I’ve always had a decent understanding of the body-mind connection. This is what Pilates teachers talk about, right? But Long Haul Covid has created such vulnerabilities in my once (and hopefully, again) well-oiled machine, that I am now very clear that physical and mental stress manifest the same way in the body.
Exertion is washing a few dishes or walking to the mailbox. Physical activity feels like a truck hit me, sweating, dizziness, unsteadiness on my usually dancer-balanced feet, confusion, oxygen drop, then an unplanned, crash-induced nap. I’ve also seen that exertion means just thinking about something stressful, even if I haven’t realized it’s stressful. Being late for a Zoom meeting or seeing clutter near a doorway can trigger high blood pressure and pulse, paralysis, and falling. Said in my best Dr. Seuss voice- stress is stress no matter its source.
After contracting Covid at the vaccination clinic when receiving my first shot, I went from dancing in my Juneteenth concert to spending the past 18 months trying to right myself from health disparities 101, lung injury, brain injury, and myofascial injury. Below are some tips that I’ve learned on this unwanted journey:
Lungs: Tap into strength, flexibility, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System
· Breathing Exercises – Belly Breaths rebuild Diaphragm and Transversus Abdominis tone from low usage, Chest Breaths remind the intercostals to stretch, and One Lung Breathing encourages the more challenged lung.
· Humming or singing – Soothes the Nervous System, strengthens the Core, and feels good to the soul.
· Belting out a Broadway tune or Whitney Houston ballad helps us remember to breathe deeply, works our diaphragm vigorously, and brings us joy.
· When oxygen levels are stable yet there is still a sense of breathlessness, release work on the lower back (Quadratus Lumborum), Psoas, and Diaphragm may bring relief.
Brain: Covid recovery should mimic Traumatic Brain Injury recovery
· Minimize stimulus- Turn off unnecessary background music (unless for joy) and TV, and minimize screen time.
· Do one task at a time vs. multitasking.
· Water sounds or hippy brain music are awesome.
· Color therapy glasses can help “reset” when your brain feels like it’s melting down. Different folks need different colors.
· Be a cat. Napping between tasks helps the brain and body bounce back faster than fighting through exhaustion.
Gentle Movement: Learning to respect doing less (physically and mentally) can prevent weeks of lost progress with debilitating crashes
· A few minutes of very gentle, mindful movement is great. Minutes add up over the weeks and months.
· Alternate days of doing gentle movement and brain work.
· Even if you think you’re ok, resist the urge to push “just a little bit more”. Wait and see if there is a crash before upping your activity levels.
· Laying down may drop oxygen levels. Movement in an upright or high-angled position may be helpful.
Skin, Sun & Air
· Gentle myofascial release or skin brushing encourages oxygenation and circulation of the tissues and decreases pain. Be cautious with deep release work, as it may destabilize Covid-compromised joint stability.
· Sunlight and fresh air improve mood and can jumpstart a sense of self and hope.
While I can not yet see past this horrible virus, I refuse to let Covid define me. We must remember to CELEBRATE every little bit of success. We are survivors!