When medicine can’t help, what can we do to increase vitality?
Vitality. Vital Force. Vital principle. Animating Force. Soul. Spirit. Life Force. Life Energy. Prana. Qi. Chi….
These are all names for our inbuilt survival mechanism, our own healing & self-preservation instinct - it’s what heals our cuts, abrasions, broken bones, pimples, abcesses etc, plus all the stuff going on under the surface that we never see. It creates a fight against & helps us to recover from common infections like colds & flu. It’s what helps keep us balanced on a daily basis, auto-correcting all the time so that we can stay well - it maintains our homeostasis. It wants / needs us to be in good health - that’s our natural state (we just need to support it every day, & sometimes just listen to it & get out of its way!)
Whatever you call it, looking at ways to increase vitality is right now what we all (young & old, sick & healthy) can & should focus on.
Your 'vital force' is what repels 'disease force'. Before pharmaceutical drugs completely stole the spotlight, natural vitality was totally rated! We ultimately can’t control our exposure to Covid-19, & there’s no known medical fix yet, but we can do things (in lockdown, at home) to help build our reserves to fight it well, if & when the time comes!
A strong & unencumbered vital force bounces viruses away like a superhero. Nurturing your natural vitality can help ensure that whatever version of Covid-19 you end up encountering doesn’t overwhelm your system. Your vital force is like your own in-house medical system - it will ‘cure you’ easily when it’s strong & you constantly support it, but it can become overwhelmed & let you down if you don’t!
Imagine 2 people of the same age, with the same risk factors go out to a crowded supermarket & both are exposed to a virus at the same level. The person who’s feeling strong & well balanced has recently been eating well, slept & exercised well, been practising stress-reduction techniques daily & who’s general health & vitality are pretty good will (in most cases) have a more appropriate immune response. They will likely experience milder symptoms & have more chance of a full recovery. The person who pays no attention to nutrition, doesn’t exercise, is super-stressed out, has poor sleeping habits, is feeling chronically emotionally ‘out of whack’ or ‘off-balance’ is more likely to suffer severely / not be at the top of his or her flu-fighting game. This is where we all need to be ASAP - top of our game! Or at least try to move up from your current status - any improvement will help.
At this stage - if you are an at-risk Australian (or anyone in the world wanting to help protect yourself & those at risk) you need to:
- avoid non-essential contact with other humans & with surfaces people may have been touching to minimise your exposure & your chances of potentially catching or spreading.
- focus on raising your own vitality (a great thing that we should all do daily anyway - now it just could be a life-saver / buy some time so that you don’t end up in the hospital hallway needing a ventilator at the same time as everyone else.
The concept of vitality / vital energy features throughout all healing systems (just not so heavily in our modern western approach!)
This has been to our detriment - we focus on external treatment (ie surgery & medication - which we have developed so effectively into almost magic, reliable & effective cures for almost everything) & place too little emphasis upon supporting & working to protect & strengthen the body’s own instinctive self-healing ability, our own vital force.
Support your vitality & resistance against (any) infection whilst in lockdown.
Deep breathing & meditation
These are both scientifically proven to improve immunity (both help to activate the parasympathetic branch of our nervous system - the ‘rest & digest’ part, it helps get us out of ’fight or flight’ mode, which is unfortunately where we tend to spend most of our time - especially during global pandemics & economic meltdowns!). It’s so valuable to just calm down & ‘reset’ a couple of times daily if your mind is draining you! You need to recharge & you need to sleep well, & you need to ‘switch’ yourself into a parasympathetic mode for your immune-system to work at its best.
Enough sleep that you wake feeling rested, in a regular pattern.
There are a million strategies to help you sleep better, which I won’t go into (deep breathing & meditation are 2 of my faves anyway), but I cannot emphasise enough how important sleep is to increase vitality and keep your vital force strong!
Getting out into nature
Ocean swims, beach walks, forest hikes, bush picnics…wherever you are allowed & can remain distanced from others - just remember to be conscious of surfaces).
Exposure to sunshine, daily
Not too much - burning will temporarily weaken your vitality / make you more prone to disease & also obviously skin cancer. But right now - the priority has to be good vitamin D levels, don't worry about wrinkles!
Improving blood & lymphatic circulation, helping deliver oxygen, nutrients & immune cells to where they are needed & keeping our surveillance system on high alert. Do whatever makes your body feel good, pushing yourself doing exercise you hate is not supporting your vitality! It might be dancing round the kitchen or lounge to your fave upbeat / daggy music, or it could be a chin up bar in a doorway, a yoga floor routine, a dog walk, a jog….even some squats, sit ups or lunges holding something heavy. Just get the blood & lymph pumping whenever you can, however you can.
Expressing emotions as they come up
Unexpressed emotions can drain you. If you feel anxious, scared, annoyed, frustrated, whatever - don’t hold that inside, tell someone. Then let it go. All kinds of emotions will come up, just know they (like this) will all pass.
Spending time doing what you love
Doing what makes you feel like you’re ‘on purpose’, something you were put on this earth to do. That may be sewing, gardening, drawing, baking, building an online business, teaching, singing, caring for animals, building, solving challenging mathematical equations, counselling people, researching statistics, dancing, cleaning….whatever makes you feel satisfied & happy & alive & growing in the right direction. Do more of that. If you don’t know what your thing is yet (& there may be many things) then make it your mission to discover something during lockdown)!
Spending time with people who make you feel ‘recharged’
Ok maybe you can only spend time with them virtually at the moment, but that still counts! Many people will finally have time to catch up for a chat! Laughter, connection & helping / giving are all great vitality boosters! And if you can’t connect to people, read books, listen to audiobooks / podcasts from people you feel charged by. Make sure you charge others as well, don’t be a constant drain.
