10 Steps To Reduce The Effects Of Covid 19

How to Thrive and Survive

The following information can help you do more than just try to avoid the virus it gives you 10 Steps To Reduce The effects Of Covid 19 to help you thrive and survive.

This evidence based information comes from a document and webinar by Dr. David Hanscom  (and the Polyvagal Workgroup including Dr. Stephen Porges)

We will get to the how in just a moment but first a tiny bit of important science. Let us introduce you to cytokines.


Cytokines are naturally occurring proteins found in the body. Cytokines are crucial in controlling the growth and activity of other immune system cells and blood cells.

There is evidence that many of the people that are the worst affected by Covid 19 may have raised levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Inflammatory cytokines play a normal role in initiating the inflammatory response and helps regulate the body’s defense against pathogens by mediating the immune response. So they are important. However, if the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines are too high it turns on cell pathways which create excess levels of inflammation in the area resulting in the body being flooded with so much inflammation that it can be fatal, this is known as a cytokine storm.

Imagine that you put your foot on the accelerator and it gets glued to it. You can’t get your foot off the gas to slow down your car. Essentially, these storms can be more deadly than the original virus the body is fighting and occur when the levels get above a certain threshold.

What causes these cytokines to be raised in the first place? Anything that your body perceives as a threat, whether physical or emotional, can influence our cytokine levels.

However, please don’t panic as the whole point of this article is to reduce that level of threat and coming up are 10 ways to reduce your cytokine levels.

Graph by D. R. Clawson, MD

10 Steps To Reduce The Effects Of Covid 19

A link to the full article is available below but here we will break it down in to bite size pieces and you can see which areas resonate with you and which feel you may need to give some attention to.

Many of the points overlap with the information that is relevant to those suffering with chronic pain or chronic or stress induced illness. This is because the cytokine levels and neuro-immune response are also implicated in these health conditions too.

Because this is an area we specialise in at Osteopathy For All you will find suggestions that will help you address many of the following points in our MINDBODY Toolkit.

1. Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.

Another simple way of looking at it is to ask… how full is your bucket? When our buckets overfill we can feel anxious.

When we feel overwhelmed our body feels under threat and sadly the worry of a pandemic is quite a big item in most people’s buckets at the moment. By the time you add on other medical or financial concerns or the separation from family and friends people’s buckets are filling up. So before you read on you might find it helpful to make a note of what is in your bucket.

To understand anxiety in more details visit our Chronic Pain and Associated Symptoms Page

Anxiety can raise our cytokine levels so addressing it is important. You may find it useful to talk to someone about it. A friend or family member or a professional. Practicing calming activities can help such as mindfulness or meditation. Sometimes trying to be still makes it feel worse so moving may help. Walking, QiGong or Yoga are excellent gentle ways o connecting with our bodies and getting out of our heads. Putting all your worries on a piece of paper can also help us to rationalise them.

A simple visualisation to reduce anxiety: Visualise a dial on the wall in front of you and notice what number your anxiety is at. Take 3 deep belly breaths and lower your shoulders. Then in your minds-eye turn the dial down.  As you do notice the reduction of agitation in your body. Keep turning it down until you feel a little more calm.

2. Get Adequate Sleep

Sleep is key to boosting our immune health but for many is the first thing to get disturbed when we feel overwhelmed or anxious. We have lots of help for sleep in our toolkit. If this is an area of concern for you and you would like some tips or for sleep stories and meditations please read more here…

3. Expressive Writing or Journaling

If you are a patient at Osteopathy For All then you have probably heard us mention journaling or expressive writing before as it is key to recovery from chronic pain. It is also an excellent, evidenced based way, of separating your thoughts from your physical body and by processing them it reduces the stress hormones and any anxiety you may be feeling.

Record your thoughts and immediately destroy them.
• Write down specific thoughts. They do not have to make sense or even be legible. They can be
positive, negative, rational, irrational–anything.
• Do this once or twice a day for 15-30 minutes per session.
• Resist the temptation to analyze your thoughts. The more attention you give them, the more
you reinforce them. All the “issues” are just thoughts and it is counterproductive to place your
attention on them. (This is the way neurological circuits are reinforced and we want to reduce them).
• Destroy the pages. Tear them up into tiny pieces and discard them where no one can read them.
This step is critical if you are to write with complete freedom.

