How to Cope With Anxiety and Depression Among Pandemic, Racial Tensions, Civil Unrest
An Interview with former US Military
Infectious Disease Specialist Col. Michael Lewis, MD
6 Strategies for Managing Stress around National Crisis
It’s essential to care not only for our physical health but also for our mental health. In the current climate (COVID-19, earthquakes, civil unrest, and other life factors) much is out of our control. It’s important to do your best to find balance and take care of your whole self.
However, we are being bombarded with fevered announcements of rising death totals, and civil unrest in our streets can stir up a lot of anxiety and trigger heightened levels of stress. These amped-up stress levels actually can make one more susceptible to catching a cold or being infected by flu viruses.
How Stress Affects Immune Function
We know that stress actually triggers an immune reaction and creates inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation can lead to issues with mental health and depression, while also disrupting the balance of your gut microbiome which adversely affects your overall mental and physical health.
Stress, immunity, and disease progression have reciprocal relationships. A powerful way for you to reduce your risk and stay healthy is to practice stress management techniques, which researchers suggest have potentially powerful effects on your immune system.
Six Strategies to Manage Stress
1.Healthy diet: Consume natural foods whenever possible. Avoid fried and processed foods that tax the digestive system. Your body cannot process the man-made molecules that are in the preservatives, flavorings, and coloring’s of most packaged food products. Instead, these foods generate inflammation and place stress on the immune system. Dietary supplements can help support your immune system everything from good quality mushroom extracts to CBD and fish oil, vitamin D, vitamin A, and vitamin E. Selenium can help prevent the virus from catching on.
2. Avoid information overload: While it can be tempting to hunt for all of the available information, limit yourself to accessing just enough facts and up to date statistics that will help you make rational plans. Realize that the experts on TV don’t know very much about emerging infectious diseases. By taking a deep breath and acknowledging that no one has all the answers, you can avoid unwanted stress and anxiety.
3. Exercise: With gyms and yoga classes shutting down, one excellent alternative is to take a walk in nature: the park, the woods, or along the beach. In addition to distracting you from anxiety, exercise also changes your brain function and can increase the expression of feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain, like serotonin.
4. Practice gratitude: In times of uncertainty and worry, negative thoughts can dominate. Practicing gratitude can help your mind remember the positive elements of your life and, if your gratitude is shared, may have a ripple effect of increased positivity.
5. Try meditating: For some people, daily mindfulness meditation has an enormous positive impact not only on mental health but also on physical health.
6. Be with people you love. When everything is shutting down and there’s a lack of social opportunities, that’s when it’s most important to be with friends and family with whom you can interact and socialize.
SAMPLE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
1. You were an infectious disease hunter for the US Army. Tell us what an infectious disease hunter does.
2. You were at ground zero in Southeast Asia during the breakout of SARS in 2003. What did the SARS pandemic teach us about the spread of infectious diseases that we can use to battle COVID-19?
3. While you were stationed at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research you developed an infectious disease early warning system called the ESSENSE system. Tell us how this system changed the way diseases around the world were discovered.
4. You’ve witnessed the outbreak of some serious diseases; how serious is COVID19?
5. It’s been said that worrying about the virus will cause more health problems that will the virus itself. Why would worrying about this virus precipitate sickness?
6. For those feeling stressed out by this virus, give us a rundown of what they can do effectively manage their anxiety.
7. (A bonus!) KEEP CALM AND TAKE CBD. Stress decrements our immune system making us more susceptible to infection. In addition to CBD helping with stress, CBD supports and fine-tunes your immune system.
8. How can listeners get more information about what we’ve been discussing today?
ABOUT COL. (ret) MICHAEL D. LEWIS, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACN
Dr. Lewis graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY, and served as an intelligence officer in Infantry Divisions for five years prior to attending medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans. Following an internship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dr. Lewis served at The Pentagon where he routinely cared for the highest levels of leadership in the Department of Defense, U.S. Congress, and U.S. Supreme Court. He was rated as a Senior Flight Surgeon and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Airborne and Ranger schools. Dr. Lewis is board‐certified in General Preventive Medicine and Public Health. He developed the ESSENCE program, the nation’s first and largest Syndrome‐based Disease Outbreak Recognition System.