B. General Yogic Behavioral Support Mechanisms: the value of SELF-AWARENESS
A requirement for the development of a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 through Controlled Human Infection studies (CHIs) needs to demonstrate high social value (9). Behavioral approaches need to be assessed under similar criteria. A reasonable account of the social value can be demonstrated via ease of doing, low cost of entry for the consumer, low risk-high benefit outcome in terms of effectiveness in aiding prevention of symptoms and supporting the psychological burden of a pandemic. This can range from mass action social distancing to a greater cultivation of awareness in terms of personal behavior with ourselves, with others, and with the environment. The CDC’s recommendations to manage stress in such a challenging time highlights personal and social care and awareness, in essence a yogic meditative approach as an extremely balanced way forward for us all (10). They specifically draw attention to limiting social media exposure, bodily care with breath and meditation, healthy food, relaxation and recreational time, adequate sleep and exercise, and time to connect with others.
- Behavioral Change in Touch
In addition to social or physical distancing three personal protective behaviors of handwashing, not touching the T-zone of the face, and tissue use, have almost become required to control the pandemic. Holmes et al. discuss the necessity of ensuring people know what to do, are motivated to do it, and have the skills and opportunity to enact the changed behaviors (8). In a society conditioned on handshakes, questionable handwashing use, supermarket open food free sampling, indiscriminate handle and button touching the almost orthodox and Eastern approaches are potential remedies. In many South and Southeast Asian countries, such as India and Thailand, a handshake is considered crude and instead the prayer hand pose acknowledgement to the other party, often associated with the Hindi greeting of Namaste, is both an extremely polite and non-contact greeting. Similarly, a slightly more orthodox approach in these regions limits open-hand touching of common objects. A door can be opened using the edge of one’s sleeve or directly with a handkerchief. Though many supermarkets, delis and restaurants right now will limit or cut out open food and buffet counters be aware of the return of the indiscriminate public consumption, open air, free sample tray that is both unclean and extremely unhygienic. An awareness on food contamination by multiple hands is ideally motivational enough to engender self-control.
- Prioritize Sleep
A lack of proper sleep or staying in bed too long increases brain inflammation, changes prefrontal activity, which is a pure stress response, and reduces emotional resilience whereby reactionary responses such as anger or frustration become frequent. Good sleep and rest can aid brain inflammation and support psychological resilience of such a stress burden (11). Our modern society undervalues the need of and for relaxation and instead focuses on more work time or more physical workouts. A comprehensive yoga practice both emphasizes quality sleep and aids it as well as employing direct relaxation to manage fatigue and thereby improve psychological and physiological conditioning.
- Improve Responsiveness with a Partner
Though lock-downs have forced family units to spend more time together, a cause of anxiety, conflict or psychological stress for some, there is potential for couples to deepen their relationship. Several studies carried out by Ong and Slatcher reveal the nature of relationship within a couple and the positive outcomes of increased partner responsiveness in terms of stress resilience and improved sleep lead to reduced anxiety. Support from a spouse can be the most effective resource in stressful times if each partner validates, cares, and conveys understanding to the other. Opportunities exist daily in the current uncertain climate to share and ideally respond enthusiastically, leading potentially to greater intimacy and trust (12). A behavioral approach starts with the awareness of the nature and quality of a response.
- Vitamin D levels through Awareness of Diet and Sun Exposure
Bachman et al. analyzed COVID-19 publicly available patient data globally and discovered a strong correlation between the cytokine storm and vitamin D levels as well as mortality and vitamin D deficiency