I want you all to imagine your lives having an imagined “pause” button during this time of quarantine:
Here’s a pic of my very busy calendar schedule during quarantine (lol), the only real date was the dogs monthly flea and tick medicine reminder:
Even if you are out in the workforce, leaving your house everyday, it’s still not business as usual and we all know that we face a new “normal” when it is. But remember, it’s just a “pause” button that might be pushed just a little longer than we expected……
So let’s go down memory lane for clues in our history of how our ancestors dealt with uncertainty and hard times.
You all know about the Great Depression, where the stock market plummeted in 1929 and unemployment skyrocketed in the U.S..
But if that wasn’t enough, there was also the Dust Bowl of 1930s, lasting 5 years and giving rise to the name “Dirty 30s” where the worst drought in a 1000 years hit, making it the perfect storm for huge tornados of dust to hit prime farmland in the Midwest, made even worse by the unsustainable farming practices of the 30s.
By 1934, 35 million acres of formerly cultivated land was rendered useless and land 3/4ths the size of Texas (125 million acres) was losing it’s topsoil. So now The Greatest Generation has TWO economic calamities on their hands, loss of jobs and farmland!
If you are in the baby-boomer generation (born between 1946-1964), as Randy and I are, your parents were certainly the recipients of this era of massive unemployment; at it’s peak roughly 12,000 people per day were unemployed, 15 million estimated total, making the percentage of unemployed 25%. That dwarfs today’s unemployment estimated at a little larger than 15% as of today!
But still, smaller (and cheaper) pleasures were enjoyed by all, like crazy contests (dance marathons:
and goldfish swallowing), board games (Monopoly was born in this era), baseball, The Mickey Mouse Club and of course radio (the Golden age of Radio was born) because a radio was an affordable item every household possessed. This is a picture of that era of the family around the radio:
Does this remind you of what we are all experiencing right now? Close quarters with the family!
I talked with my Mom (90 years old) and my Mother-In-Law (85 years old) about their memories of this era.
Both families didn’t have much money and definitely no television, yet they both were extremely happy with their childhood!
My Mom, Joyce Rathert (pictured here with our Dad, Al Rathert):
remembers making mud pies for fun as a kid on the side of her house with Grandma’s (good) baking tools, and later worked as a carhop at the ripe old age of 13 years old (she lied, you were supposed to be 18 years old, but she looked older).
My Mother-In-Law, Pat Tobler (pictured here with our Dad, Robert Tobler):
helped her carpenter father (Grandpa Primo was the construction boss for The Planetarium in St. Louis)
when she was at the ripe old age of 12, assisting with his projects both around the house and at work. She spent her leisure time with an inexpensive but challenging pastime: crossword puzzles. Btw, she is still a Master of the challenging New York Times version!
Both of these wonderful Moms are great people but they’re also BIG TIME, TOUGH, SURVIVORS. I’m sure that’s partly because of the time period they were raised in.
What I want to do is give you some words of encouragement, knowing that we are in uncharted tough territory now, with some helpful tips, so when our “play” button is again pushed, knowing that “resume” will not look the same as it has in our recent history. We’ll be better prepared for our new life challenges, mentally, physically and spiritually.
I. Notice the little things and be in the moment- Really start to notice everything you usually just brush over (because we’re all so busy and in a hurry most of the non-quarantine time). Heh, I’m raising my guilty hand at this one!
This is a pear tree at our farm that I just noticed has some amazing flowers budding:
I’ve never seen these flowers budding before (these trees have been here since we bought the farm 15 years ago)! Nor the beautiful flowers on the forest floor:
Here’s a shot of our granddaughter Evie (you knew I couldn’t help myself but put one of her pics in here, didn’t you!)
that I haven’t been able to see for a couple of months but I’m so thankful Snapchat can let me see her in quick moments that Randy and I truly enjoy!
And here’s a moment that was so precious between our newly adopted dog Simba and Randy:
Simba just can’t get close enough to us (but especially Randy, and that’s just fine), and we love it!
When you snap a picture in your mind of these snippets in time, you’ll start breathing in deep breaths, allowing yourself to relax and become completely immersed in the gratitude you have for noticing these “little” things.
II. Take the time to connect with your loved ones-I know you all have experienced having your calendar so full that you were almost dreading every event, and usually the people closest to you get the brunt of that hurried life. As a young Mom I remember hurriedly piling the kids in the car so they could each get to their ENDLESS prospective activities or now as an older adult, sometimes going to so many functions that I was just going through the motions, not really paying attention to those I encountered.
