Updated: Apr 11
As the destruction of the COVID-19 makes its way through the United States I have been thinking a lot about how Kopely could help relieve stress during these uncertain times.
Like many, I too was surprised by the world’s reaction to the virus. So, in the last few weeks I have been doing my best to better understand the pandemic and panic. In the beginning I was very confused, on one hand some people thought COVID-19 was no different than the common flu, and on the other hand some people thought the world was ending.
I started to find my footing on the situation, a place that fell somewhere between the two extremes by listening to people who are way smarter than I on the subject of infectious disease. Now that I have a better understanding of these events I feel like I have a firmer grasp on what is actually unfolding in the United States.
Change, Uncertainity and Difficulty is an Equation for Stress
What concerns me the most (outside of the health, personal and economic turmoil) is the stress that COVID-19 is bringing to our communities. It isn’t everyday that a singular event creates economic, physical and mental stress all at once.
And I am empathetic. Everyone is dealing with some form of loss whether it be a family member, a friend, job, investment, retirement, graduation, sporting event or even school! It is incredible to see how the world has changed in just a couple of months.
After dozens of conversations and hours of thinking I have decided to direct my attention to one part of this crisis- the mental health piece of this catastrophe. Why? Because I think if you follow the 80/ 20 rule that at this point in time, our communities will reap the most benefit by not just following CDC’s and WHO’s recommendations on social distancing and hygiene protocol but by using our extra time to better relieve our new stress.
The Effects of Stress on the Immune System
I think one of the most important things we can do as citizens is to double down on our health and our wellness. And I hope that with this post coupled with these world events may help people to start prioritizing their health.
Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University explained just how much stress affects our health in his book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.” On page 155 of his book he explains how sustained major stressors drive the immune system way below baseline, about 40 to 70 percent below.
Now, I am no psychologist or scientist but a 40 to 70% drop of your immune system seems significant! I think after reading Dr. Sapolsky’s figure one could surmise the immense value of managing your stress during such troubling times. Your mental health has a huge affect on your general health. Through my studies I have also found that the most effective strategies against stress is Cognitive Therapy and Acceptance Commitment Therapy. In my opinion the goal is to shove a shoe wedge between what you think you know about the world versus what is actually happening in the world so you can see the world how it is, not how you think it is. Another way to package this concept is, imagine that everyone is born with a unique set of colored glasses that you could never take off. If you were born with green tinted sunglasses your world would look very green and by your definition a green world is normal and it is your reality, but that wouldn’t be everyone else's reality. Maybe your mother had purple lenses, your dad had blue, your best friend had yellow, etc...
Everyone has their own narrative and this narrative serves a vital function to our own sanity and ego. It helps us justify what we do or what we don’t do. The problem is that our brain’s are quite literally getting in the way of us triumphing through a panic like the panic of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Best Way to Reduce Stress During Uncertain Times
Putting away our narratives will help us see a more logical, honest world. I think this is the only way we can accept our new future. Logic, rational thoughts and facts are hard to come by with such panic and misinformation floating around the internet and news.
You can see how people are responding- some people are fleeing out of major cities while others are hoarding toilet paper. What we should be doing is accepting our new reality, decreasing the stress and panic in our lives, and start cherishing more honest values like our family, friends and communities.
Changing gears and moving toward the truth, from what I have heard some experts expect that hundreds of thousands of individuals around the world will be physically affected by the virus in the next 6-12 months with a mortality rate around 1%. This is not an argument against social distraction but the fact that no matter what we do most of us will come into contact with COVID-19.
Again, I am no infectious disease expert but through my logic I think if we pull back the layers of this problem we will see that one of our biggest problems as a species is acceptance. Acceptance that we are currently in a race between modern medicine and coming in contact with someone who has been infected by the virus. The acceptance that this is mother nature at work and that most of these events are outside of our control. The acceptance of that suggestion has a huge influence on our health and well-being. If you think the world is ending then stress will most likely have a choke hold on your prosperity.
If our society can accept that COVID-19 is our new normal, that our health is constantly at risk even pre-pandemic times, I think people will be less stressed and we would see trickle down of benefits like happier, healthier people, less stress on our food stores and pharmacies, less pressure on our healthcare, and an opportunity for our economy and world to recovery.
In closing, I think most experts would agree that we are lucky that the mortality rate of this virus is around 1%. And, I think psychologists would agree that it is hard for humans to accept their humanity. I am not trying to diminish the effects of COVID-19 but people are always at risk of illness, disease and death. This is just part of what it means to be human and just look at the top 3 causes of death in the US recorded by the CDC:
Heart disease: 647,457 /year
Cancer: 599,108 /year
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936 /year
We have an opportunity here to alleviate everyone’s stress from this global health crisis by accepting that most of us will come into contact with this virus in the next 18 months. And that your best chance of staying healthy, living your life and working through this uncertain time is to prioritize your health - physically and mentally. Please, start now by following the CDC and WHO guidelines and by taking better care of yourself with better hygiene, more exercise, weight loss, eating well, laughing, being creative, appreciating your family, friends and neighbors and maybe most importantly that acceptance will allow us to accept our new reality and move forward from this uncertain time.