Greetings Everyday Spy,
At CIA I received outstanding medical treatment and training from the men and women in the Office of Medical Services (OMS).
You never really see OMS highlighted in movies or books. They don’t carry guns or dress in suits. They are silent warriors in scrubs, armed with incredible knowledge and top-tier meds.
Over the course of a career, field officers become close colleagues with the OMS doctors and nurses that care for them.
Even before my first visit to OMS, I knew what it was like to work closely with medical experts.
My mother is a career intensive care nurse. Growing up, my sisters and I were never far from an expert opinion – from my mom, her peers, or a specialist she worked with at the hospital.
Mom protected us from a nationwide measles outbreak in the 1980’s and the West Nile Virus in the 1990’s. She prepared us for travel abroad and gave us an unshakable respect for personal health practices.
The informal medical wisdom I gained at home was solidified a decade later by OMS at CIA.
Watching the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread the disease we call COVID-19, I am frustrated by how much fear is replacing fact.
The greatest medical minds in the world have agreed that the virus cannot be contained.
By listing COVID-19 as a pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) and US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are saying that SARS-CoV-2 can not be defeated by government intervention.
Coronavirus is here to stay – it is a ‘pandemic’ that will become ‘endemic’… permanent for the rest of history.
And that is okay.
Because you’ve survived pandemics like COVID-19 before.
Every year we see endemic diseases continue to spread, cause illness, and take lives.
Viruses are a natural part of our world – they grow, spread, and mutate.
The 2009 Swine Flu pandemic that shook the world in 2009 was based on a natural mutation (aka: Antigenic Shift) of the seasonal flu. The swine flu, known as Influenza A/(H1N1)pdm09, shares nearly the same name as the seasonal flu – Influenza A (H1N1)pdm09.
The difference in the name is a small ‘/’ that denotes a mutation in the gene coding for hemagglutinin, a protein inside the virus itself. But that single coding difference is all it takes for an old flu strain to go pandemic and start killing again.
Viruses are microscopic organisms that cannot be seen, tracked, or even accurately counted.
What we cannot see, track, or count, we instinctively want to fear. And fear sells…
So media outlets, news agencies, and pundits push new headlines based on old speculation rather than new research. They sell you fear rather than facts.
Media reporting about Coronavirus isn’t helping you – it is hurting you.
The 24 hour news cycle is not promoting knowledge – it is promoting stress.
Stress releases a hormone called cortisol that reduces your immune system by damaging white blood cells. Less white blood cells leaves your body defenseless against new (and existing) viruses.
A second damaging effect of stress (and the incessant news cycle) is sleep deprivation…
If you are one of the millions of people worldwide staying up late and waking up early to see the newest COVID-19 update, your lack of sleep is degrading your immune system.
When you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Cytokines allow your immune system to work quickly and efficiently against antigens like SARS-CoV-2.
Without them, your immune system is limited and ultimately compromised.
Defeating a virus is about much more than washing hands and avoiding public gatherings.
It’s about staying healthy. And your body’s immune system is built to do exactly that.
Here is how CIA’s OMS taught me to boost my immunity, at home and in the field:
To reduce stress, reduce your exposure to negative media.
This is a detox that works.
COVID-19 content triggers negative emotions that release unhealthy hormones into the body. The body processes these hormones by increasing fat production and burning much-needed energy, leaving you feeling tired and irritated.
The average adult spends 11 hours a day behind a screen.
Coronavirus has hijacked as much as 25% of your screen consumption each day – convincing you to pass up books and magazines in favor of social media updates and online news. Extended screen exposure causes eye strain, unnatural brain stimulation, and physiological issues with your head, neck, and back. These conditions increase stress and consume your body’s immune system resources.
To boost your immune system immediately, turn away from 24 hours news for the next 24 hours.
Decide to stop watching, stop reading, and stop consuming the fear, speculation, and gossip. After 24 hours, spend an hour checking up on what you missed… I promise it won’t be much. Then, turn away again – this time for 48 hours.
In less than a week, you will reduce your consumption of stressful content by up to 30% and reduce your overall screen time 14% below the national average.
You will decrease your cortisol levels, increase white blood cell production, and boost your cytokines well above your current baseline.
And you will quickly see that SARS-CoV-2 is not as dangerous to your health as the media outlets choosing to bombard you day in and day out with stress-inducing information.
The media detox is going to immediately make you feel better.
But turning away from the 24 hour news cycle will be taxing on your self-discipline.
Rather than turn to sugar, coffee, or packaged goods to energize you, reach for foods that are rich in natural glucose.
When field officers deploy, we don’t have access to the store-shelf snacks that exist in modern society. But we still need to maintain energy levels and self-discipline for night patrols, surveillance ops, and critical ops decisions. So we turn to local fruits and vegetables to keep us going.
Natural sources of glucose – like fruits, honey, and bright-colored vegetables – not only serve as a pick-me-up, but they also come with vitamins and minerals that boost your immunity.
Vitamin C is only one small piece of the immunity puzzle. Your body also needs minerals like Zinc and Iron and other vitamins, fats and proteins to tune-up your immunity.
So when you turn away from Coronavirus coverage, turn in to:
If your family is going through what my family is experiencing…
Schools are shut down, employers are sending people home, and public venues are being closed. Parents are at a loss for how to keep kids busy during the day and worried about when/if the next paycheck is coming.
Remember that stress reduces immunity – so the goal is to avoid stress.
For my family, we are altering our perspective on public closures to boost our individual immune systems. As everything around us shuts us out, we have decided to shut ourselves in.
We are making it a Staycation!
Less time watching cable news means more time binge-watching our family’s favorite Netflix series (check out ‘DEEP’ if you need a recommendation). Our kids have mastered the ‘Reverse’ card in Uno, and my wife is finally learning how to play with Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Master trading cards.
We take family walks in the morning and evening to get fresh air, and reread our favorite children books guilt-free.
After all, the people we most want to protect from Coronavirus are the people we love.
So how better to reduce stress and boost immunity together.
Author: Andrew Bustamante, Founder of www.EverydaySpy.com. Andrew is a former covert CIA Intelligence officer, decorated US Air Force Combat Veteran, and respected Fortune 500 senior advisor. Learn more from Andrew on his Podcast (The Everyday Espionage Podcast) and by following @EverydaySpy on your favorite social media platform.