Having chronic stress can make it very difficult, if not impossible, to fully recover from Long Covid.
It took me many months of having Long Covid to discover that stress greatly affected how I was feeling day-to-day. My wife was instrumental in helping me understand and become aware of how chronic stress affects health.
What became very apparent fairly quickly was that whenever I argued with someone, or had angry outbursts, I tended to feel a lot worse for a day or more. On those lucky days when I did have enough energy to drive the car on errands, I found myself yelling at “bad” drivers, which made me feel a lot worse as well.
On the other hand, I started noticing that when I took Epsom Salt baths for 45 minutes every few days, I felt a bit calmer and experienced fewer symptoms with less severity.
Then I saw a research report from the DNA company, 23andMe that showed people who reported a history of anxiety and depression were getting Long Covid at twice the rate as people who don’t report these. This was a major wakeup call.
Both anxiety and depression are a form of chronic stress. This research can be interpreted as strongly indicating people who have chronic stress get Long Covid at twice the rate as those that don’t.
What I didn’t yet know was that chronic stress biologically weakens the immune system via inherited brain-programming that puts the body in a fight-or-flight response. Especially if this mindset is prolonged, it can compromise the immune system. Even low-level chronic stress can end up weakening the immune system enough that you cannot fully recover.
This woke me up to the realization that chronic stress might play an important role in why some people’s immune systems never get strong enough or capable of helping fully eliminate the problem causing Covid virus protein remnants.
This is because chronic stress prevents the immune system from operating at full capability due to the stress causing an ongoing fight-or-flight response.
Ultimately, it’s your immune system that will cause you to heal from Long Covid. The protocol medications are simply powerful tools to help your immune system do its job. In addition, they help heal the immune system itself, replenish the body’s depleted nutrients, and help heal the gut microbiome.
The methods I recommend in this section for reducing chronic stress are treated here as a separate regimen, but should be done concurrently with the rest of the protocol.
I discovered that understanding the causes and science behind chronic stress helped me learn how to significantly reduce it.
There are billions of people living on this planet – each with their own unique circumstances, with different lives, environments, and upbringings. Even siblings who grew up in the same household can experience their upbringing and the effect of their parents very differently.
There are many variables, and a variety of situations, events, and scenarios that can cause chronic stress.
Constant worry, old negative stories you unconsciously tell yourself, and unresolved trauma can all put your body into a chronic stress condition. This is often caused by your perception and relationship to the following three things:
1) Constant worry. In the modern age, we can have a lot of daily worries such as having enough money, home or job security, relationships, etc.
But having Long Covid can make this even worse.
When I had Long Covid, I was constantly worried whether I would ever get my health and life back. Whether I would ever be able to earn a living again. Or ever be useful again. I was also very worried that my wife would no longer be interested in being with me. Long Covid transformed me from an energetic, healthy, super active man, into a feeble one, who suddenly acted very old and incapable of getting much done.
I was also very angry. Angry about having Long Covid, and about how the government and medical system were incompetent and failing at effectively treating Long Covid.
Having Long Covid made me feel like I was stuck in an unwinnable reoccurring loop. I was in constant worry, which creates chronic stress, and yet it's close to impossible to recover from Long Covid while having that chronic stress.
2) “Old negative or fear stories” you have formed or have become conditioned to over the years. Stories that you unconsciously tell yourself, and/or are reinforced through your friends and family circle.
Some general examples of these might be:
These stories tend to become “beliefs” about who you are and will be. They can become self-fulfilling prophecies that continue to “happen” to you.
3) Unresolved emotional trauma. This could be trauma you experienced as a child and/or trauma from bad relationships, or school or work situations. It could also be unresolved grief from losing a loved one, or a relationship ending. When we experience trauma of any sort, it becomes a permanent long-term memory, which becomes stored in your brain and, surprisingly, also in your body if you do not allow yourself to process those traumatic emotions.
When emotions are too painful, the brain can “alter” a story so that it’s “easier” to live with. The brain, the magnificent machine that it is, can also block memories from your conscious mind in order to protect you from unthinkable emotional pain, if that is what is necessary for your survival.
So, in order for you to cope in life and feel relatively normal, your brain rewires itself to bury the memory or trauma so that after a while, you (your conscious mind) don’t seem to remember it very much or very accurately anymore. This is a normal coping mechanism that almost everyone experiences at some point in time.
