Note: this article was originally published on March 6, 2020.
The new coronavirus (COVID-19) is all over the news. The word “pandemic” is being tossed around by the media and even a few experts. Toilet paper is in short supply. People are freaking out.
What can you, as a practitioner (or wannabe practitioner) of qigong, do to defend yourself against this deadly virus?
In this article, I’ll give you the most level-headed advice that you’ll find anywhere on the internet. No really. It’s pretty crazy out there. Be careful who you take advice from, including (ahem!) certain politicians!
Speaking of being careful, I’m not a doctor, an epidemiologist, nor an immunologist. I claim no expertise except in the self-healing art of qigong.
I do, however, have a robust immune system (thanks to qigong) and I have studied Chinese Medicine for nearly 2 decades. I also owned a wellness center during the H1N1 (Swine Flu) pandemic of 2009. Oh, and I traveled to Asia to learn qigong right in the middle of the SARS pandemic! (Crazy, right?)
Still reading? Interested in my opinion (plus some cold hard facts)? Let’s dive in…
If it Bleeds, it Leads
In high school, I worked for the school newspaper. Even back in the late 1980s, I was well aware of a phrase that sums up the news business:
“If it bleeds, it leads”.
This phrase reminds us that the news industry love articles with blood, danger, death, and fear — because those articles sell. Those articles ALWAYS lead, meaning that they go on the front page.
Unfortunately, good news just doesn’t sell. That’s not how the human brain is wired. We’re wired to notice threats and that’s why the news is always full of bad stuff.
I’m not saying that there’s nothing to worry about or that you shouldn’t take steps to protect yourself from this coronavirus.
My point is simply this: It’s all-too-easy to get overwhelmed by the news.
And vice versa — many people are so desensitized to the constant stream of negativity from the media that they’re just ignoring the coronavirus news entirely. That’s not a good idea either!
Shoot for the goldilocks zone in the middle — where you acknowledge that the media loves stories about fear, but you also acknowledge the essential facts of the current situation.
Here’s a quote that I love:
“I honestly don’t believe that man was meant to know everything going on in the world all at the same time. A man turns on the TV and all those commentators bombard him with the local, the national, and the international news. The newspapers do the same thing and the poor guy with all the immediate problems of his own life is burdened with all those of the whole world.” – Richard Proenneke, from “One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey”, first published in 1973.
Cold Hard Facts about COVID-19
Instead of listening to the media (or politicians), where can you get advice?
I recommend Johns Hopkins rather than the Center for Disease Control (CDC). So far, the CDC has proven to be bogged down by red tape and politics. If you want the latest, science-backed information about COVID-19 then look no further than this link:
Click Here for Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center (and bookmark the page for later)
On that page, you’ll even find a global map of the coronavirus cases, recoveries, and deaths.
And they even have an infographic with some of the basic facts about COVID-19.
The Flu and Your Immune System
Many people (including certain politicians, ahem) don’t realize that the regular flu is deadly. For perspective, here are the leading causes of death in the US for 2017:
- Heart disease: 647,457
- Cancer: 599,108
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
- Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
- Diabetes: 83,564
- Influenza and pneumonia: 55,672
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,633
- Suicide: 47,173
The regular flu is a top-10 killer. Every year, 30-80k Americans die from it. So that’s not good news.
But there’s good news too: The regular flu DOESN’T kill millions of people.
For example, last winter, 42.8 million DID NOT die from the flu despite contracting the virus. How cool is that!!
How to Fight the Coronavirus
What if I told you that your immune system is the ONLY way to overcome this coronavirus?
Since there’s no vaccine available yet (and there won’t be one for 12-18 months), this is a no-brainer. It’s the obvious truth.
But what if I told you the same thing is true of the regular flu?
“The flu shot!” you might argue. And you’d be partially right. But only partially.
Many people mistakenly think that the flu shot works like antibiotics, that it just kills the virus somehow. But it doesn’t.
The flu shot works by stimulating your immune system and tricking it into fighting the virus. It is basically a chemical signaling mechanism.
Your immune system does all of the heavy lifting by creating antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) which then go to fight the virus.
Your Mighty Immune System
Remember the 42.8 million people I mentioned earlier who got the flu but didn’t die? How did they do it?
Quite simply, their immune system kicked the flu’s tiny little ass.
Let’s look at some numbers:
- Of those 42.8 million people, only 37% got the flu shot, or roughly 15 million people.
