Updated: Apr 2
So…...wtf has been going on? A global pandemic!!?? And we have to self isolate for how long!? People are losing their jobs and unable to pay their bills? Foster youth are in need of food!? I might not have what I need if this continues!? Lots of questions happening right now and not a lot of answers that are bringing us peace.
I can only think of so many ways to say the f-word in my head before I have a panic attack. But panic and fear will destroy all thoughts around “how can I help?” Or “what can we do to get through this time, together” and “how do we adapt and be flexible?”
These past few weeks have been strange, unsettling, emotions are high, anxiety is high, people are doing weird things, and our country is at a low point. Not to mention we are all advised to be practicing social distancing for the greater good, but also it is disconnecting us from what is really important to our own psyche and well being. To what is the human part of us and that feeling is being connected with someone. Just that is so crucial to health and happiness, and yet we aren’t getting the hugs, and physical connection that we need. It’s ok this isn't going to last forever is a daily reminder to myself. We will get through this and we must ask ourselves again.
“How can we adapt and help someone during this time?” Or “what do I need to do to work on taking care of myself?”
During this time I have gone from almost having a panic attack while alone in my room to feeling fully zen and meditating like a boss. This period of isolation has given me a lot of time to reflect, to look at what is fueling me and my heart, my mind, my soul. I know I am not alone in thinking any of these thoughts. I really hope we can all bring away something positive from this time in our lives.
So, let’s process all of this together. Take some time to write out or talk through with a trusted friend and ask each other these things-
What are some things you have learned during this time good or bad? What can I do right now to support you? If our plans don’t work out, what’s our back up plan(s)?
Do you have a moment to write down some of your thoughts? I highly recommend you take time to process these thoughts & feelings and if you don’t feel comfortable talking about your feelings yet, then write them out. Nobody will see that journal unless you post it to social media.
One thing I have learned in the last few years is that my feelings aren’t always true nor do they define me. That we can have as many feelings as we want to, but ultimately they come and go. They don’t last for forever if you choose. So, while sometimes it feels like we are the feelings we feel. You aren’t defined by them. You have the power to let them go, let go of what doesn’t serve you, and remember that it is OK to have as many feelings as you want, but don’t hold onto the ones that make you feel less than, anxious, fearful or panic driven.
You are enough.
You will get through difficult times because you’ve had to before. You are growing and learning something new. This isn’t a normal time for anyone right now, however, find comfort in knowing that growth and positive things are to come.
If you keep reading on, past the shingles info, you’ll find that I’ve created a list of restorative activities for you to do right now during this pandemic. And they all fall within the guidelines of keeping our social distance.
In my last post I had disclosed that I had a shingles outbreak, and that I’d expand a bit more on that. So, here we go. I will break it down and explain what it is and also give you some hard lessons I have been learning. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes (insert nervous laughter). I hope this inspires you and gives you more of an understanding of how to be a better you, a healthy, a happy you.
What the heck is shingles!?
I got this question a lot and I received a lot of fear based responses like, “OMG you’re contagious” and “Um, aren’t you going to give it to me?” many times it would be followed up or eventually I’d find out that the person doesn’t even know what it is, but something inside them responds in this, get away from me reaction because then I’ll get what you have.
We fear what we don’t know.
We respond in ways that sometimes hurt people's feelings because its this feeling that divides them from us, contagious vs not contagious groups. And that disconnects us. Naturally we tend to be very ego centered humans who only think about ourselves and not in the interest of others. This isn’t supposed to make you feel bad, but to pause a moment before reacting and practice empathy. If you aren’t sure what it means, google it. What a lot of people don’t realize is that shingles is only contagious to specific persons who has never had chicken pox or the vaccine for it. And almost everyone has either had the pox or received the vaccine for it, literally almost everyone, so you’re good. There is no reason to panic or push people away because they have something that was once contagious to you as a small infant. It is important to note that shingles can also be contagious to people who have weakened immune systems or who have recently undergone chemo or treatment for cancer because their immune systems are basically attacking itself and all the normal functions to fight off viruses like shingles is extremely weakened by radiation.
