I finally ventured out today and to my dismay, I saw that the shops are largely empty of essential goods.
Looking for flour and eggs (sadly, a fruitless search), I left the shop with a bottle of lemon cordial, two tins of organic tomatoes, the last two avocados in the shop, an on-offer six-pack of Fevertree tonic and tinned chickpeas. It took me back to living on the out-island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas where shopping was reduced to what was on the shelves, and not rotten, much of the time. I learned to be very creative while feeding a family of four and five pets. This is why we grew much of our food, ate freshly caught fish and I learned to bake a mean loaf of bread.
That flashback also reminded me that I have lived through some times of great adversity and even ‘lock-down’ when I was undergoing cancer treatment and living remotely.
I don’t know about you, but already I’m slightly overwhelmed with good advice about how to get through these challenging times. So, quite simply, I’m going to share what works for me. What has been honed over many years to support me physically and mentally. Please note, this is my go to list of things and I’m not recommending it is right for everyone. If in doubt, please check with your primary physician.
My immune system was compromised as a child when I was given seven-years of antibiotics after a near-fatal illness.
It was compounded by not knowing that I had leaky-gut and hormonal issues and by entering a very stressful career in PR in London. It was made worse by too much alcohol and too little sleep until at 26, I more or less ground to a halt.
At this time, I started my wellness journey that is catalogued in detail in my book ‘Reset! A Blueprint for a Better Life.’*
Moving into my 30s and 40s and coming through glandular fever, shingles, a viral infection, dengue fever, and cancer led to me upping the ante on really finding out which paths would lead to good health.
Clearly, the mind is key.
This coming Friday I’m offering a Facebook Live session for one of the Women’s Networking Groups I belong to so I will record it and make this available to you in next week’s newsletter. It will be about strengthening your immune system from the inside out and will be hypnotherapy based.
You can practice mindfulness and meditation now. There are many exercises to this effect in my book (which will be going on sale via Amazon on Monday, more on that at the end of this email.)
Also, don’t forget to breathe.
Breathing helps to stimulate and strengthen the parasympathetic nervous system that relaxes the body and inhibits high energy functions such as ‘Fight or Flight’ that flood the body with cortisol and trigger the sympathetic nervous system. I am a fan of Square Breathing. You close your eyes and relax, then in your mind’s eye, you draw an imaginary square: breathing in for four counts (drawing one side); holding for four counts (drawing the second side); breathing out for four counts (the third side) and then holding for four (to complete the square). Repeat 5 – 10 times to calm down and relax.
As to the other supports you can consider, all of which work for me, here is my blueprint.
Stop the Panic
Stop watching the News and being addicted to sensationalist social media feeds.
Again, I’ve said for years, that not obsessing over the news is a good thing. You can stay informed via publications such as The Week or official sites from the WHO, CDC or similar (WHO, CDC) that will give emotion-free, factual updates. Things like Breakfast TV are even more toxic as they can fill an entire show with negative conjecture. If you need to be active on social media to stay connected or to promote your business (as am I) then you can do things such as limit your time there via apps or timers (check out the Pomodoro self-timer app here).
On Twitter, you can mute specific words (for example COVID-19) so that they don’t keep showing up in your feed.
Having stocked up as best I can today, I would agree that it is reassuring to have some essentials in. Not least as you then don’t need to keep going to the shops so ideally have about two-week’s worth of essentials in but let’s all be reasonable and fair and not stockpile. Also, think about alternatives. I was looking for flour and eggs in order to be able to bake my own bread and potentially to make my own pasta. This is a win, win situation. Not only do I get a great quality product but I also enjoy the ‘therapy’ of baking.
Which brings me to my next point. Find something that absorbs your attention. Something creative or satisfying like baking or painting or crafting or whatever works for you. Being creative draws on the right side of the brain.
“You have two brains: a left and a right. Modern brain scientists now know that your left brain is your verbal and rational brain; it thinks serially and reduces its thoughts to numbers, letters and words… Your right brain is your nonverbal and intuitive brain; it thinks in patterns, or pictures, composed of ‘whole things,’ and does not comprehend reductions, either numbers, letters, or words.”
From The Fabric of Mind, by the eminent scientist and neurosurgeon, Richard Bergland. Viking Penguin, Inc., New York 1985.
