Um, so, yeah! Who would have thought that a few short weeks ago we would be where we are today? Is it only three weeks or six months? Time has taken on a warped sense of the ‘twilight zone’. Thanks corona virus. Thanks very much!
I have decided to write a weekly newsletter to reach out to you and hopefully give you some tips to get through this incredibly trying time. It is in no way designed to be preachy or diminish what you are currently experiencing. It does not take the place of medical advice, nor will it offer up cures and misinformation about corona. It’s alphabetical in nature. I am taking wagers to see which letter we reach (hopefully not very far). Any guesses at to what letter we’ll reach before life returns to ‘normal’?
So, without further ado…
‘A’ is for adaptability
This has taken us all by surprise, no doubt. Even with the best planning in life, I don’t think any of us could have foreseen the impact this has had on day to day living. Whether you have been stood down from work (tick), had to start working from home (tick) or, in the worst case scenario, lost your job, we are all having to adapt to new ways of doing things. Managing money, shopping, social distancing, staying connected with others, routines and exercise all takes on new meaning.
In this crisis, I have seen people start to adapt in the most extraordinary ways. The local bar that now does take out fish and chips, the yoga teacher is now connecting to her students via Zoom, people are innovating and changing the way they do things very quickly.
Tips to adapt to a new way of doing things
- Keep a routine – the best way I find of doing this is by making a list in my diary. As Marie Forleo says, ‘if it ain’t scheduled, it ain’t real’.
- Plan for your future. As bleak as things may seem right now, this won’t last forever. What are you most looking forward to? Are there any projects you’ve been putting off that you could start work on now?
- Manage your money. Where can you cut costs? Are you able to defer things such at ATO payments (something I did this morning) etc? Audit your subscriptions to unnecessary things (I just had money go out of my account for something I had totally forgotten about – BOOOO!)
- Don’t doomsday prep! Even though we have to adapt to staying at home more, let’s try not to take more than we need.
‘A’ is for alcohol
If I’m going to get through this, I’m going to need a drink!
Tempting as this might be, drinking yourself into oblivion until this is all over may not be the most helpful thing to do, especially if you are suffering with anxiety (see below) and are having trouble sleeping.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. We might think it helps us sleep, but come 1am, we often find ourselves wide awake, dehydrated and in the depths of despair.
Personally, I am using this time to have a break from drinking (yes, yes, my halo is about to strangle me). My head space is too important (and often fragile) to tempt fate with indulging in the good stuff. I’ve also found that, as a lady of an ‘uncertain age’, any amount of alcohol really affects my sleep, so it’s off the menu for the moment.
‘A’ is for Anxiety
A poem by me: ‘A’ is for apocalypse pie. Where all my hopes and dreams go to die. The end.’
I don’t think there is anyone among us that is not feeling some level of anxiety and uncertainty (see poem above). None of us has experienced anything like this, so we have no reference, although…my Mum has been telling me about living through the polio epidemic. Also scary stuff.
Quick remedy to reduce anxiety
This five-step exercise can be very helpful during periods of anxiety or panic by helping to ground you in the present when your mind is bouncing around between various anxious thoughts.
Before starting this exercise, pay attention to your breathing. Slow, deep, long breaths can help you maintain a sense of calm or help you return to a calmer state. Once you find your breath, go through the following steps to help ground yourself:
- 5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings.
- 4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet.
- 3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! Focus on things you can hear outside of your body.
- 2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your office and smell pencil, or maybe you are in your bedroom and smell a pillow. If you need to take a brief walk to find a scent you could smell soap in your bathroom, or nature outside.
- 1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch.
Dietary and lifestyle tips to reduce anxiety
- Avoid refined sugars, caffeine and alcohol (I know, I know, all the ‘fun’ stuff – I am always threatening to change my name to ‘Debbie Downer’ – your head will thank you for it though)
- Eat protein at every meal to balance blood sugars. Low blood sugar can cause feelings of anxiety
- Get lots of vitamin C – not just good for your immune system, but also your adrenal glands (they sit on top of your kidneys and make some of your stress hormones e.g cortisol).
- Ensure you get some quality zeds. Every hour before midnight is worth two after. Your cortisol is replenished between 9pm and 1am, so if you want to have a healthy stress response, go to sleep!
