My daughter’s preschool is now closed until the end of the month.
My wife works as a nurse in a hospital that has one of the busiest emergency rooms in the country.
People camp out at stores hours before they open, then run the shelves empty by mid-day.
Everyday, we’re flooded with more information in our feeds about this pandemic.
And it’s all pretty scary the more you think about it.
I was contemplating if I should voice my perspective on this or not.
But it’s way too important not to.
Wherever you are in the world, you’re hearing about how Coronavirus (COVID-19) is rapidly spreading.
I mean countries have shut down over this.
First, let me say yes it’s important to take the necessary precautions. I’m not writing this to argue about that.
But what I do want to share something that’s been on my mind about what the biggest problem going on with all of this.
There’s something much worse that’s spreading a lot faster.
And here’s the truth.
The FEAR of the Coronavirus is deadlier than the virus itself.
You see, when you are in fear, a reactive part of your brain called the amygdala takes control of your actions.
You enter into a fight-flight-freeze response.
(It’s what’s causing people to buy way too much toilet paper.)
And when you are in this reactive state, your body starts producing a steroid called cortisol to help you handle the stress.
And guess what cortisol does to your immune system?
It WEAKENS it!
We have bacteria, viruses, fungus and a whole array of foreign particles we are exposed to every day, but it’s your immune system that prevents you from getting sick.
When we’re stuck in fight-flight because of worries or anxiety, our bodies are wasting a ton of energy because it actually thinks it might die at that current moment.
And all that energy that’s gone now makes our bodies weaker and more vulnerable.
Being afraid is literally making you even more susceptible to getting sick.
And guess what else happens when you stay in fight-flight-freeze mode?
You’re in a SELFISH, self-protective state.
You literally lose the capability of thinking or having empathy.
This is where the racism is coming from because people are so afraid and they’re only looking out for themselves.
It’s what prevents us from thinking clearly and end up making matters worse.
Such as the people who are in denial and go outdoors when unnecessary and put other people at risk.
Or those who take up physicians’ time saying they think they have the virus when their symptoms aren’t even related. This takes time away from serving people who are actually infected.
How to Powerfully Boost Your Immune System
So while taking proper precautions during these times, do the things that keep your immune system strong.
Taking the steps to help your brain feel safe puts your body out of fight-flight state and into a rest and digest state where your body is in recovery and ultimately maximizes your health.
So how can you do this?
Practice the act of shifting your focus to things you are grateful for.
Take some time to think about the things you have other’s don’t.
Or if that’s hard be grateful for try thinking about all the people in the front lines working their asses off to contain this pandemic.
Whatever it is you do, take notice of things until you actually feel grateful.
Doing this immediately gets you out of the fight-flight state.
And practice empathy.
Spend time connecting with your loved ones that you are home with.
Laugh with them. Tell them you appreciate them.
Spreading that joy to others boosts their immune systems as well.
Spend these next few weeks as if it will be a long while before you have this rare time to connect with your loved ones at home or just have your alone time to recharge.
And send your love to those who are getting ill because this is bigger than just ourselves.
Turn off The News And Turn on Your Personal Connections
The statistics you are seeing all over the media are not necessarily 100% accurate.
For example, the mortality rate will likely end up being lower as we continue gathering data especially because of all the unconfirmed cases that are out there.
And if you’re really curious about the data, search for science-based discussions from credible platforms other than the news. But limit that as well so you can take your mind off of this for a moment.
With that said, take the proper precautions.
Practice proper hand hygiene.
Avoid large gatherings.
And implement social distance.
But don’t do all this out of fear.
Do it as an act of service where you actually are preventing the potential deaths of more people.
And instead of the news, watch something entertaining that makes you laugh and smile.
Or perhaps break out that board game you used to love playing.
Or get some sun! Going for a walk outside and getting some vitamin D also boosts your immune system.
Or maybe pick up an old hobby you haven’t had the time to do until now.