There is actually a book of this title that I used to help me to draw and paint when I was undergoing post-surgical cancer treatment and couldn’t leave the Mercy Hospital for a week. This is where I discovered that I could paint and loved to do so. This cloud had a very silver lining.
Find more here: https://www.drawright.
I said in last week’s newsletter: Making Remote Working into Rewarding Work;
“Now working from home for the majority of my work and passions, I thankfully have, on the whole, great Wi-Fi plus a decent computer. And a comfortable chair. Plus, a fantastic selection of teas and even a rather amazing view.
What I don’t have is real connection. Those water cooler moments when you shoot the breeze and just take your mind away from the work you have been doing. The camaraderie. The support. Remote working is, rather like a virus, an unseen and often unsettling thing that creates dis-ease. The sense of isolation can be crippling.
I belong to several networking groups and whilst some serve as a marketplace for us to buy and sell our services to each other, many more are really a support network for me and others. We are basically tribal people and our wellbeing is tied to connection.”
I am so incredibly impressed with how flexible and brave many of the networks and organisations I belong to have been about taking physical connections into virtual support. As mentioned, I’m making a Live Facebook Hypnotherapy session available on Friday. The whole day is filled with other women offering their skills and services for free to others, covering topics from Zoom working, to getting found on Social Media to how to Home School. This is being replicated across many of the Facebook and other ‘tribes’ I belong to. There is so much goodness and kindness being shown that I am choosing to focus on this and not the depressing stories of people taking food from food banks or similar.
I’ve also seen countless examples of people putting notes through their neighbour’s doors, offering to buy them essential supplies or to simply have a chat through the window. On social media, I’m seeing a growing number of Pop Stars recording private concerts from their homes for everyone. Today it was Chris Martin and John Legend. Both brought a smile to my face.
The outdoors is not closed. I’ve been for a long bike ride each day this week and loved seeing owls, pheasants, bouncing lambs and fields filled with daffodils.
I have dusted off my medicine ball from the garage and am making friends with my dumbbell set again. I already start each day with yoga. Yoga with Adrienne is always a firm favourite and now our own lovely Lauren is offering a daily free class at 7am via her Facebook page. Connect here: https://www.facebook.com/
Just because you are at home or can’t go far doesn’t mean that you can’t stay physically fit.
Possibly the most important factor is good nutrition.
Nutrition and Food
Having a compromised immune system and leaky-gut for years I follow a Fodmap diet and am careful about gluten, eating little and sticking to sourdough bread. I pretty much cook everything fresh (if I can get the ingredients!) and my Christmas present of a Thermomix is now truly coming into its own as I can whip up just about anything in it that I may have previously purchased ready-made such as mayonnaise and hummus. I have also perfected banana loaf so I am very proud! I buy no processed foods.
Every day I start the day with a drink that comprises a whole (peeled) grapefruit and a whole (peeled and de-pipped) lemon; two tsp of ground flaxseed, an inch of fresh chopped ginger; a pinch of cayenne pepper, a tsp of good quality olive oil and some water. This came from the book Harmonic Healing that has a six-week body detox and reset regimen in it that really helped me get back to wellness last year.
This concoction may not be right for you but ginger certainly is good to boil up and drink. I add the lemon and grapefruit peelings to my daily brew and add a little honey to sweeten.
I eat a whole food, nutrient-dense diet. If I can find organic food then I buy that. Our immune system relies on nutrient-dense whole foods to function well. Death from infections in the developing world is often not due to the infection itself but the body’s inability to fight it because of nutrient deficiencies. When I worked for The Leprosy Mission we had no vaccine against the disease (none exists) yet in 145 years of the charity, only one UK aid worker has contracted it due to our stronger immune systems.
I also eat a ‘rainbow’ of fruits and vegetables each day. Again, with the shops emptying of fresh food this may be a challenge for a while so maybe keep your freezer stocked up with frozen fruits and vegetables too.
The big immune system suppressants are sugar and refined starch. Limiting intake of both of these will help your immune system to function optimally. You may need to detox from one or other of them if you have had a poor diet and there are several guided ways to do this available on the internet. Please read the disclaimers before deciding to go ahead. One I like personally is from Dr. Mark Hyman (ironically it is called the 10-day Reset): www.getfarmacy.com/
Fermented foods support your microbiome and also help immunity. Eat fresh sauerkraut (always readily available in Polish and Eastern European supermarkets I’ve discovered) and kimchi, miso, kefir, and tempeh. You can make your own and again there is a wealth of internet advice on doing so.
