At the time of recording this (March 17, 2020), the Novel Coronavirus is a global pandemic. Entire countries are now on lockdown, store shelves are empty, children are not in school and the news cycle is non-stop COVID-19 updates. The cause and the result of this is escalating fear. But, fear is an emotion and it’s something we can each individually control. And, controlling that fear, could play an important role in keeping us healthy.
To explain how, I’ve invited Dr. Mario Martinez back to the show.
Dr. Mario is a psycho immunologist and the best-selling author of The Mind Body Code:
How to Change the Beliefs that Limit Your health, Longevity, and Success as well as the learning series How the Mind Wounds and Heals and How Longevity is Culturally Learned and the Causes of Health Are Inherited.
He has published numerous articles in professional journals and lectures worldwide on his research and theory of biocognition.
Before we talk about ways to improve the immune system, it’s important to note that these ideas are in conjunction with recommendations for reducing risk (like washing your hands properly and often as well as practicing social distancing).
Fear and Panic and the Immune System
We talked about ways to boost the immune system through health practices and supplements in Episode 49 – Demystifying the Coronavirus. However, Dr. Mario says there is another layer to boosting our immune that has to do with its response to stress. When we experience stress, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol which suppress immune function. He explains that the best friend of Coronavirus is the panic and fear it causes because these actually help it spread.
The Challenge of Reducing Fear and Panic About COVID-19
It’s not easy to simply ‘not panic’ because our brain is trained to take signals from our ‘cultural editors’. These include authority figures like parents, teachers, doctors and newscasters. These people may have vital information but they may also provide us with so much information that it creates a fear or stress response that suppresses the immune system.
Improving Immune Function
To fight a virus like Novel Coronavirus, the body needs to produce an antibody called Immunoglobulin Type A (IGA). There are ways to help the body increase the production of IGA. Studies show that emotions like fear, shame, chronic anger and an inability to forgive can actually decrease IGA production. So, being aware of these emotions and working to reduce them is important. Conversely, the research also found that being a loving person who cares for yourself and others increases IGA production.
Social Connections and the Immune System
Having a connection with people increases your oxytocin and other kinds of hormones and peptides that help support the immune system. While you should still head the advice of experts to practice social distancing, it’s important to maintain social connections. This might be regular phone calls or video chats. Self isolating doesn’t have to be social isolation.
Positive Mindset during a Pandemic
Despite the evidence that a positive mindset is beneficial to the immune system during a pandemic, it can be difficult to do. Here are some top tips from Dr. Mario for staying positive and supporting your immune system internally.
1. Create Rituals.
Our routines are good for our health and right now many of us are out of our routines so Dr. Mario says it’s important to create new rituals like dining by candlelight or playing board games as a family.
2. Be Self-Aware of your Interpretations.
We choose how we interpret situations and scenarios and we can choose to interpret them positively which ultimately decreases fear and panic and increases production of IGAs.
3. Practice Heart-Breathing and Generate Feelings of Compassion.
Dr. Mario shares a breathing technique that helps the parasympathetic nervous system and triggers the production of oxytocin.
4. Care for Yourself and Others.
Caring for others has a positive effect on our mindset but we have to be careful not to forget caring for ourselves or the benefits are negated.
5. Avoid Emotional Vampires
Some people are so caught up in their negative loop that they steal from our emotional well. It’s best to avoid these people if possible or limit the time and emotional energy we give them.
6. Adjust your Emotional Default Mode to Positive
We have an emotional default mode that we may not be aware of. It is possible to adjust this default to be more positive.
7. Maintain Perspective
It’s easy to lose perspective with all of the dire news, but putting things into perspective can help us from falling into fear and panic, which is hard on our immune system.
8. Decrease Unnecessary Exposure to the News
It’s important to stay informed, but Dr. Mario says we can over do it. He suggests getting your news only once a day.
We’re in this Together
While there are things we can’t control, you do have control over what you focus on and think about. Instead of focusing on fear, let’s choose to focus on what we CAN do right now.
We’re all in this together and, as we learned in this episode, helping others and being compassionate helps the immune system! Let’s work together, support each other with positivity and hope, and help each other get through this!
Thanks to my guest Dr. Mario Martinez. You can connect with him on his website. You may also enjoy reading more about this in one of his recent articles about the Coronavirus and Panic: https://medium.com/@themindbodycode/panic-is-the-corona-viruss-best-friend-a49587956a79
Here are some links to his books:
I hope these tools inspire you to do what you can within yourself. If you want to support your immune system from the outside, here are my supplement recommendations:
Sambucus Formosana Nakai has shown positive effects against other coronaviruses (which doesn’t mean it’s specifically effective against the Novel Coronavirus but it does have antiviral properties). Other natural antivirals include Vitamin C, Oil of Oregano, Silvercillin, Lomatium and Monolaurin. High doses of Vitamin C and Vitamin D may also be helpful in later stages to modulate the immune system.
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