In the early part of 2020, we were introduced to a new threat from the coronavirus family of viruses that can create a condition known as COVID-19. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. It caught the general public and governments off-guard and caused many countries to go into various states of lockdown in an effort to isolate their populations. The measures taken have been quite extreme in large parts of the world and have brought daily life to a standstill for many. Still, whether you agree with the various measures taken or not, it is safe to say that we are all experiencing an unprecedented state of events all across the world that will have numerous consequences for years to come.
How you perceive, approach, and deal with this situation will all depend on your understanding of human health, psychology, society, and the nature of our reality as a whole. It will also be significantly influenced by how you view yourself, your personality, resilience, and capacity to deal with stress. However, it is not the purpose of this article to examine how you could see things differently and why, instead, the objective is to share with you ten general guidelines that can offer you the best protection from any virus, not just the current COVID-19 coronavirus. We must understand that a healthy body and properly functioning immune system provides the best protection against any foreign substance. The key, therefore, is to create a healthy internal environment using our thoughts, words, and actions. As you reflect on each of these ten guidelines, consider what is most possible for you and what is the best that you can do. Don’t sabotage your efforts by seeking any states of perfection; instead, do everything you are capable of doing to most benefit your health at this time.
1. Release the Fear
While this is easier said than done, no matter how you choose to see it or deal with it, fear is the most toxic, destructive, and harmful substance to the human mind and body. I use the word “substance” because fear creates all kinds of biochemical reactions within our bodies that mobilize hormones, neurotransmitters, and nutrients to increase the body’s stress response and reduce its protective and healing abilities. In such a state, we are vulnerable to all kinds of acute and chronic diseases, and our ability to think is compromised.
So how do you release and overcome it? There are many ways. You can start by limiting and being very discerning with any social media and mainstream media to which you subject yourself. These platforms prosper by spreading fear and misinformation and use manipulation and exaggeration to sway and control public opinion. Instead, expose yourself to as much empowering content as you can, especially content that can help you understand the power of your mind, your thoughts and beliefs, and how to use these to help yourself, rather than hurt yourself. Be mindful of the people you surround yourself with, as fear is the most contagious substance itself, and it sustains itself by infecting others. Last but not least, invest your time and energy into activities that strengthen your coping abilities and promote your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. These include activities that cause you to feel joy, happiness, creativity, flow, and gratitude, like various forms of art, music, and meditation. More will be shared about the importance of all this in tips 9 and 10.
2. Get Proper Sleep
One of the best ways to strengthen our immune system is with proper rest and sleep. When you sleep, specifically during the nighttime hours that are in balance with our natural circadian rhythm, this is when your body does the majority of the “fixing” and “cleaning” that it needs to take care of itself. Your immune system gets a boost after each good night of sleep, and you get to start each day a little stronger than you ended the previous day. However, if you are not getting proper sleep, meaning the right quality and quantity of sleep, then your body begins to sacrifice what and how much it can repair or replenish. This leads to all kinds of physical and psychological disadvantages and negative health symptoms. Sleep deprivation takes a particularly negative toll on the immune system, so we must do everything we can to prioritize our sleep and ensure the right quality and quantity of sleep.
The most valuable sleep begins way before midnight, and the more of this sleep that you get, the more health benefits you can also expect. Ideally, we should be going to sleep at around 9 pm. Of course, you can always go to sleep earlier in the evening, especially if you feel overly weak or stressed and during cold times of the year when the sun sets much earlier. However, we should definitely not push ourselves past the 10 pm mark. To fall asleep quickly and easily, be sure to engage in calming activities at least one hour before bedtime, such as light reading, enjoyable viewing, or meditation. From there on, allow your body to sleep as much as it needs and wake up naturally, whenever you have the chance, rather than forcefully waking yourself up. Keep in mind that when you are in an active state of stress, it is likely that you will wake up prematurely. The alertness you wake with may make it seem that you got enough sleep, but this false positive is generated due to surges of adrenaline and cortisol in the early morning hours. If you aim for the general window of sleeping from around 10 pm to 6 am, this will provide you with a minimum of 8 hours. However, starting at 9 pm and sleeping till around 7 am, or the window of 10 pm to 8 am, will provide you with 10 hours of sleep, which is more optimal for periods of any kind of physical, mental, and emotional stress.
