Coronavirus: a balanced approach to understanding the virus and supporting your immune system

Coronavirus a balanced approach to understanding the virus and supporting your immune system

In the current coronavirus (Covid-19) environment it has never been more important to maintain a healthy immune system and to keep yourself well informed (without getting dragged into the overly dramatised coverage of coronavirus in the media – more on this below!). This article is intended to give you great information to act wisely during the pandemic and give you some real, practical tips to help you and your family to maintain a healthy immune system.

At La Crisalida Retreats our mission is to help people to re-connect, re-balance and re-energise. Our philosophy is grounded in empowering people to make healthy choices for themselves.

Facing the reality of the coronavirus

The coronavirus (Covid-19) is here to stay. At the time of writing this article many European countries are in “lock-down” as the number of cases rises. Those at risk of hospitalisation are the more vulnerable including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

During these times of uncertainty, it can be useful to remind ourselves what we have influence over and try to let go of the things we don’t. For example, we largely have control over how we protect ourselves from the coronavirus (e.g. social distancing and washing hands), but we have no direct control over the actions of others and the potential spread of the virus.

Something we do have control over is the information we choose to rely and act upon. At La Crisalida, we study the scientific evidence whilst being aware of some of its limitations. Before opening the retreat, Lisa worked as an epidemiologist working with some of the scientists in the UK who are providing advice to the government.

Imperial College London have done a great epidemiological paper on the likely progression in Europe and the US. You can find the paper by clicking here: covid-19 modelling paper from Imperial College (download PDF). It is a sobering read in that it describes the public health consequences of governments doing nothing. It confirms the actions that would be required (social distancing and self-isolation) to help manage the spread of the Coronavirus to ensure our health systems are not overwhelmed. The article explains that is likely that it will take several weeks to get the epidemic fully under control even with draconian social isolation measures enforced.

At this stage, until a vaccine can be developed (likely to be 12 months or more), it seems likely that some social distancing and self-isolation strategies will continue, albeit in watered down terms, depending upon:

• How rigorously the public stick to the advice given by governments and scientists.
• The availability of an easy and low-cost test to confirm if someone has the virus and someone has already had the virus.
• The seasonality effects of the virus. Scientists are exploring whether the spread of the virus will slow down in the summer months naturally due to the virus being less able to survive outside the body in warmer temperatures/higher humidity and with higher exposure to ultraviolet light.

Tips for a healthy immune system

Our immune system regulates us and provides us with protection from foreign viruses and bacteria that find their way into our body. There are two key parts to the immune system:

1. The innate immune system
2. The acquired immune system

The innate immune system can be thought of as the general system that protects the body (and includes physical barriers like the skin preventing the body being overwhelmed by bacteria and viruses). It is fast to respond to urgent situations and it adopts strategies like inflammation, fever and swelling to help manage the body’s natural healing process.

The acquired immune system is the specialist part of the immune system. This part of the immune system learns about specific threats in the body’s environment and is typically slower in response than the innate immune system. The acquired immune system knows there is a problem if there are chemical imbalances in the body which would be caused by bacteria or viruses attacking a specific part of the body. In general, vaccinations work with the acquired immune system to prevent disease.

With the coronavirus, it seems that both parts of our immune system are activated. Once the level of virus within the body reaches a trigger point, the innate immune system responds with a fever and sending an army of white blood cells to the area of infection. The coronavirus is thought to piggyback on this immune response to infect many of the white blood cells. If this gets out of control, this can lead to an extreme situation where the body’s white blood cells start attacking healthy cells, including those in the lining of the lungs. With the coronavirus, this is what can lead to problems with breathing.

In extreme cases, the basic (innate immune) function of the lining of the lungs can fail and bacteria can enter the respiratory system. It is the entry of the bacteria into the lungs that causes the most serious form of pneumonia and the possibility of death with the coronavirus. This informative video describes the process visually plus contains some other useful information and advice.

In summary: The mechanism the coronavirus seems to rely upon to create severe sickness is a weakened innate immune system followed by creating confusion and imbalance within the acquired immune system through getting some white blood cells to “switch sides” during the battle between white blood cells and the virus.

A holistic view of the Coronavirus

In the traditional medical model, it is difficult to understand why some people who contract the virus show little or mild symptoms, whilst others become hospitalised and suffer greatly. At La Crisalida, one of our aims is to help people to find the underlying cause of their health and wellbeing issues, rather than just treating the symptoms.