There is more information on this in Dr Hanscom’s full document below or on our journaling page

4. Practice Forgiveness

‘Anxiety creates a need for control. Anger arises when aggressive effort is needed to exert control. When the effort is successful, the body’s chemistry returns to normal. If the situation cannot be resolved, anxiety and anger continues, with ongoing inflammation. In other words, feeling trapped (whether real or perceived) is deadly to the organism. People sicken and develop life-threatening diseases as the result of chronic inflammation’.

Letting go of anger whether it is from a small annoyance or a long term upset is going to change your body’s tension and chemistry. Sometimes in the moment of upset we don’t have a choice but when we realise we are holding on to anger ideally we need to address it. We can actively choose to let it go and forgive others or ourselves.  For a moment just sit quietly and remember something you are angry about. Now feel what that does to your body. It can be as little as an increase in tension or can go as far as to make your heart race. Now let it go and feel your body relax. As you do chemical changes occur within the body decreasing inflammation and lower the levels of pro inflammatory cytokines.


5. Nutritional Considerations

This is something we have talked about over the last few months. We recommend taking Vitamin C, Vitamin D3 and Zinc. These are all immune boosting supplements and are especially important as we go into the winter and we have reduced sunshine and less homegrown vegetables.

Other dietary considerations are to eat as little processed food as possible. Processed foods, artificial additives and preservatives and sugar can all have an inflammatory effect. Keep it real as much as possible. Dr Hanscom talks more about this and intermittent fasting in his paper.


6. Decrease The Stimulation of Your Nervous System

Try and avoid what is triggering to you. The news, social media and video games. Try not to repetitively talk about things things that you find triggering – the pandemic, your symptoms or things that have made you cross or that you cannot change.

Here are five easy tips to sooth your nervous system and lower your stress reaction:
• A cold compress to the face (Mäkinen), especially after exercising or if acutely stressed.
• Meditation with deep breathing. Try using a counting method (such as 4 counts breathing in and
4 counts out; or 4 counts in, hold for 7, and release for 8); alternating nostril breathing (block
one nostril while breathing in and the other nostril while breathing out); or just focus solely on
your breath (Mason).
• Singing, humming, or chanting (Vickhoff)
• Socializing (Kok)
• Laughing with your “tribe” or watching comedic movies (Berk,Miller).
The bottom line is to use common sense to actively calm yourself and avoid activities that stress your
nervous system. It is surprising how much difference it can make.


7. Physical Interventions

Since March we have been encouraged to exercise and this is still true now. Not only is it good for our physical health through the release of endorphins it can improve our mood and decrease our stress response. When we are stressed we hold a lot of extra tension in our bodies. This can cause symptoms such as pain but it can also have an effect on how the body is functioning. It affects blood supply, venous drainage our lymphatic system.  Any stasis in our body of these fluid systems can contribute to build up of stress and inflammatory chemicals making it harder to relax and have an appropriate immune response.

If you are struggling to get moving from an injury or general levels of tension then please do book to see your osteopath or physical therapist to help get you moving again.


8. Stay On Top Of Your Medical Conditions

Make sure you are keeping on top of any pre-exsiting health conditions.

You will simply in better shape if you:
• Closely monitor and control your diabetes
• Take your cardiopulmonary medication
• Control your blood pressure

If you are unable to get an appointment with your GP your Osteopath may be able to help. We can take your blood pressure and assess your heart, lungs and nervous system Whilst we are unable to prescribe medication we can talk through many medical concerns with you and point you in the right direction.  If you are at all concerned about any aspect of your health whether covid related or not you can contact 111 for assistance. Don’t let a health condition add to your worries.


9. Address Family Issues

Love them or loath them our nearest and dearest can be the most triggering. If this is an area that you consider might be a factor in your life then do read the full section in Dr Hanscom’s paper (below)


10. Play

Finally don’t forget to play. Run through the leaves, play board games with your kids, have date night with your partner, watch funny movies.

It is hard at the moment with not being able to get together with friends and family in person so do try to connect online. Do an online quiz, have a wine tasting or just chat.

Actively seek out some joy, find purpose in a project or take up a hobby.

Play isn’t just a way to distract yourself from anxiety. You can’t outrun your mind. Rather, it is mindset of curiosity, deep gratitude, listening, awareness, and improving your skills to calm your nervous system. The result is a sense of contentment and peace. It is a powerful and rapid way to optimize your health.


Take action today against anything your body perceives as a threat(physical or emotional) to reduce your body’s inflammatory reaction and pro inflammatory cytokines.

Dr David Hanscom’s Article – Thrive and survive Covid 19