By Dr. Christina Bjorndal, ND
At the start of the year, 2020 was referred to as the year of “Vision”. And as they say, hindsight is 2020. In that regard, looking back over the year, I am now referring to 20/20 as the year of DIVISION. We are divided on many important topics. The COVID19 pandemic has certainly shone a light on the cracks in the foundation of humanity. These cracks have been there for quite some time, however, in 2020 they deepened and widened.
While a threatening respiratory virus, COVID19 has become, in my opinion, a virus of the mind that is keeping our society stuck in fear. I have found it interesting to pay attention to my own psychological responses to COVID19 – which have ranged from fear to calmness and everything in between.
Here are 20 things I‘ve learned in 2020, mostly thanks to COVID19:
- Divided we fall, united we stand
- Love trumps fear
- It is important to pay attention to your thoughts – by April 2020 I noticed that I was experiencing suicidal ideations. Thankfully, I know that these are not thoughts for me to follow down the garden path. That they are a symptom of an underlying problem. And it is my job to determine which of the 10 steps mentioned in Beyond the Label that I have strayed from. One of them was my thoughts had shifted from love to fear. I quickly implemented steps to redirect my thoughts from fear to love. You can’t control the government, the weather, a virus, but you can control what you think. A book I recommend to help learn this lesson is Man’s search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- I learned to reflect and pause & use the 24-hour rule before I commented on any controversial/divisive post in social media (i.e. masks, vaccines, government, pre US election, post US election, online schooling, business closures etc). And, not everyone needs to voice their opinion. Many times the best response is no response. Ideally, you don’t want to react from a place of rough seas (ie stressed state) but learn to respond from a place of calm waters (ie parasympathetic state)
- The truth is hard to find. To quote Jonathon Swift: “Lies will be half way around the world before the truth even has its shoes on and is heading out the door”. Don’t take everything you hear as the truth, consider your sources, do your own research and take the time to find your own truth. You may not be getting the whole picture from the media.
- As a species, we are the real virus on the planet, and we are slowly destroying it. These organisms (i.e. viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi etc) have been here before we arrived on the planet, and they will be here long after we destroy the planet. Tonight’s movie suggestion:Our Planet, Our Life by David Attenborough.
- Nature is the teacher of science. You can’t outrun nature.
- The best defence in my opinion is a good offence. From a naturopathic perspective, there is much more you can be doing to support your immune system than washing your hands and wearing a mask. I encourage everyone to have a naturopathic doctor on their health care team. To find one near you, visit cand.ca
- Your health is your greatest wealth. The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man! Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.”
- One important resource you can’t buy is time – COVID19 has taught me to slow down and use my time wisely by spending it with people that fill me up versus drag me down.
- Boundaries – COVID19 has taught me how to set better boundaries – at home, at work and with social media/technology.
- There will be another virus –will you be ready? (i.e. Aids crisis in the 80’s, SARS in 2003, H1N1 in 2009, Measles in 2019, annually changing flu virus etc). Viruses are not new. Yes, maybe the COVID19 virus was new. But it is not new for your body’s immune system to deal with any invader it faces – be it a virus, bacteria, fungi, parasite etc. Revisit lesson #8.
- Learn to not get carried away by sensational words like “outbreak” – which for COVID19 is defined as three people. Perhaps a better statement for when three people have a virus is simply to say that three people have the virus.
- Terrain matters. This means that the environment of the body is supportive to health (ie protective) or susceptible to attack from various organisms based on the health of the terrain. Factors that are supportive for a healthy terrain include diet, sleep, nutritional status, emotions, etc. Let’s use a garden analogy- if you want to grow a healthy garden you wouldn’t plant frozen vegetables in toxic soil and expect them to grow. You would ensure the soil is vital and healthy before you planted your broccoli seeds. Once the seeds are planted the conditions need to be right for the plant to grow, ie adequate sunlight and water. This relates to the terrain of the individual. In fact, after a lifetime of work with the germ theory, Louis Pasteur himself, on his deathbed said: “I was wrong. The germ is nothing. The terrain is everything.” By terrain, he meant the internal balance of the body – the health of the cells and the immune system or the internal environment of a person that determines whether the organism will survive or not. Lastly, Benedict Lust said “it is more important to know the person that has the disease than the disease that has the person”. This is a guiding principle of naturopathic medicine. Everyone is an individual and each individual’s terrain is different.