More than that the way to contract shingles is only if you have never received the vaccine or had the pox as a child and you come in direct contact with the blisters of the person it’s reactivated in. That means I’d have to literally, in my case because the shingles belt wrapped around from my belly button to the back of my lower spine, would have had to be skin to skin contact with you and get the blister juice on you. And since I don’t go around hugging people without my top on, 99.9% you would have been safe to be around me.
Ok, so what exactly is it?
I won’t be all science-y and use big words here because it’s easier to understand if I don’t. If you have ever had the chicken pox which is a type of virus then you already have the shingles virus inside of you. That said, if you ever get shingles and you had the pox then you basically gave it to yourself. The actual virus after getting the chicken pox lies dormant (no one really knows why) in your nerve system, and for whatever reason can later in life come back, in what researchers call “reactivating” the virus as it’s called, shingles. They say that it can be brought on by stress or it generally shows up in populations of people who are 60+. I do not fit in the 60+ category so thus it was brought on by a lot of stress in my case.
It is extremely painful, and sensitive to touch in the area where the nerves are activated by the virus. There are different symptoms people get, but there are some common ones like a rash and pain. It attacks the nerves in a part of your spine because that’s where the virus has been dormant and travels all the way down to whatever nerve endings it’s attacking. For me, it attacked my left torso side from my belly button wrapped around to my spine and down the inside of my left arm and wrist. A rash with blisters occurred on my torso, along with numbing, extreme sensitivity to touch (even a light wind blow would be painful or putting clothing on), tingling, soreness, fatigue, and a lot of itchiness. It was very uncomfortable and annoying to say the least. Thankfully it only lasted a couple weeks. In some cases I read that it could have lasted up to two months.
Luckily, I was able to retrieve antiviral meds before it got any worse and began taking those right away. Those meds were no joke and made me very very very tired (like, I slept for 15hrs straight kind of knock me out), I was loopy, headachy, and nauseous for a week. Still, I am glad I took them when I did and it wasn’t worse. I don’t wish this on anyone.
A huge THANK YOU to my sister who is a Nurse and told me to go to urgent care asap when I was telling her my symptoms. Shout out to her- she’s a damn good Nurse.
Whew, let’s leave all that in the past and never deal with shingles again. Something I did learn was that I need to slow down, to not be so stressed it causes my own body to attack itself, and to practice self care regularly and not just 1x month. It is my opinion that we need to be practicing self care a little bit every single day, and by doing restorative self care to be more specific. Below that is what we will talk about further and discuss the benefits of restorative care and practices. All of which I’ll be partaking in a lot more so as to avoid getting the virus again. Please learn from my mistakes.
4 Restorative activities to a better you!
Yes, that’s right.
You can do it!
We can do it!
Go out to find green spaces in which we will also refer to as nature
Read a book- we recommend two books to start, but to find out you must read on my friend.
Practice some yoga and be nice to yourself. Anyone can do yoga even if it is modified.
Connect with someone you care about. Anyone who will make you feel good. Not the friend or family member who just sucks the energy out of you. Your friend who enriches your spirit and helps you through stuff, and not just allows you to sit in your own misery.
Let’s dig deeper into each activity and why it is so important to incorporate into your lifestyle.
1) Green spaces have shown to improve our overall well being, decrease stress and anxiety levels in meaningful and restorative ways. Getting outside and being surrounded by this type of environment is healing. Like it is actually giving you a break from all the chaos inside your head, maybe even home, work space (unless you work outside all the time) etc.
seeing things that are growing, and progressing gives us hope and renewal.
Having these kinds of thoughts help to rewire our brains into having a better framework of healthy living. When we are constantly stuck on one negative thought or several negative thoughts, we get in this rut and oftentimes we stay there for longer than is necessary. Why? Because it’s easier to be in that rut than it is to make a change and see something in a different way. We’re human and don’t like change, yet we are changing every day. So, how do we internally change this pattern and create new patterns. Little by little we make the steps.
First step is to go outside and just take a moment to see the tiny details of something growing, like a green fern, or ivy crawling up a wall or mountain side. You may not see the change in you, but just by seeing something like that it can have the potential to bring much needed relief to our minds.
These researchers have been saying that by going out in nature and experiencing it more and more each day you will have less stress and anxiety.
