How to stay calm and peaceful in the midst of a pandemic

When tigers at the Bronx Zoo are making headline news for testing positive for COVID-19, I think it’s time for us all to take a step back and breathe.

First of all, we’ve known from the start that this virus can be transmitted between species—that’s how it started in the first place. So these particular “urgent” headlines, like most headlines I’m seeing recently, seem to be based more in sensationalism than fact.

Earlier this week, I explained how a data vacuum drives pandemic panic. Uncertainty always sets the stage for fear and anxiety. But it also gives way to wild speculation. And I probably don’t have to point out where that leads.

News outlets have been throwing around words like “staggering,” and “unprecedented”—some have even compared this crisis to World War II, which ultimately took the lives of some 60 million people.

I can’t speak to other similarities, but I doubt the fallout from COVID-19 will even come close to that. Whether I’m right or wrong, though, I think it’s clear that we desperately need some perspective here.

The good news behind the bad

Let’s start today’s discussion by taking a brief look at the numbers, internationally:

  • Worldwide – 11 deaths per million people
  • United States – 42 deaths per million people
  • Spain – 314 deaths per million people
  • Italy – 292 deaths per million people

So—as of this moment in time, at least—this country really isn’t doing too badly in the fight against COVID-19. Although let me be clear: That isn’t a green light to stop social distancing.

You still need to stay in, wash your hands, wear a mask, and take all appropriate measures to protect yourself—including boosting your immune health. (You can learn all about my top immune health recommendations in my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity.) Because in the same way that eating right and exercising prevents diabetes and obesity, these are the very measures that will keep us from ending up in a far more dire situation.

This is especially true when you consider the fact that 90 million Americans are considered high risk. (Partly because our deeply flawed healthcare system fails to focus on prevention.) So we simply can’t afford to let our guard down now.

But the good news is that these measures are actually working. And while people are dying—which is by itself a tragedy—they are at least dying in fewer numbers than they might be otherwise.

The one bright spot for me is that NYC has seen a dramatic decrease in hospitalizations, ICU bed use, and deaths. Call me Pollyanna, but to me, that is a win. One that I hope bodes well for the rest of the country, too…

Turn off the news—and do this instead

This virus deserves to be handled with an ample amount of caution. But constant alarmism is only going to destroy your peace, steal your sleep, and weaken your immune system.

So, instead of watching cable news 24/7, here are a few things that I’ve been doing instead—and as a doctor, I would advise you to do the same:

  • Exercise at home—Use your body weight or jog around your yard or neighborhood. (Just remember to keep your distance from others, and to wear a mask in populated areas.) Whatever you do, just do something, for the sake of your mental health and your immune system. (I have to run up and down the stairs in my building!)
  • Don’t overeat—The temptation to “stress eat” is strong, but this is why so many Americans are sick in the first place. Again, for the sake of your mood and your immunity, stay on track nutritionally, with as much fresh, whole, unprocessed foods (and as little sugar) as possible.
  • Take your vitamins—Do I really need to say more than that? But there are a few standbys I always recommend to help boost your immune health, and you can learn all about them in my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity.
  • Meditate—This will help you to get centered and clear your head. And with all the free apps downloadable to your smart devices now, doing it at home just got easier.
  • Do yoga—Similar to meditation, yoga can work wonders for stress relief and relaxation. And you can download apps to help guide you through this practice as well.
  • Learn to cook—With restaurants closed, you can use this time to learn how to make heathy meals for yourself and your family in the comfort of your own home. It’s a skill that will last a lot longer than this pandemic. Plus, you’ll have more control over what’s going into your own body—down to the cooking oil. (I often recommend macadamia nut oil. Learn more by searching the “shop” tab of my website.)
  • Grow something—Whether you have a whole yard to work with or just a handful of pots or planters, there’s no better time to learn to grow your own food. It will save you a trip to the market, and it’s healthier for you and better for the environment, too.

National anxiety is as high as it’s ever been. But as a city, as a state, as a nation, and as a planet… we will survive this. So when it all gets to be too much, I urge you to turn off the news. And take time for self-care, whenever and wherever you can.