A healthy diet and level of physical activity are not the only ways you can support your overall health and well-being, and thus how well your body responds to infections; especially during the current pandemic. How you manage stress is also extremely relevant.
A separate chapter titled “Fear Kills” related to this subject is available. Please see the PDF.
Of course, stress levels are especially high for many during this pandemic. Even the conservative CDC recognizes that COVID-19 is escalating feelings of anxiety and stress. When you are stressed, your immune system's ability to fight off infection is reduced. Stress also promotes inflammation.
Some of the effects of stress are direct. For example, the hormone cortisol, released during moments of stress, can suppress an effective immune response by lowering the number of infection-fighting lymphocytes circulating in your body. But effects can also be indirect, such as interfering with sleep, or prompting unhealthy behavioral coping strategies like snacking, drinking, and smoking.
Relaxation techniques are an important therapeutic strategy for stress-related diseases. One randomized controlled trial concluded that those who exercised or meditated had fewer severe acute respiratory illnesses than those who did neither.
Meditation, reading, listening to music, engaging in an absorbing hobby, and talking to friends - even if it is across the internet - can all help you relax, as can crossword puzzles, walking outside, and practicing yoga. Whatever engages you fully and takes you out of your head for a while counts as relaxation, so find what works for you.
Also do not discount the importance of simply turning off the news. Fear is often perpetuated by misinformation that feeds into panic. Make a decision to turn off negative news feeds or change your thoughts surrounding what you see and hear.