- The flu shot is only effective 67% of the time. (In other words, even if you get the flu shot, you have a 1 in 3 chance of it not working.)
- This means that, of the 15 million people who got the flu shot, 5 million survived without the help of the vaccine.
I’ll do the math for you and sum up: roughly 32 million (out of 42.8 million) people beat the flu without the help of the flu shot.
And it’s likely that the number is much, much higher because some people, like yours truly, have such strong immune systems that they only get sick for a day or two and thus don’t bother seeing a doctor.
This is NOT The Flu
Let me be absolutely clear: COVID-19 is not the regular flu. Current estimates suggest that COVID19 is 10-30 times more deadly than the normal flu. You should take the coronavirus seriously, especially if you are elderly.
But there’s a dilemma here, and it’s an important one.
Taking this situation seriously is one thing, but succumbing to fear is another matter entirely.
If you’re in a constant state of panic over the coronavirus (or the stock market, or anything else) then you’re actually wreaking havoc on your best defense mechanism!
How To Suppress Your Immune System
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Someone smart said that.
Here’s how this relates to COVID-19: Fear suppresses your immune system.
Remember what I said about newspapers selling fear? If you constantly read the newspaper, then you are constantly suppressing your immune system.
Look, I’m not suggesting that you be irresponsible. There are practical steps you can take to protect yourself (see below).
But if you TRULY want to protect yourself, then you must ALSO take steps to protect your immune system.
Of course, there are some important things you can do to increase your odds, most notably — wash your hands. More on this later. But my point is that if you are running around in fear, then you are compromising your immune system.
The big takeaway here: there are many ways to support your immune system (see below), but panicking and running around thinking that the sky is falling is NOT one of them.
Fear and your Gallbladder
There’s another problem with fear. In Chinese Medicine, the Gallbladder Meridian is responsible for making decisions. But when you’re constantly afraid, the Gallbladder Meridian’s ability to make decisions is compromised. (Water not nourishing Wood, for the Five Element geeks out there.)
Modern science is saying the same thing. When you’re afraid, you make bad decisions, forget things, and generally walk around as if you have blinders on.
Remember what that smart person said about the only thing we have to fear?
It’s bad enough that fear suppresses your immune system, but it also makes you dumber! Yikes!
Staying sharp is critical for protecting yourself against the coronavirus. For example, if you’re trapped in fear mode then you might forget to wash your hands — which is basically the #1 thing you can do to protect yourself (and others).
11 Practical Tips for Protecting Yourself
Okay, now that we are no longer freaking out, now that your mind is a little clearer, here are some tips, both Eastern and Western, to protect yourself:
1. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap. Here’s how to do it right: Sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself as you wash. Then sing the “How old are you now” part. When both parts of the song are finished, you’re done, but not before. This should take about 25-30 seconds. Don’t forget to wash all parts of your hands, including between your fingers and under your nails.
2. Practice qigong every morning to engage your immune system. (If you don’t know any, you can learn some qigong for free right here). The ancient Chinese masters said that qigong activates our “wei qi”, which translates to “guardian energy”. In other words, practicing qigong activates our immune system, which is precisely what modern research is discovering about qigong. The best news here is that you only need about 2 minutes of qigong to activate your wei qi. Do something that I call the 2-Minute Drill several times per day to keep your wei qi flowing smoothly.
3. Don’t touch your eyes or nose when out in public. Seriously. You have to break this habit, but it won’t be easy. If the virus gets on your hands it’s no big deal — unless you touch a mucous membrane like your nose or your eyes. The average person touches their face over 10 times PER HOUR! It’s going to require a good amount of mindfulness to stop touching your face. Speaking of mindfulness…
4. Use Square Breathing when out in public (see the video below). The Navy SEALs use this ancient method to stay calm and focused during their missions. You can use it too. I’ve experimented with this while going grocery shopping, and it definitely helps me stay more mindful, which means that I don’t touch my face as often.
5. Take supplements. Take anything that you feel boosts your immune system. Personally, I like to take high doses (1000mg 3x per day) of vitamin C because I’ve had experience with it working, and also because of promising ongoing research in this area (link, link, and link). But take whatever you like. Even if that supplement turns out to be a placebo, it can still help to protect you! Placebos can work even when you know that they are placebos! (link)
6. Get plenty of sleep. The research is clear — people who don’t get quality sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. You’ll need better sleep hygiene for this, which is a hot topic on the internet. If you want to get started, I recommend Dave Asprey’s blog post on the subject.
