Archive for the ‘Isolation’ Category

Covid caused a lot of division in many ways. One of the ways it affected us was that our family split down the middle and the two sides stopped talking. We have operated in two camps throughout all the trials and tribulations of the last two years. It’s been so sad and unnecessary. We didn’t even come together for Christmases. We’ve missed celebrating one another’s birthdays and other milestone events. In 2020, I released my trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, while we were scattered to the winds. It sucked when only five family members showed up.

This situation was at the forefront of my mind this week. My family has been split asunder for two years. Life has not been the same. In the diagram created by Abram Maslow, called the ‘Hierarchy of Needs,’ one of the levels of basic human requirements are the security needs followed by those of love and belonging. A well-functioning family fulfills those basic needs. There is nothing healthy about family battles. They fundamentally weaken us.
What changed the stalemate? We gathered together for a wedding recently, and it caused a thaw in relations between the factions. The door opened to a reunion, and it was because one member was brave enough to “just invite everybody and let them deal with it.” Everyone dolled up and gathered in one place for this glorious occasion. We hung out together for half a day and remembered, Oh, that’s right, it’s fun being together. Oh, that’s right, we’ve spent years of birthdays, Christmases, and parties together. Oh, that’s right, I love these people.

The next thing that happened was we started discussing a family vacation together this summer and even booked accommodation. How’s that for something to be grateful for? I have such good memories of holidays gone past. We used to travel most summers while my parents were alive to gather at their seaside cottage for Christmas and happily spend the summer break there till after New Year. We’d spend whole days at the beach. In the evenings, the parties used to go into the wee hours, with music, laughter and talking. There were card games, and rounds of Cribbage. Dad would tell a story and sing a ballad or two. Mum would do an interpretive dance, which always made us laugh. There were board games of scrabble and Trivial Pursuits. All the things.
The night skies in the Coromandel Peninsula are exceptionally clear and have a following among stargazers worldwide. At some stage during the evenings, we would go outside when it was dark and look at the stars. There is something otherworld and magical about seeing so much more of the Milky Way at a decent elevation.

Mum’s and dad’s log cabin was sold after dad died. Then Covid happened. The family went separate ways, vowing never to talk to one another again. Then two years of estrangement ended recently with the family wedding. This summer will be the first time we’ve gathered together as a family for a seaside vacation in years. I feel gratitude that the truce is in full effect. To think of our family coming back together again gives me a feeling of succour, strength, and stability.
All this made me realize how much we need our families. Sometimes it takes forgiveness. Sometimes it takes a willingness to let things go. Sometimes it takes preparedness to back away from the argument plus acceptance that that’s okay. But, whatever it takes, the effort is worth it. We need that family bonding time, that love and support. They call this ‘the age of anxiety.’ What a soothing balm it is to the harried modern soul to have one’s family intact and functioning.

A year or two ago I would never have thought this would be possible. Covid caused the division, but we’re not letting Covid have the last word. Even when sometimes family rifts seem unsurpassable, I have learned that all is not lost. Even the most torn-apart family can heal if both factions reach the point of wanting to heal. We needed to step back from our differences and remember the common ground we do share as a family. We needed to be prepared to let bygones be bygones. We needed to attain the point of saying, Life is too short for this. We’ll never be perfect but we are finally coming back together. So, now I know it can be done. Take heart.
Family time is important. Now, more than ever. What about you? Did you manage to stick together throughout the pandemic?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

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Eventually, you will end up where you need to be, with who you’re meant to be with, and doing what you should be doing. ~ unknown


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Where I live, we are still in lockdown level 4. Many people I know are struggling. Yesterday, the youngest son’s school sent us this “important note.”
Lockdown is tough on everyone.
We all have some days that are better than others.
Look after yourself.

Get exercise each day.
Offer to help others in your bubble.
Be kind to yourself and others.
Do something you enjoy.
Get help when you need it.

I appreciated the encouragement. The schools are aware that we parents are doing the hard yards. On our family chat on Facebook, various members said they didn’t think they could cope with another week of level 4. They needed face-to-face interactions.

“One more week of this and I’ll go crazy,” said the mother with two children under five.

Everyone from all walks of life has talked about feeling blue. At the grocery store, the lovely university student who works there part-time said the universities and adult training institutes had just announced there would be no more lectures on campus the rest of this year. “I’m over it,” she said. “This is seriously getting me down.”