Well now we’ve had a reprieve from our crazy schedules and I’ll bet, if you’ve reflected like I have, you are so grateful that you do have family, friends and community you can count on, making them even more special now!
We’ve had the opportunity, as many of you have, to participate in Zoom meetings of all kinds, making virtual get-togethers a reality. I totally know this is not like the real thing, but actually seeing the people you miss, even if only for a little while really has the effect of putting a pep in your step.
This is a pic of a zoom session we’ve had with our immediate family, and just like an in person get-together, everyone is trying to one-up each other for laughs!
Last week, Randy and I watched a movie, in a middle of a Sunday afternoon (that NEVER happens!) that was a throwback to many years ago: Cinderfella, with Jerry Lewis:
It was really a silly, slapstick movie but Randy and I thoroughly enjoyed it because we took the time to mindfully be together while we were laughing at Jerry Lewis pulling his hilarious antics.
Then I told Randy he was in charge of dinner preparations one night when he was off (that’s usually my fun thing but I had a huge meal I prepared for the next day’s Easter celebration meal), he gladly stepped up and prepared an amazing shrimp dish. I give you CHEF RANDY:
This is it! That time you wished you always had to kick back with the ones you love, either personally for very close family members or by phone or by exciting technology and say those things or experience those moments you don’t allow yourself when your schedule heats up. It’s also (hopefully) a test run of how you’d like to slow your life down a tad in your life post-quarantine!
III. Be kind to yourself mentally, physically and spiritually-Self-medication is at an all time high in this quarantine period (also known as the Quarantine 15…..that’s extra pounds folks) with sky-rocketing sales of junk food, marijuana and alcohol, coupled with less exercise and more sleep. According to Nielson data, the month of March/2020 shows popcorn sales up 48%, pretzel sales up 47% and potato chips sales up 39% (as of March 14th), along with all the other usual suspects like Oreos, Frozen Pizza, and boxed macaroni and cheese. Evidation Health conducted a Covid-19 Pulse Studyof 68,000 fitness trackers across all 50 states, and as of 3/24/20, exercise is down 39%. Sleep was also tracked by Evidation Health, and except for Alaska and Hawaii, Americans are sleeping 10% more (that might be the only good thing if those American were actually sleep deprived before!).
And unfortunately, relatively new on the Covid-19 risk factor front, studies are already coming out in the US regarding new common risk factors that make patients more susceptible to the virus. Obesity is emerging as a significant risk factor, specifically for those Covid-19 patients younger that 60 years old that are being admitted for acute and critical care. In an accepted manuscript, published 4/9/20 at NYU Langone Health by Clinical Infectious Diseases titled Obesity In Patients Younger Than 60 years Is A Risk Factor For Covid-19 Admission.
“Patients aged less than 60 years with a BMI between 30-34 were 2.0 and 1.8 times more likely be to admitted to acute and critical care, respectively, compared to individuals with a BMI less than 30. Likewise, patients with a BMI greater than or equal to 35 and aged less than 60 years were 2.2 and 3.6 times more likely to be admitted to acute and critical care compared to patients in the same category who had a BMI less than 30.”
Dr. Nicole Saphier, M.D., a radiologist at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Fox New Contributor and author of the newly released book Make America Healthy Again specifically addresses this vexing risk issue:
“Obesity is linked to diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. All of these conditions render us susceptible to infectious illnesses – just what we are seeing with COVID-19. We left ourselves vulnerable to this epidemic. Our healthcare system would not be so overwhelmed if it was not already overwhelmed with our preventable chronic illnesses. And 40-70% of those illnesses could be prevented.”
The CDC estimates 75% of the $2.2 Trillion we spend each year on healthcare, is for the treatment of chronic diseases.
Please understand, I absolutely know it’s tougher for some more than others out there for this time of quarantine: permanent layoffs, faltering businesses, parents having their kids at home full time, essential employees working long hours and with that incurring more risk and the list goes on.
The point I’m making is for you to take this quarantine period to stop punishing ourselves with junk food, or any food or substance for that matter in excess and take care of ourselves, so we can take care of others, because this “Q” time will have an end!
Here’s a pic I took of myself in the bathroom with no makeup on. Fyi, I don’t do selfies, but I had a purpose. This pose is meant to state “We will get through this! This nasty virus will just be in our history soon enough and we’ll be stronger for it!!
