Is the sky falling??

If you were paying attention to those two satellites that came close to colliding somewhere over Pittsburgh yesterday, you might have thought the sky was going to fall indeed.

Looking back at just the past two weeks since my last post, to quote Henry Jones Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “Our situation has not improved.”

The World Health Organization has finally declared the Novel Coronavirus as a global health emergency, something that seemed pretty obvious to me, and probably a lot of other people, at least a few days ago. The rapid spread throughout China despite all the containment measures, the fact that the virus may not manifest symptomatically in some people until they’ve already passed from one country to another…these things seemed fairly indicative of a significant problem.

If anything, this situation clearly shows why all travellers should have insurance and access to some back-up cash in case of emergency or a delayed return to your home country. If you have to take medication, always make sure you take extra with you.

For those of us watching the news and waiting to see what the next days will bring, it’s important to maintain our own health and sanity. The world has survived other pandemics, so your job is to keep safe and sound in your corner of the planet. Here are some suggestions:

  • Be kind to yourself and other people — everyone’s under stress, so a generous spirit can help ease tensions
  • Watch happy, fun shows. I guess some people might find grim, dystopian fare cathartic, but in my experience the cumulative effect is depressing
  • Practice some cozy nesting. Cook comfort food, enjoy relaxing downtime, turn your home into a haven against the craziness outside its walls.
  • Eat good quality food. One of your best defenses is to be properly nourished, so: avoid processed food, which is full of empty calories and a lot of not-so-benevolent chemicals (I studied organic chemistry in university, and the lecture on food additives was an eye-opener about the crap that companies put into processed foods!), and eat a well-balanced selection of natural foods.
  • Be proactive in prudent ways. If you have essential medications or supplements, make sure you’re well-stocked. For example, I have chronic acute nerve pain in one thigh, and the only thing that keeps it at bay is regular doses of a Vitamin B complex — I bought an extra bottle this week, because if I were to run out I’d be in deep trouble. Maybe even stock up on some nonperishable food supplies that you’d use anyway should we never end up in a lock down situation ourselves. I keep reading stories of the food shortages for people in locked-down Wuhan. They were caught unawares, but we have the advantage of some advance knowledge. Hopefully, like SARS, the virus is stopped before it gets too much farther, but I always feel that it’s better to be prepared.

In the meantime, like my favourite maxim, keep calm and drink tea with a nice cake to raise your spirits.

A little pampering is good for everyone

Spa at the Legends resort in Mauritius - photo by E. Jurus
Spa at the Legends resort in Mauritius – photo by E. Jurus

If you’re not familiar with the term ‘self-care’, you can expect to start hearing a lot more about it. Self-care is a concept that’s crucial in our fast-paced, stressful modern environment, and it’s long overdue to enter the public conscious. Basically the name says it all: to take care of yourself. While that might seem self-evident, how many people do you know who take good care of themselves? Do you?

Do you get enough sleep every night or are you always trying to shoehorn something else into an already busy and long day? Do you take any ‘me-time’ to decompress? When was the last time you had a massage, or have you ever had one at all?

Many of the chronic illnesses in today’s society are either a direct result of stress or are exacerbated by it. I’m currently taking a short course in mental illness first aid — i.e. how to help someone experiencing a mental crisis — and the statistics are enlightening. For example, 1 in 3 Canadians has experienced or will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Twenty-three percent of all workers have had time off work from stress-related conditions. There are a growing number of resources to help people in crisis, but just as important are the initiatives to prevent as many crises and illnesses as possible with some self-care.

Nutrition is a great place to start. I’m always appalled to see so many people in supermarket check-out lines bringing home such unbelievably unhealthy food. In university I had a chemistry course that devoted an entire lecture to food additives, so I’ve made a point of eating healthy food ever since. The adage that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient listed on a label then it’s likely not good for you is true. I encourage everyone to read food labels — it will be an eye-opener!

Once you start eating better, if you do consume a processed food you’ll immediately notice the chemical taste; I stopped eating anything by Sara Lee decades ago for that very reason.

You’ll also notice that eating something full of additives will keep you awake. Years ago we visited some friends who made a fruit tart with a pre-made sponge base, strawberries on top covered with a packaged glaze, and Cool Whip topping. We were up half the night afterwards, too wired and fidgety to be able to get to sleep, and neither of us generally has a problem with insomnia.

When it comes to de-stressing, I have a few favourite techniques that I’ll be discussing in subsequent blogs, but one of my favourites is to spend some time at a spa, both at home and abroad — every country has its own spin on spa treatments. Massages are fantastic for unknotting tense muscles, and I also love facials. If you’ve never had a facial, run right out and have one done — they feel that good!

Confident Image Chez France at Pamperfest - from L to R, Jennifer Petherick of SharpLight Technology, certified aesthetician Katie Martin, owner France DiPaola - photo by E. Jurus
Confident Image Chez France at Pamperfest – from L to R, Jennifer Petherick of SharpLight Technology, certified aesthetician Katie Martin, owner France DiPaola – photo by E. Jurus

Recently I was sent an invitation by a friend to attend a local event called Pamperfest, “showcasing high-end exclusive merchandise & products from its receptive community of successful women entrepreneurs”. I’m compiling a resource list of local wellness purveyors, so I thought I’d drop in and see what was available. I had a great time — had a lovely hand and neck massage by the Alouette rep, for example — and was very pleased to visit the display by my friend, France DiPaola, the owner of Confident Image Chez France rejuvenating clinic. For any budding female entrepreneurs, it would be hard to find a better role model; France turned a passion for helping women take better care of themselves into a terrific small business.

You can find out more about Pamperfest on its Facebook page — there’s another one coming up in Hamilton shortly.

Watch for more self-care information in future posts.