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Posts Tagged ‘stress reduction’

Well, hi there.

It’s been nearly a year since I last blogged, although if you follow me on Instagram (@eatwellwithmoira) you will see that I’m still posting photos of food and bits of life. Without getting into all the yucky details, I want to share that last year was the most stressful and challenging year of my life for emotional and logistical reasons, luckily not for health reasons.

One message that kept coming into my head, after suddenly finding myself without my partner of 20 years, and raising my two children on my own, was the age-old expression: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Okay, seriously now… When life truly gives you lemons, those lemons usually sit in your fruit basket rotting, because for at least a brief while, you are so lost or panicked dealing with the new paradigm and day-to-day demands, that lemonade is the last thing on your mind.

Once I’d made it through the roughest patch, I thought about starting to share some recipes, and essentially just picking up where I left off without any explanation. But that’s not me… I don’t just pretend everything is rosy when it’s bleak, or pretend I’m feeling positive when I’m really feeling sad, angry or frightened. And although I’m through the worst of it, I think there’s a lot more value in me sharing my experience in an honest, straightforward way. For the vast majority of us, our lives don’t always go as planned. Some of us handle things better than others. Some of us learn to handle challenges better over time. Some of us may always be challenged.

Just when I started seeing the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel and a clear path forward, COVID-19 arrived. The impact to work, my children, etc. resulting from the pandemic, has added to the stress I’m still dealing with in my new life paradigm, while working more hours, sorting out my finances and raising two children on my own. I experienced a brief, this can’t be happening now moment, and for a split second I wanted to throw up my hands, throw myself face down on the sofa, and later, move to a remote corner of the globe.

Instead, it made me think I want to share my situation with friends and followers. I want you to know I’ve endured a lot of pain and uncertainty, but I recognize many people are going through what I am, and that whatever pain and uncertainty are relative. Millions of people around the world aren’t just struggling with a new paradigm; they literally fighting every day for their very existence. Even people who, like me, enjoy a safe and comfortable life are now enduring added stress and uncertainty, and many are experiencing the pain of losing loved ones to complications from the virus. We are all stressed by the pandemic, and these are seriously difficult times for many people. But now is the time, more than ever, for us to have compassion for others. It’s also the time to share information about health–not just healthy eating and cooking but emotional health, and to share delicious, fun recipes. Let’s be honest, most of us are spending a lot more time at home, not eating out at all or eating out far less, and we’re cut off from the face-to-face social interactions that play a key role in our emotional well being. More and more research is showing the connection between emotional health and physical health, so I would like to share information on what you can do to stay healthy, incorporating what has worked for me over the past year.

What are the basics to trying to stay healthy during this time?

  1. Eat a nutrient-dense diet. Yes, I have upped my intake of Vitamin C (and D3 on the days I can’t get outside or its cloudy), and I have my arsenal of propolis (general immune booster) and Enzyme Defense (attacks proteins in a virus) at the ready, but nothing can replace a nutrient-dense, balanced diet. Of course, many of us are craving carbs and carb-laden comfort foods because we’re stressed, but those only aggravate our health and wreak havoc on our hormone and immune systems, so try to limit them to an occasional treat.
  2. Get a good night of sleep–7 to 8 hours. I admit, I’ve binge-watched some Netflix and Prime Video series just to keep my mind off other things, but I also admit I feel the knockdown effects of too little sleep and less-than-relaxing plot lines the next day.
  3. Wear a mask. All the reports said not to at the start of the outbreak, and that was likely to prevent people from hoarding them, but now we know one of the reasons Japan has handled the crisis better than others is because 80 percent of Japan’s population is wearing a mask. From what I’ve been reading, while the N95 masks are the best, even surgical or homemade masks provide some protection.
  4. Don’t touch your face and wash your hands throughout the day–really wash them for 20-30 seconds with soap.
  5. Move your body. Exercise boosts your mood, lowers stress levels and improves your sleep. Make sure you are getting at least 40 minutes of exercise at least four days a week. It doesn’t need to be 40 consecutive minutes, and there are many great online sources supplying workouts you can easily do at home. (I just tried a great one from Tracy Anderson Instagrammed by Goop this Wednesday!) Simple exercises you can do at home even if you don’t have weights or benches include pushups, planks, sit-ups, mountain climbers, leg lifts and wall chairs.
  6. Manage your stress. People have been telling me to manage my stress for years, and aside from the stress-reducing aspect of physical exercise, I have ignored them for years to my detriment. There are countless ways to help manage stress these days, and most of them are simple, easy to learn and free.
    • Introduce a simple intentional breathing exercise into your day–closing your eyes, slowing down and deepening your breath, holding your breath after you inhale, and observing your breath. It might take a few tries to get the right rhythm, but once you do, you’ll find it incredibly relaxing.
    • Take a few minutes each morning to acknowledge or write down what you’re grateful for. I had implemented a gratitude practice with my kids at dinnertime, but from what I’m reading, the greatest benefit comes when you do this in the morning or at whatever represents the start of your day. Once again, science is proving that a gratitude practice will make you a happier person.
    • Introduce mindfulness into your life. Having never previously taken the time to understand and develop a practice of mindfulness, even during my personal chaos last year, the added stress from the pandemic was the push I needed. I’m currently reading a wonderful, practical book by a professor friend, Dr Shauna Shapiro, called “Good Morning, I Love You.” I think it speaks to everyone regardless of his or her unique life experiences, and Shapiro shares valuable insights and practical tools for helping you use mindfulness to improve your outlook on life and how you navigate through it.
    • Meditate–whether it’s a simple quieting of the mind and focus inward or something more official like transcendental meditation, the benefits are proven and the time well spent. There are many free sources for guided meditations online if you don’t know where to start and can’t take a physical class due to current social distancing measures.

Look for other simple ways to make your current experience easier or more joyful. For example, the Shelter order in California hasn’t stopped the construction workers coming who are completely renovating the home next door to mine and my home office. After trying to juggle homeschooling and work against a background of hammering and belt-sanding (think unrelenting dentist’s drill), I invested in a pair of noise canceling headphones. They don’t block all the noise, but they definitely add a measure of quiet and peace that allows me to be more productive and feel more calm.

I also took up painting again. It’s a mental expression through physical work, and incredibly rewarding for me. Find something old or new and/or creative to do that you enjoy and that takes your mind off of work, the kids, the pandemic, etc.

Involve your kids in cooking–either in helping prepare meals or just cooking fun healthy treats. Savor the extra face time you have with family members, and be mindful that this difficult time affects people differently. As I’m always saying to my kids, “live your life with kindness and compassion.”

Here’s to your health–emotional and physical!

 

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