OKAY, woah, I think we can all use less stress and anxiety. Especially amongst this ((Covid-19 pandemic social distancing sheltering in place)) time and self isolation from human physical contact. Can I get a “oh, heck yes” to less stress right now; I strongly encourage you to go outside and obviously maintain a safe distance with your neighbors and people already out.
Even right now, take a break from reading this paragraph with a lot of words. In fact, I will do it if you do too. They say lead by example, right.. #washyourhands
15 minutes later..
I am back, what did you do? Did you snap a photo of where you went? If you did, we’d LOVE to see it. Also, we’d LOVE it if you followed us @theadvocatecoffee, tag us in your photo w/ hashtag #greenspaceishealing and we will send you a free little baggy of ethically sourced delicious coffee. The more we can promote health and wellbeing the better, right!?
If you’re bored and browsing on social media- check out our IG post for our newest green find this weekend where I witnessed some amazing beautiful waterfalls. I will write a post about that later so you can add that to your bucket list .
How about we get into the nitty gritty, but not too nitty gritty because remember we are all about tid bits of information that is easily digestible to our brains. I will break it down into bullet points, they may be chunky points but it’ll be worth it.
Why is green space restorative?
The study we read about was conducted by College of the Environment, University of Washington.
They found that residents who lived near green spaces and increased their exposure time to nature contributed to a reduction in chronic illnesses, reduced stress and improvement in overall well being. Stress is one of the leading factors in chronic illnesses. When our bodies experience stress we release these chemicals that change how we feel and behave. It isn’t always pleasant and often times we get stuck in that feeling to then seeing ourselves become a stressed out headless chicken navigating life. I am not talking about the positive stress here, because some stress is OK but when there is consistent levels of high negative stress we change, we develop weakened immune systems, we release hormones that work against our favor etc.. From experience sometimes you may even get the painful shingles rash (insert that one emoji of the squirrel turning around with dramatic music).
Ok, this is so easy for us to do. It may take some time to adjust our schedules or mentality, but if you think about it, instead of binge watching a tv show after work take a quick detour to drive through some green trees or walk a path with lots of green plants. Or if you don’t live in areas with green spaces readily available to you, buy some plants. There are a lot of plants out there that do really well indoors. You can even buy the plants on Amazon and have them shipped right to your doorstep. Surround your home with greenery and create a sanctuary for when you come home after a long stressful, energy filled day. These little things will begin to restore your mind, body and soul.
In the UK there was a decrease in respiratory disease mortality rates when male respondents increased their green space exposure. However, there were no significant associations for their counterparts. This was an interesting finding, and one that may need some digging to understand further. Still a good finding to our male friends.
Being surrounded in environments with natural elements support that we have restorative reactions when given the chance and that it positively relates to helping our minds feel restored. Meaning when we see nature or natural elements like trees, and plants our minds are taking a break from, maybe stressors within our work space or at home and it’s restoring itself. Our stress levels begin to decrease and that in and of itself is helping the neurotransmitters in our brains to repair and restore what had been changed to feel like we either have to fight, flee, or freeze every moment and go back to homeostasis. These are our survival instincts when under stress. Now, sometimes people have experienced this ongoing feeling of negative stress that it will take a lot of time to bounce back to feeling like they don’t have to be reactive and instead can be responsive and mindful in a healthy way. I’ll talk more about stress, reacting vs responding, and these chemicals that alter our behaviors in another post because there is so much to it. Anyway, just by going outside to see some trees or plants we are acting in our best interest and in a ripple effect the best interest of others. Because when we aren’t as stressed and feeling overwhelmed we are often better at helping others, motivated to completing our tasks for the day, and making meaningful connections that give us a sense of belonging. #washyourhands
2) Read a good book- for those book lovers out there I recommend a couple books to read. The first one is
by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., I have yet to finish this book, but so far it is really great. It is informative, scientific, and educational on how our body and mind experience and get shaped by trauma throughout our lives under various circumstances. How our relationships can be hurtful and healing. It digs really deep. Like into your childhood from that one time you remember your parents or caregiver forgetting to pick you up from school while it’s raining outside and all you can think about is, “I am all alone and they left me behind” kind of deep shit. Those triggering moments that later in life you have to unfold and process to come to forgiveness.
This may be a feeling that my fellow adoptees can relate to.
