One thing I was absolutely clear about from the start of my post Covid recovery was that I was feeling very stressed. What does ‘stressed’ feel like? Its different to different people. My description would be this…
I was a lot more sensitive than usual. I am generally a very sensitive person but this was hitting new heights. I could feel things a lot more and felt a lasting hurt, unable to shake things off and let go. Secondly, I was unable to reason.
One of the biggest indicators to me that I was stressed was that I was unable to switch off my racing mind. Usually a very meditative and relaxed person, this was a clear sign things were not right.
I was also stressing about work.
I quickly realised that I needed to minimise external stressors if I was to have a chance at recovery.
Our autonomic nervous system has 3 settings. Out of those we will talk about two; the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic is the fight or flight ‘stress’ state and parasympathetic is otherwise known as ‘rest and digest’, or ‘repair and heal’.
I felt as though I was permanently in fight or flight mode, and that I needed to make the shift from there in to rest and digest and heal and repair.
The longer we stay in fight or flight, the closer we get to the onset of disease in the body. The prospect of staying in this state for too long and not being able to get out was actually quite frightening.
Here’s what I tried in the first instance to try to get myself back on track:
- Stopped any activity that caused me to use up mental energy or feel stressed –I realised I had to stop for this period as the slightest stressor felt extremely overwhelming. If my body was to have a chance of healing then this was key to my recovery. I am fortunate that my clients have been extremely understanding and I have been able to take the time off to focus on my recovery. Everyone’s situation is different, just do your best. And if you do have to work, try to make it so that you use as little mental and physical energy as possible. Lighten the load.
- Meditation – I meditate every day. This is my go to get some distance from my mind and puts me in to a healing state. If you are not familiar with, or do not have your own practice, there are plenty of resources online you can use. Find one that feels right and soothing for you.
- I stopped my regular yoga practice – I didn’t have much choice as every time I tried I pulled a muscle. I later found out that there are certain yoga poses, exercises and breathing techniques that stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. It felt as though, through these minor injuries, my body was forcing me to stop something that could make me worse. If you would like continue or start to practice yoga, then focus on postures that are healing to the parasympathetic nervous system.
For the gastro intestinal symptoms I was experiencing – gas, hyper acidity, inability to digest food, extreme heat in the intestines – I came to know from my Ayurvedic doctor that I had excessive toxins ‘ama’ in my body. These toxins were causing my digestive fire ‘angi’ to be depleted, which then causes all the digestive issues and complaints and affects energy levels.
I’ve since learnt that certain yogic poses can enhance ama and further supress agni. And others can have a more healing affect.
There is extensive information about this online. I teach Classical Hatha Yoga so this is not my area of expertise.
The Affect of Wrong Breathing on Long Covid
I subscribe to lots of alternative health gurus and publications and one morning something very interesting popped up in my email that spoke about the connection between breathing and Long Covid. I followed the lead and was taken to Stasis. Stasis, in conjunction with the Mount Sinai Medical Hospital in New York, is the only centre for sufferers of Long Covid. I was intrigued…
What they revealed made absolute sense to me and fit in perfectly with how I was feeling.
Here’s what I learned about Long Covid from an excellent article from The Atlantic that I found online. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/08/long-haulers-covid-19-recognition-support-groups-symptoms/615382/
Here is a very brief synopsis from that article. As we know, during the first pandemic New York got hit very hard. The Mount Sinai hospital saw many of these Covid sufferers after the first wave, and what they noticed was that it was mostly women suffering with Long Covid symptoms, mostly between the ages of 20-50. They were generally not hard hit by the virus initially – only mild to moderate symptoms – but they suffered hard after the event, often having to give up work during their recovery.
What they also discovered, and this to me was the biggie, everyone they saw was stuck in the sympathetic nervous state! Bingo. Suddenly I felt understood and had confirmation of what I knew was happening to me.
And the beautiful thing was that they had the answer on how to reset your nervous system and increase your vagal tone to shift back in to the parasympathetic nervous state of healing and repair. And this is Stasis. Stasis is deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing that activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
I started to implement the breathing programme delivered free by the Stasis team on Stasisperformace.com. The practice of diaphragmatic breathing proved extremely challenging to me those first few days. I had taught the same at a workshop only months earlier and so the contrast in my ability to regulate and breathe deeply was shocking.
After practising for a week I noticed I was still struggling to regulate and breathe deeply. Despite this, I noticed an immediate, positive affect on how I was feeling and in my energy levels.
Three weeks later, the changes were phenomenal and my HRV (Heart Rate Variability) had been rising consistently. HRV, which can be tracked with devices like a FitBit, is a great indicator of stress levels and whether you are in a sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous state. (More on this in my blog on HRV on its way!)
It is now 6 weeks since I started Stasis and I still regularly practice the breathing exercises. My breathing, anxiety levels, stress and energy levels and overall wellbeing have improved dramatically.
The importance of deep breathing through the diaphragm is to create the correct ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide in the body. Hyperventilation (short rapid breaths) expels more carbon dioxide than the body can produce, thus lowering our levels in the blood. However, we need adequate carbon dioxide in the blood for the cells to take up oxygen. Hence without the correct levels, the cells become starved and die. When our cells die we no longer have enough mitochondria to produce ATP, or energy. Hence we become fatigued, and we age faster. In addition, our adrenal glands try to make up for the short fall in oxygen by pumping its own supply. The adrenals become fatigued, and so do we.
Here was my explanation why Long Covid was making me feel so tired!
The above is not intended to replace medical advice. Please do your own research and consult with a practitioner where necessary.