Here are my recommended plans of action that will help you stay the “health” course:
A. Keep Calm and Carry On with a Routine-Routines allow us to stay the course with our day-to-day life, allowing us the stability that WE CAN control. If this period of time has thrown you into a new routine with your family or maybe you are just doing this alone, please make an actionable plan you can follow the night before in your mind (or write it down if that helps you). This includes:
1) Getting up and going to bed at relatively the same time everyday. And try wearing an outfit (even if it’s workout clothes) that you feel good in, even if you’re just doing house or barn chores the entire day!
2) Daily focusing time (that’s my Bible time).
3) Meal plan for the day (I’ve found at least 3 squares is optimal with snacks to stave off those hunger pains).
I continue to log my daily food intake in MyFitnessPal, with one night off a week. I still follow the guidelines of nutrition tracking, movement and accountability, when I tweaked my lifestyle for the better with my daughter’s program, Sammi Gregory Fitness in 2017. For me, it’s given my normalcy in a time of flux, so I can’t recommend those foundations of a healthy lifestyle enough!
The food planning takes a little more forethought now that we all are trying to reduce our time in public, so I write down a rough idea of the food plan for the week and buy all needed ingredients to make meals a snap:
4) Type of exercise, how long and the time day.
5) Work schedule of tasks (be it business or around the house).
6) Reach out to someone you’d like to reach out to on the phone or do a favor for (that you’ve been putting off).
7) Scheduled kickback time (it doesn’t always have to be just television or just reading, maybe it’s a podcast you’ve been wanting to listen to).
B. Boost The Mood With The Food That Inspires Moves- I’ve given you the stats on the need to stay healthy in this period of our lives, but why don’t you shift your food and exercise focus to improving your long term mood instead? It serves the same purpose! Improved mood food and exercise choices have the effect of leaving your healthier! Let’s get real here, not many of us are stressing about how we’re going to look in a bikini or speedo this summer, however, what we should be zeroing in on is building our strength and confidence for the new challenges that await all of us.
The positive power of mood foods was again proved in a recent randomized scientific study in PLOS, 10/9/19, A Brief Intervention Can Reduce Symptoms Of Depression In Young Adults. This was a study of 76 young adults, aged 17- 35 years, over a 3 week period, where depression, stress and anxiety were tracked. One group adopted their usual diet high in sugary, processed refined carbs foods. The other group was asked to adopt a Mediterranean diet: 3 servings of fish per week, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil with select spices (cinnamon and turmeric), 3 Tablespoons of nuts and seeds, 3 daily servings of whole grains and lean meats, poultry, eggs, tofu and beans, along with 6 servings of fruits and veggies per week. The lead author of the study, Dr. Heather Francis, Clinical Neuropsychologist at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia was shocked at the results:
The “healthy eating” cohort saw their levels of depression, anxiety and stress fall from “moderate” to “normal” range; the control group saw no change in the severity of their symptoms. This research, together with an emerging literature, points to diet as being a modifiable risk factor for depression.
Note: The same positive mood results were maintained when reported by the “healthy” eating group in a follow-up phone call three months later!
And this connection between mood and food is absolutely universal, as pointed out by Professor Felice Jacka, President of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research:
These associations between diet and depression are independent of other confounding factors such as “education, income, body weight and other health behaviors, this is true across countries, cultures, and — importantly, age groups.”
So what is one of the key reasons food can effect our mood so positively? As I pointed out in Fall Forward With Good Health When You Fall Back in Time you need to maximize your food sources of serotonin and tryptophan for improved mood. Serotonin is our brain’s master “mood” neurotransmitter. In fact, prescription drugs or SSRI’s or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, make serotonin more available for neuronal activation.
By ingesting serotonin’s precursor, the amino acid tryptophan, coupled with complex carbs (to assist tryptophan in crossing the blood-brain barrier) you are on the road to natural mood boosting.
So you will be on the yellow-brick-road of mood boosting AND health by following a Mediterranean diet; diets rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains (complex carbs), and turkey, salmon, eggs, nuts, tofu and cheese (natural tryptophan sources), along with other fish choices, lean meats and healthy oils to round it out!
And it’s totally okay to treat yourself, with portion control, those treats that give you comfort. Hey, I did it this past Easter! Here is the carrot cake I made from scratch:
But I also cut it up, served our two pieces and put the rest in the deep freeze for another day.
