Living a little in the times of Corona: Here are 11 tips to keep calm and carry on during COVID

Fear and anxiety during this unforgiving pandemic are natural, but we also need to understand that our fear gets us nothing and does nothing to make us feel better
Image for representation | Pic: Express
Image for representation | Pic: Express

If there is something that is spreading more than the Coronavirus, it is the fear and anxiety concerning this unforgiving pandemic and how it may affect our lives in terms of health, careers wise, finances and relationships etc. 

To begin with, let us understand what fear and anxiety actually are. Often dreaded, fear and anxiety are your body’s natural response to whatever is happening around us. It is important for us to switch to a state of "fight and flight" because it springs us up into action to do what we can in order to save ourselves from the coronavirus. It is like a fight for our survival.

The problem is when we stay stuck in this fear for too long, allow it to consume us and take no action to diffuse it. 

So, yes. With all the stress and anxiety around you, not to mention acute shortages in medical supplies, it is normal to feel this way, but we also need to understand that our fear gets us nothing and does nothing to make us feel better. 

In fact, science today is showing us how stress and anxiety cripples our immune system, raises our blood sugar levels, increases blood pressure, inflammation, further shortens breathing patterns and so much more - putting us in a vicious cycle.

Ever since COVID-19 started, we have had thousands of patients come to us and still continue to. Some do need hospitalisation and some unfortunately succumb to the virus. But what about the majority of the people who are asymptomatic and are recovering well at home?  They have made some simple lifestyle changes to handle their situation better. You can be one of them too if you start doing what they did too to feel better.


1. Stay at home 

The easiest and powerful action you can take right now is to stay at home. This is not just for you, but everyone else, as each one of us is involved in breaking or building the COVID spread chain.

2. Get enough rest and sleep

No matter how many spices and immune-boosting supplements you are popping, a lack of sleep is the foremost thing you need to fix. Numerous scientific and clinical studies around sleep, low immunity, delayed recovery have been done, and yet we take this natural phenomenon for granted. Honour this beautiful mechanism of sleep and give yourself quality sleep every single night whether you are preventing COVID, overcoming it or already have.

3. Load up on immunity-boosting nutrients like Vitamin C, Zinc, Selenium and Vitamin D3

These are core immune-boosting nutrients, and is being prescribed medically across the globe. They are responsible for growth, repair, recovery, reducing inflammation of the lungs, generating an immune response, and a lot more. We may get them through food, but at this stage, if it’s important for you to 
include the supplements for a more potent effect, please check with your doctor and get started soon

  • Vitamin C sources: Lemons, oranges, pineapple, amla, guava, bell peppers, papaya.

  • Zinc sources: Pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, boiled chickpeas, sunflower seeds, prawns, oysters, crabs, cashew nuts, almonds, eggs, meat and chicken, ethically sourced dairy. 

  • Selenium sources: Brazil nuts, whole eggs, cottage cheese, mushrooms, ethically sourced dairy.

  • Vitamin D3: immunity cannot function without the basics, and this vitamin is your immunity’s basic need and it's best to keep your levels close to the upper limit. Mostly you will need a supplement for this, but natural sources that can give you some amount of Vitamin D are, sunlight, mushrooms, whole eggs.

4. Consume adequate protein - Protein is the building block of every single cell of your body, including your immune cells

Veg sources: green peas, lentils, legumes, beans, roasted chana or sattu. Even a simple khichdi can be a suitable option for you. 

Non-veg sources: well-cooked free-range eggs, mercury-free fish, meat, chicken.

5. Steam inhalation

Doing this will also help loosen up the chest, nasal and sinus congestion and loosen up the excess mucous which makes it easy to expel. Add a pinch of carom seeds (ajwain), turmeric powder and 2-3 drops of eucalyptus oil to the steamer and inhale for 3-5 mins. In case you have way too much mucous, try cutting down on dairy as that might aggravate it.

6. Make some pumpkin soup - Add a bowl of this immunity-boosting soup to your lunch or dinner.

  • Recipe: 1 red onion, 2 medium carrots, 1 handful red lentils (pre-soaked), 1 handful split peas (pre-soaked), 1 cup pumpkin (yellow), 1 tbsp fresh ginger garlic paste, 4 cups water, Seasonings – Pink Himalayan salt, black pepper, red paprika, turmeric, thyme – to taste, 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped, 1 cup spinach leaves, 1 tbsp cold-pressed coconut oil.

  • Method: Peel and slice onions, slice carrots. l Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a pot, then add the vegetables and cook on medium, stirring regularly, for a couple of minutes, until the vegetables soften. l Then add lentils, split peas, pumpkin, ginger garlic paste, spinach and pour over water. Add more water if needed. l Season to taste, bring to a boil and then cook on low flame for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils and vegetables are cooked thoroughly. l Remove about half the soup from pot and blend it with an immersion blender. l Blend until smooth to your liking, then add it back to the rest of the soup and stir to combine.

