Human touch has a unique quality. Whether it is a simple hug or a tap on the arm, it is a palpable reminder that we are not alone. Human touch reminds us that others are there to offer their friendship, affection, or support.
Managing the Impact
The news of COVID-19 has placed global populations on alert causing varied reactions. Throughout this article, read what Cooking Green Goodness Magazine readers had to share about their world at the moment, and how they are keeping in this time of physical distancing.
You may find yourself preoccupied with news events which may trigger worrying thoughts. The well-intentioned may spend a great deal of time trying to harness their emotions, but we are all too familiar with emotions that mutiny against reason and the damaging effects that can ensue from this. It is normal during this time of uncertainty for us to speculate on the potential spread of the virus and to experience understandable reactions from worry to anxiety about this health concern. At this time, workers within health care and emergency services sectors and their families may be particularly vulnerable to strong reactions.
What are some possible reactions? Homewood Health, the Canadian leader in mental health and addiction services, reported that when we are uncertain about our own and our family’s health and safety, we experience physical, emotional and behavioural reactions. You may experience a range of reactions varying in degrees of intensity as this outbreak continues to have a global impact. We all react somewhat differently yet we may experience common reactions such as:
- Emotional reactions. Fear, anxiety, distress, anger, irritability, sadness, guilt, and uncertainty.
- Mental reactions. Disbelief about the extent of the outbreak, loss of concentration, recurring visions of media images about the pandemic, fearful thoughts about travelling, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, confusion, distressing dreams.
- Physical reactions. Numbness, shock, headaches, loss of appetite, sleep difficulties, persistent heart palpitations, fatigue, nausea, and gastrointestinal problems.
- Behavioural reactions. Tearfulness, feeling disconnected, excessive vigilance, withdrawal or isolation from the mainstream population, increased tendency to blame or criticize others, increased consumption of alcohol or medication to cope with uncertainty.
If we consider time as the ultimate currency, then we just inherited a windfall, unfortunately, during an unprecedented health crisis. In isolation, I’ve been spending valuable time with my family; we are cooking together, creating art, reading, talking, playing board games, laughing and listening to lots of vinyl. Life with its challenges is really what we make of it.
Ann Ivy Male, Pixie Blue Studios, Mississauga, Ontario
If I’ve learned anything from COVID-19 its that its the best teacher.
It is teaching me that I need less than what I have, that I can only make change when I’m forced to face something head on and that I’m given the opportunity to be with my family and create memories that would normally be lost with the constant distractions of extracurricular activities and homework.
We meditate in the mornings now, creating a quiet space. We walk together and laugh and spend time colouring and learning about things that matter most to them. Don’t get me wrong, the blur of the day can be overwhelming at times; having to balance work, be a mom and teacher by profession, making lunches and snacks and breaking up fights while my husband who is considered an essential worker, sleeps after his night shift. Do I want yell? Yes. Do I cry? Yes. But when will we have this opportunity again. An opportunity that we usually ask for? More time with the family, sleeping in, working in our pyjamas.
Don’t look at this from a loss perspective; look at this from an opportunity perspective. Thank you COVID-19 for allowing me to watch my children grow, to listen to their interests and giving me the time to explore the things I never had time for.
Janice Lowe, Mother of 4, Educator, The GLE Movement, Brampton, Ontario
The Power of Being Kind
We are all in a different fight, but, how can we be kind to each other and spread a kind message? What do you wish for the world? How can you be effective in helping other people? It is self-evident that the world would be a less anxious place if we helped each other, yet it is not always obvious how to best live by this rule. Know that generosity towards others, and especially those in need (even strangers), radiates out from our attitudes and comes back at us in waves of positive energy.
On April 17, singer, songwriter, and actress Lady Gaga conducted an interview on MSNBC to discuss the One World: Together At Home celebrity concert event; a Global Citizen initiative to be broadcasted digitally worldwide on April 18, to support frontline healthcare workers and the World Health Organization through the universal language of music. I caught the replay of this interview as I was seated at my kitchen table, munching on crisp cucumber wedges dipped in hummus, with laptop in play preparing notes to write this article. What kept me watching and listening intently to this interview from beginning to end is Lady Gaga’s message about the power of not just being kind to each other during this time that billions of people are forced – or urged – to stay home, but being self-aware of what we have. To be in a home that is safe, where your family is safe, where you can eat sanitary food, where you still have the opportunity to keep working and earning an income is not a story to be told for everyone. Lady Gaga went on to discuss the wave of shock and trauma that people are experiencing all over the world. And the truth is, it’s much scarier for people that have less, for people that are living in poverty, in violent situations, who are living hungry.
