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I am seeing signs of people’s impatience from being cooped up because of social distancing measures taken to flatten the COVID-19 curve. Our leaders and health experts are actively discussing how we will relax various stay-at-home orders. On a recent Zoom meeting, friends were fantasizing about the first things they would be doing when they could go out in public. It’s like we have all been stuck in a car on a long trip and are asking, “Are we there yet?”

We know that we aren’t there yet. We also know that we don’t know when this trip will be over. COVID-19 may have peaked in some areas, but a peak is not a signal to resume normal life. We don’t want our efforts to end in more peaks.

So what do we do in the meantime? Be patient with uncertainty. It takes courage to live with unknowing.  Here are seven tips for developing patience during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Tip #1: Strive for the healthiest lifestyle you can. Are you getting enough sleep, eating well and staying active? Are you using substance that can wreak havoc on your health, such as smoking, drinking and using drugs? How about your mental health? Consider meditation. (Ten Percent Happier is a great place to start.) Are you doing things that bring you pleasure? Pick an area you want to change, and start small.

Tip # 2: Stay connected. Between the phone and social media, there are many ways to stay connected with others. Someone wrote, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Find people to dance with.

Tip # 3: Live in peace, not fear. COVID-19 is scary, and it is reasonable to occasionally freak out about it. However, fear and worry don’t change a thing and only make things feel worse. Amy Tan wrote, “If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.” Attitude can change everything.

Tip #4 Step away from the ledge. Watching endless news and staying too connected to social media will increase stress. Limit screen time to one or two times a day, and never before bedtime.

Tip # 5: Live in gratitude. There is a Chinese proverb that states, “We count our miseries carefully, and accept our blessings without much thought.” Are you counting your blessings or your troubles?

Tip #6: Serve others. The Dalai Lama said, “”If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” If you are having a low day, helping others can really lift one’s spirit. Call someone, send a note, be extra kind to a housemate, or donate money to any of the many organizations that are desperate for money right now.

Tip # 7 Keep your sense of humor. The English poet, Lord Byron wrote, “Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.”  In addition to scientifically proven health benefits, humor lightens even the heaviest load.

Developing patience is a practice. It takes diligent commitment, training and time. It is a declaration of intent to stay healthy no matter what. It is medicine without taking drugs. When we dare to live well, we honor ourselves and inspire others to do the same. Daring to live is courage in action. Lao Tzu said, “A man with outward courage dares to die: A man with inward courage dares to live.”

If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.

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Many religions are observing their spring holy days while COVID-19 marches on. As of this morning, there were more than 1.5 million reported cases of COVID-19 globally, and more than 90,000 deaths. The U.S. has the highest number of confirmed cases by far, at nearly 433,00o. There have been nearly 15,000 deaths in this country.

These numbers are expected to peak nationally on Easter weekend, April 11-12. Projected peaks vary by cities and regions; click here to see when COVID-19 is expected to peak in your area. Notes about the information in this link:

  1. This info changes as real data are collected.
  2. These projections assume that social distancing and stay-at-home orders will be in place through the end of May.
  3. It also assumes that states who haven’t yet instituted stay-at-home and social distancing measures will do so within a week.
  4. The projections are through early August.

How do we live with this tragedy? I look at these numbers, hear the stories, and see the photos of body bags, and I want to curl in to a ball and cry. I’ve done a lot of weeping this past month.

I have also experienced a great deal of joy and gratitude. Some of my fellow humans are doing great acts. Health care workers, grocers, farmers, elected officials, scientists, garbage collectors, elevator mechanics, chefs, the media, delivery people, people who work with animals, and so on, risk their lives so our lives can continue. Teachers are doing incredible work from their homes. People are making masks, donating money, home schooling their children, serving their neighbors, contacting friends, and entertaining us. We are holding each other up.

Sometimes it isn’t enough. There are moments when I just don’t feel up to the task of bearing this awful reality. Those are the moments that I need an attitude adjustment. The truth is that I am not on the front lines. No one in my circle has been seriously injured by COVID-19. I live in a beautiful remote area with hardly any reports of coronavirus. I have food, a wonderful husband, internet, a roof over my head, and love in my heart. So what is my problem?

The problem is that we are all living in a pandemic and except for a few people over 102 years old, we have never done this before. Although I have it good, I am not immune to human suffering. The world is under a high level of stress all at once, and stress is contagious.

I contribute to the problem. Some days I step in to the deep end and get immersed in the news. Too much information and screen time aren’t healthy. I need more walks, more meditation, more quiet time during this pandemic. Instead, I turn to my phone, watching this virus engulfing our world.

When I have those moments, the first thing I need to do is acknowledge my feelings. There may be silver linings in this pandemic, but this is not the time to spin the reality. If I need a cry or a good temper tantrum, I let myself go there. Once that is over with, I ask myself two questions:

  • How can I help myself?
  • How can I help others?

I start with myself because I can’t help others if I am drowning. Helping myself starts by hitting the reset button. A few deep, mindful breaths helps. Turning away from media and going for walk or having a cup of tea or doing something that has nothing to do with COVID-19 also helps.

