What we were warned about but turned a blind eye to and did not expect in the Western world to this extent, happened: we found ourselves in the midst of a pandemic.
Social distancing, quarantine and hygienic practices are essential behavioural methods in such times to reduce spreading of the new virus and mortality. But these precautionary measures, whether imposed or consciously chosen to protect ourselves and the persons at risk against the coronavirus, could be challenging for us humans as we are social beings. They can be particularly tough to those who are prone to anxiety and depression.
Still, solitude should not mean loneliness and has also its positive sides. Here is some practical advice on how to cope with the challenges we may face during quarantine or a lockdown and what we can proactively do for our mental health. In the present distress, some of these things we used to take for granted might sink into oblivion.
- Follow recommendations for protecting yourself.
- Stop following every news on the virus. Read only serious, respected media, arrange a limited time for that and stick to it.
- Stay in touch with your loved ones and friends via telephone and virtual forms of communication.
- Avoid making major life decisions as far as possible. This is not the right time for that: too much unpredictability and uncertainty for the long-term future, too many emotions might mislead you and cause problems in the future.
- Clean up your home place: cleaning up your living space has an effect of cleaning up and sorting out your mind and soul. You could certainly find a wardrobe, a box or a bookshelf you’ve always wanted to sort out or rearrange but never got around to it. Now it’s a good time to do that.
- Exercise every day. Physical health plays a major role in maintaining good mental health. Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood and reduce stress and the symptoms of anxiety and depression. You may try yoga (five simple but very effective exercises that activate your whole body – and mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71jaJu0dc98) or put on some rhythmic music and dance (simple movements that are fun and very effective, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1p1ubjp_VtA. For the fans of Latin music and dance among us, there is a wonderful way to dance alone, too: try salsa suelta, a solo form of Cuban salsa. It will not only bring in motion your whole body, but boost your energy, mood and zest for life. More on salsa suelta with a great video: http://www.mivida.com.au/portfolio/salsa-suelta/. As my research shows, dance improves health and wellbeing and is an effective stress coping mechanism.
- Try some further forms of creative arts, they are powerful in stress reduction. There is lots of evidence that making art significantly lowers stress-related hormone cortisol. Art-making is being experienced as relaxing, enjoyable, helpful for learning about new aspects of self, and freeing from constraints. As Picasso said: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Besides dancing, it could be painting, drawing, playing piano or some other instrument. But also pottery, baking and knitting are very creative and relaxing activities that additionally involve tactile sensations, important in countering loneliness.
- If you have indoor plants, a balcony or a terrace, you might engage into some kind of gardening and reconcile with nature. Gardening has a positive effect on our mental health, which includes relaxation, positive feelings, staying in the present moment, coping with difficult emotions, and feeling in control. Spending some time in the sun boosts your vitamin D balance which is important for maintaining healthy bones.
- Keep a diary. Writing down your feelings and thoughts may help sort them out and calm down. You may even want to try poetry writing – you never know what hidden talents you may have.
- Try relaxation techniques like meditation, diaphragmatic breathing or progressive muscle relaxation: tightening an individual muscle group, holding it for a while and then relaxing it.
- As our mind and body are deeply interconnected, eat healthy: choose nutrition rich foods, especially those that strengthen your immune system. Food supplements like L-arginine and reishi mushroom would additionally boost your immune system.
- Get enough sleep. Good sleep is crucial for countering anxious and depressive mood and overall for good mental and physical health. Try to wake up and go to bed at more or less the same time and get at least 8 hours of sleep. Don’t look at your phone or tablet (which you are hopefully disinfecting regularly) at least an hour before going to bed, don’t read, listen or watch any news. Read a good, relaxing book instead. Make power naps in the afternoons.
- All that being said, maintain daily routine. Make a schedule and try to stick to it.
- But first and foremost – try to live in the moment and enjoy whatever you do, also if it’s just doing nothing. You don’t have to achieve anything nor prove yourself. You are ok as you are.
We are living in trying times, which to a considerable degree are brought about by ourselves. A number of researchers today think that it is actually humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19 to arise. Nobody knows when we’ll return to “normality” and what kind of “normality” it will be. But all things pass and this pandemic will pass, too, even if in the long term we most probably will often deal with the outbreaks of infectious diseases. Let’s take it as an opportunity to learn out of it and reflect. We took lots of things for granted and learn to appreciate and cherish them now. In our rush for achievement, we forgot to pay attention – to these small but important things, to our environment, to those around us, to ourselves.
Try to stay mindful, fully present in the here-and-now, and enjoy the silence. For this, too, will pass.
Natalia Braun, MSc Psych
Natalia Braun, MSc in Psychology from the University of Derby, UK, member of The British Psychological Society (BPS, MBPsS), Certified Assessor BPS TUOA & TUOP, Certified Professional Coach, Certified Gestalt Coach. Member of the American Psychological Association (APA, International Affiliate), APA’s Society for Qualitative Inquiry in Psychology (SQIP) and International Society of Critical Health Psychology (ISCHP). Natalia spent over two decades in journalism, human resources and change & communications management in international companies before transitioning into professional psychology. She lives in Switzerland and provides applied psychological services in her private practice along with continuing engagement in research, dance and embodiment.
