Stress caused by Covid-19 makes us doubly vulnerable: What the average person can do about it – Economic Times

Posted: May 24, 2020 at 7:46 pm

By Deepak Chopra, Rudolph E Tanzi, Michelle Williams, Ryan Castle, William C Bushell, Kimberly Brouwer and Paul J Mills

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a second pandemic, not of disease but of stress. We all feel stress as added pressure. This pressure registers psychologically as worry and anxiety, while the body responds with stress hormones. The overall stress response is designed to be a short-term reaction. When stress persists, however, it enters into the mix of threats posed by Covid-19.

So what can the average person do to reduce the threat?

We advocate meditation, yoga, and deep regular breathing (Pranayama), which are practices available to anyone. They can be easily done at home, with the intention of returning to a relaxed, balanced state. Paying attention to stress is always advisable, but doubly so during this crisis. There is a specific connection that wed like to explain.

First, a little background. Although Covid-19 is very easily transmitted from person to person, the risk of being hospitalised or dying primarily affects people who are already at risk because of old age, infirmity, or chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, autoimmune illness, obesity, and heart disease. All of these chronic illnesses are associated with measurable low grade inflammation in the body.

The chronic low-grade inflammation that develops with advanced age has become known as inflammaging. Most people with chronic illness unknowingly have low grade inflammation. Recent research points to a second finding: These same disorders are often accompanied by persistent low grade anxiety and depression.

In a crisis like the current pandemic, anxiety and depression also begin to affect healthy people due to stress. It has become increasingly evident that low level inflammation and chronic stress lie at the heart of many disorders that take years or even decades to develop before symptoms appear that can be treated by a physician.

Against this background, which pertains to countless people in modern society, there is increased danger when acute illness strikes. In addition to the elderly and chronically ill, Covid-19 is causing acute respiratory illness and stroke sometimes leading to death in seemingly otherwise healthy younger people. The transition from SARS-CoV-2 infection to being diagnosed with Covid-19 is typically accompanied by a so-called cytokine storm. Cytokines are proteins that are major drivers of inflammation, and their rapid increase, or storm is one of the bodys immune responses to acute threat.

In addition, studies have connected pro-inflammatory cytokines to the stress response; they regulate well-known stress hormones such as ACTH and cortisol. Three major systems are involved: the immune system, central nervous system and endocrine hormone system.

In the face of these connections, we are coming forward to suggest that complementary practices deep breathing, yoga and meditation can play an important role during this pandemic. These practices have been confirmed by hundreds of scientific studies to bring down over-activity of the autonomic nervous system, calm the mind from anxiety, reduce the stress response, regularise heartbeat, and lower blood pressure. Together, all of these diverse benefits are associated with reducing the invisible presence of chronic low-grade inflammation, especially if added to good sleep, exercise and proper diet.

We dont fully understand how the immune response, linked to stress and inflammation, can turn lethal. As a response to cuts, wounds, invading pathogens, and other threats, prior to antibody formation, the body first responds with inflammation as a normal yet crucial healing function. But it has long been known that inflammation is paradoxical. Acute inflammation can overreact, harming or even killing the patient. (Instances of strokes and heart attacks among young Covid-19 patients might be linked to micro-cytokine storms in the brain and heart.)

The threat from low-grade chronic inflammation was not discovered until recently but seems to be widespread. It is unaccompanied by swelling, burning and redness of the skin that marks acute inflammation and therefore goes undetected by the patient or physician.

Preventing and addressing chronic low-grade inflammation and its significant adverse consequences are urgent issues, even more urgent during a pandemic. There seems to be every reason to make the public aware how deep breathing, meditation, yoga and other healthy lifestyle practices can help during this crisis and long afterwards.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Stress caused by Covid-19 makes us doubly vulnerable: What the average person can do about it - Economic Times

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