Finding Wellness During an Epidemic
Staying Well in the Face of Illness
We are a global society. Physical and financial crises cannot be contained within geographic borders. As I write this article, the year is 2020 and our world is in the midst of a pandemic from the coronavirus. Realistically, we know that this might not be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. It could happen again.
I am not a health-care provider, a mental health care specialist, a dietician, or a nutritionist. I'm simply a housewife, but in seven decades on this planet, I've gained a fair amount of experience in dealing with difficulties, planning for problems, and walking the tightrope of what-ifs. I hope some of what I share here will be of help to you.
Taking Care of Your Physical Self
One of the most common, mundane activities of our daily life has become challenging for some, and fraught with peril for others. Here are a few pointers to help you navigate the grocery store safely
- Make a list: Have a plan for the specific items you will need. This should effectively shorten the length of time you spend in the store and keep you from handling more items than you really need. No longer can you leisurely stroll the aisles, thinking and considering how you might use ingredients in your next dinner.
- Keep your distance: Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of chatting with our neighbors or striking up a conversation with the person standing in the check-out line next to us.
- Don’t sample anything: I sincerely doubt that stores are still offering free samples of any items, but if you find one that does, resist the urge. You have no idea if it has been coughed or sneezed upon, touched and replaced, or worse.
- Don’t purchase from bulk bins: What I said about sampling applies here too.
- Wipe those handles: All of us are probably wiping the grip of the grocery cart, but don’t forget to also sanitize the handle on the freezer and dairy case.
- Don’t touch your face: I can’t stress that one enough, and I’ll bet you touch your face more often than you think. It’s habitual but habits can be broken.
- Be like Noah: Noah took two of what was needed, not a dozen. Don’t hoard. Despite what you might have heard, there has been no disruption in our food supply chain, nor is there any reason to believe that there will be.
Not sure what to look for at the store? Keep reading for a table of suggestions.
Putting Those Groceries Away
I’ve always been a banana washer (and tomatoes, oranges, and cantaloupes). I don’t consider myself a germaphobe, but for any produce that is eaten raw and stored in the pantry (not in the refrigerator), it just makes sense to me. I also wipe the tops of aluminum cans (okay, maybe I do have a problem), but now I find that I’m not alone in my phobia and in all honesty, you should be hopping on my bandwagon. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) Coronavirus can survive on surfaces for a long time—24 hours for paper and cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastic, metals, glass, and wood.
So, when you get home from the grocery store with your purchases:
- Let it air out: If at all possible, leave all non-perishable items outside of your house (for example, in the garage) for three days.
- Create a staging area: For perishable items, or if you simply must bring all of the groceries into your home (perhaps you don’t have a garage, or you live in an apartment or condo), establish an area in your home for cleaning all incoming items. You’ll want two side-by-side spaces that can be wiped down when you are finished (even better, if you can cover these areas with towels or a large cloth).
- Wipe, wipe, wipe: Place all of the items on Staging Area #1. Wipe down each item, one at a time, and then place on Staging Area #2, the clean space. Here’s a link to an EPA list of disinfectants for use against the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
- Don’t Clorox the lettuce: That should be obvious (but then so is the fact that a cup of coffee from Starbucks is hot). Greens and other tender fruits and vegetables (things that aren’t firm) should be rinsed under running water.
- Ditch the bags: If you used disposable bags, get rid of them now; don’t plan to reuse them. If you used cloth bags, wash them.
- Wash your hands: Just in case you need to be reminded.
