Expect the Best: Prepare for the Worst

Written on by Kathryn Lerro

I’ve been thinking a lot about viruses lately: big surprise, right?

As I was considering ways to protect myself and my family from the coronavirus, I remembered another virus, one that wiped me out a few years ago. It hit me at the beginning of January. I’d been burning the candle at both ends, as many of us do during the holidays, and I was feeling worn out. All I wanted to do was rest, but we were hosting our annual New Year’s Day open house get-together, and I didn’t feel like I had the right to cancel it. By the end of the day on January 1st I was completely exhausted. 4 days later I woke up with pain in my left arm—the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. A virus had attacked the nerves in my shoulder, causing something called Parsonage-Turner Syndrome. The damage it caused took a very long time to heal, and 5 years later, it still causes me occasional pain and weakness.

So why am I telling you this?

I can’t help but wonder if I’d taken better care of myself—cancelling our party and resting instead—if my immune system would have been strong enough to fight off that virus. If so, I would have sailed into the new year, never even knowing I’d been exposed to a threat.

The human immune system is an amazing thing, especially when it is operating at peak performance. So, along with all the other advice you’ve been getting, I’m adding a little more: some simple tips to help your immune system be better able to fight off this virus . . . or any other.

  • Get plenty of sleep.  
  • Try to reduce your stress level. Limit the amount of time you spend watching coverage of the coronavirus. Balance this with watching uplifting programs—or even comedy, which brings me to my next point . . .
  • Laugh. Laughter causes the release of endorphins, reduces stress hormones, and increases infection-fighting antibodies. (Perhaps it really is “the best medicine.”)
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat a healthy diet, high in fruits and vegetables. (The following website lists 15 of the best immunity-building foods, and explains why they are so helpful: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system#citrus.)  
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
  • Wash your hands. Wash them frequently, thoroughly, for 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice), with soap, and a nail brush—especially if you have long nails.    

Hopefully these are things you’re already doing. If not, now is a great time to begin.

One more thing . . .

I’m determined to keep my stress level low by not letting myself worry more than I should about this virus. Obviously, I don’t want to get it—just as I don’t want to get the flu, or a cold, or any other virus. I like being healthy. But if I do get it, because I am not elderly and my immune system is in good shape, I fully believe I’ll be inconvenienced for a short while, then I’ll recover, and life will go on as usual.

This statement from Dr. Sean Elliot, Infectious Disease Physician, University of Arizona College of Medicine, makes me believe my outlook is a healthy one:

If one is going to compare risks, we should get this amped up about the flu every single season. The mortality rate [of the coronavirus] is going to be low because the infection itself is not a severe disease.”

So fear not, my friends. This too shall pass.

Photo by Dayne Topkin via Unsplash



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