Good health comes from an alkalised body. Again, the foods to avoid here are sugar and highly processed ones. Bone broth can help (it is essential for leaky-gut) and you can buy bones very cheaply from your local butcher or supermarket. Here’s a recipe for it: https://www.bbcgoodfood.
Finally, stay hydrated. Lots of water and also good quality soups and broths help enormously here.
They are also easy to digest and if homemade very nutritious. Avoid juices as they tend to be very high in sugar and unless they are fresh may also have additives.
Also, avoid too much caffeine or alcohol. I did overhear someone today, in the rather depleted supermarket, saying that he intended to get through the next few weeks on gin and lemons but I wouldn’t advocate it as a policy. A little tipple is OK but keep it in moderation.
Then, of course, there is sleep.
I posted the infographic below on International Sleep day and I’ve also blogged about the importance of sleep and ways to help it. If your sleep is compromised then make sure that you nap or rest during the day or at times you can.
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth sleep symbolises innocence, purity, and peace of mind, and in killing King Duncan Macbeth actually does murder sleep and from that time onwards can’t sleep. There are many references to it and how lacking it brings on insanity as “Sleep knits up the ravelled sleeve of care”.
As someone who didn’t sleep well for over a decade I know what interrupted sleep feels like and what the effects during the next day can do to me. I knew that lack of sleep was affecting my mental wellbeing, my mood and performance at work and sapping my energy. What I didn’t realise until recently when I attended a course on sleep is just how important it is. Or how crazy our neglect for it is.
Sleep affects every organ system and every state of our being. In these uncertain times, make sure that you and your family create regular sleep patterns and go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Remove all electronic devices (I only have a radio alarm clock) where possible from the bedroom and switch off from blue-light (from the TV, your computer or phone), an hour before sleep. Read in bed or listen to a hypnosis recording to get your brain into a better frequency for ‘switching off’. Do not drink alcohol near bedtime (stop at least 3 hours before you retire to bed) and have a glass of water by your bed that you can sip when you awake.
Make sure that the room is as dark and quiet as possible. If necessary get custom made ear-plugs. I have some and they are a Godsend! Do not have the room too hot and have window open if possible or at least ‘air’ the room for five minutes each day by opening a window if possible.
I’ve had years of working to get this right and I have concluded that it is a permanent work in progress. Here, I am simply stating what works for me.
This includes a very high strain probiotic. I get mine from the USA and also via Linda Booth and Just for Tummies (link here). I also have her Charcoal tablets in case of bloating and upset tummy and her Digestive Enzymes. I take Chinese Herbs from my Acupuncturist to help with hormonal balance and have an Altrient C supplement each day. Interestingly, in Wuhan doctors have been using high dose intravenous vitamin C for those who are sick and for those in the hospital. Nearly all patients with symptoms received 50-100 mg/kg/day for mild symptoms and 100-200 mg/kg/day for severe forms.
I also take a high-quality Icelandic Cod Liver Oil capsule if I’m feeling a bit run down. Plus, an odourless garlic tablet.
I use DoTerra’s On Guard to protect against air-born germs when out and about and always carry Citricidal (Grapefruit Seed Extract) with me wherever I go in the world as it has incredible antibacterial qualities (you can ingest it and use it externally). If I feel a bit of a sore throat coming on I also gargle with warm water and sea salt.
So, this is all good advice and here is a final one for you.
When I was recovering from cancer, I only watched positive movies and also listened to something every day that made me laugh. There are so many wonderful podcasts now on funny topics or TV series, comedy presentations or funny books so find what works for you and make some time every day for a good laugh.
Oh, and a good book. One of my groups has started a virtual book club where we are all going to read and discuss the same book. We are starting with my suggestion of ‘The Wisdom of Groundhog Day’ and the author Paul Hannam is even joining us next week. I have a feeling this will be the topic for a blog in two weeks’ time. Stay tuned.
*On Monday my book, ‘Reset! A Blueprint for a Better Life’ , will be offered at a discounted price on Amazon. I’m not sure of the price that Amazon and my Publisher will set but it will only be a few pounds and available to download immediately. Do check with Amazon next week.