7. Don’t panic. Be responsible and take action, but don’t panic or else you will shatter your immune response.
8. Don’t shake hands with other people. This is an outdated habit and we should all stop. You are literally saving lives if you stop shaking hands with other people. Use prayer palms, a fist bump, or Spock’s Vulcan salute. Doing this will not only protect you from the coronavirus but the regular flu as well. (Note: people in China are greeting each other by touching their feet in order to protect from the coronavirus. Cool!)
9. Take Vitamin D3 supplements (with K2). There is some evidence to show that Vitamin D3 (with K2) protects against acute respiratory tract infection, which is the real danger of COVID-19. Supplementing with Vitamin D is safe as long as you take it with K2. So you’re looking for Vitamin D3 with K2. If you do get COVID-19 and start to get the respiratory infection, take your Vitamin D3!
10. Carry hand sanitizer. They make wipes and gels and sprays. Use whatever you like. I bring sanitizing wipes with me to the supermarket, but many groceries now have them as well. Use them. Wipe down the shopping cart handle, wipe your hands after you pay the cashier, and maybe wipe the cart one more time to pay it forward. (Note: if you can’t find any in your area, you can make your own hand sanitizer using this recipe.)
11. Practice One Finger Zen all day long. If you know some qigong and you can feel qi, then this is a great option for while you’re out and about. I wrote an entire blog post and shot a video on the subject. Check it out here.
So there you go. Those are my thoughts on COVID-19. Now I’d love to hear from you. What other ways do you support your immune system? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you found this article helpful, please share it with friends and family. Knowledge is power! Best regards, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong (pronounced "chee gung") to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. Today, I'm the director of Flowing Zen, an international organization with students in 48 counties. I've been teaching qigong since 2005, I've served on the board for the National Qigong Association, and I’ve helped thousands of people to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. If you're ready to get started with qigong, there's no better way than my best selling book, which comes with free videos and meditations. The sooner you read my book, the sooner you can start healing! Click here to see my book on Amazon.
Suzanne Manning says
Thank you so much for this – if you were sat next to me I would want to give you hug! Maybe that’s no the thing to do right now either. Prior to reading your fantastic article, I had just been looking at the news online and was feeling very anxious. I am going on 72 and usually a fit and active person but according to the news, my days could be numbered! I could almost feel my energy lowering I was reading! Now, it feels as though some balance is returning and I feel much better.
At the moment, I am going through a difficult time with diverticulosis. This only began a couple of years ago even though I follow a mostly vegetarian diet with a little chicken and fish. I’ve no idea why this condition has occurred.
I am one of your Q201 students (did Q101 last year and loved every golden moment) so I am practicing at least daily and often 2 x daily.
I am now going to read through your article again and investigate all the helpful links that you have provided. Can I say Sifu Anthony, your Q101 & Q201 courses are pure gold as far as I am concerned and as a result, qigong is at the centre of my life now. Thank you for everything that you do, including this very helpful article.
Jim Griffiths says
I’ve been supplementing with vitamin D3 for about five months.
Why do you have to take with K2?
I feel really tired after taking 2 tablets of vitamin D3 on my doctor’s recommendation.
Maybe k2 could help with tiredness.
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
My understanding is that they work together to help you absorb calcium.
Jim Griffiths says
Will get some K2.
Yeah, vitamin D on its own will increase calcium absorption, but in the long run this can cause excess calcium to deposit in the arteries and soft tissues and contribute to eg cardiovascular disease. If you go crazy on the dosage then you can even get hypercalcaemia (all the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity are actually hypercalcaemia symptoms).
But if you have plenty of vitamin K, which research has found not to be the case even in healthy adults on a western diet, then this helps to activate various enzymes (like matrix GLA protein) which soak up calcium in the bloodstream, prevent it from depositing in blood vessels, and help it to deposit in bones and teeth instead. So the extra calcium becomes a benefit instead of a downside!
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Thanks for the info.
Sherrie Cronin says
Great article. Nice to find common sense (and even a little humor) to balance all the falling sky predictions!
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Whadya mean a “little” humor! I’m practically Dave Barry over here!
Dee Laux says
Really like everything you say. I also feel (and read) that a most important element is being adaptable and flexible. I examine myself for this often (in a relaxed way). Don’t we really have many of the answers?? As Dr Joe Dispenza says: Each one is a “Genius”.
