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Five tips to manage life amid the coronavirus outbreak

A medical worker records a patient’s condition at Jinyintan Hospital, which has been designated for coronavirus patients, in Wuhan, China, on Sunday. China reported thousands of new virus cases on Tuesday in a disease outbreak that has caused milder illness in most people, an assessment that promoted guarded optimism from global health authorities. (Associated Press)
By Cheri Mcdonald For The Spokesman-Review

The coronavirus strain is unfortunately already being categorized as “an epidemic of panic” despite the fact that the risk of contracting this contingent remains low compared to the flu we continuously battle.

This perspective, however, has thrown the world into a state of chaos and paralysis as if it was already the pandemic and going to destroy us. So then how do we go through our day and live life fully with joy and peace? Health encompasses the mind, body and spirit as these five tips address toward managing life fully.

1. The only constant is change. The unknown of the coronavirus brings our sense of uncertainty to the surface. Although uncertainty is all there is outside the moment, the human brain tends to veer off to the negative anyway. As emphasized by psychologist and author Rick Hanson, “Our brains are wired to scout for the bad stuff and fixate on the threat.”

Then when the negativity is added comes the fear. We go into survivor mode, and we are done. It’s hardly possible to remember that “new and quick” spread does not equate virulence. It simply implies that the sooner we address it, the unknown becomes known. So reframing our negative tendency to the positive aspects can bring quick relief of the panic.

2. Seek to quiet the mind by embracing mindfulness. Research supports the mind, body and spirit theory: “Mindfulness can also help reduce the risk of relapse from depression while also helping with anxiety disorders like PTSD. Mindfulness not only helps build the immune system, but it can also help improve our neural processing in as little as a 10- to 15-minute session.”

Again, fear is a human instinct for survival and surfaces to warn of potential harm. Rarely is there a person who experiences no fear at all. Anxiety and fear tend to be much larger in our mind than in reality. A regular practice of mindfulness trains the mind to focus on the reality in the moment and offers protection from the fears and hysteria of the unknown.

3. Do all that you can do to be healthy – period. Go back to the basics of good hygiene. As we are taught, the primary way viruses are transmitted person-to-person is through body fluids such as saliva and mucus. The answers are simple: Wash your hands thoroughly. It’s important to get your annual wellness checkup, appropriate vaccines and personal health plan.

Theories support “physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce our chance of getting a cold, flu. Or other illness … Some stress increases the chance of illness. Low-stress hormones may protect against illness.”

4. Power of intuition – “the whisperings from within.” I remember watching a newsfeed and the advice of a fireman captain when the anthrax scare hit the U.S. He shared how he had a gas mask at work, yet had a family at home who didn’t have gas masks. He shared the greatest gift against the poison was to check in with your intuition and follow it.

If you are standing in line to go into a building and your inner voice says don’t, then get out of the line and do not enter. His advice resonated with me. Our intuition is the voice of our higher self and encompasses the intelligence that reminds us we know more than we know we know.

A great example of building your skills of listening to your intuition is the philosophy of HeartMath Institute. “Heart intelligence is the flow of intuitive awareness, understanding and inner guidance we experience when the mind and emotions are brought into coherent alignment with the heart. It can be activated through self-initiated practice.

“The more coherent we are and the more we pay attention to this deeper intuitive inner guidance, the greater our ability to access this intelligence more frequently. Heart intelligence underlies cellular organization and guides and evolves organisms toward increased order, awareness and coherence of their bodies’ systems.”

5. Movement that combines the mind, body and heart. This is for self-monitoring and keeping the immune system strong and healthy to better combat the challenges of viruses and unknowns ahead. Everyone is different, so select the exercise and physical movement that fits your preference and lifestyle. I offer the suggestion of yoga.

Yoga incorporates movements, breath and meditations that address the unresolved distress in the body, leading to health and well-being. Another way that fear encroaches our life is it evokes feelings of being out of control. This loss of control can manifest in anxiety, despair and stress that leads to visualizing all the ways this unknown can lead to your demise.

Yoga is said to encompass the following healing components: “Conceivably, asanas particularly have a positive effect on fitness and physical flexibility with a secondary effect on the mental state, while the pranayama practices and relaxation/meditation techniques may result in greater awareness, less stress and higher well-being and quality of life.”

These five tips demonstrate that as we take command of our life, live in the moment and embrace a consistent practice with intent and effort, our inner wisdom will rise to the top and offer discerning insight to make the decision and choices that meet our highest and best interests among the unknown.

We all can take charge of our lives and be conscious and present to choose to focus on the moment with joy and peace despite the fears and storms outside our immediate control. Peace be with you.

Cheri McDonald is a marriage and family therapist in California who specializes in trauma.