Even though your conscious mind has suppressed it, your unconscious brain and body never forget the old original story or traumatic experience. It can resurface in myriad ways, such as uncontrollable anger, depression, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), chronic disease and many other ailments.
So, how do we prevent unresolved emotional trauma from getting buried? Or, how do we handle the emotions we have unconsciously been hiding from?
The ideal thing to do after experiencing trauma is to resolve it as soon as possible and address the issues around it so it doesn’t get buried and hidden. This can be done in many different ways, though commonly through a therapist, journaling, and feeling brave enough to work through the painful parts. An important factor is to not assign guilt, self-blame, or shame, with yourself or anyone else. This may sound easier said than done, but it can be done.
Unfortunately, we often don’t address the trauma in time, especially as kids, and it can become buried. This has the potential of turning into chronic stress that can last for a lifetime, if not fully addressed.
My chronic stress was buried, and I had become so accustomed to it that I didn’t even realize or believe I had it. I couldn’t notice it at first.
An example of acute stress is when you have a deadline or are excited about an event or performance.
Normally, acute stress can be exhilarating, healthy and is a normal part of life. It’s also very easy to feel and notice it due to the excitement it causes. But when you have Long Covid, even acute stress can trigger flare-ups and relapses, especially if you experience it as anxious nervousness rather than happy excitement.
On the other hand, chronic stress is usually running at such a simmering low-level, that we don’t notice it.
What we do notice are the symptoms, such as angry outbursts, depression, anxiety, and after decades of chronic stress, chronic diseases such as Long Covid, arthritis, cancer, dementia, fibromyalgia, etc.
Due to old ancestor-based brain wiring, the amygdala and hypothalamus parts of our brain mistakenly interprets chronic stress as a threat to our life. It shifts the brain and body into a tightly wound ‘fight-or-flight response’, which then suppresses the immune system. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response
Our Ancestors Brains
Our brains are still wired like our ancestors were – for times when predators were always a threat to you and your loved ones. Back then it was often the fear of your village being ransacked by conquering armies or dangerous animal predators.
To increase their chances of survival when attacked, our ancestors’ brains would shift into fight-or-flight mode which causes the body to prioritize its energy and blood flow into the body’s muscles and coordination, so they could run faster and fight harder to survive.
The biology behind the ‘fight-or-flight response’ causes the body to steal the energy and function normally going to the immune and digestive systems, and instead reuses it for muscle speed and strength.
After the threat of attack is gone, the body releases the stress, exits the fight-or-flight response, and slowly returns to normal, with the immune and digestive systems returning to full capability.
Note: the body releases this traumatic stress more effectively and completely if there is a physical movement routine involved, such as running, dancing, stretching or shaking.
Modern Human Brains
Our modern brains confuse emotional stress with survival stress.
They have inherited that old instinct-based survival response but cannot differentiate whether something is life-threatening or simply a modern stressful situation.
In other words, our brains react to old unresolved trauma or worry as though our lives are being threatened. This can often cause us to go into a permanent low-level fight-or-flight response, keeping our immune system in a constant compromised state.
It is very difficult to heal from Long Covid or any other chronic disease while our immune system is compromised.
Until we learn how to reduce the chronic stress to a low level, the stressed-out mind can behave like a self-perpetuating feedback loop. Add another stressful event and it can retrigger unresolved stressful memories, continually worsening and deepening the level of chronic stress. And every time it becomes retriggered, it can repeatedly cause a strong negative jolt to our immune system, making us vulnerable to a Long Covidrelapse or flare-up.
Our immune system will continue to stay weakened until we can shift our relationship with these daily worries, old stories and buried trauma. This shift allows your body to exit the fight-or-flight response state, so your brain and body can reactivate and fully power up your immune system.
My decades-old traditional routine for relaxing myself from stress was to go on daily walks, bike rides and work out at the gym, which I found lowered my anxiety and got me back in touch with my body and quieted my non-stop chattering mind.
I became shocked and depressed when I discovered I could no longer exercise or go on my daily walks due to Long Covid, which I believe further added to my existing anxiety and chronic stress levels.
But I also realized that I had never truly found a method for eliminating my constant anxiety, or effectively quieting my mind that was now driving me crazy with stress and worry.
