, frustration, and panic.  With stress in charge we feel separation and a manic, frenetic state of desperation.  People rush to the grocery store in a panic buying everything in sight.  Sound familiar?

What happens to the body under stress?

During the stress/survival mode the brain is in high Beta waves.   There is an influx of stress hormones throughout the body.  Biological resources are directed to the task of threat and survival not growth, repair, healing.  The brain and body become incoherent. This means systems are not working as well together as a whole. Some systems may be turned off or are reduced.  There is not enough energy available to give proper instructions for optimal immune functioning. As a result, an environment is created that is more receptive to illness such as the corona virus.

Dr. Joe Dispenza, author of Becoming Supernatural

Dr. Joe Dispenza has done research concerning immunoglobulin A (IgA) a protein marker that is responsible for the strength and healthy function of the immune system. When stress levels go up, the levels of IgA are lowered.  The immune system is down regulated and compromised.  When the stress level is reduced the average IgA levels increase by 49.5%. As Dr. Dispenza said, “this is better than any flu shot!”

So how are stress levels lowered?

How can fear and anxiety be reduced or managed?

  • We need to shift our focus of attention.
  • This means reduce the amount of time watching, reading, or listening to the news. If you need to check in, do it briefly and move on to something else.
  • Reduce the amount of time spent talking about what is going on.
  • Find ways to not overly obsess about what is happening or possibilities of what could happen.
  • The future is unknown.  Anything is possible including a vaccine for the corona virus.
  • So, if you are going to attend to the current situation, put your focus on imagining what you would feel if there was a vaccine suddenly available.
  • Or put your focus on how would it feel, if we all returned to a normal work schedule and money flowed once again.

Be aware of the words you use during this time.

I personally object to the term “social distancing”. This languaging contributes to emotional distancing and separation from others. This is the very essence of the stress/survival mode and the fear virus. The implication is that having contact with others is potentially dangerous and life threatening. This feeds more fear and anxiety.

This a is a time we need to reassure, support, calm and help each other as a community.

I recommend using the term, “socially responsible”. This would include taking all the necessary recommended precautions to protecting and taking care of yourself.  In addition, this term includes taking into consideration friends, neighbors, people around us, the community at large. The focus of attention now opens up beyond the narrow attention on individual survival. Taking the focus off oneself and checking in with others is now a possibility. While it is not advisable to touch or hug, a hand may be extended to help. Ask sincerely how are you coping with this? Is there anything you need? Offer words of hope or encouragement.

Next is how to counter the stress emotions.

By changing your emotional state away from the stress emotions, the IgA levels go up. Your immune system becomes stronger. Brain waves change from high beta to low beta or alpha which is a calm more relaxed state. The brain and body become more coherent.  Resources can now be directed to growth and healing. These elevated emotions are love, joy, appreciation, gratitude, empathy and compassion. When you take others into consideration as I suggested you are already moving into compassion and empathy.

 A quick easy way to move into these elevated immune enhancing emotions, is a random act of kindness.

  • Do something for someone.
  • Check to see if your neighbor has what they need.
  • Maybe you could share one of those packages of toilet paper or the extra carton of milk you bought.
  • As long as the government allows and you are not in a high-risk group, go to your favorite restaurant Support those employees through this very difficult financial challenge. Restaurants are probably one of the safest environments. They have to maintain state requirements for cleanliness and employees are already in the habit of mandatory hand washing.
  • Or support any other business that may be facing financial challenges.
  • Show appreciation and gratitude to those around you.
  • When I was at the gym, with great appreciation I thanked the cleaning staff for the extremely important job they were doing to protect us.  I observed my hair stylist offer a significant discount to a customer who had just been laid off due to the corona virus with an assurance that she would work with her when she needed her hair done.  She had just confided in me how terrified she was, not about the corona virus, but about how was she going to survive financially through this crisis. That generous, compassionate gesture boosted her immune system as well as mine and her customers.
  • How about sharing those stories of how you may offer a random act of kindness or receive one?  Spread this news around!

Another way to elevate your emotions is to breath fully and focus on your heart.

Remember or imagine feeling love, appreciation or gratitude.  Feel those feelings in your heart.  Dr. Dispenza found that moving into an elevated emotional state for 9-10 minutes 3 times a day enhances the immune system. That isn’t much time at all for a maximum benefit in these current circumstances.

Each of us have a responsibility to immunize ourselves and inoculate others against this virus by remaining in the present moment and elevating our emotions to love, joy, appreciation, gratitude, empathy, compassion, caring.  Transmit hope not fear. Together we can conquer this virus!

 

Pamela Morgan, LCSW ,  Body Psychotherapy, 954-525-8088,  Mindfulbody.us, Help-for-us.com                                                                                                                   

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