Tag Archives: CoronaVirus

222. Current Virus Extreme

5 Jan

US Daily Cases over Past Year

Why is covid-19 now infecting at extremely high levels. Graphs of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths show great recent increases. Here are current US stats: number of cases: 21-million, deaths: 363-thousand.

In the US, covid-19 began infecting early in the year (2020). Immediate government action at that time could have prevented most of the further infections. Safety rules were quickly established, but there was little government encouragement to use them. In fact, there was discouragement by some leaders. Safety rules of cloth masks, social distancing, avoidance of groups, hand washing, etc. were found to be very effective.

A serious problem is that some of our US population is simply inclined not to follow rules. This is something that is almost impossible to change and will continue to hamper virus control.

The daily number of cases remained fairly low until October, when the weather turned colder. More outside activities were somewhat safer. Major holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas led to a lot of travel and group functions. There were also ill-advised political rallies, where supporters were packed together and few wore masks.

The recent, greatly increased virus levels were partially caused by the above factors, but there were other considerations. An important point is that as the virus spread, there were more sources of infection. Early on, very few people were infection sources, later there were many, so you were more likely to catch it later on. There is another related factor. Early in the virus period, many people found that they were safe even if safety rules were ignored. So many continued this neglect even when virus sources increased.

Some people tended to ignore safety rules, when vaccines were developed. They did not realize that actual vaccinations would take a long time to complete, and safety procedures must be continued.

The increased spread of the virus has another subtle negative effect. It is well established that covid viruses evolve and established cures and vaccinations could become ineffective. We may be living under virus restrictions for another year or more. On the other hand, with the encouragement of scientists, I think these scourges can be defeated.

206. Coping with Virus Fears

17 Mar

The rapid spread of Covid-19 virus has triggered fears in many people, and fear can be dibilitating.  I watch a lot of news programs, and I am disappointed to see the promotion of ineffective stress-reduction programs. In my earlier days I was a licensed PhD clinical psychologist, and I am going to briefly present ideas here (not medical advice), which may be of help. There is a general value to learning the control emotions and limiting fears. Here are some important ideas, which are just an introduction to this topic.

Stress, anxiety, and fears have a basic physiological factor, which evolved for survival. The main organ controlling this is a branch of the autonomic nervous system. It is also known as the “fight-or-flight” system, which prepares us for a vigorous defense. This system involves higher heart rate, muscle tension, blood flow changes, sweating, etc.

Fight-or-flight changes are activated by real danger, or simply by fears. Many will notice this activation and identify it as anxiety or stress. It leads to “worry.” Once triggered, the activation (anxiety) can last for hours or days beyond the original stimulus. The activation itself can be stressful and can lead to even more of these changes. (Technically, this is a positive feedback loop, i.e. feedback causes something to increase.) The end result of increased activation can be a panic attack.

Stress and anxiety must first be treated by normalizing this defensive system. Relaxing the body will cause the brain to relax. Starting therapy by working with fearful  thoughts is not effective, because they will always occur when the fight-or-flight system is activated. The procedures involve relaxing many muscles and breathing peacefully.

A “relaxation tape” or therapist can provide instructions for this process. Once a method is learned, it can be implemented in just a few seconds. Also important is awareness (feedback) of muscle tension and blood flow changes. Many people live much of their adult life, unaware of excessive, energy draining, activation. If a therapist is used, very effective “cognitive” discussions can be added later. Also a part of the process is learning to breathe peacefully: generally, regularly, slowly, and deeply.

If a person is presented with relevant measurements (scientific facts) he/she can learn more quickly. When scientific, medical instruments are used, the therapy method is called “biofeedback.” The feedback could be heart rate, hand temperature, a measure of sweating, or blood pressure, usually presented with a changing sound. For example, hand temperature will rise as one relaxes. A transducer and some electronics can convert this temperature into a sound. As temperature rises, the pitch can rise and the patient gets helpful information.

Having taped instructions for the relaxation process is a good way to start. You can go to the Internet and do this search: “muscle relaxation tapes.” Here is a good one:
.                 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86HUcX8ZtAk
After using the tape a number of times, the relaxation procedure can be shortened. Eventually, a “brief relaxation response” can be developed, which takes only 10 to 15 seconds and can be done almost anywhere. Note that these behavioral methods provide an actual, direct cure, while many other methods provide something temporary, which must be used indefinitely. As you learn the relaxation methods, much of the process becomes automatic and less attention is needed. Take whatever actions are required for the virus, and deal with any associated fears in this enjoyable way. Entering a state of peacefulness is a remarkable experience.