Self-Care in the Era of COVID-19 from the Healing Frontlines
by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
I believe I can state with confidence that as we transitioned into 2020 just a few months ago, none of us envisioned an entire society on lockdown to shield our most vulnerable from the threat of a global pandemic. However, what used to seem like a fictional movie plot or an ancient historical record has now become our true lived experience.
While the impact of COVID-19 is touching all of us differently, no one remains unscathed. We are concerned for our health or that of a loved one. We question the stability of our jobs and finances. We mourn the distance of our social connections. We feel disappointment over our cancelled weddings, vacations, birthdays or graduations. We miss that sense of normal, those routines we took for granted. And yet—humans are wired to sustain and adapt, even in these most unusual circumstances.
So we will create new rhythms and practices to thrive in the tension. We will arm ourselves with precautions and safety measures to combat the virus itself. We will find creative, resourceful ways to maintain the bonds of community. And in time, we will emerge from this collective trauma with renewed appreciation not only for our own resilience, but also for the strength we draw from each other.
We all need to lock arms—metaphorically, of course—more than ever before, so to reinforce that we are in this together, I asked a few experts right here in Sarasota to offer advice on holistic wellness for the mind, body and spirit. Meet business owners and alternative health practitioners Gena Lewis-Schibler of Fusion Therapy, Michelle Giambra of Suncoast Jin Shin Jyutsu and Paula Morris of Empowered 2 Wellness.
They share coping mechanisms, rituals and modalities that anyone can practice, both while in quarantine and once the earth returns to its axis again. Now stand aside, COVID-19, because here is a self-care roundup directly from the healing frontlines:
Gena Lewis-Schibler, Licensed Massage Therapist and Senior Partner, Fusion Therapy:
Healthy lungs and a clean respiratory tract are essential for vitality, energy and longevity. Most adults take about 12–15 breaths per minute, and children take about 20–30 breaths per minute. The main function of the lungs is to deliver oxygen to the red blood cells to eliminate carbon dioxide (CO2) from the body.
In addition, the respiratory tract works as a defense mechanism by filtering the air from pollutants and foreign substances. This balances the pH level of blood, manages CO2 quantities and helps to control the blood pressure by converting a chemical in the blood known as angiotensin I into angiotensin II.
Many people are exposed to airborne diseases, allergens, pollutants and other irritating factors on a daily basis, but dry salt therapy is an effective method to cleanse and detox the lungs, as well as invigorate the entire body with increased lung capacity and oxygen intake. Therefore, a consistent regimen of dry salt therapy is excellent to aid breathing and enhance overall quality of life. Scientific research has even found that inhaled dry salt particles can help to reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract and widen the airway passages.
These particles are also known to accelerate the transportation of mucus and elimination of residue and foreign allergens. This naturally results in more oxygen intake and energy reserves which strengthen immune function. Dry salt is absorbent too, so it acts as a sponge to attract foreign substances and remove the buildup of these elements that cause respiratory ailments and conditions. At Fusion Therapy, we offer this modality in our Dead Sea salt rooms in private sessions to maximize safety. Clean lungs are healthy lungs—and, therefore, more resistant to this viral threat of COVID-19.
Michelle Giambra, Licensed Massage Therapist, Jin Shin Jyutsu Practitioner and Self-Help Instructor, Suncoast Jin Shin Jyutsu:
Be gentle, kind, patient and loving toward yourself. Support your immune system with nutrition, exercise and laughter! Allow tears to flow when they are present. Crying releases tension and stress. Find healthy outlets for other strong emotions. Watch funny videos and movies—laughter is medicine for the body, mind and spirit. Limit the amount of time you spend watching or reading the news. Consume the essential facts you need, process that information, then move on to something else. Be prudent in terms of what you ingest—this means information just as much as it does food and drink.
Connect with your inner stillness. If you find it difficult to reach a still place on your own, check out free meditations online. I post guided meditations on my new YouTube channel “Michelle Giambra Suncoast Jin Shin Jyutsu.” Each week, I host live guided Jin Shin Jyutsu self-help and mudra meditations online too. Live group practice is powerful since it magnifies the experience, and this harmonizing energy flows into households and even communities. This can transform emotions, reduce stress or tension, and lift your spirits, all of which are crucial for a healthy, functioning immune system.
Finally, create space to rest and restore. Practice creative expression in whatever medium suits you—paint, draw, write, sculpt, dance, sing or play a musical instrument. The other night, I woke up at 2 a.m. I held my fingers. A wave of peace washed over me, and these words flowed into my mind: “I surrender. I trust. I allow. I receive. Effortlessly. I let go. Softly. I smile. Softly. I drift. In ease. I am.” After I wrote down those words, I realized that same message can also be read from bottom to top: “I am. In ease. I drift. Softly. I smile. Softly. I let go. Effortlessly. I receive. I allow. I trust. I surrender.”
Paula Morris, IAYT-Certified Yoga Therapist, Empowered 2 Wellness:
Know that you are not helpless to face COVID-19, and yoga therapy is a customized, adaptive practice to enhance your well-being—both in times of crisis and normal life. Yoga, meditation and controlled breathing are useful tools to cope with the effects of coronavirus. Here are some ways to tap into their benefits:
Realize there are three simultaneous pandemics: health, stress and economics. Since unresolved feelings of stress can lead to infection or illness which, in turn, affects the capacity to work, it’s important to funnel that stress into restorative self-care. Yoga therapy is ideal for this because it reminds you to take more pauses, slow and deepen your breath, and balance movement with rest.
Move the body, rest the senses, calm the mind and connect to the earth. Resist both lethargy and overstimulation, as neither end of that spectrum is healthy. Turn off the news, pause that movie and logout of your emails. Then head outside to stretch your muscles and reconnect with the beauty of nature.
Focus on what actually matters in each moment of the day. Examine the choices you make because they inform what values you practice and who you become. If health is a main priority, then direct your time and actions toward this. Yoga therapy will strengthen daily mindfulness in order to focus on what matters.
Remind yourself there are reasons to be grateful and find ways to give back. When you practice gratitude on a consistent basis, the natural response is to then be generous to others. Share your resources, talents, strengths, wealth and time with the people around you—from a safe and responsible distance, of course.
Take care of your mental health with meditation and conscious breathing. The mind and body react to the influences you allow in which impacts mental toughness. Listen to, process and feel the emotions you hold, then release what surfaces—anger, sadness, loss, fear, anxiety—through meditation and breathwork.
Use those same tools to boost physical resilience and immunity. Quick, shallow respiration impairs lung function and decreases oxygen level. But deep, slow, regulated breaths keep your heart rate, blood pressure, inflammation, adrenaline and stress hormones in balance which protects immune function.
Cultivate a yoga therapy practice right in your own home. You can access this self-care outlet even in the era of social distancing because it streams in real-time on a computer or mobile device through Zoom video.
All three of these local practitioners are here to support you in this uncertain, high-pressure time. Connect with Gena Lewis-Schibler at 941-921-7900, [email protected] or FusionTherapySarasota.com. Connect with Michelle Giambra at 941-228-2972, [email protected] or SuncoastJSJ.com. Connect with Paula Morris at 941-316-6893, [email protected] or Empowered2Wellness.com.