We’ve all learned a lot of lessons and shown a lot of strength during the coronavirus pandemic. But there is still more that we must do in order to face the future.

It has taken great fortitude to limit our activities…to care for our loved ones who have gotten sick…and to grieve for those we have lost. Many people have lost their income and suffered significant financial setbacks. There isn’t anyone who hasn’t been hurt by this, and yet we all have shown tremendous courage in the face of so many challenges.

We all have been afraid of getting sick and getting others sick. Beyond social distancing, we have learned to wash hands—a lot…and for a long time. We have learned to wipe down every surface…keep our hands away from our faces…and wear masks so that no one shares a germ.

These are all tangible, visible actions that we all can do—and that we can see others doing.

And we wait—for scientists to find an effective treatment that has been tested and for a vaccine to be developed. Hopefully. Wouldn’t it be great if “someone” fixes this for us?

Our medical system has trained us that science can fix it. Got a broken heart? Surgery can fix it. Appendix about to burst? Have it removed. Headache? Take a pill. Can’t sleep? Feel sad? A little indigestion? High blood pressure? High blood sugar? It could be like the game show Match Game—match the ailment to the pharmaceutical drug fix.

But modern medicine can’t fix everything. And, in this case, we don’t have a fix…yet.

Actually, we may never have a fix because viruses aren’t known for being fixed with pharmaceuticals. They can be treated…and symptoms can be eased. But viruses are tricky little devils that dig in and hide…they morph and change. The evolve…they survive. Even chicken pox—we thought if we had it once, we were protected for life…and yet it can come back in a second phase as the very painful shingles.

Meanwhile, we all wait in our quarantine caves with our masks on. We hear the warnings that you’re not doing your fair share to protect those who are vulnerable if you don’t socially distance and cover your face. For those who want to get back to work and get on with life, there is ridicule…and, for some, jail.

They say it’s better to wait…and wash…and distance…and mask because it is your human duty to protect others.

What if drugs don’t come? And vaccines don’t come? Or at least not as fast as we would all like? Our world can’t continue like this.

There’s another piece of the puzzle. What about protecting yourself? What about the social responsibility to reduce our individual risks? Individuals can do more to protect themselves. Simple things but perhaps not easy things…things that are theoretically very effective at bending the curve of illness.

Like what? you ask.

Aside from the elderly and those with unique health-care vulnerabilities, people who are at highest risk often have ailments that may be rooted in lifestyle choices. Obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure being the top three, acknowledging that some people have genetic or other factors that have been at the root of their conditions.

Anyone with those conditions knows that he/she is at greater risk for a long list of associated ailments. But as long as there are magic pills to “control the risks,” there is little motivation to make the effort to reduce weight and possibly get both diabetes and high blood pressure better under control.

Perhaps the fear of imminent sickness or death can be a stronger motivator to change than the fear of dying one-day-some-day. Or perhaps, the social pressure to protect others can provide the same incentive that it has had in getting so many of us to wear masks.

If we really want to beat coronavirus and want to reduce the chances of contagion and death, then we will add to our list of “community obligations” changing our diets and exercise habits.

We can also take further steps by strengthening our immune systems with nutritional supplementation to augment the depleted stores in our system. People who are vitamin D–deficient are known to be more vulnerable to COVID-19, just as they are more vulnerable to many ailments, including cancer. Everyday vitamins, minerals and hormones—zinc, vitamin C and melatonin, among others—have also been found to provide protection against illness.

Sadly, the vast majority of the medical community lacks training in nutrition, exercise and the use of nutritional supplements and botanicals to help our bodies work at their optimal levels. These health-care professionals don’t recommend them—but they could…and most of us can take them safely.  But it takes a shift in thinking and education on the parts of both the medical community and the public.

We need to make health education a national priority. Adults of all incomes and educational levels are lacking basic nutritional knowledge. In school, teachers should spend more time educating students about nutrition and healthy eating than teaching about the names and nuances of recreational drugs. That lesson can be taught in five minutes—drugs are dangerous and won’t solve your problems.

Let’s create a national movement to eat for strength, leveraging the power of the same public relations and marketing methods that brought the #MeToo and Occupy Wall Street movements to light. And, no, these were not simply grassroots events. There was a whole lot of social influencing and behind-the-scenes coordination going on. Perhaps Lance Armstrong will allow us to repurpose his very powerful slogan to “live strong.”

Once children return to school, we should require recess and physical education at all levels for everyone. Schools have tried to eliminate these due to budget cuts and other pressures. Let’s not let that happen.

From birth, parents should be engaging children in physical play and fun family activities that include plenty of outdoor time. If parents make it fun, children will learn to love it.

The love and care for our fellow humans that we have shown through this is deeply touching. We have all sacrificed for the cause. Now we need to understand two things…

  1. We are part of the cause and deserve to take care of ourselves. No one has more impact on us than we do ourselves. Why give the power to others? It’s your life.
  2. The magic pill and vaccine may take far longer than anyone wants. And that means hoping and wishing is not an effective strategy.

Action is needed. Are you willing to take a little more action to protect not just yourself but the rest of us from COVID-19 and beyond?

Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast,  where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life. 

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