We help people to explore how they may find meaning in their life events, and even how some of our most difficult moments can lead us to finding resources within we didn’t even know we had.

The current scientific models imply that physical sickness can only be healed through adopting a healthy lifestyle or medical intervention.

In my transformational coaching sessions, I often work to help people to find the underlying patterns of emotions or psychology that give rise to feelings of being stuck or powerless. In my experience, although sometimes people can appear helpless with their physical ailments, their physical symptoms suggest a deeper psychological aspect of their being. Once this component is identified it becomes easier to see how similar patterns have repeated in different forms in the past and it is possible for them to begin to see the cause of their physical or circumstantial issues.

Once they have got to the cause, they no longer are a victim. They can open the mind to the benefits of the physical ailment and understand that there are benefits they hadn’t previously been aware of. Gratitude comes when we can see that the perceived problem was efficiently trying to help us get back to what is important in our lives.

In my experience, each chronic disease has its psychological component and we can uncover similar patterns in life circumstances for those with the same disease. Louise Hay’s book “You Can Heal your Life” develops this concept further with affirmations and a summary of life circumstances associated with dozens of common physical problems. In her book, lung problems and pneumonia are associated with patterns of desperation and being tired of life (with emotional wounds that are not allowed to heal).

This article concludes below with our key recommendations for boosting your immune system. To help with the psychological component, these methods include reconnecting with your life purpose and vision.

My best guess at the moment (due to the weakness in the immune system the virus is exploiting) is that you are most vulnerable to the second stage of Coronavirus if you hold a sense of resentment towards someone close to you who you perceive has “betrayed” you. If this resonates with you, I suggest you do some work now on finding out how you benefitted from their perceived betrayal, and what would have been the downsides if they had remained loyal to you. Continue with the work until you get a sense of gratitude for what has happened. Repeat with as many people you hold this type of resentment towards as you can. For more details on this process, sign up to the newsletter to receive our e-book.

During this process it is worth remembering that people can’t betray you, but they can appear to betray your values. People take actions that will fulfil their own values. It is a fantasy to think that others should fulfil your values.

Boost your immune system

The wise approach to protecting your health during this crisis is to help your immune system do what it does best (managing and destroying the virus).

At La Crisalida we have a wealth of resources on our blog to help optimise your health and well-being in today’s environment. For those who need it, our articles seven steps to creating new habits part 1 and part 2 are a great place to start.

We recommend you optimise your immune system with the following ten steps:

1. Keep your body moving and physically active.

The immune and lymphatic system are closely connected. The lymphatic system contains lymph, which transports white blood cells and helps to rid the body of toxins and waste products. It relies on the body’s movement to do its job as, unlike the circulatory system of the body, it has no heartbeat.

The best form of movement for the lymphatic system is a bouncing movement. The great news is that rebounding is great way of assisting your body’s natural processes and can be done at home with the right equipment whilst self-isolating.

You can check out our articles: bounce! The health benefits of rebounding and top rebounding tips to cleanse your lymphatic system. They include some great ideas on how to get moving safely.

If you don’t have a rebounder at home, then you could always order some online and get them delivered to home. To find out more about purchasing your own rebounder, you might like to read John’s article: How to choose a rebounder for you, which offers tips and product suggestions that we recommend as a starter for those at home.

2. Nurture your body with balanced nutrition and good hydration.

A healthy immune system is more likely if you give your body a good balance of micronutrients and macronutrients. Here at the retreat we follow a plant-based diet, packed full of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds. If you are interested in learning more about following a plant-based diet, and how this can support your overall health, you might like to read the following articles:

Tips and advice for optimum nutrition by following a plant-based diet.
Discover the La Crisalida meat and dairy free food pyramid and understand how following this approach can maximise health.
• If you are not sure how to get started with plant-based food, read our quick and easy tips for vegan cooking at home.

• Remember to keep drinking water to maintain your hydration levels.
• In our article, using food and nutrition to find peace and calm, we identify which types of foods can increase the feeling of anxiousness in your body and suggest some alternatives to you’re your body to relax.

3. Keeping a clean and healthy environment.

In addition to keeping up high standards with your personal hygiene, your wellbeing and therefore your immune system is likely to benefit from managing your environment in other ways. A cluttered space around us can be an indicator of a cluttered mind so find out here how to detox your home by clearing the clutter.

One of the other key factors determining our levels of stress is the amount of news and social media we expose ourselves to. Make sure you have time away from the television, radio, internet or social media. The following article discusses the benefits and how to go about a digital detox.