3. Eat a Clean, Nutrient-Dense Diet
To avoid problems with any pathogenic organisms, including certain viruses and bacteria, it is imperative to keep a clean and properly nourished internal environment. This means that we keep bad and stressful food and drink items out of our bodies, while we put in helpful and nutrient-dense foods and drinks into your bodies. Pathogenic organisms cannot thrive or cause diseases in environments that are functioning correctly. When you have a high concentration of nutrients and a low concentration of toxins, your body can keep itself perfectly healthy via its own defenses, cleansing, and healing abilities. To create such an internal environment, it is essential to eat a diet that is composed of real whole food, not refined and highly processed food, and a diet that is made of plant food, not animal food. Such a dietary approach makes it easy to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, which provide the most powerful nutrients to create and maintain a healthy body. Such a diet is naturally high in fiber, which is highly cleansing, able to remove all kinds of toxins and waste build-up from our bodies and ultimately ensures healthy elimination for us, which is essential for a properly working immune system. Such a dietary approach does not expose us to the toxins, waste build-up, and stresses that come from all animal foods, regardless of their type or quality.
To prevent viruses from being able to thrive or survive in our bodies, we need a balanced alkaline environment that is full of natural vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber, which only a whole food plant-based diet can provide. For example, Vitamin C, which is highly supportive of the immune system, is only naturally found in unprocessed whole plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Minerals, like zinc, magnesium, and calcium, are all found in nuts, seeds, and legumes, most specifically. Through plants, nature provides us with the perfect components to keep ourselves healthy and aid both healing and prevention. Our job, then, is to use these foods that are the best for our human bodies and avoid stressing and polluting our bodies with the wrong foods for them.
4. Exercise Effectively
Aside from the fantastic benefits of exercise for our heart, our hormones, our brain, and our weight, moderate exercise also provides a direct benefit for our immune system. When we exercise, we attain a better balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which each play an essential role in the many reactions that govern all areas of our health. Movement also stimulates our lymphatic system in positive ways that optimize the function of our immune system to keep on top of any foreign invaders and destroy or remove them from the body. Best of all, movement has a powerful positive effect on our mental and emotional health, which is critical to take care of, especially during this time of quarantines and lockdowns.
The most important thing to keep in mind about exercise is that it must be done in a reasonable manner to be health-promoting and protective to reduce, rather than increase, your chances of coming down with any infections. Focus, therefore, on activities that get you moving and have you work up a sweat in some cases but not activities that are extreme where you are working out too much or too often. There is a delicate balance between helping and hurting yourself with exercise. This balance must be respected if you are going to get benefits and use exercise in a conducive manner. This is not the time to fatigue yourself beyond reason, lifting extreme weights, or running marathons. You do not want to put more stress on your body at this time; instead, you want gentle stress through exercise and just enough movement to get everything to move, stretch, and strengthen.
The best exercise always, especially for prevention purposes, is walking. Aim to walk outdoors for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour or longer, depending on your health, weather, and other factors. If, at any time, you cannot walk outdoors, put on some music or a podcast, and walk indoors throughout your house for 10 to 15 minute periods throughout the day. In addition, yoga, chi gong, tai chi, and moderate cardio and moderate resistance training are all excellent forms of exercise that benefit all areas of our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. These are also all exercises that you can easily do at home anytime.
5. Avoid Sugar (and Artificial Sweeteners)
Sugar is one of the most destructive substances for our body, and specifically, the immune system, increasing our risk of infectious diseases multi-fold. It also negatively impacts your mental and emotional health, which you need to take care of more so than ever at this time. You can learn more about this in my article that explains all of the health effects of sugar on your body. This applies to all refined sugar, isolated sugar, and processed sugar items that are found in all obvious things like sweets, candies, chocolate bars, juices, sodas, and baked goods, and pretty much all processed foods. Be sure not to mistake this to mean or apply to any real or whole fruits, whether fresh or frozen, as these foods are profoundly healing and protective. The intelligent form fruits have, as created by nature, is full of everything our bodies want and need. These are the sweets you want to be reaching for to prevent diseases and protect yourself from infections, not any of the processed stuff.
Refined and isolated sugar, as well as artificial sweeteners, are acidic and toxic to our bodies and takes down your body’s natural defenses. If we are serious about our health, this is one of the first things to remove from the diet. Sure, in times of stress, you are going to crave it that much more as you seek things that bring you pleasure, but you have to be honest with yourself about your health priorities and take a disciplined approach to not buy it or eat it. In times of an emergency, like we are in, and when it really matters, it is also not the time to rely on things like a “21-day detox” or “10 steps to break a sugar addiction” or any other headlines or programs to coax you. You need to help your body immediately, every moment counts, and this means taking immediate responsible action for the sake of your health. For any kind of pleasure from sweetness, focus instead on fresh, frozen, and dried fruits and all of the amazing treats that you can make with them by combining them in different forms.