Here are the three major behavioral approaches I engaged in:
1) Quieting the Noisy Mind
A lot of chronic stress is caused by the worried mind, having too many thoughts constantly repeating and rattling in your mind and ultimately stressing you out. This is fairly normal in Western society, but quieting the mind is a huge part of reducing chronic stress.
I found the following techniques made a major difference in my chronic stress levels.
a. Private Daily Meditation
For me, meditating was very difficult to get going because my loud and easily bored mind started rebelling. It was being told to be quiet.
I found that using a guided meditation worked best to get me started. I found an app for my phone called “Expand” by the Monroe Institute that I used with headphones, which had several very powerful meditations for a fairly reasonable price. I used meditations that were between 10-minutes to 45-minutes in length. I started with the shorter ones first. I also found that meditating first thing in the morning worked well for me.
After about a week of doing this, I discovered that I was starting to feel more relaxed and less “stressed out”. I was also not yelling at bad drivers as much and having less anger outbursts.
Writing down your worries and ongoing repetitive thoughts can help reduce stress because as soon as you write something down, it somewhat releases it from your mind and becomes less dominant.
For journaling to be effective its critically important that what you write stays private and is a safe space for you to express what’s truly going on with you.
I also found that for me, writing on a pad of paper using a pen worked best. But for some people, typing on their phone or computer can also work well.
Journaling was also a bit difficult to get started, so for the first few days or weeks I simply answered the following questions to let the process become a new established habit:
Write down everything that comes up and be absolutely honest. Some days I had more to say than other days. Sometimes I wrote for only a few minutes and other times I wrote for half hour. After about a week of journaling I noticed that I was becoming a bit more relaxed and started feeling a bit better physically.
c. Online Group Guided Healing Meditation
This is a situation where both people who want to be healed, and healers get together online for usually about an hour.
I have an old friend who created a wonderful weekly Zoom® online group healing meditation that occurs every Wednesday at 5 PM Pacific time.
I discovered quickly that there was a huge benefit to my stress levels and sense of well-being by attending these group meditations.
I discovered that these group meditations can help lower chronic stress levels by:
If my old friend had not reached out to me, I would have never discovered the group healing meditations, nor experienced the wonderful benefits they provide.
d. Learning to listen to your “Heart Mind”
When I used to think about my mind, I thought it was just my brain talking to me. But based on what I’ve learned through this process, I now believe that what we perceive as “our mind”, is actually the collective sum of three different nerve centers: the brain, the heart and the stomach.
When someone asks you a question, the kneejerk reaction is to respond with the analytical brain, which is logical and lightning fast, but usually not based on how you feel. But if we wait a bit longer to respond, the heart nerve center will send a response to the brain based on how you feel about the question, and that answer tends to be wiser and more emotionally accurate to who you really are.
While the analytical brain mind can cause anxiety and stress, using the heart mind tends to cause a gentler and kinder disposition resulting in reducing chronic stress.
This is a complex subject that requires more in-depth study than is available in this book. But I learned a lot from the HeartMath organization.
Tension in the body and central nervous system is a form of and manifestation of chronic stress. Here are things I did to reduce it.
a. Avoid stressful situations and people.
It’s important to set boundaries, so that you prioritize and focus on your healing needs. Make that a high priority. That means staying away from stressful situations or people who can potentially cause you to retrigger issues with past trauma, which can be extremely stressful. Regardless of who is to blame, if you need space to heal, that may be the wise choice for your wellbeing.
Some people may interpret this as selfish, but it is truly a means of self-care. If we do not practice self-care, how do we expect to be well enough to be of any benefit in this world? The word selfish in this context has been given a bad reputation. It’s okay to be selfish or practice self-care, so that your nervous system can reset long enough for your immune system to properly heal.
Getting a full or even partial massage once a week can work wonders on calming your nervous system.
