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How I am Staying Healthy and (relatively) Zen during the COVID-19 Crisis

Written by jillian mariani

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Posted on March 24 2020

Like many, I was away with my family for March break when everything went sideways.  In hindsight, we should not have boarded our plane to go away, but like many we optimistically did. We were exceptionally fortunate to get back when we did, amid closing borders and suspended air travel and I remain incredibly grateful to my husband for freaking out and getting us on flights, while I was still in partial denial. 

As I write this, my family of 6 (my husband and our 4 kids; 3 are my bonus kids from my husband’s first marriage, and the youngest we had together) are on Day 8 of our Self-Quarantine. As each day passes, the initial inconveniences of quarantine become less and less taxing.  Our perspective is changing – staying home is feeling like a small sacrifice when so many are suffering. We have enough food, we are healthy, we can still go for walks (6 feet away from others), we haven’t lost anyone.  We are crazy lucky.

But let’s face it, it’s no picnic.  And I’m not the most laid-back person to begin with – I am definitely type A and have always been somewhat prone to anxiety and sleep issues. I work from home a lot of the time, and it’s a little different with so many more bodies in the house all day, everyday.

Here is what I am doing to stay calm and healthy:

  1. The Daily Basics:
    • Make your bed
    • Shower
    • Get dressed (yoga pants count as clothes, PJs don’t!)
    • Hand-washing
    • Daily movement – a walk outside (maintain 6ft distance from other walkers not in your household), doing yoga at home (most studios are offering online versions of their classes), doing stairs if you have them, whatever works for you. Minimum 20 minutes per day.  Seriously, you have the time.
    • Connect – talk face to face with those with you, but also connect by phone or video with friends and family.
  2. Get More Sleep. Adequate sleep helps nourish your immune system – and most of us don’t get enough during “normal” times. Use this time to restore healthy sleep patterns. Aim for 8-9 hours per night. Obviously, this is easier said than done.  With so much uncertainty and the situation charging hourly, it is becoming even harder to disconnect from technology and get rest.   Try these tips:
    • Consistent bedtime and wake times
    • Set a News cut-off time at the end of the day – minimum one hour before bed time (even earlier is better though)
    • Do not take your phone into your bedroom. Recharge separately.
    • Deep breathing or a meditation to wind down (I like the Headspace app for guided relaxation)
    • Read a book in bed
    • See #4 on Supplements if you need extra help
  1. Eat well.   Whether you are an omnivore or plant-based or paleo or keto or something in between, aim for 3 meals per day with minimal snacking.  Whole (not processed) foods with minimal sugar or refined carbs. Include a protein source and healthy fats at each meal. At our house breakfast and lunch are largely self-serve as our teens are not on the same sleep/wake times as my husband and I and our 12 year old.  Lunch is an opportunity to use leftovers.  Dinner is a daily event though; we are all taking turns meal planning and cooking, and everyone but the cook does clean-up.  We eat together at the table with no phones.  It’s actually really nice. And we are fortunate that family and grocery delivery is keeping us well stocked on most things. And Fridays we order in as a treat.
  2. Natural Supplements.   My entire career has been in vitamins and supplements, so this is a huge part of my family’s normal health plan. And it’s even more crucial now when there is so much uncertainty. Not only do we want to keep our immune systems strong and virus-fighting, but we want to guard against all health issues and leave medical resources for those that need them most. Here is the list of what I would say are essentials; we take a lot more than this but I know that we are geeks and a bit on the extreme side when it comes to supplements, so here is a pared-down list.
    • Vitamin D: in my opinion, this is the cheapest, easiest form of health insurance around. While Health Canada has the upper limit for supplementation at 1000iu per day, there is evidence to suggest that more is needed if you are starting in a place where you might be deficient. Take your health provider’s advice.  We take significantly more than 1000iu daily. Take whatever form you like – tablets, drops, chewables, gummies – whatever.
    • Immune boosters: Daily Vitamin C, L-glutamine. Probiotics, Zinc. And Suro Elderberry syrup and NAC (for respiratory) if a cold is coming on.
    • Stress relief: Magnesium & adaptogens. Magnesium helps calm the central nervous system and can be in tablet, capsule or powder form – whatever works for you.  I like the CanPrev Magnesium Bisglycinate powder.  Adaptogens help your body in times of stress.  And we are all in “fight or flight” mode right now with everything going on.  Daytime Zen is my go-to for adaptogens because it contains 3 Ayuervedic adaptogens plus L-theanine, and one capsule in the morning makes me feel calm yet alert and focused all day – my best self.  Our youngest says it makes me nicer.  But take what works for you.
    • Sleep: I’m not naturally a good sleeper (for more sleep tips check out this blog) and I have tried almost every natural product available to help me turn of my brain and get the good quality sleep I need. Sleep Like Buddha is a combination of the 3 ingredients that have personally helped me most over the past 22 years – all in one capsule.  And one is usually enough, but I’ve been taking 2 since we got back to combat my COVID-19 related anxiety. There is no melatonin in it (no groggy mornings!) so I occasionally add a few mg of melatonin to my sleep ritual if I’ve changed time zones, or have had a couple late nights and am way off schedule.
Lastly, don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Especially with those you are at home with. Our house is (way) messier than I would like but everyone is contributing in some way.   If you live alone this might be a great time to Marie Kondo your entire home. But if you live with others you might send them over the edge. Let it go.  It’s ok. Not every day has to be productive. Give yourself permission to slow down. This is not going to resolve quickly but it’s not going to last forever either, and you will be super busy again soon enough.

     

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