6. Avoid Alcohol (and Other Such Drugs)
While smoking is an obvious habit that is not part of a healthy lifestyle, alcohol isn’t as apparent for many people. Yet, alcohol is one of the most destructive substances for our health, as it is a depressant, carcinogen, and neurotoxin. Therefore, it makes no sense to fear a disease and try to protect yourself from getting it in some ways while you hurt yourself and increase your risk of getting it in other ways, like through the use of alcohol. Alcohol depletes nutrients from your body, adds toxicity, and causes stress and damage to organs, tissues, and cells. It is not a good idea to consume it on any day, nevermind during health emergencies. It doesn’t matter if it is red wine or any other alcoholic beverage. The toxin is the same at the end of the day.
As with sugar and other harmful foods, drinks, and drugs, you are likely to crave it or seek it more so than ever during times of stress, anxiety, and fear. This is where, again, your health priorities must triumph over those urges. It is all too easy to want to numb yourself out at this time to take off the edge from all the stress and fear, but alcohol or any such drug is not the answer. Instead, this is a perfect time to put into place sustainable and healthy habits that help you cope, increase your resilience, and deal with stress effectively. Seek, therefore, healthy outlets of pleasure that are not going to help in one way, while they hurt you in another way. These include anything like watching or reading empowering material, meditation, yoga, chi gong, dance, artistic and musical activities, and breathing exercises. When you build your inner strength like this, you can take on anything that comes your way and deal with it directly. In return, you are not paralyzed by fear or overwhelmed by hopelessness, and you are not pushing away or numbing your natural survival instincts and ability to think and act wisely.
7. Wash Your Hands Thoroughly with Normal Soap
Proper hygiene is part of proper self-care to prevent transmitting or getting any infectious disease. During sensitive times, like certain times of the year or during full-on outbreaks, effective hygiene is even more critical. The key here is not to fear the so-called “germs” that you’ve been taught about since grade school or to live with the false belief that they are all dangerous and out to get you. The truth is that most bacterial and viral organisms are harmless and even necessary to our health and survival. Our approach, therefore, needs to be wise and balanced where we take proper sanitary precautions without taking extreme or exaggerated actions that actually cause more harm.
This means that you want to wash your hands anytime you can in public places, before eating, as soon as you get home every time, and at any other needed time. What you should be using to clean them is simple soap and water. Do not use antibacterial soaps, especially ones with the dangerous triclosan, which are a risk to your health and our environment. Keep in mind, too, that all viruses are non-living protein and nucleic acid particles. They are non-responsive to both antibiotics and antibacterial agents. Concerning alcohol-based soaps or sanitizers, these should not be used exclusively, as they dry out the skin and break down its natural and protective barriers. They are best for “on-the-go” use and medical settings, but should not be your “go-to” or home-based method for washing your hands. Once you implement the right frequency and substance, then it just comes down to the hand-washing duration, which should be about 20 to 30 seconds of thorough hand-washing with soap and water.
8. Reduce the Number of Toxins in Your Life
To reduce or eliminate your risk of any infectious disease and for your body to be at its best, you need to keep your body as free of toxins as possible. The more pollutants, toxic chemicals, drugs, preservatives, and other stressful or destructive compounds that your body has to deal with, the more its defenses are lowered and the fewer resources it has available to work with to protect and heal itself. The average human body today is overwhelmed with all kinds of toxins that lead to states of inflammation, acidity, toxicity, weight gain, and all sorts of symptoms and diseases. While we cannot control all of the toxins that are going to impact our bodies, we can control the most important ones and the most common ones. These include all the toxins that come directly from the foods and drinks we willingly put into our bodies each day and the numerous toxic personal care products and cleaning products that we willingly put onto our bodies each day.
This is why it is so important to eat healthy, high-quality whole foods, not refined or processed ones, and foods that come from plants, not animals, to reduce the number and types of toxins we put into our bodies. (Refer to #3 above.) This is also why it is so vital to reduce our use of all chemical products and only use the safest and most natural options, and still, as sparingly as possible. Be mindful, also, of what kinds of products you bring into your home, from the sheets and bedding you sleep on to the pots and food containers you use in your kitchen. Be mindful of the type of cooking you do, which can significantly increase or decrease the number and types of toxins that impact your body. All of these things add up, and while they may seem overwhelming at first, it is about taking the right action to change our habits and products, one step at a time.