These days such topics as depression are talked about more openly, which is a healthy thing. It’s good to hear family members and friends discussing their feelings. This year, however, I was shocked to discover that more than half the people I know live on anti-depressants as a way of life. In my post a couple of weeks ago, Hold Onto Your Joy, I shared various fun things I do with my kids to keep our spirits up. Hearing people discuss their fears and anxieties since then, it seemed appropriate to add another chapter to the discussion about positive health alternatives.

One of the things we do is a little thing called forest bathing. Have you ever heard of it? In Japan, people practice forest bathing, where they spend quiet time absorbing the wisdom of ancient forests, taking long walks among the trees to stimulate their immune system. There are lots of urban nature reserves where we live, and we walk through the trees daily.

This solution is not at all new. “The tonic of the wilderness” was Henry David Thoreau’s classic prescription for civilization and its discontents, offered in the 1854 essay Walden: Or, Life in the Woods. In Taoism, generations of students have been encouraged to meditate among trees. They believe that the trees will absorb negative energies, replacing them with healthy ones.

Trees are seen as a source of emotional and physical healing and as meditators, absorbing universal energies.

Now there’s scientific evidence supporting eco-therapy. Experiments on forest bathing conducted by the Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences in Japan measured its physiological effects. “The team measured the subjects’ salivary cortisol (which increases with stress), blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate variability during a day spent in the city and compared those to the same biometrics taken during a day with a 30-minute forest visit. Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments,” the study concluded. This is due to various essential oils, generally called phytoncide, found in wood, plants, and some fruit and vegetables, which trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects.

Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher. It is better for you!

City dwellers can also benefit from the effects of trees with a visit to the park. Brief exposure to greenery in urban environments can relieve stress levels, and experts have recommended “doses of nature” as part of the treatment for attention disorders in children. The evidence suggests that we don’t need to spend a lot of time in nature to gain the numerous benefits of forest bathing. But regular contact with trees does appear to improve our immune system function and our wellbeing. Our health has never been more vital than it is now. The same goes for our mental health. We have to do everything we can to preserve both.
Let’s face it, while we’re in lockdown, what better time is there to go for a stroll in nature? Do you like forest walks? Have you ever tried forest bathing?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Happiness grows at our own firesides, and is not to be picked in strangers’ gardens.” – Douglas Jerrold.


 
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Currently, we are in lockdown level 4 in New Zealand. I have been watching the news (I normally do not watch it at all). It is easy to spend time worrying about businesses trying to pay staff during the lockdown, all the overworked essential workers, and our healthcare system under pressure. You feel for the parents working from home, especially the solo parents, those with small children, the lonely old folk, and the teachers trying to teach online. It is not an easy time. However, I have noticed a heartening difference in the way people in my neighbourhood behave. The first time we went into Level 4 lockdown in 2020, when out walking, other walkers and runners would look down or away while crossing the street to avoid you. This time around we are still keeping our distance, but the other people out exercising have looked at me and waved, calling cheery hellos, and smiling behind their masks. I think there is a collective understanding that we have been through this before, and we will get through it again given the right attitude.
There also seems to be a realization we need each other, and we are more aware that we miss those human interactions when we are confined to our bubbles.

A lot of people get swept up by the fear and stressed out. I rang the doctor this morning, and the receptionist said Kia ora like she would bite my head off in one gulp. The stress is real. We have to find coping mechanisms that work for us. I always tell my friends to shut off all the devices in the house and pick up a good book. Looking back, I realized that apart from taking long breaks from the news, it was writing and reading that really helped me through the lockdown in 2020. The same coping mechanisms will help get me through the lockdowns in 2021. I have a few excellent books on the go at the moment. I’m reading, Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman, Spirit Animals Fire, and Ice, by Shannon Hale, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare (thanks to fellow writer Susan Baury Rouchard for sending me that one).

If I find myself panicking, I turn off the devices, then do something I love, whether it be reading, gardening, walking, painting, or just watching a movie eating bon-bons.

Yesterday, a friend said, It looks like things are going to be turbulent for a while. I replied, We have to hold onto our joy more tightly. There is nothing we can do to alter what is going on out there. But we do have control over how we react and act while we are in isolation. There are a few tricks I have learned since 2020 about how to keep my family’s spirits up while we’re in isolation.
My Top Tips:
Limit news updates/turn off your devices
Paint your toenails (and your kids’ toenails – my boys think it is hilarious)
Sleep in! (For a lifelong early riser like myself, this has been a revelation!)
Wear bright colours. (I have shelved all the grey and black in my wardrobe. It is a simple trick, but it makes me feel happier to wear all the brightest clothes I own)
Bake!