And even though nutrition sets the stage for a productive day, a daily exercise session will keep your body and mind “mood” humming, kicking in those natural endorphins you receive from moving.
Since most gyms remain closed in this period, here’s two (free) top online videos series, taught by top exercise professionals, you can do in the comfort of your own home, rated in The 50 Best Free Workout Resources You Can Find Online: (1) Fitness Blender– This is a dynamic exercise husband/wife team that give you any workout your heart desires. (2). Sweaty Betty-Taught by Sweaty Betty and others in homey settings, with a wide variety of exercise choices and lengths of time.
And don’t forget, there’s nothing more invigorating than a walk outside this time of year!:
Having the natural chemical effect of boosting your mood-stabilizing neurotransmitter serotonin that’s manufactured through our skin and retina when we grab those rays!!
C. Transforming Fear Into Trust-All you have to do, in this current pandemic, is go to a grocery store and STILL see the empty shelves of staple items like toilet paper, eggs and bread. That behavior is motivated by fear. At the core of that fear is an uncertainty of the future we Americans, at least in the Baby Boomer age on down, have never really had to deal with. Everything has been pretty easy for most of us. Before this pandemic, we never thought twice about how our behavior could possibly impact someone else’s health and it was assumed that we could purchase any staple item without ever having to worry if the store had enough. We could go anywhere in the world on vacation, only money was the limiting factor and we certainly never thought we would ever suffer economically in any situation, nationwide or personally, in this great land of plenty.
And now, even though we are on the cusp of getting back to our new “normal”, there’s still a cloud of medical and economic uncertainty.
That fear is at the root of the aberrant behavior of stocking up on junk food, alcohol and other substance vices. We are trying to find comfort in all the wrong places.
We recently had author Robyn Cruze as a guest on radio show “Healthy U” where she was talking about her new book Making Peace With Your Plate. She addressed fear in the context of eating disorders directly:
No amount of controlling, restricting your food calories, or binge eating will remove your fears or make you a better person.
What I’m going to ask you to do, is what I’ve been doing for these past months in quarantine, that is, erasing that fear and replacing it with something infinitely better: trusting in the Lord! I’m not going to lie, I’ve been fearful at different times in these past months from sometimes constantly watching the news on Covid-19, (which sparked my fears for the health of my family, friends, community, our nation AND the world) but I vowed to replace that inner fear with time spent with the Lord and build greater TRUST in Him.
The first step is to seek a better relationship with God or maybe just start one now, by reading His Word (The Bible) to know what He wants from us to have that relationship. Once we have a grasp of that we can understand that we need to rely on Him for everything, because He’s got it under His control all the time 24/7. God knew we would be fearful on this earth, so to equip us the Bible mentions the word roughly 500 times, but the two words fear not (what He truly wants for us) is mentioned 365 times (one for everyday of the year)!
The only fear we should have is of God, or reverence that He is in control. We should approach Him with reverence and humbleness in our prayers to morph fear into trust. Just as the ancients did in the many rich stories presented in the Bible when the fear was just as real:
King David’s fervent prayers to God when he was on the run from King Saul, who wanted to kill him (Psalm 121 is only one example of the many prayers penned in Psalms by him).
King Asa of Judah’s humble and reverent prayer to God when his army was hopelessly outnumbered (2 Chronicles 14:11-15).
King Jehoshaphat (son of King Asa) of Judah’s prayer of humility for God to deliver his country safely when all of the surrounding countries came to make war (2 Chronicles 20:5-12).
These are but three tiny examples of the infinite amount of times God answers our prayers when we trust in Him.
This pandemic is not going to be something we humans can “fix”, it’s too vast and unknown. Only God can give us the tools, so we need to rely on Him first, with a humble heart.
Solomon’s Proverb 3:5-6 says it best:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
That fear/trust connection was brilliantly summarized by minister and publisher W. Glyn Evans:
The moment I feel fear, that should be the signal to trust, and once I put my trust in God, I will dismiss my fear and calmly move forward.
I’ll end with a picture of my granddaughter Evie with her loving Dad, Tracy. What I want you to see in this picture is what God does for us.
Tracy throws his daughter up on the air, and you can see Evie is happy, but maybe just a little unsure of the outcome that her Dad will be successful catching her:
This is a picture of Evie being very happy her Dad gave her the thrill of throwing her in the air AND successfully catching her!
