How are you feeling right now? I’m working hard to rise above a mix of anxiety, trepidation and fear as the storm clouds gather, but it’s not easy. The lack of control is the hardest thing – will I get corona virus? How bad will it be? How will long-term isolation affect people over 70? DO I HAVE ENOUGH LOO ROLL?? And – the biggest thing – how will it affect my loved ones? Are we all going to come through unscathed?
Fear and anxiety suppress our immune system, and I’ve already got a bad cold which is making me feel awful. I know it’s not the virus – no fever, sore throat or cough, lots of sneezing – but it’s making me think about how best to support my immune system. I’m resting up; drinking lots of water, cold-busting smoothies and turmeric tea; sleeping loads and eating lightly. There’s more on supporting immunity here.
A sense of self-preservation has necessitated reducing my current affairs intake: I’ve deleted the BBC news app and now restrict my social media time. I’ve already read – and cried over – too many reports from Italian doctors, overwhelmed by the crisis in their hospitals. The balance between bearing witness to global heartbreak and increasing my own sense of helplessness is hard to maintain, but stepping away from the 24-hour news cycle helps.
Annabel and I spend a lot of time reading medical research, and papers on Covid-19 are coming thick and fast. It’s clear that enormously talented teams across the world are working full pelt to expedite vaccines, explore the virus’ DNA and decode epidemiology best practice. We should take comfort from that. If you want to take a deeper dive into the science:
- A vaccine may be close but clinical trials take time. An article in today’s Observer is a good sum-up of the immunisation situation.
- This Amplify Nursing podcast comes from the US and discusses reducing corona risk with epidemiologists from the University of Pennsylvania.
- German researchers have identified how the virus enters our bodies – there’s an explanation here.
- My take-out from this highly-academic research paper is that anti-oxidants (from brightly coloured vegetables and fruit) and the mineral selenium (best source = Brazil nuts) may quell lung inflammation caused by viruses. The authors also recommend zinc supplementation to support immune cells.
- I find this medium.com article frankly terrifying, but I share it as explains transmission rates with useful graphs, and is an indicator of where we may find ourselves very soon.
My focus is on staying well and happy in the coming weeks and months. If you read my post on the vagus nerve a few weeks ago, you’ll understand the power of the brain-body connection and how we keep it tuned by spending time with family and friends. We’re social animals, not designed for isolation. We thrive with our ‘tribe’, hugging loved ones, socialising with friends, sharing the drama of a football match with a crowd, enjoying a concert or play in unison.
This virus challenges us at a fundamental level. I’d urge you not to see self-isolation as a reason to avoid all human interaction. Connect with your tribe in different ways, make use of FaceTime, WhatsApp groups and Facebook – or even the phone! I’m sticking to my ‘a friend a day’ mantra and staying in touch with my pals as much as I can, despite cancelled trips and missed events.
FINDING THE SILVER LINING
I’m trying to find the positive in all this. I’m working on acceptance, being adaptable and staying optimistic. Here are a few things I’m doing:
- A 40-day meditation challenge, with a short session of Kirtan Kriya every day. This style of meditation comes from kundalini yoga and involves chanting and finger movements. It’s been found to increase cerebral blood flow and is recommended to reduce Alzheimer’s risk. I use this 11-minute YouTube video. If you’re new to meditation, this might be the time to give it a go as it’s calming and requires quiet time alone. This New York Times guide gives a good general explanation of how it works and includes free meditations by Tara Brach, who is a mindfulness goddess.
- Reading. It’s one of the best Age-Well practices: readers, as we explain in The Age-Well Project, live longer, healthier lives. I’m engrossed in Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light which, at almost 900 pages, will keep me going for a while.
- Filling the freezer with nourishing soups, stews and Annabel’s healthy sticky toffee cake. I’ll do a separate post about eating for immunity (and making use of store cupboard basics) but Turkish lentil soup, lentil and herb soup and black bean chilli will all be finding their way into my freezer soon.
- Learning: I spotted a hashtag #coronauniversity yesterday in a tweet encouraging us to make good use of any unexpected free time. If you’re ill you need to rest and recuperate, of course, but if you’re at home and well, why not take the opportunity to learn something new? The ageing brain thrives on novelty. I have an urge to try something crafty, so may have created a patchwork quilt by the time this is all over!
- Smiling: Gloria Gaynor doing the handwashing challenge while singing ‘I will survive’ is the anthem we need now. It’s on TikTok and YouTube here.
Do make use of this lovely Age-Well community, here and on our social media channels. Please share your feelings, hopes, fears, store cupboard recipes, immune-supporting tricks and secret loo-roll stockists (the newsagent opposite my house has some, if you’re local!)