Life, am I right? Pandemic. Social Distance. Economic shut-down. UGH.
I’ve held off on sharing my thoughts around this topic partly because I wanted to make sure I had a firm grasp on them myself, and also because it’s sensitive. We all have our opinions on decisions being made, and I don’t want to start a debate or point fingers. Anxiety levels around the topic have fluctuated quite a bit in our house. But now that we’ve determined how to appropriately distance ourselves from the ever-changing news and even worked our way through a stress-induced coronavirus scare at home, I’m ready to share my point of view.
What is happening in our world right now- COVID-19- is influencing everyone’s lives in just about every way, but the thing that is flashing in front of my eyes is the general sense of panic/ fear of getting sick and how unhelpful it is to the situation. YES, COVID-19 has a list of potentially frightening symptoms, and we are still learning about potential complications. Unknowns are scary. But as I regularly tell me kids when anxiety arises- fear is the “bad guy.” Acting out of fear lets the “bad guy” win. Acting out of knowledge and preparation allows US to win.
In this situation, when I talk about preparation, I don’t mean stocking up on paper goods and canned foods as if I’m going to need to barter Walking-Dead-style. I mean preparing my BODY so it’s as armed as possible should it encounter the virus and all its unknowns. My family and I are fortunate to have entered this unexpected situation fully prepared because we’ve spent the past two+ years making gradual changes to the foods we eat, drastically decreasing inflammation, which in turn boosts immunity. We obviously weren’t anticipating a pandemic at any point, but generally speaking this is precisely WHY we’ve done all those things!! We want to avoid illness and live long, happy lives. (The weight loss is nice, too, but not the driving factor.)
During the outbreak, we’ve had added exposure risk with Eddie, my husband, being a doctor and continuing to work out of the home part time. He’s a podiatrist, so thankfully not on the “front lines,” per say, but still at risk. And you know what? We have maybe one container of disinfectant wipes to our name, and we reserve those mostly for potty accidents from our 2.5-year-old. Eddie’s stopped wearing scrubs home from work, and we wash our clothes more frequently. We keep things clean, wash our hands regularly, social distance, wear masks inside public buildings, etc., but in general, our habits haven’t changed much. We’re being mindful but not living in fear.
HOW DO I KNOW WE’RE HEALTHY NOW?
…BECAUSE WE HAVEN’T ALWAYS BEEN.
When we began making changes in November, 2017, Eddie was at his highest weight ever. At that point, he was getting sick with colds and whatever junk was going around on average every 2-3 WEEKS. Basically, being sick all winter was the norm. Why? His immune system was maxed out. Basically, everything that could be triggered was already some degree of inflamed, so his body was busy fighting that stuff and couldn’t ward off the new viruses.
Since educating himself on sustainable methods of weight loss, eliminating processed foods and determining his unique inflammation triggers (this varies from person to person), his new average number of times getting sick per year is TWO (and we’re talking two to three days of sniffles, vs. knocked out SICK with things like strep and hand, foot, & mouth disease like before). He’s not taking any magic pills or following a diet trend. He’s eating real food, listening to his body, and basing choices on evidence-based practices. He had a coronavirus scare at the end of March, but his test result came back negative. Although he’s curious to see the results of an antibody test, he’s essentially determined it was likely brought on by stress and exacerbated by allergies, and considers himself recovered minus lingering respiratory irritation when exercising.
I follow the same practices with a slightly different dietary protocol (more on that later), and my health track record is basically the same. I have recurring shingles that tend to show up in times of extreme stress, so I’ve dealt with that during this time, but even that wasn’t debilitating. It was about 2 weeks of irritation with a few initial days of intermittent pain.
As for our kids (2.5 & 5 years) they get the occasional sniffle, but rarely fevers (they’ve each had one or two total), and typically the sniffles last only a couple days. So far, the routine of kids being sick all winter does not hold true in our house, and I believe much of that has to do with our preventative practices. **I’m pointing this out to say that the standard of “kids just get sick a lot” isn’t necessarily what we should accept as the norm. Kids have to build their immune systems, and each has their unique environments to which they have to adjust, but there are practices we can put in place to set them up for success. I know we’re not infallible, and illness is a part of life.**
WHAT WE DO AT HOME:
We rarely disinfect outside of bathrooms and eating areas because routine disinfection has been linked to reduction of healthy gut microbiome, which is necessary for fighting infection. Not to mention, many household cleaners are linked to things like asthma (which I have), respiratory problems, and skin irritations (dermatitis). If we’re practicing social distancing and not going out anyway, repeatedly disinfecting inside our home feels like an unnecessary compromise to our ongoing health.
We’ve also mostly stuck to the eating habits we’ve worked so hard to establish and maintained household routines, with a few adjustments for school, (which we’ve made optional during quarantine). We’ve given ourselves leeway on our roughest days to get take-out or watch movies instead of doing school work. But as a whole, we thrive on consistency and aren’t interested in reestablishing routines (or trudging through the tantrums) later. Not to say we need to “suck it up and power through,” just that we’ve come too far to justify turning back now.
This is all to say that we are making things work for our family with the end goal being resilience and strong mental and physical health. We are grateful to be operating beyond survival mode, and I realize not everyone can say the same. I hope you are doing the best you can with what you have. Please don’t let the challenges hold you down because hard doesn’t have to mean impossible, but also give yourself grace to take it all a little bit at a time.
My overall feeling is frustration but also hope. I’m concerned that the collective mindset seems to be that it’s okay to drink alcohol as often as possible and snack our sorrows away on overly processed foods because that’s the exact opposite of what will extend our collective health and quality of life. BUT I’m also hopeful that the time many of us have had to reconnect with out families, spend time in nature, and possibly even reevaluate our needs vs. our wants will be “just what the doctor ordered,” so to speak. I hope we’re able to keep those value shifts present as things begin to reopen and life carries on as “normal.”
As with all things, my feeling is that we can either learn from this experience or become victims of it. I hope with all my might that we, as a society, chose to use our knowledge and prepare for the future. I hope we decide to not let the “bad guys” win.
In Love & Health,