Eating a Healthy Diet
Many of the restaurants are closed; those that remain open provide take-out only. Cooking at home is the norm for me but for many of you, this might be a totally new (and perhaps stress-inducing) experience. If you go to the grocery store, you might find that the prepared foods you always relied on are absent (along with toilet paper and hand sanitizer). What should you do? Here's a plan for how to stock up and make the best of your shopping trip.
spices (see below)
canned tomato products
frozen juice concentrate
curry paste and/or sriracha
butter (you can freeze it)
cheese (not soft or semi-soft)
coffee (or tea)
onions and garlic
chicken (whole or pieces)
Now that you have those grocery store goodies, what will you do with them? Here are some helpful links:
- The "No Recipe" Recipe for Cheesy Baked Pasta
- How to cook whole grains
- How to make a pot pie (7 different kinds)
- How to make a pot roast (4 different flavors)
- One-pot wonders (17 one-pan recipes you can make in 30 minutes or less)
- Ten different recipes for nachos
- Six recipes for chili (there's even a vegetarian option)
- One dozen pancake recipes
- Ten recipes for meatloaf (there's even a vegan meatloaf)
- How to make your own deli roast chicken (without a rotisserie)
- Turn your baked potato into a meal (15 recipes)
- Seven homemade soup recipes
Taking Care of Your Mental Well-Being
Anxiety, Depression, and OCD
The mantra is ceaseless—"wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands." We hear it over and over again. It's enough to put even the most stable individual on edge. But if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or OCD you might find yourself struggling not just day by day but minute upon ungodly minute. If you are already in therapy you have probably learned some coping strategies. But if you have been managing on your own you might feel as though you are caught in a vortex.
What can you do? I have a few suggestions:
- Unplug: In the 21st century we have all manner of media at our fingertips 24 hours per day; I recognize that shutting off the news cycle is easier said than done. You don't need nor should you indulge in a steady stream of Yahoo news on your phone or laptop. Remember, news tends to focus on the negatives, the drama, the "if it bleeds it leads" mentality of journalism.
- Choose your sources: Not everything on the internet is true. Focus on reliable sources.
If you are not impacted by the never-ending news cycle and fears of the virus you might still be hurting from the isolation of COVID-19. Loneliness is starting to creep in. When I go for a walk, I pass by people walking their dogs (many more than I saw a few weeks ago), but we now automatically move to our edge of the sidewalk to maintain that 6-foot perimeter. I don't shop at the grocery stores (grocery on-line order and pickup has become my new normal), and I haven't seen my next-door neighbors in weeks other than to wave to each other as they drive by.
What can we do to stay connected and erase the feeling of isolation?
- Call someone on the phone. Surprise them with the blessing of actually hearing your voice.
- If you have kids at home (home-schooling), weave "writing a letter" (not a text or instant message) into their curriculum. One place that accepts letters year-round is Operation Gratitude. They collect and deliver correspondence to U.S. deployed troops, 1st responders, veterans, recruit graduates. wounded heroes and their caregivers, and military families. Letters of Love collects hand-written cards and letters for residents in nursing homes.
- Use a video chat to reach out to family far away.
Perhaps you feel as though you have lost control of your life, that there is absolutely nothing that you can do. All of your recreational and social outlets have been taken away from you. Having a routine is centering and once that routine is dashed, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by absolutely everything. Now is the time to:
- Be good to yourself: Listen to music or if (unlike me) you are musically talented, bring out that guitar or flute (or harmonica). Skip the shower and take a long relaxing soak in the tub. Read; no, step away from the internet or the newspaper. Read a book. Or, write a book. It's been said that each of us has a story to tell. You don't need to share what you write with the world by self-publishing on Amazon. But give it a try—prose, poetry, song lyrics, it doesn't matter.
- Exercise body and mind: One of the best ways to make your mind feel better is to make your body feel better. You don't need to do squats and push-ups. Yoga or just simply walking will flood your being with endorphins that will elevate your mood. Prayer, meditation, or simply deep-breathing will calm and refresh your spirit.
- Find a way to volunteer. Reach out to local charities and ask how you can best support them with your time, keeping safety in mind. You can also search online for volunteer opportunities in your area. Helpful things that you can do safely from home in support of a nonprofit’s mission could include everything from assisting with grant-writing or serving as a crisis counselor on a hotline service. Nonprofits are also making adjustments to help keep volunteers safe—for example, meal delivery services for the elderly may move to a system of leaving a meal on a doorstep instead of bringing it inside. Yet they may still not have enough volunteers to meet all the needs, and you could fill an important gap if you were able to safely take on some of those necessary tasks.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Linda Lum