Zinc (with copper just to maintain balance) and garlic are also good general supplements that have immunity / anti-infection benefits! Quick links:
Alex Kreitner says
Yes, thank you, Sifu Anthony! It’s really great to see a more balanced view of the entire thing.
I’m personally not concerned for myself, seeing as how I just kicked the flu myself a week or two and did not die, but it’s very concerning seeing the spread information and false information lately that is just causing panic. More so in my area as I’m in WA state and people are losing their minds because 11 people died, when as your stats point out, thousands would have died of the flu in the same period of time. And if the media kept a running update of those people dying, no one would ever leave their houses.
So, thank you for the more practical mindset and series of good suggestions. Clear-headedness is in very short supply these days.
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
A friend of a friend is an RN near Seattle. The situation does not sound good. The hospitals are already overrun and they are unable to test appropriately. Like you said, you’ll be fine, but I worry about the elderly, including my own parents.
Tom Judge says
We wish Pres. Trump would add you to his staff as health advisor. Juanita and I have been following these basic suggestions for about 3 years now and are staying healthy. We add one other immune booster: MESOSILVER colloidal silver .9999 pure silver particles.(amazon.com) We are told that any germ, virus or fungus that comes in contact with pure silver dies on contact and is unable to build a resistance to silver. The only danger is taking silver in excess will turn your skin blue. We have taken 3/4 tablespoon first thing every morning for over 3 years with no ill effects. We quit getting flue shot 2 years ago. We also take probiotic with each meal as silver can kill our good digestive bacteria. We Hold the liquid silver in our mouth and thus let it absorb thru that membrane and thus less danger to stomach bacteria.
Deb Gates says
Totally agree with your wish that Sifu was part of Pres. Trump’s health team!
Diane Evans says
Sending a big virtual hug! It’s hard to avoid the real hugs living in a country where everyone greets each other with a hug hello and a hug goodbye. Maybe that will change but will be hard with close families and friends where it is automatic and considered rude if you avoid the physical contact.
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Abrazos! The virtual kind!
Mike Sieweke says
Don’t forget vitamin A, which is critical for immune function.
These are the things I take to fortify my immune system, based on sound research:
Vitamins: A, B1, B6, B12, C, D, E, K
Minerals: zinc, selenium, lithium
It’s also important to minimize sugar in the diet. Sugar has been shown to depress the immune system. It’s thought that it competes with vitamin C for entry into immune cells.
Claire Holland says
What a great article! Thanks for taking the time to write and post it. About 13 Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong : Would you repost the sources indicated by the numbers after the benefit? I’m particularly interested in the ones about the immune system, of course! I do see that they came from PubMed. I think somewhere you previously had indicated what exact article was referenced. Thanks again.
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Just click on the numbers and it will take you to the study.
Davor Barsic says
Press is everywhere the same. More panic they better sell.
By my observation this years Flu is greatly attacking Lungs, so lots of people has pneumonia. I am Shiatsu practitioner so whenever I see my clients with inflammation of sinuses I do Moxa first. It helps significantly and prevents Pneumonia. Moxa is predecessor of acupuncture and is used in much wider spectrum.
From what I have read It looks like COVID-19 attack also Lungs, but at much faster paste.
Maybe good qigong exercise for COVID-19 should be something for metal (Lungs and Large Intestine) and water (Kidneys and Bladder).
Also good acupressure points for autoimmune system is SP 7(Spleen) and ST36 (Stomach).
I have noticed, that massaging and rubbing parts of foot covered with sock also helps our autoimmune system, especially for small children.
Janna Downie says
Greetings – Kia Ora from New Zealand. I’m new to you and your work and have just recently signed up to your email list. This was such a welcome gift to find in my inbox this morning and I am so grateful for your article.
I had already watched a couple of your videos and read some blogs and testimonials and felt you had a gracious, authentic, vibe. This has increased my trust in you and your mission and I look forward to learning more:)
Sifu Anthony Korahais says
Welcome, Janna! I’m glad you found it helpful!
Mark Shveima says
Thank You for this excellent summary about how to best approach the current world health situation. I live in Kyoto, and have been following this thing from the beginning, and also contemplating how to best address it on a practical level, and share that knowledge with students.
