If you’re anything like me, you’ve been riding a roller coaster of emotions since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Some days, I am steady and calm. Other days, especially early on when I was closely following pandemic news stories, I have oscillated between fear, anxiety and exhaustion.
Luckily, soon after this pandemic began, I read the book “The Biology of Belief” by Dr. Bruce Lipton, PhD. Lipton is an expert in the field of cellular biology and epigenetics. The main premise of this book is the mind controls biology. Our cells are essentially just following instructions from our nervous system.
Lipton writes that our cells are like computer chips. Our perceptual memories and beliefs are stored in the cell membrane and are constantly being transmitted to the brain for interpretation. The mind’s response to these vibrational messages is to create coherence between belief and reality. In other words, when your cells transmit to your mind, the mind works diligently to create the same chemical reality in your body. So if you believe you will get sick, your mind will direct your cells to make it true. And if your cells transmit signals suggesting you are vibrant and healthy, your mind will go about manifesting that reality.
This may sound too good to be true, or a little out there. Dr. Lipton is the first to say he used to believe this to be impossible himself. But years of study and teaching in medical schools around the world, including at Stanford in the late 1980s, revealed to him that the environment, operating through the cell membrane, controlled the behavior and physiology of the cell, turning genes on and off. His discoveries, which ran counter to the established scientific view that life is controlled by genes, came before epigenetics was even defined. Many subsequent papers by other researchers have since validated his concepts and ideas.
Another amazing aspect Lipton writes about is the effect of fear on one’s immune system. Our immune system protects us from threats on the inside, like a virus, while our adrenal system protects us from threats on the outside, like a sabertooth tiger.
It takes energy to run either of these systems in your body. Say, for example, you’re fighting an infection like COVID-19 when all of a sudden a tiger jumps out and is about to eat you for dinner. Would you rather have your body fight COVID-19 in that moment or run away from the tiger?
When a situation like the tiger arises, our sympathetic nervous system responds with a fight-or-flight reaction. Fear kicks our adrenal system into high gear, and we will send blood to the limbs in order to be able to run away. Our bodies don’t have energy to both repair cells and flee to safety, so our immune system shuts down temporarily. After we’ve run away and are safe from the tiger, our immune system can get back to work.
This means that, if we are in a fight/flight response, our immune system essentially cannot function. So if we are feeling fear and stress, Lipton writes, our bodies become vulnerable to attack from viruses.
If you’ve been listening to the news since mid-March, it is likely you’ve felt some fear. Unfortunately for some, this fear is quite powerful and lingers for much longer periods of time than our bodies were built to endure.
The more we can let go of the fears we have, the better our body will be able to fight off viruses like COVID-19. Instead of focusing on the fears that come up when you read or listen to the news, notice them and let them float by as if they are clouds in the sky. Maybe you think to yourself, “Oh, there’s that fear again.” Perhaps you meditate, or use EFT (emotional freedom technique) tapping on meridian points to help move the energy.
Remember that fear shuts down your immune function. It is a good reminder that the news media thrives on sensationalist headlines and anxiety-producing stories. Perhaps you want to do a ‘news fast,’ abstaining from news for a day or week. Or as you read or watch or hear news stories, notice what happens to your body. With some focus on deep breathing, perhaps using a mantra like “inhale resilience, exhale fear,” would help you be able to feel calm and at ease again.
Lindsay Courcelle is a massage therapist specializing in myofascial release therapy at Rutland Integrative Health.