Sometimes I use this virus as an opportunity to create. Every day, I write a coronavirus haiku. (Posted on Instagram hepcnurse) On week days I meditate with people all over the world via Ten Percent Happier. I highly recommend this. (It’s free.)

This blog is an attempt to help others. Other ways to help range from checking on friends and family to helping others get in to Zoom meetings. I am active with some nonprofits, and seem to be busier than ever. Every week I send money to someone or an organization that needs it. I also help others by staying at home.

These are challenging times, filled with uncertainty. Maintaining our mental health along with our physical health is paramount. Physical distancing is our most important public health tool right now, but this practice doesn’t serve our emotional needs. We are tribal beings, and even loners need others. Find a way to stay connected, and if you find yourself drowning, grab on to a life preserver. Helpers are all around us, willing to toss a safety line to those who need it.

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A recent report about the transmission of COVID-19 was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Presymptomatic Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 — Singapore, January 23–March 16, 2020 – Wei WE, et al. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report April 2020). Examining 243 cases among seven clusters of COVID-19 reported in Singapore from January 23–March 16, researchers suggest that presymptomatic transmission is the most likely explanation for the occurrence of these cases.

In their conclusion, Wei and colleagues wrote, “These findings also suggest that to control the pandemic it might not be enough for only persons with symptoms to limit their contact with others because persons without symptoms might transmit infection. Finally, these findings underscore the importance of social distancing in the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the avoidance of congregate settings.”

I live in California, a state that takes a fair amount of ribbing for hot tubs, liberal ideas, and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I feel safe in the hands of our left coast governor, Gavin Newsome, especially since he issued an early statewide order to stay at home. Apparently Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey took issue with California’s extreme response explaining why she did not plan to issue a statewide order. Her plan is to balance the health of the state’s residents with the health of the economy. “Y’all, we are not California, we’re not New York, we aren’t even Louisiana.” As of this moment, Alabama does not have a statewide stay-at-home plan (along with a number of other states) Note: Alabama’s governor issued a stay-at-home order on April 4th.

California’s plan seems to be working, especially since some of the more populated areas had shelter-in-place plans as early as March 17. At this point, San Francisco and Seattle have flatter curves than many other areas. It all comes down to social distancing, or as some have renamed it, ‘physical distancing’. Alabama is projected to suffer as a result of their sharp curve.

Want to know how your area is doing? Here are three links with good information:

If COVID-19 can be spread before people are aware that they have it, physical distancing is out best tool for keeping ourselves and others alive. If you want to help, stay at home if you can.

Thank you to all of those on the front lines. Thank you to all who are staying home.

If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.

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On a recent video call, a participant told 40 other women that if they rubbed bacitracin zinc ointment in their noses, it would protect them from COVID-19. My audio was turned off, so no one heard me groan. However, the video did catch me dropping and shaking my head like pandemic superhero Anthony Fauci M.D. did at one of President Trump’s press conferences. 

Let’s start with one fact: Bacitracin zinc ointment prevents bacterial infections and is ineffective on viruses. The same is true for Neosporin. It will NOT protect you from COVID-19.

Today I discuss some of the myths I’ve heard during this coronavirus pandemic.

Myth: Chloroquine is a “game changer. On March 19, 2020, during a press conference about COVID-19,  President Trump said that the anti-malaria drug called chloroquine is a “game changer.” Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are being investigated in clinical trials around the world, and although the FDA issued emergency approval for their use in hospitals, as of now, the evidence of the effectiveness of these drugs as a treatment for COVID-19 has not been established. People are buying chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, and putting themselves at risk. There have been some reported deaths in the U.S. and world from people taking these anti-malarials. Also, there are huge shortages of these drugs, putting people who need these medicines for other conditions at risk. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine should only be administered by licensed medical providers.

For up-to-date information on the status of drugs in COVID-19 clinical trials that are being tested, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Myth: Since there aren’t many coronavirus cases in my area, I don’t need to practice social distancing. This is false for a variety of reasons. First, many areas aren’t equipped to do testing, so no one has any idea of the accurate number of people with COVID-19. Second, we do know that people with no or mild symptoms are passing this. A study out of China found that nearly 80% of people who acquired COVID-19 got it from people who didn’t know they were infected.  Third, the entire point of social distancing is to keep COVID-19 from spreading, particularly rapidly. If you don’t understand the concept of “flattening the curve,” here’s a good explanation.   

Myth: Sipping water every 15 minutes will protect against coronavirus. There is no evidence to support this, and the notion is so unscientific, there are no clinical trials on it. Ditto with taking vitamin C. Also, if you hear that sunlight or UV rays kill COVID-19, that is false.

Don’t believe everything you hear. To stay safe, check the sources. Try to set the record straight when you hear others spread false information. If you want more information about COVID-19, here are a few reliable resources:

If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.

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Our advance directives and POLST are now hanging on our front door, ready if we need to go to the hospital.

Two COVID-19-related news items converged, causing me to take significant action.

