This is a follow up to my blog of May 16th on the topic of protecting ourselves against this Covid-19 nightmare. As I mentioned in that blog, the solutions currently being offered to us are external, such as utilizing face coverings and social distancing. While these are important methods, they do — at least somewhat — depend upon the people around us also following these protocols, but unfortunately that is something not within our control. Whereas the internal solution, which we all have available to us, is our immune system. And that is something over which we do have complete control. (If you missed my May 16 blog, here is a link: Pandemic 2020: Same Storm. Different Journey )
Most advice regarding strengthening our immune system involves diet and exercise, and that typically refers to things like staying away from sugar and keeping our body active. That’s great advice, for sure, but what is not discussed as readily (at least in my experience) is the importance of the body-mind connection with regard to keeping our immune system strong so we can fight off illness. For example, the more we watch, listen to, or share bad news and negativity, the more we are practicing stress and anxiety, thereby giving it power over our health. And the reverse is also true. The more we watch, listen to, or share things that make us happy, make us laugh, bring us joy, the more we are practicing happiness, thereby keeping our body and our immune system strong.
Of course, you can’t just snap your fingers and instantly remove the stress. But you can snap your fingers and instantly remove yourself from the stress.
As superficial as it may sound, anything we do to distract ourselves from stress and anxiety – no matter how briefly – allows our body to do what it does best which is to keep us healthy. Think about it…our body does many things on its own without any conscious input from us. For example, the cardiovascular system circulates blood throughout the body in order to supply oxygen and other nutrients; and our body continually inhales and exhales, adding oxygen to our blood and removing carbon dioxide. We don’t think about any of this stuff unless and until something goes awry, and it is much more likely to go awry if our immune system is weak. (See the two examples I cited in my May 16 blog.) So the more often we take a break from practicing stress and anxiety, and instead get out of our own way and offer our body an environment where it can do what it’s supposed to do, the stronger our immune system can be. The quickest and easiest way to do that is to simply redirect our mind away from the stressors and toward whatever brings us joy.
Your mind will always believe everything you tell it. Feed it Hope. Feed it Truth. Feed it Love.
My suggestion is to make a list of activities that will bring relief from things that are currently bringing you stress. And refer to this list often! These don’t have to be things that require a lot of concentration such as, for example, a jigsaw puzzle. (Although those are fun too!) I am suggesting light-weight, simple, and free distractions. I will give you some ideas to get you started and if you want more of my ideas, check out my book, Notes from Your Fairy Godmother.
IDEAS: First of all, cut back as much as possible on stressful activities or interactions. As an example, check in with the bad news of the day less often, and limit your time on social media. You may not realize that the damage you are doing to your immune system is not caused only by interacting with these sources; the damage continues indefinitely because you unknowingly take it with you when you log off. This will impact the rest of your day and will very likely have an impact on everyone around you.
For some, these sources of information and interaction have become an addiction, but if you really grasp what it is doing to your immune system and therefore your health, it’s a no-brainer to arrive at the conclusion that shifting your focus to things that make you happy (or at least bring you relief) is worth the effort. Here are some quick and easy focus-shifters that work for me:
Favorite movies. It doesn’t matter if you have seen them multiple times. If you already know they will make you laugh or bring you joy, or even a bit of relief, add them to your list. In other words, if it feels good, do it again and again and again!
Favorite music. Create a playlist of your favorite music. Include music from various times of your life, going back as far as possible, that might bring back some happy memories (skip the sad stuff!) Play it loud and proud and as often as possible. If it gets you moving and grooving, all the better!
Things to appreciate. Shift your focus to things that are all around you wherever you may be. For me, it’s walking outside and making a specific effort to notice flowers, trees, birds, clouds, etc. Create a mental Bingo game in your mind and look for things like one red bird, one yellow butterfly, one pink flower, etc. Yeah, it may sound pointless and silly, and it may be…but that is the point!
Clearing: You know the metaphor about tidying your home represents tidying your life? Well, here ya go. Maybe it’s organizing old photos and enjoying the memories that come with that process, or organizing your drawers and finally feeling free of clutter. Or maybe cleaning out your garage or storage room and making a plan to donate things you no longer need. Give a thought to the joy or memories those items have brought to you and mentally wrap them in blessings and a wish that they will bring joy to others.
Simple things like this will immediate shift your energy; and while you are focused on things that make you happy, your body will be able to exit “fight or flight” mode and return to its natural state of healing.
“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control how you react to it. That’s where your power is.”