I will be working from home as of May 4th returning from maternity leave. I’m loving this time with my family, and minus people getting sick and dying I’m in a good place. I feel like all my wishes to get the opportunity to work from home while taking care of my family, came true with a horrible side effect.
Natijah, Mississauga, Ontario
I tried to write on the topic that you requested (relationships), and really struggled with it – hence my delayed response. To be honest, everything I tried to write felt inauthentic, or forced, or ungrateful and contrived. I wanted to write about being an introvert surrounded by family 24/7 and unable to recharge in loneliness, as I always did. But then I felt guilty complaining about having company, when I know so many long to be with family in this time, and can’t. Maybe even I, if I was alone, would hate the loneliness which now I crave. I am SO grateful for the touch of my son when he asks for a hug, yet at the same time, I deeply crave to have a quiet house for a little while, to be alone with only my thoughts. It’s complicated. I still can’t find the right words, and although I am sorry to let you down with this, I feel I can’t really articulate the jumble of feelings in my head right now. I am calm, feeling hopeful and positive otherwise, but relationships are hard right now, so I don’t feel I can speak authentically to that. I am so sorry to let you down!
Before COVID-19, most of us lived our lives in a rhythm of alternating relaxation and stress. This rhythm was either random, changing day by day according to the stress stimuli encountered or the pleasant experiences we had alone or with others; or was pre-determined perhaps by our work/life balance or repeated events that we found difficult to cope with. Life has now prompted us to re-evaluate – to take a closer look at stress factors that undermine our confidence and our contentment, and that can have a damaging effect on our health and well-being. During these complicated times, it is critical that individuals obtain reliable information and access to mental health, addiction and well-being support services.
What can you do? Everyone experiences reactions in a way that is unique to themselves and their situation. Some individuals experience delayed reactions, as a result of exposure to the news over time and this can invoke a growing sense of fear and anxiety. You can never avoid these reactions completely.
- Don’t judge or blame yourself. Don’t criticize yourself for having these reactions. Be patient. Think about how you would support a friend in this situation and then treat yourself the same way.
- Try to reduce other sources of stress in your life for a while.
- Take the time to talk about your physical and emotional reactions with someone close to you like a friend, partner or loved one.
- Let your family, colleagues and friends know how they could best support you during your period of stress. If they are doing something unhelpful, give yourself permission to let them know.
- Find something that helps distract you. Some people find it helpful to keep busy (leisure activities, hobbies, routine chores, warm baths, physical exercise, etc.), while others find it helpful to relax.
- Try to avoid saturation from exposure to the constant media coverage of this news.
- Take time to rest and maintain good sleep habits.
- If you find you are experiencing distressing thoughts and feeling anxious, remind yourself that most of us are safe and not affected by this disease.
“This was to be our year. My wife and I worked hard to get to where we are as entrepreneurs in the food industry. Now, we must readjust to do our best to look to the future with optimism. It’s tough.”
Anonymous, Toronto, Ontario
What is Physical Distancing?
Previously referred to as social distancing, the concept and term have been updated to physical distancing. Physical distancing measures are a way to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 within communities. This means minimizing close contact with others during the pandemic. Physical distancing measures increase the physical space between people to slow the spread of the virus. Examples include working from home where possible, school closures and the postponement or cancellation of mass gathering events, such as sporting or entertainment events, conferences and religious ceremonies. This in turn lessens the burden on public healthcare systems as the virus is easily spread in densely populated areas. Various provinces have enacted laws under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, including fines for those violating distancing and gathering restrictions. Please remember: staying socially connected is truly imperative to everyone’s mental health, particularly in this time of physical distancing. Virtually check on your family members, friends and colleagues to see how we are all coping throughout this stressful time. Source, Howewood Health
Wellness Together Canada
On April 15th, 2020, Health Canada launched the Wellness Together Canada portal, providing direct access to peer support workers, social workers, psychologists and other professional care providers for all Canadians. If you know someone struggling and requiring support during this difficult time, click HERE to share the link to Wellness Together Canada resources.
Where can I get more information on COVID-19?
Here are some helpful links to gather more information.
- Health Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada.html
- World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/
The federal government of Canada has also created an online self-assessment tool for persons who may be concerned they may have symptoms of COVID-19. You will be asked a series of questions and dependent upon the responses and symptoms identified, the tool will provide advice, giving one of the four following actions: visit and emergency room, call telehealth, self-isolate at home, or do nothing. The tool can be accessed here: https://ca.thrive.health/covid19/en
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