The first was about vocal individuals who believe that we should get back to business as usual. Citing concerns about the economy, President Trump tweeted, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” Some people told the media that they were willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the economy. Texas Lt. Governor Patrick said, “Let’s get back to living,” suggesting that that seniors should “take a chance.” Scott McMillan promoted a more extreme idea stating, “The fundamental problem is whether we are going to tank the entire economy to save 2.5% of the population which is (1) generally expensive to maintain, and (2) not productive.”

This thinking is short-sighted for many reasons, not least because COVOD-19 spreads rapidly. This pandemic began with one person. Coronovirus wouldn’t just infect some senior shoppers saving the economy; it would spread like wildfire. Further, this virus doesn’t limit itself to seniors; a couple of minors have died from COVID-19. Look at the latest U.S. data, and there is a constant stream of information showing that this virus does not discriminate by age.

The second news item was about hospitals discussing universal do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders for patients with COVID-19. Health care workers, already at high risk of acquiring COVID-19, are at much higher risk when attempting resuscitation. Facing severe shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) coupled with an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, hospitals are discussing whether DNR orders should be in place for all people with COVID-19.

I don’t have enough information to form an opinion on universal DNRs, but I want to share a decision I made based on these two controversies. If I am going to make any sacrifices, it won’t be for the economy; it will be for our health care workers and first responders. As a result, I talked to my husband and kids about my heath care advance directives. I don’t not want to be resuscitated if I succumb to COVID-19.

Here are my reasons:

  • I value life over the economy, so I am staying home.
  • I do not want to infect anyone else, so I am staying home.
  • If we lose more health care workers and first responders, the fragile protection we have will be lost, and we are sunk.
  • I care about humanity, especially those on the front lines (health care workers, first responders, grocers, delivery people, journalists, farm workers, toilet paper providers, truckers, etc.), so I am staying home.
  • However, should I get a critical case of COVID-19, I do not want a frantic code team trying to revive me. Stay nearby, say your prayers, or whatever you do when life has stopped, but above all, stay safe.

So yesterday, my husband and I talked. Our advance directives and Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) are now hanging on our front door, so they can be grabbed if we need to go to the hospital. (Most people put them on their refrigerator, but magnets don’t work on our fridge.) Our kids have been notified of our wishes. I have written notes to my loved ones, messages that I hope they don’t need to read during this crisis, telling them how proud I am of them and how much I love them.

I love my life, and I hope to be around a long time. However, I am not afraid of dying. Preparing for death is important to me, and although we can’t control the details surrounding death, we can try to be sensible and make our end-of-life wishes known.

For now, know that I am well, snuggled in at home and grateful that I bought toilet paper before all of this started. Now that I’ve taken care of this death-planning detail, I can place all of my attention on living.

Click here to learn more about advance directives and end-of-life issues.

If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.

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I am a fairly calm person, but these are extraordinary times. It’s natural to feel some anxiety in the middle of a pandemic. The issue isn’t if I will feel unnerved by COVID-19, but rather how I am going to manage my reaction to this global turmoil.

In the past week, I felt like I was coming down with COVID-19 about ten times. Each case lasted about an hour, and each incident could be traced to stress rather than a coronavirus exposure.

Here is what helps me maintain equanimity or re-center when I lose it:

  • Confine the number of times I check the news. I aim for twice a day, but it often creeps to three times. After two sleepless nights, I stopped looking at news after 6 pm. When I hear news in the evening, it interferes with my sleep, which makes me tired the next day, leading to imaginary virus symptoms. 
  • Maintain my health. I participate in some sort of physical activity nearly every day. For those who are completely housebound, browse the internet for exercise programs you can do at home. Some gyms offer free work-outs online. Between yoga, strength-training, and aerobic actives, there are programs for all sorts of fitness levels. YouTube is a great place to find programs.
  • Employ stress-reduction tools and use them often. In addition to my own meditation practice, I participate in a live guided meditation compliments of the folks at Ten Percent Happier. This occurs every weekday at 3pm Eastern and is free. You can listen to previous meditations as well. These meditations are also on YouTube. I look at the news before the meditation; not after.
  • Limit social media. We need each other, and it is essential to connect. However, it is important to balance social media with other activities, especially ones that move the body.
  • Help others. There are all sorts of ways we can help others. Keep in touch with people who live alone or are having a hard time. Donate money to charity.
  • Look for pleasure, beauty, humor, and toilet paper. We need all of these things. There are some fun posts on the web about hand washing songs. When washing my hands, I say a 20-second loving-kindness meditation that not only keeps me safer, I’m holding good thoughts for others. I step outside every day and look at the sky or birds near my house. I’m reading a detective novel, and although I didn’t stock up on t-paper, I have enough for now.

If you are having a hard time, the crisis hotlines are still up and running at 800-273-TALK (8255). If you need help with drinking, drug use, addiction of any kind, or are concerned about a loved one with a substance use problem, there are online meetings in many communities across the country. For information about these, call your area AA, NA, Alanon, etc.

How are you weathering the COVID-19 pandemic?

If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.

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