COVID-19: Things to Do Besides Worry

by Norah McIntire, L.Ac.

Years ago, during wildfire season here in Southern California, my tai chi teacher had to evacuate her home. She came to stay with me a few days. During that time, she insisted we turn off the TV, move the couches, and practice the tai chi form. Later, after it was all over, she expressed disappointment that more of her students had not practiced tai chi during the emergency. She said, “Emergencies are exactly the time you need your practice.”

Sometimes doing the calming thing in the midst of a crisis seems counter intuitive, but is the most responsible and effective course of action.

This remains true in our current situation, especially since fear lowers immunity. It is natural to feel anxiety during this moment of uncertainty and disruption. I encourage you to put in place practices to calm and control fear so you can take reasonable action for your health and the health of your community.

Stay home.

It’s not just about you. We are protecting each other.

Do your tai chi, even if it isn’t tai chi.

I have a tai chi and qi gong practice. Maybe you do yoga. Or Zumba. If you have a physical practice that helps you manage stress, now is the moment. Turn off the TV, move your couch if necessary, and do it. If you don’t currently have a practice, I encourage you to look up qi gong on youtube and explore.

Here’s a qi gong exercise to strengthen the lungs to get you started.


A basic qi gong exercise for moments of anxiety is shaking. Shake your body. Think an Olympic runner before getting set at the blocks. Shake out your arms, legs, and entire body while taking and releasing deep breaths. Bounce into your heels. This throws off physical and emotional tension.

Practice strategic nutrition:

I gave a Facebook live presentation a couple weeks ago about way to keep our overall systems strong with Chinese medicine nutritional therapy. A quick recap:

Avoid dairy, excessive sugar, and alcohol. They encourage the production of mucus, and sugar lowers immunity. Avoid ice cold foods and beverages because they require more energy to digest and weaken the digestive organs.

Soups are great because they are warm and easy to digest. Bone broth is especially nutritious.

Enjoy the following lung friendly foods, which also help decrease phlegm: onions, garlic, radishes, mushrooms, horseradish, seaweed. Other lung nourishing foods: apples, pears, carrots, almonds.

Fermented foods like raw sauerkraut and coconut kefir can boost the immune system.

Virtualize your social life:

Here in LA they have closed public gathering places like bars to flatten the curve. Please honor these measures to minimize in-person gatherings and groups. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy socializing and the benefits that go with it. Move that interaction online. Zoom: its not just for business meetings any more.

Take a moment:

Here is an easy meditation to interrupt the anxiety cycle:
1. Focus your attention on the center of your chest.
2. Imagine your breath entering and exiting through the center of your chest.
3. Think of something that makes your grateful. It can be a memory, a person, a pet. Whatever makes you smile even a little bit.
4. Stay with the breathing and gratitude as long as you wish.

Use apps like InsightTimer or Headspace if you need additional resources to meditate.


Your immune system needs solid rest. Resist the temptation to stay up late scrolling through your social media feeds or watching TV. Go to bed. Seriously.

Don’t hoard:

Please do not hoard more supplies and food than you need. The populations most vulnerable to the virus do not have the resources to drive multiple places to find food and basic supplies. If COVID-19 has highlighted anything, it is our interconnection with one another. Allowing those around us to have what they need protects the entire community. After this is all over, we all want to be able to look back and know we behaved responsibly, decently, and honorably.


This pandemic has taken a toll on food supplies for the most vulnerable in our society. If you can, make a monetary donation to your local food bank. (Money goes further than food items.)

We are all in this together. Please reach out if I can be of service or if you have questions.