We are in unprecedented times with the outbreak of COVID-19, and we are all striving towards best practices around hygiene and social distancing.
This is an incredibly difficult time to be alone for many. If you are working from home and keeping yourself isolated to avoid infection, you are doing the right thing. This is actually pro-social behavior in service of our communities right now.
However, when these right actions backfire on us—when our minds begin a negative cycle of withdrawing from all life—we may create a downward spiral into negative thinking. Therapists trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) understand that negative thoughts can lead to negative emotions such as panic, fear, and hopelessness. These feelings can lead to further negative actions, and the cycle continues to feed upon itself. This self-destructive cycle can wreak havoc not only on our emotional lives but on our immune systems as well.
STRESS REDUCES THE STRENGTH OF YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
“Living with fear and panic activates our sympathetic nervous system, which releases fight-or-flight stress hormones and can deplete precious resources we need to support a healthy immune system. A robust immune system is an excellent first-line defense against invading viruses and bacteria,” says integrative and functional San Francisco-based psychiatrist Karin Hastik, MD.
Furthermore, neuroscience guru Dan Siegel states: “[The mind] occurs throughout the body, in the distributed nervous system, which monitors and influences energy and information flowing through our heart and our intestines, and even shapes the activity of our immune system.” family and marriage
We all need a healthy immune system to protect us right now. Limiting your media intake may be one way to aid your immune system is becoming more resilient. While quarantine is one measure to keep us healthy, it can be difficult to stay out of negative emotions when we isolate ourselves in front of the TV and watch fear-inducing news about the coronavirus pandemic.
ONLINE THERAPY CAN REDUCE FEELINGS OF ISOLATION
What else can you do to stop this negative cycle when all the media around you relay such catastrophic information? How can you do more to boost your immune system, which is potentially your primary defense against COVID-19 at this time?
Consider reaching out to an online therapist and connecting via videoconferencing for help.
Christopher Fagundes, an associate professor in the department of psychological sciences who studies the link between mental and immune health says, “There is some evidence that it may be better to video conference versus having a regular phone call to reduce feelings of isolation.”
While it may seem counterintuitive to attempt authentic and meaningful connection through technology, the neurobiology of attachment speaks to the fact that mirror neurons are activated while in attunement within a relationship—even through a screen.
In Praszkier’s 2014 article, Empathy, Mirror Neurons, and SYNC, in which he speaks of our engagement with film, he states, “The mirror neurons embedded in our brain reflect the movement and sounds seen on the screen and beef up the spectator’s empathy. More than that, a body-based, empathy-kindling path (called kinesthetic empathy) induces an inner image of movements seen onscreen. The observer essentially ‘internally simulates’ the observed movements and, without actually moving, feels his own body configuration change in response.” My clinical work as a somatic movement therapist affirms this as well.