Right now in Japan, not only do we have the Coronavirus to be careful of, but it is a seasonal transition time with a lot of extreme weather changes: warm during the day, darn cold at night and in the early morning, with scattered rains to occasionally add a deep chill. As well, it is the height of Cedar allergy season, which I developed a strong susceptibility to about 5 years ago. However, using simple Qi Gong practices I have learned from you – I tend to lean towards those that I have experienced best support the lungs and kidneys – along with acupressure I have learned from Cindy Black, I am keeping well ahead of anything taking root in my body. When I feel a particular symptom, I use a series of practices and those symptoms lessen in a day and often disappear by day two.
You asked for anything to add to your very comprehensive list. The one other daily practice I have that I feel is excellent for helping with immunological concerns is my sitting meditation practice, learned from Paul Muller-Ortega. The path of meditation I practice allows awareness to settle into the very deepest depths of consciousness in a spontaneous and effortless way. This allows the body, mind and emotions to experience deep rest – which you yourself also point to as necessary. This sets in motion an upsurge of healing capacity in the entire body-mind consciousness, which allows for deep physiological nurturing to take place. That nurturing – in my own experience – supports healing in a very profound way, from inside, out. As you note in your post, deep rest allows the immune system to maximize its capabilities. Thus, an immune system that is healthy and prepared is present.
Again, Thank You so much for all you do.
Live Long and Healthy!
Anne Hewitson says
Thanks or making the Live replay available, Sifu. It gave me something extra to practise on Sunday morning.
This was after my 73rd day of Qigong practice with the 5-Phase Routine and Lifting the Spirit and Cloud Hands.
I am doing the practice to engage my parasympathetic nervous system that will help me to deal with a 3-month contract that I’ve just started. The work situation is not ideal – a lot of stress, my mind always on the go. But I’m grateful for the income!
Preparing for the Qigong 201 start later this year.
Gerry Rickard says
Words of wisdom in a very hyped up atmosphere
HI Sifu Anthony.
Thanks for all the good advice.
I do wish though that you stop bringing the word flu into this article.
It is not helpful the way you write about covid-19 .
You see the number of people in a population that just don’t get it ( grasp the facts) can be quite high.
Are they lowIQ or are they simply persons with low moral and lack of empathy ?
I don’t know, but the spread of covid-19 depends a lot on how responsibel we all are and how much solidarity we have with others .
My country In Europe of 5 million people have to today 179 confirmed cases.
And already we can see lots of the problems we have:
* Lack of empathy with all those that have a high risk to get infected,even from journalists, political persons and the man in the street. They it is not dangrous ,it is only those already old and sick that will die so this not something to worry about
* Maybe low IQ or lack of trust in science leads many to just disregard covid-19 as a problem and they think, and say this is just a flu.
* the covid-19 spread from hospital workers (even doctors)
* some persons that are told to stay at home and not have any contact with others for 14 days ,they IGNORE and go to the gym even to large public events. This weekend one person went to a large event ,needed medical care and did not tell all the seven persons that helped him that he could carry covid-19 and was told to self isolate. The result is that all those health workers must now stay at home for 14 days….
* when airplane arrived this weekend from Italy nothing was done to test all persons by those in charge because “nobody looked ill “.
* some youths use Facebook and protest against the advice given by health athories about not meeting in large groups . The write “They can’t stop us….”. In interview they say they are young and healthy and have nothing to fear ! Do they lack knowledge about how this spreads or do they simply not care ?
* A danish professor tells us that the reason why so many act like jerks is because hour leaders do not tell the truth about the corona virus, covid-19 and then many people do not take it seriously because they lack knowledge. The leaders suger coat the message instead of telling the truth .
* I hear people on the bus and train talk and say things like ” I am not afraid and don’t bother to take care…”
* Even our prime minister says ” you should all go on and live your normal life “.
When 30% of our population is in high risk for getting infected , because of age or health problems , Ithen I think it is a terrible advice !
Thank you for this very helpful perspective and being such a positive and constructive force in the world.
Hi, I’m a friend of your Mom, and she sent me the link to this article. Nice and level-headed. I’ve taken D3 and K3 on and off for at least 15 years now, but have begun to be more reiglious about it now. I’ve taken Vitamin C in the past but not lately (though I still had a big bottle of it) so have begun again. I feel great so far but if I start to feel anything I’ll up the vitamin C, add in the lyposomal Vitamin C I bought a few weeks ago, take my Zinc lozenges. I avoid sugar, avoid wheat, limit my dairy. I do daily exercises and practive meditation deep breathing 15 minutes every day. I knew nothing much about qigong or tai chi (and still don’t) but have added my two minutes of Lift the Sky to my daily routine now. 🙂