We’ve been thrown into the air with this virus on many fronts, but there should be NO FEAR that God won’t catch us for He’s always there for us, we just need to TRUST HIM!
The trio of self-care: taking care of our body, mind and spirit must be carefully nurtured by each of us, in good and bad times. For the body and mind, healthful nutrition and movement. For the spirit, transforming fear into trust in the Lord, in these uncertain times and ALL times, because God has got this, but trust is key!
Recap of: Taking Advantage of The “Pause Button” In Our Lives
I. Notice the little things and be in the moment.
II. Take the time to connect with your loved ones.
III. Be kind to yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.
A. Keep Calm and Carry On with a Routine.
B. Boost The Mood With The Food That Inspires Moves.
C. Transforming Fear Into Trust.
Would you all like a little Chinese carry-out without doing the carry-out part? This recipe fits the bill of not only being incredibly tasty, but VERY HEALTHY. I significantly cut down the fat called for in the original recipe and (if you’d like) you can buy the natural brown sugar (zero calorie) replacement I used (bought at Walmart):
instead of the called for real brown sugar and zap the carb count. The main natural ingredient, erythritol, is the sweet substance extracted from certain lichens and algae. The recipe has the nutrition info for both, using the replacement or using the real sugar option. I’ve also thrown in some healthy (and very flavorful) cauliflower rice as the base of this dish. I promise, you won’t miss the carry-out version and you can also pat yourself on the back for preparing a healthy dish with NO GUILT! ENJOY (Randy and I sure did)!!!
MONGOLIAN BEEF AND SPRING ONIONS
WITH CAULIFLOWER RICE
1 lb. cube steak or flank steak, sliced diagonally 1/4 inch thick
¼ cup cornstarch
Divided-1 tsp. plus 2 tsp. avocado oil (or some oils that can take high heat like grapeseed or high quality olive oil)
¼ cup chicken broth
1 T. minced garlic
½ tsp. grated fresh ginger (or ¼ inch dried ginger)
½ cup Swerve Brown Sugar replacement (or 2/3 cup brown sugar) (See Note)
½ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
½ cup water
2 bunches (109 g.) green onions, cut into 2 inch pieces (1 2/3 cup)
Cauliflower Rice (see recipe below)
Toasted Sesame seeds and crushed red pepper for garnish
- Stir together the beef and cornstarch in a bowl until thoroughly coated. Let stand about 10 minutes.
- Heat 1 tsp. oil in a deep-sided skillet or wok over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, cook and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in Swerve brown sugar replacement (or brown sugar), soy and water. Increase heat to medium and stir until sugar is dissolved and sauce boils and thickens slightly, roughly 4 minutes. Transfer sauce to a bowl. Rinse and dry skillet.
- Return skillet to burner, when heated add 1 tsp. oil with cooking spray. Working in batches, shake excess cornstarch from the beef slices and gently add to oil (don’t crowd the pan), cooking for roughly 2 minutes. Add a small amounts of chicken broth to prevent burning. Transfer to a plate. Repeat process until the entire batch is cooked.
- Return skillet to medium heat and add cooked beef, stirring briefly, then pour the reserved sauce over the top.
- Add the green onions and bring the mixture to a boil, cooking until the green onions are softened and turns bright green, about 2 minutes.
- Serve over the prepared Cauliflower Rice. Garnish with toasted sesame seed and crushed red pepper.
Note- The nutrition information below reflects both sugar options: Swerve Brown Sugar Replacement and traditional brown sugar.
Nutrition per serving using Swerve Brown Sugar Replacement: 570 cal./25.1 g. fat/25 g. carb./56.5 g. protein
Nutrition per serving using traditional brown sugar: 831 cal./ 25.1 g. fat/96 g. carb./56.5 g. protein
1 large head cauliflower (436 g.), separated in 1 “ florets
1 T. Olive oil
1 medium onion (103 g.), finely diced
½ cup chicken broth
Kosher salt and pepper
2 T. fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
- Trim cauliflower florets, cutting away as much set as possible. In 3 batches, break up the florets into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles couscous.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add onion and sauté until onions are golden brown at the edges and are softened.
- Add chicken broth and sauté until the cauliflower is softened and the broth is evaporated.
- Take the cauliflower off the heat and add lemon juice. Season to taste.You can either garnish the cauliflower with parsley or stir it into the entire mixture.
*Recipe adapted from Food Network
Nutrition Info Per Serving: 148 cal./7 g. fat/16.4 g. carb./6.2 g. protein