Unfortunately, too many people do not take the time to learn about the importance of toxin-reducing practices. Of those who do, a high percentage fails to take it seriously due to addictions, convenience, social norms, and habits. This is why we hear today that we have some of the sickest human populations that have ever lived on Earth who are suffering from numerous chronic diseases that put them at a higher risk of developing disease symptoms and complications from any virus. You can change those odds for yourself, and your family, by making different choices when it comes to what you put into, onto, and around your body.
9. Immerse Yourself in Positive Content
Our emotions are at the root of all of our health conditions, with no exceptions. The types of emotions you have and the frequency with which you have them all determine the state of your mental, emotional, and physical health. While we should never suppress or repress any negative or painful emotions, we need to learn how to move through them and deal with them quickly and effectively so that they do not get “stuck” in our bodies. Negative emotions trigger a cascade of chemical reactions that include our hormones and neurotransmitters. When these are the most common emotions in our lives, they put our health at risk for all acute and chronic diseases.
This is why we must make a conscious effort to immerse ourselves in positive content at all times, but especially during times of stress and fear. Content that will help us move into and bring out in us states of joy, gratitude, appreciation, kindness, levity, forgiveness, compassion, love, and wellbeing. Such content can include books, videos, films, podcasts, people, and experiences. It is all about immersing yourself in any such material to switch your state of being from one whose thoughts and emotions revolve around fear, anger, despair, depression, guilt, shame, and similar negativity, to positive states of thoughts and emotions. By changing your state of being in this manner, you are literally changing the chemistry and biology inside of your body. You are increasing your immune response, rather than suppressing it, and this makes all the difference when it comes to your risk or chance of succumbing to or avoiding any kind of viral infection or another disease.
10. Have Effective Stress Outlets
During any time of stress, our body releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This reaction, alone, is potent enough to delay and decrease the function of our immune system. This is why, on the topic of stress, I wish to emphasize more of what was touched on earlier in this guide. While you may be doing your best to eat right, sleep right, and exercise right, you may then hear some content from a friend or family member or a news story that will send you spiraling into a state of stress and anxiety. As I shared above, our emotional and mental states of being are extremely powerful and can undo a lot of the good work that we do through our other habits. For this reason, we must also have appropriate tools and coping mechanisms in place to process and cope with any stressful news that comes our way. Sure, you may do your best to avoid all mainstream media and social media, or take other similar measures. Still, the chances are that sooner rather than later, something from somewhere will throw you off your balance and send your body into a state of stress.
In addition to any external stress that you may be subjected to, during challenging times or any kind of crisis, we are also likely to fall easily into states of worrying. You may worry about whether you will get the COVID-19 disease or whether someone near and dear to you will. You may worry about your finances, your work, business, the economy, you name it! Today, there is no shortage of challenges we face, especially now amid a viral pandemic. This is why you must have a plan and outlet to overcome states of worrying and be able to cope with any of the internally-generated and externally-illustrated stress.
There are numerous things you can do to overcome stress and deal with it effectively so that it moves through you without harm to your body and health. The key is to pick several of these things and do them regularly, rather than wait until something unfavorable happens. One of the most effective stress outlets is to have some kind of social support, namely people to talk to that you can trust and with whom you can feel comfortable. Getting things “off of our chest” is essential to process painful thoughts and emotions, and is also critical when we consider the mind-body connection of the lung and chest symptoms that are common to the coronavirus. These can be people close to you, like family or friends, or it can be a stranger like a counselor or coach. Other supportive stress outlets include journaling, breathing exercises, dancing, singing, yoga, chi gong, tai chi, meditation, affirmations, EFT - emotional freedom technique, CBT - cognitive behavioral therapy, and similar ones.
Besides these, one of the most effective stress outlets to work with is our own minds to change our perspective on how we see things. When we engage in conscious and present-moment thinking, we enable ourselves to consider other aspects of a situation, and this can snap us out of any narrow thinking that fixates on “doom and gloom” and other uncertain future scenarios. We begin to feel empowered that we can handle anything that comes our way and are more likely to engage in present-moment, rather than future-projected, living. We have no control over the future, but we always have control over the present in terms of what we choose to do and how we choose to respond to any given situation.
Ultimately, the most important thing you can do goes right back to tip number one. Not only do we each need to release the fear we intake at this time but we also each need to be sure that we are not spreading fear to others. So be sure not to focus on the numbers of cases or deaths, which are all reported in a way to generate more fear and panic, and stop focusing on what other people are saying or doing. This is not the time to be judgemental and critical of others and whatever they may or may not be doing. Instead, focus on yourself, more so than ever, to be the healthiest, kindest, and resilient version of yourself that you can be at this time, and as we move forward through and past this challenging event.
May you stay strong at this time and may health and wellbeing be with you based on the positive actions you take.