Betty White Turns 99, and Her Tips on Living a Long and Happy Life Are More Valuable Than Ever
Betty White, the original golden girl beloved by people of all ages, celebrated her 99th birthday on Sunday.
The spry granny, born Betty Marion White on Jan. 17, 1922, has managed to live a long, healthy, happy life and this can likely be chalked up to her unconventional approach.
The Emmy award-winning veteran actress once joked that her secret to longevity consisted of three simple ingredients: vodka, hot dogs, and her love of pets.
However, her tongue-in-cheek advice is getting new attention, especially given that too many of us have been forced to stay at home over much of the past year.
In 2011, during a Late Show interview with David Letterman, White gave 10 sagely tips on how she’s managed to maintain her verb and energy for so long. With White reaching one year short of a century, the advice is worth revisiting.
Her first bit of advice was to “get at least eight hours of beauty sleep, nine if you’re ugly.” Next, she advised that one should “Exercise. Or don’t. What the hell do I care?”
Third, she opined that one should “never apologize. It shows weakness.”
Her fourth tip shouldn’t give anyone any adventurous ideas, but it’s helpful nonetheless: “The best way to earn a quick buck is a slip and fall lawsuit.”
She then gave the priceless tip that one should “avoid tweeting any photos of your private parts” while also making sure to “schedule nightly appointment with Dr. Johnnie Walker.”
Some of the healthy eaters in our audience may take exception to White’s seventh tip, which is to: “Take some wheatgrass, soy paste and carob, toss it in the garbage and cook yourself a big-*ss piece of pork.”
Her next bit of adice was to “try not to die” and “never dwell on past mistakes,” which may both be easier said than done. Lastly, she recommended that you “don’t waste your time watching this crap.”
Sound advice that we can all relate to, Mrs. White!
White is reportedly spending her 99th birthday simply relaxing, she told Entertainment Tonight.
“You probably didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway. … What am I doing for my birthday? Running a mile each morning has been curtailed by [coronavirus], so I am working on getting ‘The Pet Set’ re-released, and feeding the two ducks who come to visit me every day,” she explained, referencing a 1971 show she starred in that featured celebrities appearing alongside their pets.
Her birthday was also marked by various celebrities, who tweeted out birthday greetings to the TV icon.
“Happy birthday, @BettyMWhite! You’re a miracle in every way,” wrote Ellen DeGeneres.
“I still get warm when I see this look. Happy 99 baby. You are a testament to living life on your own terms. Sending you a great big socially distanced kiss. I love you @BettyMWhite,” Ed Asner tweeted.
“Betty White bloopers are the best bloopers #HappyBirthdayBettyWhite,” Valerie Bertinelli tweeted alongside a video of hilarious mistakes made on the set of their former show, Hot in Cleveland.
“Wishing the incomparable Betty White a very happy 99th birthday! What’s your favorite Betty White role, friends?” wrote Star Trek star George Takei.
White, who is best known for her role as Rose Nylund in the classic sitcom The Golden Girls (1985-92), has over 75 years in show business under her belt. The comedian became a staple of U.S. television in such shows as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Hot in Cleveland along with memorable appearances in shows like Mama’s Family and That ‘70s Show.
She catapulted to fame with her first sitcom, Life with Elizabeth, where White played the titular role and became the first woman to have creative control of a program as both a producer and the star.
White earned no less than 24 Emmy nominations and won eight in the span of her career.
When she reached the age of 90 it didn’t slow her down one bit. Not only did White become the oldest host in the history of Saturday Night Live but she also made dozens of cameos. White also starred in a memorable 2010 Super Bowl commercial for Snickers where she got tackled to the ground, football-style.
In an email to the Associated Press, White shared an especially enjoyable perk of old age: “Since I am turning 99, I can stay up as late as I want without asking permission!”
Mexico Decrees Ban on GMO Corn and Monsanto’s Glyphosate Weed Killer
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has rung in the New Year by decreeing an end to the use of glyphosate – best known as the active ingredient in Monsanto’s “Roundup” pesticides – and also ordering the phase-out out of genetically modified corn for use in the food industry, with both goals to be realized by January 2024.
The move has been widely hailed by organic food producers and environmental, health, and social justice advocates, who welcome the move as crucial to preserve Mexico’s native corn crops, national heritage, and food sovereignty from the threat of multinational food corporations.
On Thursday, the government published an official decree stating that federal biosecurity authorities would “revoke and refrain from granting permits for the release of genetically modified corn seeds into the environment,” reports Reforma news agency.
The decree noted that the object of the decision, which came after months of unsuccessful pushback from lobbyist groups representing the massive food industry, was to “contribute to food security and sovereignty” and protect “native corn, cornfields, bio-cultural wealth, farming communities, gastronomic heritage and the health of Mexicans.”
The move makes good on promises by President Lopez Obrador, popularly known by his initials AMLO, to preserve native corn varieties from the threat of GMO corn.