- Find some time to meditate or practice mindfulness (this is now scheduled into my new routine). There are some great apps available – I find CALM and Headspace to be very good.
- Try to find something to laugh about every day (even in the face of adversity)
- Engage in light exercise. Personally, I find yoga to be a great leveler.
- Don’t isolate. Even though we may be self-isolating and social distancing, it’s important to stay connected. I am keeping in touch with friends via the apps, Marco Polo and Houseparty.
- Manage your social media and news. I’ve limited myself to ABC news at 7pm, otherwise I start to spiral into despair and hopelessness.
- Get outdoors and get some sunshine.
Neuroscientists have discovered a song that reduces anxiety by 65% (I wasn’t able to find the research that confirms what the internet says, but it’s still pretty nice)
‘A’ is for Vitamin A*
One of the most widely recognised nutritional deficiencies of our time is Vitamin A. Many people are eating too few green and yellow vegetables. We have also stopped eating…LIVER (rich in vitamin A). Speaking of livers, we are also making it hard for our bodies to absorb vitamin A due to our own overburdened, overworked livers (another reason to give the booze a break…)
So what does vitamin A do for you?
- Needed to metabolise protein
- Protects the body at the level of the skin, tissue and cell surfaces.
- Protects mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, throat and lungs reducing susceptibility to infections
- Strengthens cell walls to inhibit penetration by viruses
- Helps build and repair bones, teeth, nails, skin and mucous membranes of the lungs.
- Activates the immune system
Got dry, flaky, prematurely ageing skin? You may need Vitamin A
Vitamin A foods
- Spirulina/chlorella/wild blue-green algae/wheat or barley grass
- Sweet potato
- Beet greens
- Chinese cabbage
Please note: vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin and can build up in the system (too many carrots and you’ll go orange). If supplementing with vitamin A, you need to be mindful of daily limits (especially pregnant women).
Last, but not least
‘A’ is for Asafoetida (aka Hing)**
This is one of my favourite Indian spices. Pungent in nature, it is great to add a pinch to legumes and pulses to help mitigate their wind producing effects. TOOT!
‘Foetida’ means stinky in Latin and it is quite sulfurish smelling indeed. However… this spice played a role in the US during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. During that time, thousands of people walked the streets with a small bag of super-smelly asafoetida bags tied around their necks, trying to stave of the infection. I think its ‘odoriferous’ nature would truly encourage social distancing!
Fast forward to 2009 and researchers in Egypt and Taiwan tested the smelly spice to find out if it was a match for swine flu. And it was – in the laboratory. Now, I am not saying to you, go out and buy some ‘hing’ and everything will be alright, but it is a good spice to have in your kitchen especially if lentils give you gas…
I’m no food photographer, but this lentil recipe is super easy to prepare and very delicious. I learnt to make dahl this way in India earlier this year and I eat it at least once a week. High in fibre your gut will thank you for it.
- 1 cup red lentils (I also use yellow lentils or mung beans – if you do, increase the water)
- 2 cups water (plus extra if gets too thick)
- 1 brown onion, finely choppped
- 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of ghee – or oil of your choice (I think ghee adds to the overall flavour)
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
- Optional – green chilli, coriander, mustard oil
- Soak lentils (optional) for one hour with a pinch of asafoetida. Rinse well.
- Cook lentils with water and another pinch of asafoetida until a porridge like consistency (don’t worry if it looks too thin, it will thicken). Add more water if it looks too thick.
- In a small fry pan, heat ghee or oil, add onions and cook until starting to brown on the edges (do not rush this step).
- Add tomatoes and salt (this will help break down the tomatoes).
- Add turmeric and cook until see fat separate from tomatoes.
- Add to lentils and stir well.
- Serve with fresh chopped chilli (if desired) and coriander (unless you hate it…) and a drizzle of mustard oil (this really makes the dish, so it is worth buying from an Indian supermarket).
Goes well with rice and/or chapatti.
Phew! I think this is the longest newsletter I have ever written. I can’t promise it will be this long every week, but if you’ve made it this far, well done!
If you are struggling at the moment, please do reach out, if not to me, then to someone you trust. Remember, we are all in this together and it’s never been more important to help each other through.
Yours in good health,
*From Paul Pitchford’s, Healing with Whole Foods.
**From Bharat Aggarwal’s, “Healing Spices”.