Whatever it is, being less concerned and afraid is what will help you make the best decisions and make your immune system stronger.
Why Feeling Brave During Scary Times is Easier Than You Think
For those of you who read this and feel like it’s cliché advice because this is hard for you to implement:
I want to take a moment to provide some food for thought.
In 2009, Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone ran a study in which he had a group of people learn to play a simple melody on the piano.
Then he split them up into two groups.
One group practiced the melody on a keyboard for two hours a day over the next five days.
Then he had the other group sit in front of the keyboard for the same amount of time, but didn’t have them play. Instead, he had them imagine playing the melody on the keyboard.
During the whole study, Dr. Pascual-Leone was mapping the brain activity of all the participants before, during and after the experiment.
And the results were shocking.
He found the same exact brain changes happened in both groups.
This meant that the brains of the people who only imagined playing the piano changed in a way as if they were really playing it.
What does this mean?
Our brains do not know the difference between imagination and reality.
So how does this apply to you?
If you’ve been anxious, worried, or afraid with all the uncertainty that exists around us, it means you can choose to be courageous, bold and confident simply by imagining what that would feel like.
This means how you feel is YOUR choice.
You Have a Lot More Power Over Your Feelings Than You Think
I want you to sit with this truth for a second.
Your thoughts produce your feelings.
If I had a brain scan hooked up to you, I can see what it looks like when you have a thought about something.
You’d see a pulse of electrical activity occur at that moment.
And that electrical activity stimulates the release of chemicals called neuropeptides that will communicate with your body to produce a feeling.
So the thoughts you have determine how you feel.
So if you’ve ever thought about someone you loved and then you felt all bubbly inside, that’s what’s happening.
Or if you think about scary thoughts about all the bad things that can happen to you, then you feel your heart pounding along with the fear that comes with it.
And if it’s proven that we can make changes occur in our brain simply by imagining it, then it means we can get out of the self-protective fight-flight state by imagining things that make us feel good instead of afraid.
It’s your decision.
How to Activate Your Brain’s Superpowers And Body’s Immune System
There’s one part of your brain that has all of your amazing capabilities such as your decision making, critical thinking, and creative skills.
But here’s the problem.
Research shows the best part of our brain is turned off for about 70% of our adult lives
When we are in the selfish fight-flight state, we turn off this amazing part of our brain known as the prefrontal cortex.
And when your prefrontal cortex is off, you prevent your immune system from operating at it’s best.
It’s also what makes you feel stuck and unable to figure out the best solutions for yourself especially if you’ve been taking a hit financially.
And worst of all, you do not have the capability of having empathy.
So that means if you’re with your loved ones and you’re feeling afraid for them, you can try to justify it all you want, but the person you’re really focused on is yourself.
So while people are behaving like this is the apocalypse, spend the time to help comfort those around you who are genuinely afraid.
Meet them where they are at and acknowledge that yes this can be scary, but do what it takes to brighten them up.
Not only will you make them feel better, but you actually make their bodies stronger.
I promise you, it will go a long way.
More than ever, this is a time to stand together.
So let’s make empathy and connection even more contagious than fear.
4/1/20 UPDATE: It has come to my attention that this article is going viral.
Medical doctors and nurses are even sharing this.
As a result, I am most moved to read posts about how this has brought comfort to people and even moved them to make a conscious decision to step up and figure out ways to help out.
People have decided to work together online and make masks for law enforcement and health care workers.
It’s this exact decision to get out of fight-flight and into empathy that is helping people collectively make an impact.
It will save lives because you did so.
Yes, this virus is taking people’s lives. Yes, people on the front lines like my wife are short on supplies and could use more support.
My heart breaks for the people we are losing to this virus.
And what will be even more heartbreaking is if we don’t all collectively do whatever we can to help slow the spread.
And the truth is this:
When we stay stuck in fear, we are not capable of fully contributing to the current needs that exist.
So to all who read this and are moved to continue spreading that support to those around you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
You truly are changing the world.