Another untoward effect of the pandemic is to create what psychologists call “Learned Helplessness”. We were first instructed to practice shelter-in -place, socially distance, tune in and receive our daily updates and mandates, and wait and see if we became sufficiently ill to seek care (with nothing curative to offer right now regardless). We are now being told who and how to reemerge into society, but layered with considerable concern over a feared “Second Wave” that may kill thousands more and, if not handled correctly, force us back into lock down yet again. Needless to say, we have now created a huge clinical trial on the effects of Learned Helplessness on a global scale.
Learned Helplessness was first described in animal models by Martin Seligman back in the 1960’s. In short, animals who are not given any way to escape negative or painful stimuli eventually just gave up and no longer withdrew from pain. This syndrome in humans was subsequently linked to passivity, anxiety and depression, as well as having a negative effect on the immune system (obviously not a good thing right now). See Levy article “Psychological Risk Factors, Natural Immunity, and Cancer Progression (https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02686650) or the more scholarly Maier article (doi:10.1037/rev0000033).
Establishing a sense of control in some sense, therefore, is incredibly important, and can hopefully prevent or lessen these detrimental effects on both the mind as well as the immune system. We need to empower us all with more what psychologist refer to as “perceived control”. This is another reason why, as we wait for our promised vaccines and antiviral drugs, that we all also need to be trying to achieve a sense of personal empowerment in our individual health. We need to all regain that sense of control. We need to be focusing on restoring a healthier, more resilient intestinal microbiome by eating clean and taking daily probiotics and select vitamins, and having the “Quick Treat” protocol of vitamin C&D and Kefir ready to go in case we begin to get sick…and believing it is really going to work!
In an interesting study by Langer and Rodin in the 1970’s, nursing home residents were simply given a choice in picking their meals and control over which television programs they were allowed to watch. Those given these simple choices lived significantly longer than those who were not. Apparently it doesn’t take much, but we are as a society longing for a sense of empowerment right now! Take charge of your health.
Save your gut and heal the world.