In March 2020, governments responded to the rapidly spreading coronavirus by shutting down the world. Schools closed. Non-essential businesses locked their doors. Travel was restricted.
Essential workers (doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, police officers, postal workers, truck drivers) faced exposure while everyone else sheltered at home, either alone or with direct family. Many workers were furloughed or lost their jobs as bars, restaurants, non-essential retail, hair salons, hotels, and more ceased operation. Others quickly learned the technology required to work remotely.
Many parents of school age children suddenly had to both work from home and homeschool their kids. Many parents have developed a new appreciation for their kids’ teachers!
Normal flies out the window and in its place is fear of getting a serious illness, working in a different way or unemployed in an uncertain economy, with children constantly under foot or being completely isolated.
Over the months, the number of cases and deaths have grown. Rapid opening leads to spikes in case, followed by spikes in deaths.
Fear for our physical and economic health plagues us.
Can you say stressful?
Handling Emotional Stress
How did you handle the swirl of stress and emotions? Is a newly found passion for baking treats and enjoying those creations helping to sooth the anxiety (emotional eating to the rescue)? Since the gyms are closed, has exercise ceased (motivation to move disappeared)? Have you caught up on all of your favorite shows and discovered a number of new ones (couch potato time)?
Having an emotional temper tantrum is a reasonable response to these extraordinary circumstances. Eating without concern for calorie count or health helped many handle the relentless pressure. Cocooning on the couch compensated for the disappearance of their routine. Watching amusing entertainment provided many the needed escape from the frightening daily reality.
Did emotional eating and other less than healthy coping methods help you to navigate these first few months of living in the middle of a pandemic? Now, over four months later, is the realization that this is our new normal dawning? The understanding is growing that our lives are not being upended for a short stretch, but instead we are in the middle of a marathon.
Surviving (Maybe Even Thriving) Today
What do we need to do to survive living with this potentially deadly disease in our world and communities for the duration?
Continue Following Health Guidelines
First step, we all need to follow the medical guidelines to wash our hands, wear masks in public and maintain a physical distance from each other to reduce the spread of this virus.
Dust Yourself Off
Second step, time to stop having an emotional temper tantrum and embrace a healthy response to the constant stress, unease, and uncertainty. Don’t strive for perfection or make “a chocolate will never pass these lips again” declaration. Time to pick yourself off the floor and move towards a healthier response.
The goal here is a healthy balance. A funny comedy followed by a dance party in the living room. Want to feel better? Move it! Start or end the day with a gentle yoga routine and/or stretching and/or cardio and/or strength training. There are wonderful online yoga and exercise classes. Many gyms have created virtual exercise classes. Call your gym to see if they have online classes.
Here are some resource to give you an idea of what can be found to help you get strong, flexible and in shape (let them know that Calmglow told you about them):
- https://www.thriveyogaandwellness.com/ (online yoga classes)
- https://www.facebook.com/groups/fitnessnutrition/ (a private Facebook group for fitness and nutrition support)
- http://www.totalbodyconstruction.com/ (virtual personal trainer)
A Little Zen
Moving your body helps release stress and other stress management techniques such as journaling, meditation, and taking a moment to breath deeply are great help towards reclaiming a healthier you. A moment of calm can even help you sleep. And with a solid night of sleep under your belt, you can handle so much more!
You Are What You Eat
Next we turn our attention to what’s cooking in the kitchen. After all, food is the foundation of our health.
One of the benefits of working remotely is that we have more time to spend in the kitchen creating tasty, healthy food. While many turned to experimenting with baking and desserts when the lockdowns began, let’s now challenge ourselves to make delicious, healthy, comfort food. The Mediterannan Diet is one of the healthier diets with an added benefit that it is not based on elimination of a category of foods, such as carbohydrates.
The Mediterranean diets incorporated the traditional foods enjoyed in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea: Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. While most are more familiar with the foods of France, Greece, Italy and Spain, there is inspiration to be found from each country: Morrocan Tagine, Turkish Chicken Kebab and more.
When you are planning your cooking adventure, think about adding a rainbow of color to your plate: red peppers, purple cabbage, orange sweet potato, green broccoli, and yellow squash.
You can make your diet more Mediterranean-style by:
- eating the rainbow of color of fruits and vegetables (organic, if possible)
- eating whole grains and legumes
- eating lean proteins (fish, chicken, plant-based)
- eating less meat and dairy products
- choosing healthy fats, such as olive oil and nuts
To enhance the flavor of your meals (and the fun of your culinary adventure), add fresh herbs and spices. A tip: before starting on this kitchen adventure, purge your spice cabinet of old spices. Spices lose their flavor as they age.
A tip: watch your portion sizes. Too much of even a good thing can undermine your efforts.
You have finished with your emotional temper tantrum. You are shaking your tail feathers, finding zen moments in the midst of COVID chaos, and dining on delicious (maybe even homemade!) dishes. One more area to improve: the home in which you are sheltering-in-place.
Make Your Home A Comfortable Nest!
Surround yourself with the objects that bring you happiness. Clear the clutter and the chaos. Play music that brings you joy or soothes your soul. Fill a vase with fresh flowers. Diffuse citrus, floral or spicy oils. Open the windows. Put a bowl of summer fruit on the kitchen table. Chill a pitcher of water with slices of cucumbers and mint to enjoy when the temperature rises. Toss a soft throw over the back of the sofa so you can wrap yourself in warmth on a cool morning. Place twinkle lights inside to enjoy once the sun sets.
Your home is your sanctuary and now you are spending more time there than usual. Make it a place you hate to leave.
Do not plan to change everything at once. Let go of your emotional temper tantrum. Make changes to bring balance back. Consistent, small steps create huge improvements. Create the health lifestyle that supports you during this new normal.
To your health.
Dianne Hinton NP, PA, IFM-C