- Triggers and Reactions: Typically, when you are triggered, it is not about the immediate situation you are in. You are triggered because you have unresolved emotional issues the lie beneath the surface. When you get triggered be grateful and get curious. What is the hole here? What is the emptiness? What is the loss? What am I missing here?” Read more about triggers here.
- Lockdown – Many are upset about the lockdown. If you are upset review point #15 and understand that wherever there is tension, bring attention. I decided to focus on the upside to being locked down: quality time with my son and husband, reading all those books I never get to, more time outside in nature, longer walks with my dog, organizing drawers, decluttering clothes, etc
- Ego vs. soul – 2020 felt like a battle of the egos – with people constantly arguing their position on whatever happened to be the subject of the day. In order to heal the planet and ourselves we need to shift our vibration from the lower energy state of the ego (which can stand for “Edging God Out”) to the higher vibration state of the soul. Use this chart on page 275 of Beyond the Label to help guide you. For example, when you find yourself in expectation move to surrender, etc.
- Not everyone will like you and that is okay. All that matters is that you like you. I constantly remind myself of the quote by Wayne Dyer “Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business”.
- Mental health matters just as much, if not more than, your immune system. And the “king” system in your body, that is the ruler of all, is your nervous system – of which there are two states: parasympathetic or sympathetic. You can only be in one state at a time – either stressed (sympathetic) or relaxed (parasympathetic). And certain functions in your body (ie digestion) will only work if you are in a parasympathetic state. If you are stressed, this will negatively impact how your immune system functions. At the end of the day, the state in which you are in – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – affects how you feel.
- As mentioned in lesson #3 your thoughts affect your physiology. With awareness of my mental health sitting on a ledge, teetering, wavering, tipping in the wrong direction, I used step 6 in my 7 R approach and reflected on what I had changed in my routine. I was staying up later and later glued to the TV listening to the news. Typically, I don’t listen to the news. However, at the onset of COVID19, I felt like I was sucked into a vortex and that vortex was taking me to destination FEAR. I noticed that the emphasis by media outlets and Chief Medical Officers has been on death rates and cases. Rarely on recovery rates. I understand that people are dying and that is indeed tragic. At the time of writing this, one of my best friends moms, who lives in a nursing home, has been diagnosed with COVID19 at the age of 93. We are all affected and impacted. My heart goes out to those that have lost loved ones. But I wonder how much those statistics are feeding a negative emotional state of fear in society and how dismissing the recovery and survival rates are causing more harm. If I do look at statistics I find it helpful to find information like this: “Today, 1,000 people contracted COVID19, 8 people died and 857 have completely recovered and remain symptom free.”
As we move into 2021 – trust that it will be better, it will be different, this virus won’t last forever. Yes, it may have changed our lives forever – but let’s focus on the positives changes that are for the betterment of our health – maybe you have decided to decrease your stress, eat better, slow down, start exercising, quit smoking or leave a toxic relationship – whatever changes you have made. I commend you!
We wish you a wonderful year ahead. I hope this is your year to start new traditions, new ways to gather. I hope you receive or make that call to a friend or relative you haven’t spoken to for a while. Perhaps you can take the opportunity for quiet reflection and contemplation, to complete that project you have put off, to finish that book you started. Or perhaps you will simply have the time to get outside and taste the crisp, clean air of winter.
However you celebrate, this year more than any other, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and let’s usher in the New Year with delight and excitement for all that 2021 will be! See you in 2021!