4. Transforming stress into gratitude

Distress activates our sympathetic nervous system and puts us into a state of “fight or flight”. The body is great at adapting to short term activation of the sympathetic nervous system, however chronic (long term) stress can lead to various physical and emotional issues.

When you are stressed by any situation, a wise thing to do is to reframe it. Reframing is looking at a situation from a different perspective. For example, if someone says “I can’t find any work”, this could be reframed as “So what do you want to do with your time?”. A good reframe will help someone to focus on what can be done and empower the individual.

Reframing can be useful technique at the time of any crisis. If you can see how what is happening is a blessing too then you will be able to transform your stress into gratitude. For example, the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic may be allowing you to:

• Reconnect with the important people in your life
• Learn a new skill (e.g. meditation or a new language)
• Find innovative ways to help your community
• Reassess your personal finances and remove areas of waste
• Eat out less meaning eating healthier foods

Here is the link to our blog article which provides exercises, strategies, tips and advice on managing your stress, fear and anxiety.

5. Finding meaning and purpose in your life by re-connecting with your vision.

Those who feel lost and disconnected are unlikely to have a vision for their lives. At the retreat every week we run vision-boarding classes to help people to connect with what they want to bring into their lives. We encourage our guests to eliminate fantasies and focus on things that they have already been working on, as these are the things that are truly important to them. If you are interested in creating your own vision-board, then this article: a whole new look at vision boarding will explain how to do it.

Some people use vision-boarding to take advantage of the “the law of attraction”. Check out our blog article here covering destiny and the law of attraction. A vision-board is one way of connecting with your inspiration. We also run a workshop called “Finding Your Inspired Path”. Check out this article finding inspiration, finding your inspired path, which covers some of the workshop principles.

At times of crisis some people turn to spirituality to find meaning. One of our key spirituality articles can be found on our blog which discusses what spirituality is and the many forms that spirituality has taken over time.

6. Becoming mindful.

Many people spend their lives rushing from one thing to another and constantly planning and thinking ahead. To counter this, at La Crisalida, we teach mindfulness and meditation. If mindfulness is new to you, check out our beginners guide to mindfulness article here.

Other articles that can help you to become more mindful include:
Discover how meditation can help you to relax
What is meditation and what happens?
Ten of our best tips for successful meditation

7. Having adequate high-quality sleep.

High quality sleep is great for helping boost your immune system as well as having a better quality of life.

We have two great articles on our blog to help – firstly an article for help in getting a good night’s sleep and a second article that provides some great tips for getting good quality sleep.

8. Giving your mind and body time to rest.

Rest is a key part of the La Crisalida programme and allows the body and mind to re-connect, re-balance and re-energise. Rest activates the parasympathetic nervous system and allows our blood to move away from the muscles and return to the internal organs and digestive system and facilitates healing.

We recommend checking out two great blog articles linked with rest. The first covers the three key steps for overcoming burnout and the second explores how meditation can be used to help us de-stress and rejuvenate.

9. Practice balanced breathing.

If we observe our breath, we can see that when we become agitated our breath becomes erratic and/or imbalanced. The in-breath has been shown to active our sympathetic nervous system (which is associated with “fight or flight”) and the out-breath to active our parasympathetic nervous system (which is associated with “rest and digest”). The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems come together to form the autonomic nervous system.

We are calm and centred when the length of our in-breath and out-breath are the same. The typical breath pattern for depressed people is a short in-breath and a long out-breath. For people in a panic, it tends to be a long in-breath and a short out-breath.

Balanced breathing can lead to a calmness that benefits your autonomic nervous system (keeping it in balance) and studies have shown this also benefits your immune system.

Here are some blog articles you can check out to alleviate depression, anxiety and panic using your breath and how you can use restorative yoga to help balance your breath.

10. Work through and dissolve your resentments.

Finally, one of the most important ways of balancing your psychology and immune system is to work at dissolving any resentments you hold towards others or yourself.

We have identified two articles on our blog that can help with this. The first touches on how to deal with pain and regret from your past and the second article linked here focuses on tips you can try at home to overcome depression.

We hope you found this article both informative and practical. There are lots of ideas and articles to read, so pick a few that appeal to you and put them into practice.

Wishing you continued health and wellbeing.

About the author

John is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. He is a life and success coach, Transformational Coach and a master trainer in NLP. He leads our life makeover programme as well as overseeing the retreats.