There are many different types, some more gentle than others. If you are looking for relaxation or tension relief, Swedish massage may be for you. If you are interested in deeper work to release trapped emotions, deep tissue massage may a better option, such as Myofascial or Rolfing. There are many different types. A little research may be needed.
c. Epsom salt baths
I found Epsom salt baths to be very relaxing and calming. I took these four times a week for 45 minutes, using two cups of Epsom salt per hot bath. Be sure to hydrate yourself with electrolyte-infused water before, during and after the bath.
d. Somatic therapy
Also known as Somatic Experiencing Therapy, this body-centric approach works by helping to release stress, tension, and trauma from the body. It works through the connection of mind and body. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-somatic-therapy-5190064
e. Try Qi Dong, Yoga and other disciplinesthat help “center” and calm the body and nervous system.
f. Using relaxants such as chamomile tea, CBD, and possibly other medications designed to help you relax.
I found it very beneficial to identify the true causes of my stress and transform my perception and relationship to these daily worries, old negative stories, and buried trauma, so they no longer triggered me.
a. Talk therapy
While we are generally taught to avoid bringing up old trauma to avoid discomfort, I discovered that for me to overcome that unresolved trauma, it was important for me to talk about it and work through it.
This may sound easier said than done, as everyone has their own experiences. Again, this is what worked for me.
I found it very useful to figure out what I wanted to work through before the sessions. The general focus for me was the root cause of my stress. Personally, it was important to find out why I had so much anger at my father, along with a past relationship. I wanted to uncover and make peace with the difficult emotions behind my experiences - my old stories of these relationships.
I also discovered that microdosing psilocybin during talk therapy was more productive. This allowed me to be more open, dig deeper and more easily into the issues that were causing the stress.
It was important to me to find a therapist who was open to the microdosing during therapy. While that is not always possible, I recommend that you use your best judgement, and make choices that make your healing the highest priority.
Using gratitude can create a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, and cause you to sleep better and be happier in life.
Being grateful for everything in your life is a powerful way to transform your perspective in such a way that it can lower the energy behind feelings of anger, grief, and other negatively charged memories. This can also lower chronic stress levels.
I started by creating a list of everything I was grateful for.
This was hard at first because with Long Covid, my life felt quite awful, and it was difficult to think of anything good. But the longer I sat with the idea of gratitude, the list started to grow.
I felt grateful:
I created a morning exercise where I would (in my mind) list everything I was grateful for:
“I’m grateful for __________”
After doing this as a two-minute morning exercise for a week, I noticed that my temper was much gentler, and again, I was no longer screaming at bad drivers.
Forgiveness is a powerful method for releasing attachment to these worries, stories, or old trauma.
I learned that being angry with someone, or holding a grudge, or even just thinking badly about them, can take up a lot of mental energy and become a cause of chronic stress.
I found that combining forgiveness and gratitude together can eventually develop into a state of higher compassion for others and life in general, which significantly lowered my chronic stress. Using gratitude and forgiveness are age old tools that just simply work.
d. Affirmations (positive self-talk)
The goal here is to reprogram those old fear stories and negative beliefs that you’ve carried over from your past. This is done using the neuroplastic capabilities of the brain by reframing and transforming the stories you tell yourself.
Affirmations are simply the new story you desire that will replace the old fear stories and beliefs.
As mental health and wellness writer Crystal Raypole explains it: “Repeating a supportive, encouraging phrase gives it power, since hearing something often makes it more likely you’ll believe it. In turn, your belief makes it more likely you’ll act in ways that make your affirmation become reality.
Affirmations can help strengthen self-worth by boosting both your positive opinion of yourself and your confidence in your ability to achieve your goals. They can also help counter the feelings of panic, stress, and self-doubt that often accompany anxiety.
When anxious thoughts overwhelm you and make it difficult to focus on more positive possibilities, affirmations can help you take back control and begin altering these thought patterns.”
I highly recommend reading this article.
I found it best to write and create my own affirmations so that they could more potently and effectively reprogram my old stories.
Crystal Raypole also recommends some best practices for writing effective affirmations:
· Use a first-person perspective such as “My” or “I” to make it personal and more believable for you.
· Keep them in the present tense. Instead of writing them for a future goal, structure your affirmation as if its already true.
For example: “I have the confidence to speak to strangers and make new friends.”
Important: Simply repeating an affirmation will not necessarily make it become true. The key is to truly feel and believe it.
Make sure that the affirmations you choose or write feel very real to you and are things you truly aspire to be.
Here are things I did daily and weekly to reduce my chronic stress.
First thing each morning:
Doing all or most of the above for several weeks significantly reduced my chronic stress levels so that I was able to fully recover.