Although not appropriate for now, acupuncture supports the smooth flow of ‘Chi’ throughout the body, via meridians or energy channels, through all of our organs.
Uninterrupted flow of Chi helps bring the body back into balance. Blockages & stagnation of Chi lead to illness / symptoms. You can also use yoga, Qi gong, Tai Chi, acupressure, shiatsu, reflexology, & most forms of physical therapy & massage for supporting the flow of energy, unblocking stagnant areas & improving vitality. Now is not the best time for physical therapy, or acupuncture - but youtube will have some great yoga or Tai Chi classes to follow along with from home! And you can massage each other (if you’re locked down with others), or self massage is great if alone. Depending on the area & what you have available, you can use an old tennis ball / rocky surfaces for feet, a strong glass bottle / hand held massage machines etc.
Look after your most basic needs
Avoid where possible (or at least be conscious of) the little ‘stressors’ you might be placing on your body daily. They can all add up to drain you if you don’t take care of them. Ie don’t sit for extended periods, don’t let yourself become dehydrated all the time, don’t smoke, don’t let an emotionally draining person ‘suck the life out of you’ with constant negativity, don’t stay indoors all week, don’t be glued to your screen consuming stressful news all day, don’t be a martyr & pretend you can cope & ‘do it all yourself without help’ ASK FOR HELP. Ask yourself “am I taking good care of me?” If you are answering no most of the time, then change it ASAP! Looking after yourself is crucial to stay well, especially if others rely on you. You can’t help fill other people’s buckets when yours is empty. Self care = not selfish.
How I'm Topping Up My Vitality Account:
I think of my vitality like a bank account. It needs to be topped up regularly, or I'll become depleted (that causes issues!) Realising that vitality is my best friend at the moment, here’s what I’m making an effort to do:
Moderate exercise, every day
Just sticking to my normal dog walk / jog / a few sprints when I feel like it. I go early, beach or park, avoid contact with any humans, dogs or surfaces (take a poo bag with you). If outdoor exercise becomes impossible, I will continue to exercise first up at home using an online group or app. But for now - I’m enjoying nature because that charges me too.
I always try to include a Greens + Aloe green smoothie like this Green Smoothie recipe
, loads of berries (often in a Blend11
smoothie like this Choc Berry Smoothie
& plenty of protein. As it gets cooler, we’re stocked to make broths & soups with loads of veg, legumes & bones.
I want good sleep, a healthy gut, a clear mind, & great immunity. Alcohol gets in the way of them all. Am really questioning bottle shops being classed as essential (but then after a few weeks with kids home it may make sense!)
Minimal sweet stuff
I try to avoid refined sugars all the time (don’t always succeed) but now my awareness is more heightened, sugar = immune enemy.
Taking some supplements
Easy to get hold of are: Zinc
& C lozenges, probiotics (there’s a good one on our site now) Terraflora Caps
& herbal formulas with astragalus & mushrooms ie ‘Astra 8’ by Fusion, or formulas with Andrographis, Elderberry, Echinacea & Olive leaf are great immune support too. I use ‘Armorforce’ by Bioceuticals, or ‘Immune Defence’ by Ethical Nutrients (they should be easy to find). If you have a secret 'Nanna's flu remedy' that seems to always work well for you - stick with that! If anyone in the family does show signs of a sore throat, plan is to jump straight into using Betadine throat gargle
(antibacterial but also anti-viral & readily available in pharmacies & even supermarkets). Obviously they need to be tested ASAP too & isolated). Trying to be well primed, & then smash it on entry (gargle frequently & up the dose of herbs, vitamin C
Deep breathing & meditation once or twice daily.
So helpful to stay centred & calm. We’re doing morning (& afternoon when we can fit both in / feel like it). There are so many deep breathing, relaxation & meditation guided tutorials online. Such a great habit to cultivate, & now is THE BEST TIME EVER to start.
I typed a lot of this lying in the sun on a yoga mat! We try to take regular sun breaks / grab any chance to soak some in, especially now winter is coming! Just a few minutes helps ensure Vitamin D levels stay optimal.
Limiting my consumption of bad news
Not being super-successful here I have to admit, because epidemiology & microbiology fascinate me! I try to stick to the science stuff, because the emotional stuff makes me feel sad. I also try to focus on the positives in this situation - imagine how happy our poor abused planet is, now that we are flying, driving, manufacturing & polluting less. Sad as it is to say, less humans = much happier planet. In this way, we can think of the too-soon-dead as ‘Covid-war heroes’ who’s lungs & lives have been sacrificed for the world to breathe better & become healthier. Adversity brings people together, & we’re in this as one human race.
Making a list of all the things I’d like to do
So many things I want to do with the extra home time to keep myself sane / support my being! For me it’s getting on top of the housework, gardening & maintenance (I feel so much more settled when the house is clean, organised & I’m on top of any yard maintenance). So rarely happens in my normal rushed & busy life, so this time will be great for that! Also working on our new website (coming very soon). And then, of course, some fun stuff like music & art, reading, & beach time while still allowed.
Making a list of all the things I can do & share with my loved ones in lockdown
Will be kind of amazing to get more involved with schoolwork, learn new things together, even just to be around the kids more (though I’m sure we’ll all have our moments)! Kids & partners / flatmates all have their own separate ‘vital force’ too - remember that what energises & nurtures you may drain them & vice versa! Encourage them to get in touch with their own VF & to nurture it, so everyone stays as healthy & happy as possible.
I'd love to hear your ideas on vitality too….what works for you / are you doing anything special at the moment?