Read! (Maybe I will make progress through my tower of to-be-read novels)
Coloured lights! (Drag out your fairy lights, or any twinkle lights and have them on all day as well as at night)
Flowers. (I pick flowers daily on my morning walk along the verges and alleyways and set out mini posies around the house)
Music! (Play your favourite tunes, sing-along, and dance like nobody is watching)
Talk! (Phone your loved ones. Talk across the fence to your neighbours. Sit and talk with the family members in your household). Check on the people you know.
Work in the garden
Dress up in crazy clothes (it makes the boys and I laugh to wear silly hats)

Exercise
Do something creative (my friend said she has started writing limericks because they make her think and make her laugh)
Do a jigsaw (My father’s favourite pastime is fun and calming)
Meditate
Write a gratitude journal
Be kind
We will get through this, just like we have done before. Stay calm and carry on and remember to hold onto your joy tightly!
What are your top tips for staying positive during lockdown?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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As we traverse this very unstable time, it is so important that we keep track of our real joy and our vitality. ~ Jai Dev Singh
 


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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words Newsletter Subscription in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com
 

The city has gone quiet and the noise from the motorway barely audible. In New Zealand, we are officially on lock down as the government helps everyone in the fight to contain the Covid-19 virus. We have four weeks ahead of self isolation and with luck the government will step the nation down from a “Level Four Alert” to a Level Three. It’s okay. I can hear more of the bird calls and the songs of the insects. It sounds poignant. Some people say they don’t like the quiet. I love it. I haven’t seen the streets this quiet since I was a kid growing up here in the sixties. The stillness feels peaceful, which is just what we need as we curl inside our family “bubbles” and prepare to hibernate.

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Essential services are still running. I ventured out yesterday to do the grocery shopping, and it was nerve-wracking. Police outside the supermarket, hazard signs, and perspex barriers between us and the checkout operators.

How do I cope with going out in public? I take preventative measures.

There are face masks available at some local chemists. I’m doing my best to follow all the preventative measures. The boys and I are washing our hands regularly and using Hand Sanitizer. We keep a distance of two meters from others in public. When we get home we shower, wash the clothes we were wearing and put shoes and coats out in the sun. We wash all the groceries, fruit, vegetables, and the packaging of processed foods in warm soapy water. There are many things we can do to minimize the risk.

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It is still scary. Every day we hear about new cases of people infected. I hope my family will be okay. But yesterday, while in the supermarket, two men sneezed and did not put an elbow over their faces. In another aisle, an online shopper was putting goods in his basket and did a sneeze over the goods he had collected. Horrible. Though sneezing is not a symptom of Covid-19, when there is a deadly virus around, any sign of illness is off-putting. If they’d had face masks on they wouldn’t have shared their illness with us. I realized how little control I had over the situation and for the first time I was afraid. There is an invisible danger every time I leave the house, and yet I still have to enter the supermarket and grocery store to get supplies each week.

How do I cope with the fear? Deep breathing helps. I sometimes say a mantra. I find meditation helps me stay on an even keel, so I’ve been meditating more than usual.

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After this week’s sneezing incident, I’ve taken the boys’ father up on his offer to do the shopping for both households for the duration of the lock down period. The fewer people out there, the better.

Yet, as social animals, we still need social interaction. It can get lonely in isolation. Thank goodness for modern technology. People have been reaching out to each other, face timing relatives on Skype and meeting with friends online. I’ve heard from friends, family, and Toastmasters colleagues. I’ve had videos sent to me via Facebook of friends singing. My old friends from schooldays are meeting up via Zoom room this Friday night for “virtual drinks.”

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This week we had our club’s first ever online Toastmasters meeting, and it was great fun. In among the fear, there have been positive things that have come out of this extraordinary time as people find new ways of connecting and supporting one another.

However, there’s also such a thing as being too plugged in. With world news at the moment, I think less is more. I sat and watched the BBC news with my son the other night and afterwards I felt almost unable to function. Stress lowers immunity function. I think for now, a light touch with the news is necessary for one’s well-being.

If we give in to the fear, we spiral downward. We have to stay strong mentally and emotionally and physically. That’s the only way we can be of service to our families. We have to persevere, keep our spirits up, the morale high.

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How do I keep my spirits up? I gravitate towards things I enjoyed doing as a kid.

I read books, watch movies, draw pictures, doodle, write stories, listen to music, sing, dance, go outside into the garden, plant things, and spend time with my family.

The boys and I have done their schoolwork together, gone for family runs, and we’ve played board games. I’ve seen whole families out biking to the park, couples walking dogs.

We’re reminded we can get through this together, and we will. How about you, how are you doing?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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 * There are free counselling services in New Zealand. Call or text 1737. Check what’s available in your area.