The government of Mexico has taken numerous steps in recent months to safeguard the over 60 types of corn developed with traditional and indigenous agricultural methods that are, by law, considered a part of Mexico’s national food and cultural heritage.
Indigenous peoples in the Mesoamerican region cultivated the first strains of corn thousands of years ago, but multinational corporations have been flooding the Mexican market with varieties of corn that have been genetically modified to resist certain types of infestations and adverse climate conditions such as drought.
The government also ordered the phase-out of GMO corn imports for use in the food industry and decreed the elimination of the chemical glyphosate – the active ingredient in Bayer-Monsanto’s weedkiller, Roundup.
While a total ban on glyphosate isn’t yet possible in Mexico – especially amid major pushback from Big Ag lobbyists – federal agencies must immediately halt “purchasing, using, distributing, promoting and importing glyphosate or agrochemicals that contain it as an active ingredient,” according to the decree.
Instead, they must use “culturally appropriate” alternatives such as low-toxicity agrochemicals and organic products.
Opponents of the use of genetically modified crops have hailed the ban.
“It’s a great victory,” said Homero Blas, the director of the Mexican Society of Organic Producers. His group, like many other civil society organizations, blames GMO crops for contaminating the native, ancient varieties of corn while saying that the widespread use of dangerous pesticides endangers the health of both producers and consumers while undermining biodiversity.
However, GMO advocates such as the National Agricultural Council (CAN) claim that the prohibition of GMO corn cultivation will harm farmers while curbing imports will harm the Mexican food chain.
“The lack of access to production options puts us at a disadvantage compared to our competitors, such as corn farmers in the United States,” said CNA spokeswoman Laura Tamayo, who is also the regional director for the German multinational Bayer AG, the parent company to agro-chemical subsidiary Monsanto.
Glyphosate has been at the center of safety concerns in numerous countries and has also been the focus of massive lawsuits in the U.S. in recent years over the allegedly carcinogenic effects of the herbicide Roundup, which Monsanto introduced in 1974.
In July, Bayer agreed to pay as much as $10.9 billion to settle nearly 100,000 lawsuits in the U.S. claiming that the chemical causes a type of blood cancer.
CDC Study: Brain-Eating Amoeba Is Spreading in United States
According to a new study by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Naegleria fowleri, or the “brain-eating amoeba,” is spreading into the U.S. and scientists blame climate change.
Where as the actual number of yearly cases isn’t increasing the cases are occurring in a larger range of the U.S. than before. The the CDC study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases this week, examined CDC data from 1978 to 2018, finding that new cases moved northwards at about 8.2 miles per year.
Since the amoeba prefers warm waters, up to what Live Science reports to be a hot-tub-like 113 degrees Fahrenheit, an upward shift in global temperatures caused by climate change is giving N. fowleri new opportunities to expand north over the last 40 years, according to the CDC study.
“It is possible that rising temperatures and consequent increases in recreational water use, such as swimming and water sports, could contribute to the changing epidemiology of PAM,” the paper reads.
Naegleria fowleri is a free-living amoeba that causes primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a disease of the central nervous system. Naegleria fowleri infections are extremely rare in the U.S. but the contagion is almost always fatal. In the United States, there have only been 145 PAM infections from 1962 through 2018 with only four survivors according to the CDC. If humans accidentally drink the microbe, it’s harmless. But if it makes its way inside the nose it’s usually lethal.
Naegleria fowleri occurs naturally in freshwater, the soil, warm lakes, rivers, and hot springs. It usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose and then travels to the brain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says infection typically happens when somebody go swimming or diving in “warm freshwater places”.
The CDC says people cannot get infected by swallowing contaminated water, and it cannot be passed from person to person.
Those infected with Naegleria fowleri have flu-like symptoms including fever, nausea, and vomiting. Besides the normal symptoms showing someone is sick Naegleria fowleri comes with a stiff neck and headaches. Most people infected do not recover and usually die within just a week after the amoeba is within their brain.
Since the amoeba prefers warm waters, up to what Live Science reports to be a hot-tub-like 113 degrees Fahrenheit, an upward shift in global temperatures caused by climate change is giving N. fowleri new opportunities to expand north over the last 40 years, according to the CDC study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases this week.
Earlier this year, eight Texas cities warned their residents about the tap water system after the deadly brain-eating amoeba was found in the public water supply. A Do Not Use Water Advisory was issued for the residents as well with at least one death of a little boy which sparked the investigation.
Additionally this year there was also an infection of Naegleria fowleri that was confirmed in the U.S. state of Florida. At the time, health officials there urged locals to avoid nasal contact with water from taps and other sources. Two children in Minnesota died from N. fowleri in 2010 and 2012 — both cases “550 miles north of the previously reported northernmost case in the Americas.”
The amoeba was found to be thriving in U.S. rivers and lakes more and more, earlier this year. Insider reports that cases may increase as climate change warms waters. Experts estimate that between 3 and 8 Americans die from N. fowleri annually.
Furthermore, there have only been 34 infections reported in the U.S. in the last ten years, according to CDC data.
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