Finally… the long awaited second wave of Covid19 is upon us. Recently the rate of new cases surged back above 1,000 per day in Canada; as for other parts of the world, the rate of new cases has surged back to levels not seen since the initial outbreak. But wait a moment… something is different. What about the number of deaths? Huh. Why when the rate of new cases is surging isn’t the case of deaths ramping up back up to the same level it was earlier in the pandemic? Something’s changed… but what? Is the disease less deadly, or has something else changed?
For those of you who have been around longer than a decade or two, you will remember another disease that had the world terrified… remember… AIDS/HIV?
Not sure if you remember but I definitely remember the fear surrounding AIDS/HIV when it was first identified as a communicable disease. All we knew was that it was passed person to person through a transfer of body fluids, but which body fluids and in what quantities? We were terrified of drinking from water fountains because… what if someone with AIDS/HIV just drank at that fountain? We were terrified of sitting on a toilet for fear that someone with AIDS/HIV just used the restroom. We didn’t know what sort of contact was required in order to get the disease and with there being no treatment let alone vaccine for this new disease, we were unsure of ‘how to live’. Years later and I don’t think anyone even has spoken the words AIDS/HIV as a disease concerning them… so what happened?
What happened is that we came to understand the disease and as we did we became less threatened by the disease and with less fear cooler heads prevailed.
Consider yet another communicable disease: chicken pox. Once upen a time it was a disease parents didn’t want or wish upon their children, yet in recent years, mothers even organized chicken pox parties when a neighbourhood child was discovered to have ‘the disease’. Why? Because the fear of the disease diminished so much so that we realized that if children contracted the disease and dealt with the disease at a young age, the threat of the disease in old age was eliminated! Who could a thunk it, eh! Expose the immune system to strengthen the immune system with no vaccine needed.
But let’s go back to when Covid19 hit the world: no one knew what we were dealing with = fear, and then more fear when people started dying. Covid19 did’t come out like a bad cold or bad flu, but how bad was it? Were we dealing with an ebola like disease that would kill millions if not billions? The reaction was fear and with fear triggered immune systems are capability of handling the disease was hampered. Now after a few months and without an ever rising death toll, the fear of the disease has dampened and with it our ability to handle the disease is no longer hampered by fear of imminent death.
What’s the point…
The point that all health care professionals and especially Public Health officials and politicians will fail to understand… that our perception – our fears – of what lies ahead for us changes how well our immune system responds. When our emergency response/survival system is triggered into full flight-fight-freeze mode our ability to handle a new disease is decreased and the chances of a disease being more infectious and more deadly is far greater then when our state is one of calm, relaxed, when we are cool headed. When we are not anaerobic (i.e. the same state that HiiT causes), instead when we are aerobic our full defense systems are available to tackle not only known diseases but also unknown diseases.
Perception matters a lot.
The DNA or RNA of the virus may not change, but how we perceive a disease — is it a threat or not — changes how we ‘catch’ or contract the disease, and it changes how we react (e.g. over-react and hyper-inflame ourselves causing our lungs to fill with fluid requiring ICU and intubation) or how we respond (e.g. appropriate immune system response to seek & destroy the virus) dealing with the disease without hospitalization. A threatened individual scared shitless that they are going to die are far more likely to develop a far worse case of a disease, perhaps even die as a result of contracting the disease than an individual who is not as threatened.
As a registered health professional I have encountered patients 100% fearless of continuing to smoke a pack or two a day because in their minds smoking had nothing to do with the lung cancer they were just diagnosed with, hence they were 100% unwilling to quit smoking or make any other lifestyle change… to them cancer was bad luck… so why ‘do anything’, their destiny to them was already written in stone. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I have also encountered patients fully awakened by the diagnosis of cancer realizing that their stressful lifestyle was a factor in this diagnosis and were as a result willing and open to making radical lifestyle changes in order to see if they could overcome this disease.
Our perception – are we threatened or not – changes our psychology and our psychology then changes our physiology.
Am I suggesting that simply thinking “happy thoughts” can make all bad things go away in life… no. But medicine still cannot account for the objective results that the simple action such as prayer can have on recovery from diseases such as terminal cancer. As a result, our medical system hence our health care system is still far from acknowledging that our psychological state impacts our immune system, thus our immunity to disease, hence the need for patients to be assessed physically, mentally and emotionally. Only an holistic assessment will identify the state of being of a patient; only an holistic approach to health will reconcile that we are multi-dimensional beings and that our multi-dimensionality affects our state and our health.
Its time we stop chopping up the body into silos… the era of Rene Decartes is over. Its time that we start to piece the body back together and realize that only when we see the body as one whole unit – a multi dimensional being – that we can truly come to understand not just disease, but also health.
The relationship to sport, to training, to peak performance? Its time to stop seeing the body as a mindless machine, because its a model that fails to take athletes to their potential. Only when the athlete and the coach sees the human body as a multi-dimensional being and embraces what that means for training, for racing, for becoming, only then can and will the athlete achieve their fullest potential. We have limited ourselves by thinking of ourselves simply as physical beings in sport; and as a side-effect we are causing countless mental health disorders by forcing ourselves to perform, by fighting with ourselves to perform. There is a higher level of being and it comes with a higher level of understanding of how the body works.