Moving from Fear to Mindfulness During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Cleveland Clinic, a highly regarded non-profit academic research medical center, teaches the public about the connection among stress, your immune system, and your risk of getting sick from a virus. We are all exposed to the virus every year, and normally they result in the common cold.

We are now in new territory as the coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused a global pandemic. Fear and anxiety about the coronavirus can be overwhelming for many people. There has not been such a worldwide health crisis in recent history, and most of us have never experienced anything like this.

Store shelves are being emptied as the fears of not having enough sweeps through communities. But fear, especially sustained fear and anxiety, actually makes us more vulnerable to diseases because chronic stress weakens our immune systems.

Professor of medicine and immunologist at the Cleveland Clinic Dr. Leonard Calabrese cautions that:

“Eliminating or modifying stress factors in one’s life is vital to protect and augment the immune response.”

Dr. Lenard Calabrese

Calabreses’ scientific wisdom is critically important as we face the coronavirus pandemic because fear and anxiety is one of the few things we can control right now.  

When we experience stress our bodies respond in an effort to keep safe from danger. Our nervous system gets us ready to rise to the occasion, to fight or flee. When the “stress switch” stays on for too long it begins to wear our batteries down. Calabrese explains:

“Stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes-the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The lower your lymphocyte level, the more at risk you are for virus [. . . ].

Blood is a complex matrix and has white blood cells along with the red cells that give blood its red color. I worked in our community hematology (blood) department when I was younger and was often amazed looking under the microscope. A virtual army of white blood cells to protect us from diseases.

Your Inner Army of Defense: White Blood Cells

Image Credit: staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014“. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010ISSN 2002-4436.

And chronic stress weakens our inner army of white cells. Let’s change that.

Let’s Take Action on What We Can Control

While the world awaits a vaccine to control the coronavirus pandemic there are things that everyone can do right now. The World Health Organization (WHO) and has issued guidelines for organizations and the public to follow. Hand washing and social distancing are two practical means to protect yourself.

Stress, the Coronavirus Virus, and Your Immune System

In addition to vitamin C, elderberry, and other supplements to boost their immune systems, it is important to also consider your state of mind and its role in disease prevention. Chronic stress weakens our defenses and yoga and meditation help counteract the negative effects of stress and anxiety.

From the words of a Western medical expert, Dr. Calabrese recommends two tactics that are most effective in reducing stress: Meditation and Yoga.

Here is an excerpt from the Cleveland Clinic article: “What Happens When Your Immune System Gets Stressed Out: How Stress Impacts Your Immunity”:

I’m practicing this meditation every day now and will do so until the pandemic is over. This meditation is said to stimulate the nervous system which interacts directly with your immune system. Begin with 3 minutes and slowly work up to 5 minutes a day. If at any time you feel dizzy Stop. Take a few cleansing breaths and begin slowly. This is not hyperventilating.

Your body works as a system; when your emotional state calms, and you exercise the vagus nerve (with the extended vocalizations that I show you) your nervous system regains balance and your hormonal system settles down as well.

You don’t have to go it alone.

Stress-management is not something that anyone else can do for you, it is something that you must learn to do for yourself. It’s an “inside job.” But that doesn’t mean that you have to go it alone. Not sure you can do this on your own? You don’t have to. Let’s set up a time to talk. I’d love to hear about your situation, and see if I can help. Go to my contact page and we’ll set up a time to talk in person (free).

Leave a Comment