Updated: Apr 4, 2020
What dystopic moment the world has been thrust into! While our main course of information is the news and social media, we need to cultivate ways to transmute the horror of COVID19 and find coping mechanisms that are positive and healing for ourselves and others. There is a lot we can do, even isolated in our own homes. These give us control. We may need to ride these troubled waters for many months still, so the sooner we can establish positive new patterns of activity, the better we’ll cope.
Share those rays of light
Let’s be thankful for certain things we have: We have one another! Maybe we can’t meet for dinner or a night out, but we have phones and email to stay connected with loved ones. We can use social media to balance the plethora of negative news with stories of resilience and kindness, hope. We have little sense of control right now so let’s not add to the terror.
Laughter truly is good medicine, seek out humorous cartoons and videos and share them widely. Watch lighter fare in the evenings to recover from the daily news cycle. It's a good contagion to spread!
Step Away from the Internet
Yes, it’s addictive and toxic to witness our world in freefall 24/7. It can overwhelm our nervous systems. Sure, check in periodically but don’t let it dominate your time.
Spread the Love
Do spend some time phoning friends and family to support them and help one another process what we’re going through. We are social animals and need to stay as connected as best we can without exposing others to risk. Phone calls and, better yet, video chatting may be the best way to help and not harm. Reach out especially to elderly relatives and neighbors, immune-suppressed friends, or those who live alone, because they are particularly vulnerable to loneliness and even more susceptible to disease.
When We’re Shut-In
Those who work from home are lucky to still have that purpose, focus, income. Their challenge is to juggle their time if they have families. Working earlier and later is one strategy. For kids and pets, maintain their routines as best you can. For younger children, stuck at home: arts and crafts, games, schoolwork, physical play outdoors, if at all possible. Imaginary play is the best medicine of all, indoors or out.
Let them help in the kitchen, age-appropriately. It’s important for little ones to contribute and have purpose. Help them start a little garden plot or if you’re in an apartment, help them plant and tend a flowerpot or grow some herbs.
Order some broccoli seeds and potting soil and grow trays of microgreens, which will be
ready to harvest in 2-3 weeks and pack a nutritional punch up to 40 times greater than mature broccoli. Loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients like sulfurophane, they’re fun to eat and help compensate for the lack of produce if grocery supply channels are unreliable. If you have counter space, mix it up with other nutritionally-worthy microgreens– a great bang for the buck.
Seek Respite in Greenspace
Shinrin-yoku, “forest bathing”, eco-therapy. Call it whatever you like, but getting outdoors, even for a walk around the block, helps alleviate stress. It lowers blood pressure and helps with immunity. If you have access to a park or woodlands, get there. Listen for bird and insect song, the amphibians’ croaking, the wind through branches. We are fundamentally natural beings and being in Nature is healing.
Creativity in the Kitchen
With access to food delivery backed up for weeks in many areas, shop if you must with great care. Wear gloves and masks if you have them. Wash hands assiduously. We are learning now that COVID19 can survive on surfaces for days. If possible, quarantine your non-perishables for 3 days before use. For fresh produce, after washing your hands well, rinsing produce in water alone is recommended. Now is an opportunity to use up what we already have in the fridge, freezer, pantry – it’s long overdue anyway! Get creative and don't worry if you don't have all the ingredients a recipe calls for. Use recipes merely as guidelines; substitute ingredients if you can and don't worry if you need to omit some.
Right now, it’s more essential than ever to not waste food. And we don’t need to. My husband Giordano always jokes that we really eat but a handful of foods, just prepared in a million different ways! There are lots of ways to make appetizing dishes with those leftovers and neglected veggies and fruits:
Have some cooked whole grains and beans? Rolled oats or small potato or sweet potato? Then you’ve got more than enough to make burgers. Throw in a cup or two of grated raw carrot or beets if you have ‘em or any cooked veggies on hand. Season them with your favorite condiments, American, Italian, Indian, Mexican – you have infinite varieties to play with. Use my Beety Burger as a guide. While they’re delicate, my aloo gobi burgers are tasty too. Dress them up with whatever’s on hand and yum.
If you’ve got an onion, celery, carrot or a leek, you have soup. Add some tomato and white beans or chickpeas, a potato or two, cabbage or leafy greens, parsley or rosemary for an Italian gist. Add green pepper in your dry sauté, black or red beans, tomato, corn, chili, and cilantro for south-of-the-border. Cauliflower, lentils, peas and potato seasoned with curry powder or ground cumin-coriander-black mustard seed, chili and turmeric, with cilantro and you’ve put on a South Asian spin. Soups, loaded with water and fiber, are filling, substantial and very nutritious. Here are a few favorites:
There’s nothing like a 1-dish meal. If you’ve got steamed or frozen veggies on hand and a couple of cooked potatoes, slice them up, and layer them bathed in a simple plant-based white sauce, top with breadcrumbs, for a bubbly tasty gratin. Here’s my recipe for pastel gratin as a guide.
Be Grateful for the Little Things
This is a dark and difficult moment to be sure, uniting us all, and reminding us that we are one human family and stand or fall together, when all is said and done. Things may get dicier as this virus spreads. We need to dig deep within ourselves to stay balanced to ride the waves of what's to come. If you are a person of faith, that is a place to find solace. And whether you are or not, a meditation practice can also help us get perspective and stay calm. There are many many meditation options and online resources to get you started.
And here’s a little exercise that helps me sleep soundly and have a lighter, more compassionate heart: Every night in bed I think of 3 things I am grateful for, no matter how grim things seem. This simple gratitude practice may help you too.
Til next time. Be well. Stay in touch.