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Coronalone: Week 14 - Take A Deep Breath and Eat Some Broccoli

"Coronalone". It's like "Home Alone", but without Macaulay Culkin. And without the burglars (we hope). It's our ridiculous name for the surreal and strange circumstances in which we currently find ourselves.

And we currently find ourselves avoiding the news, spending less time on Facebook, and generally becoming more and more hermit-like with each passing day.

It’s not that we don’t care what is going on in the world, and it’s not that we’re so busy living our “real lives” that we can’t fit social media into the equation— far from it, with all this self-isolating— but more that we are realizing that the constant barrage of negativity and divisiveness is taking its toll, and it is time for a “mental health break”.

Now, I don’t mean to give the impression that we don’t know how good we’ve got it, here in the cottage on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. We are immensely grateful for our surroundings and the luxury of being able to continue to self-isolate for our own safety and the safety of those we love. We know that the terrible things going on in our country cannot— and should not— simply be ignored. However, we also know that ignoring the effects of stress can be a recipe for disaster— especially for those of us with mental health issues— so we’re instituting a few changes here at the “House in the Rocks”, at least for a while.

Get ready to gasp: I’ve uninstalled Facebook and Messenger from my phone. I know, I know, it seems drastic. But I can always check them periodically on the pc, and there is absolutely no need for me to be as “connected” as I have been. Remember the good old days, when one could be blissfully unreachable anytime one was not in the vicinity of a landline? We’re not going quite that far back in the “way-back machine”, but I do think there is something to be said for measured doses of social media and connectivity. We have also instituted a “no screens after 8 pm” rule, so once I’ve made my nightly call to my mom at 8 pm there’s no more streaming, no more internet, no more games on my phone. We’ve taken to reading— actual books!— until we’re ready to turn in. There will also likely be some tabletop gaming done in the “no screen” evening hours, of course. We’re hoping that reducing screen time before bed will help with the quality of sleep we are getting. Now, if we could just convince our cat to let us sleep through the night…

Next, we are openly admitting to ourselves that our stress-eating— often necessitated by my stress-baking (yes, that is a thing) — is having some negative consequences for our health and our self-esteem. Let’s face it, when you step on the scale and see a number higher than you’ve ever seen before during a weigh-in, it’s time to take stock. This admission has led to us re-dedicating ourselves to a whole-food, plant-based diet. While we had maintained a vegan diet, we had been allowing oil, sugar, and refined flour back into our diet in what seemed at the time like “small amounts”. But anyone who has read Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s book, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”, knows that “moderation kills”, and I can tell you with certainty that it is definitely killing my figure! More importantly, it is likely doing horrible, unseen things to my cardiovascular system, which is an even more important reason to buckle down. What’s the point of surviving this pandemic only to succumb to a heart attack or a stroke, right? If anyone else is interested in buckling down in a WFPB-NO way, feel free to join my private group on Facebook: “Working Toward Extreme Health”. The group is dedicated to offering support and information for anyone interested in working toward health by eschewing all animal products and processed foods. It is mainly targeted to those interested in following a "whole-foods, plant-based" diet as outlined by Dr. Esselstyn, who also recommends eliminating ALL added oils from the diet. In his book “Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition”, T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. describes the “Ideal Human Diet” this way: “Consume plant-based foods in forms as close to their natural state as possible (“whole foods”). Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Avoid heavily processed foods and animal products. Stay away from added salt, oil and sugar. Aim to get 80 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 10 percent from fat, and 10 percent from protein.” This is a wonderful description of the lifestyle we are striving to attain, and we highly recommend his book if you are interested in a scientific discussion of the WFPB diet. The name of the group is a riff on a Dr. Esselstyn quote, in which he says, “Some people think the ‘plant-based, whole foods diet’ is extreme. Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme.”

Lastly, we are really going to try to institute a daily yoga practice, continue our lunch-time walks, and get back to our pre-sleep meditation routine. (Mike has maintained his regular meditation routine throughout, but the part where I join him for a little while before bed has taken a hit lately.) We were doing well for a while, but we’ve completely slacked off, and I really do see a difference without it. Taking even 10 to 15 minutes before sleep to be mindful and relax is vital especially right now, with everything in our world bombarding us and leaving us riddled with anxiety. I swear, even when I think I’m relaxed, if I pay close attention I tend to find that my muscles are still slightly tensed. (I call it “bracing”, as in “bracing for something bad to happen”.) Anything I can find to help me release some of that anxiety is sure to be beneficial. We also found a 10-minute beginner’s yoga video on YouTube that we’re going to try to do daily. We’ve done it a few times, but we haven’t quite gotten consistent yet. We’ll keep you posted.

So, what are you doing in terms of self-care during this strange and surreal time? Is it different than your typical routine? Do you have any daily habits that help with stress? And if you do, what do you find happens if you slack off? Different things work for different people, but perhaps if we all share our “tips and tricks” then we can learn from each other and find new ways to better care for ourselves in the face of this barrage of information and sensationalism with which we are bombarded on a daily basis.

“Working Toward Extreme Health”: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s FAQ page:

The YouTube yoga video we’ve started doing:

Self-care Steps for a Pandemic, from Harvard Health:

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Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts! I am so impressed by the creative talent that both you and Mike possess. Seriously. Dedication to creativity is difficult. Being willing to share the product of creativity shows a willingness to be vulnerable. Very scary. Your art is authentic and affirming, and very much appreciated!!! Oh, and inspiring. And impressive. Did I say that already?

Love and hugs to you both!

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