Don’t worry, my abandonment issues are at a healthy level of processing what happened to me as a child and I don’t hold this against my parents or my biological mother. It is the kind of book (so far) where you want to take notes and remember certain things that'll help you understand yourself better and others as well. Because when we understand ourselves and why we may operate a certain way or react a certain way, it helps lessen the idea that we are royally screwed up and perhaps just like everyone else; we aren’t perfect. That we aren’t alone after all and it’s ok to have issues. It is what we do with those issues that matters. We have to remember that we do have significance and a place in this world. And again our feelings do not define us. Our trauma does not define us or is absolute. This book has helped me to understand that the trauma I’ve experienced has given me a different type of brain, reasoning, and logical thinking skills. And different is not a bad thing. Super great, right.?
Care to be different with me? #washyourhands
Ok, the second book I recommend is
by Mohasit Hamid and this book is about a refugee couple who experience a journey that takes them through various paths, each path leading to something new and different. The book also digs deep into the ways in which refugees have to survive during war, violence, and persecution. The love between the couple demonstrates how we can survive together or apart during difficult times, how shame & guilt can be present in expressing ourselves, how we adapt & change in new environments etc. Get yourself a copy and give it a read and message me your thoughts.
3) Do some Yoga, I am sure that you see a lot of these blog posts with various ways on how to be a better human by doing yoga, but I can’t stress enough how fun and restorative yoga can be to your mind, body and soul. Even if you aren’t as flexible or in the shape as you want to be. You can still do yoga moves, don’t ever let someone say you can’t do it. It just may look different when you practice and that’s ok. You or I do not have to look like the same yogi who’s been practicing for several years and it’s their life. I have had some of the most fun experiences doing yoga and challenging moments practicing by myself and in groups. I am no yogi or acrobat in it, but I try to practice yoga at least a couple times a month. I’d love to say I do it a few times a week, but that’d be lying to you and dishonest about my world. And we are all about being open and honest over here @TheAdvocateCoffee.
Ain’t nobody got time for liars and cheats!
Back to yoga- practicing yoga is still a lifestyle whether its a 3x week or 1x a month, and a choice. The great thing about this exercise is that it is readily available all around us. You don’t even have to come in contact with people. If you’re a (mostly) introverted person like me then you will be thrilled to know that there are some amazing at home yoga videos.
I’d recommend - Yoga with Adriene on YouTube who also has a cute pup named Benji that assists too. She has some great yoga for writers, yoga for insecurity, yoga for beginners and stretching videos. All promoting healthy living and restoration.
I have had one in the past that was a bit cheaper, and thinner but not as worthwhile because it wasn’t as supportive on my feet or body. Plus the grip was awful so it’d move around a lot. So, if you can and are able to, I definitely recommend saving up your money and investing in a great yoga mat. It makes a huge difference in your practice and meditation. This one is super long and gives you all the space you need to practice any type of yoga, or stretching routines. The thickness of it is what feels the most comfortable and the grip is good. #washyourhands
4) Connect with someone- this one is so important to our sense of belonging, sense of safety and security in this world. Connecting with another human being that gets you and understands you is life changing. Because once you have that person in your life, you feel as though you matter and are not alone. Especially during this pandemic and social distancing we are all craving connection with familiar faces so much more now. We have to learn how we adapt and adjust in this time. This isn’t going to last forever and it just looks different in how we are connecting these days. So, Zoom, skype, FaceTime your friends or family members. They all need it just as much as you do. Side rant- I recently started zoom’ing with friends and let me tell you how much fun it has been. While it doesn’t feel the same way and I cannot give them big hugs and feel their energy , it has felt so good to see familiar faces and just talk. I wasn’t always a big fan of virtual meetings or hangouts, but I am learning to adapt and seek out the benefits of connecting differently these days. #washyourhands
Final thoughts- Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Stay grounded and healthy!
Til’ next time!
Peace, Love, and Good Vibes
*This page contains affiliate links to products I recommend. If you purchase something from this link, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. This helps us to keep doing what we do and give back to helping foster youth and non-profits. See full disclosure
P.S. If you want to be added to my email newsletter where you will get recipes, roasts of the day and maybe fun facts from somewhere then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up on my website blog www.theadvocatecoffee.com/blog-1.
Photo by MEM