7. Magic Lung tea - A simple brew of selective spices to take the load off your lungs by helping them decongest and to lower inflammation. 

  • Recipe - An inch piece of mashed ginger/1 tsp dried ginger powder, 1 small cinnamon stick, ½ tsp of basil leaves (fresh/dry), 1 tsp of oregano dry (or fresh leaves), 3 peppercorns, 2 crushed cardamom, 1 to 2 crushed garlic cloves, ¼th tsp of fennel seeds, a pinch of ajwain and ¼th tsp cumin seeds.

  • Boil together in water for 10 minutes and let it simmer. Strain and sip warm.

8. Invest in light movement and simple breathing exercises 

If you feel tired, ensure complete rest. If you can, get a light walk done at home during the day and include light yoga asanas and simple breathing exercises or pranayama if you feel up to it.

A little bit of movement will help you handle inflammation better. Do not overtrain at the same time. Some breathing exercises you can try -

Box breathing 

  • This is an all-round exercise for the lungs, consisting of an inhale, hold, exhale and hold, all timed equally, e.g.: 4:4:4:4 or 8:8:8:8.

  • Sit with your back straight, chin parallel to the ground, and shoulders rolled slightly backwards.

  • Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds.

  • Hold for 4 seconds (it is the space between exhalation and next inhalation).

  • If you cannot hold for 4, do it for 2 seconds. This space is very powerful, as it helps increase lung capacity and haemoglobin to hold onto oxygen.

  • It also enables our body to hold on to enough oxygen, even if our breathing pattern has shortened, in times of stress, for example

Balloon breathing 

  • A simple activity of blowing up the balloons itself turns out to be a powerful exercise for the lungs. It works in intercostal muscles that are responsible for the movement of diaphragm and rib cage during breathing and are called as respiratory muscles too. The more effective the movement of intercostal muscles, the better is our lung capacity and the ability of the lungs to maintain the oxygen supply to our body. In fact, this exercise is also scientifically proven to boost oxygen saturation levels (SPO2) in our blood. 

  • Blowing up balloons also turns out to be a kid-friendly activity. In case there are no balloons available at home, one could simply take a deep inhale through the nose, and exhale with pursed lips through the mouth, as if they were blowing air into the balloon.

9. Keep your mind busy and engaged 

Use your energy towards things that are productive and make you feel good. One of the most assured ways to feel happy is to genuinely help people without setting any expectations. Help during these times doesn’t have to be always about money and donations. If you can, do it. But if you can’t, help in any other way you can. Offer prayer or group prayer, visualise your loved ones healing and feeling better soon, give a call to people you know and ask about their well-being. Prayer along with faith and belief, followed by surrendering the outcome is a powerful thing. There are many ways to help

10. Know ways to handle pain, aches and fatigue during or post-COVID - Pain is mostly an outcome of inflammation due to infection. Other than the medicines your doctor prescribes, here’s what you can do.

  • Have some turmeric, ginger, garlic, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper in your kitchen? Great! Load up on these anti-inflammatories in teas, spice powders, concoctions, dals or soups. You can also add a tsp of coconut oil or ghee to it as this combination works best in the presence of fat.

  • Drink a glass of freshly squeezed sweet lime or mausambi juice (in case your sugar levels are high, make an informed decision). 

  • Add a tsp to a tbsp of pure extra virgin olive oil and drizzle it over your salad or hummus.

  • Unsalted nuts – almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts. 

  • Omega-3 rich foods – flaxseeds, fatty fish, chia seeds. A cup of freshly brewed loose green tea or black tea leaves sans sugar also helps reduce inflammation.

  • A little bit of red or green chilies with food (not in case you have hyperacidity or ulcers).

  • Remove all the inflammatory foods – sugar, processed meats, junk foods, refined carbs, refined oils. Avoid cigarettes and alcohol.

11. Lastly, be mindful of the content you are consuming through news and social media

  • The kind of content you are consuming around this time will go a long way in keeping you mentally and emotionally healthy. Disconnect or cut down on your time spent on social media and watching news, especially if you are sensitive to these things. Avoid getting sucked and entangled into mindless scrolling, forwarded messages, gossips and rumours that only fuel more and more fear in you.

  • While some people may die, there are a lot more who are recovering, but news channels and social media hardly show their stories. It is mostly about deaths, cases and suffering. There is a difference between staying informed and getting so sucked into the news that it starts to consume you.

  • So, while there is fear, anxiety and distress all around, what action are you taking? Being a victim and staying stuck in fear is not going to help you, but using fear to fuel you into action and smartly. responding to this fear with the necessary lifestyle changes, definitely will. And remember, every human has this in-built powerful mechanism to "adapt". We will adapt if we allow ourselves to. Stop resisting, remove obstacles and allow the amazing human creation i.e., your body to adapt to all that’s happening. All you can do is build a strong you, stay safe at home, pray and take whatever right action you can.

Luke Coutinho is a lifestyle coach and an author

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