Keep (Your Nervous System) Calm and Carry On

Two Pug Rug

One more piece of advice on COVID-19?… yes, but here is something you can do, just for you, to maintain and improve your health during this time. 

When all of the talk about the coronavirus began, I thought it was going to be similar to many severe storm predictions- inflated and put out in the news to create, well, news. Since the last two weeks have evolved, this situation is obviously a great concern and we all need to do what we can to best contain the spread of the virus, to prevent loss of lives AND to better care for ourselves personally. 

One piece of this potential health threat, which we do have some control over as individuals, is our immune system- our first defense against illness.

I want you for a moment to consider all of the information we are taking in each day via our devices, television news, conversations with other people, etc. There was a time, not long ago, when most details would not have reached us- certainly not instantaneously. Instead, we would have been doing our daily chores, living our lives as best we could during a crisis but not mentally living in the crisis each moment as we do presently. The result of the constant assault of information is that we are activating our nervous systems to be on high alert, always scanning for danger. Each hit of new information is taken into our nervous system and transmitted to each cell of our body as a message of danger. We are human and this behavior of frequently checking for danger is part of our survival instinct, only currently we don’t get much of a break from being on high alert as we did in earlier days of human existence- even a few years ago.

Our nervous system and the fight or flight response job is to protect us, and is set up to respond to danger by fighting or fleeing, not standing still, while taking in even more alarming information. The hormones of fight or flight are not being utilized as nature intended. These hormones work to prepare our large muscles and body systems to get us ready to be running, or fighting to protect ourselves, but instead, they end up not being used up when the danger is in our thinking and not physical danger. The hormones end up staying in our system for a long time. These unutilized hormones cause inflammation and lessen our ability to fight infection, because our body’s energy resources are being used for survival and not for healing.

So, in order to play to our strengths, and honor our primitive nervous system as it is, we can do things a bit differently, to give our minds and bodies a break and allow them to do their job to keep us healthier.

Here are a few ideas:

We can check in with news far less frequently in order to quiet the state of high alert. Anything we need to hear will come to our awareness without us being constantly tuned in. I promise.

We can do things that we know lessen our stress, like reading for fun or doing projects that are enjoyable to do- maybe projects we have been putting off for lack of time.

What do you like to do that you get lost in? A craft, physical or mental activity that takes up all of our attention can get us in a state of “flow”, where we lose track of time and space. Being in flow has deeply healing affects on our mind and body, much like meditation has. With this opportunity to self-isolate, we can do many things we only dream of having time to do which we enjoy.

Connect on the phone or video chat with those we love. They may need connection too. Nurturing others feels good, and we receive those feel good benefits for ourselves when we give time to others.

Eating in a healthy way can be fun when we are isolating and not going to restaurants or events. We can cook new recipes that we have been wanting to try, and boost our immune system doubly by being in flow during the activity of cooking and by giving our bodies what they need on the cellular level for the best chance at staying well.

Helping others always boosts our immune system. If you are out for yourself to pick up supplies, contact a friend, neighbor or family member who can’t get out safely to see what they need and make a plan to do a drop off at their door.

Spend time with your pets. That always feels good. Exercise, or go for a walk to help boost your immune system.

Celebrate spring! Here in the Northeast of the U.S., it is a joy to see grass again, hear the spring sounds and smells and generally be outside. Spring seems to be about a month early here and I have been thinking about how lucky we are that this situation is happening now instead of at the beginning of the winter. We have more opportunities to be outside and in nature yet stay away from others.

By the way, the birds are around a great deal lately at my house, and there is nothing more peaceful for me than to watch and listen to them. Yesterday I had the treat of watching a ground hog collecting leaves in her mouth all morning. Every few minutes I would check again to see if she was back out from under the barn where she was diligently getting ready for her spring young to be born as she built her nest. I know she might be a he, but it’s very difficult to tell from the window! Nature most always calms our nervous system.

To help your immune system the best way possible, stay home as much as you can to lessen your odds of exposure.When you begin to feel a bit bored, ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” and you may get a great answer from your inner wisdom. I imagine that answer may be something to do with what feels like peace to you. The more you are in a peaceful state of mind, the better for your immune system too.

So, this is the tip in a nutshell. Pause through out the day to notice when you are experiencing that buzz of being on high alert. If you are, you are likely causing your nervous system to be activated, which may interfere with having a strong immune system, your great defense from contracting the virus. Find one of many ways to calm your mind and take your attention off the crisis.

By the way, the more we are in a state of calm, the more we have access to our creativity, so who knows what you can come up with when calm! Please feel free to share what you do with me! I am working on another hooked piece and just finished one not long ago, which I posted above for you to see. It’s my Two Pug Rug.