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Writer-s-Bloc

How's your immunity?

Looking at our immune system holistically 

By Raina Dawn Lutz

Our immune system. Our food intake and diet. Our digestion and our stress levels. So many connections.

But it comes full circle back to stress for many of us.

Our immune system is simply the grouping of cells, organs and tissues that network to protect our body from foreign invaders.

Our immunity is our ability to fight off these invaders. There is a great deal of evidence from research showing effects on our immune system, and our immune system effects on our overall health.

How balanced is your immune system?

Immune suppressants: surgery, antibiotics, stress, travel, low self-esteem, emotional extremes, sugar, alcohol, smog, industrial chemicals, heavy metals, cigarettes, excess vegetable oils, low protein absorption, aging, excess iron, excess eating, lack of sleep, allergies...

These are choices to completely avoid or at least minimize or if we want to improve our immune system. A balanced attitude, healthy lifestyle habits and the following keys will support your immune system...

Top 5 immune supporters: 

  • Healthy digestive function (deep breaths before you eat a meal!)
  • Exercise and yoga
  • Clean whole foods and a plant-based diets (a diet consisting of lots of plants)
  • Proper balanced intake of vitamins, minerals
  • Love, laughing, meditation, relaxation

Our stress, our stories that our mind creates, our worries, our anxiety of the future or sadness from the past keeps us down.

Down equals slower functioning immunity.

You've heard this before, the caveman reaction in our body that we can't control fools our body into a round of stress.

Foods to support your immune system to eat today include:

  • Whole grains (such as brown rice)
  • Raw fermented foods (sauerkraut, kombucha)
  • Green vegetables (like spinach, kale and chard)
  • Wild fish (like salmon)
  • Nuts and seeds (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts).

Whole-foods nutrition isn't a magic pill, it's something we have to want, to work for, to take time to do and to respect ourselves enough to do it. It's education and it's preparation and it's time.

But it's do-able. And we have the time right now, don't we?

Now's the time. What can you do today to support, not suppress your immune system?

Raina Dawn Lutz is a registered holistic nutritionist and kombucha brewer in the Okanagan who helps women to get the tools, motivation and excitement to eat well. She specializes in weight loss, digestive issues and anxiety. LutzNutrition.ca[email protected]





No longer winning

By Matthew Rigby

I’m not sleeping well, friends.

All this past week I’ve been receiving thoughtful messages asking how I’m doing. And honestly?

I feel like I’m losing, embarrassed of how afraid I am, how anxious I feel. There is a tightness in my chest that is not from the coronavirus itself, but the fear of it. The fear of all that’s coming. 

For months now, I’ve been following the growth and spread of COVID-19. Each new development prompting more investigation. While increased knowledge did not decrease my anxiety, I remained (mostly) level headed.

When my hospital began preparing for our first possible cases of infection, I felt on edge, but was sleeping at night. As shelves were emptied of toilet paper, sanitizer and non-perishables, I trusted that restocking would come.

We might have to live on beans and rice for a while. But I was still sleeping at night.

And when spring break began, our family escaped to a rustic cabin beside the sea to self isolate in style. With little to no cell service, we would receive only sporadic updates on our phone of the world outside our oasis.

Each new update confirmed that I would be heading back to a different world than the one I left. But I was still sleeping at night. 

 

When we had internet, we posted pictures of hikes by the sea, of fire pits and wood stoves. And from all accounts, it looked like we were winning. 

 

Over a week later, a lot has changed. Daily updates by our provincial health officers and the Prime Minister outlining the latest numbers and restrictions.

  • New businesses shuttering their doors.
  • New masses of soon to be unemployed.
  • New stories of diminishing protective equipment.

My anxiety had reached a fever pitch. 

And I started having trouble sleeping at night. 

I know that I’m not alone in carrying this anxiety.

It’s there with the elderly locked away in a facility, unable to visit with family, praying that staff do not inadvertently bring the virus to their home.

It’s with the parents of a child with asthma. It’s with the grocery clerk whose checkout counter places them within two meters of their customer.

It’s with all healthcare workers who know that they will be face to face with the sick and scared and infected.

And it’s with each and every person who is already beginning to wonder how long they can live like this.

Because truthfully, unbelievably, it has only been 14 days since British Columbia announced that the virus is a Public Health Emergency. It feels longer. 

That’s less than two weeks of markers on the grocery store floor showing us how far back to stand from the customer in front of us.

  • Less than two weeks of attempting to set up workplaces from home.
  • Less than two weeks since we could sit down in a restaurant.
  • Less than two weeks of feeling like each cold or flu symptom could be something much worse. 

In these past two weeks, we’ve seen a lot of responses to this crisis. We’ve seen a lot of brave faces. We’ve seen photos of hiking excursions, home-gym routines, baking projects, home office set ups, chore lists and reward charts intended to allow parents a few minutes of uninterrupted work time.

We’ve seen hearts in windows and residents banging pots and pans in appreciation of front line healthcare workers. And we’ve seen a lot of heart-warming pictures of families cuddling up together, in peace.

We’ve seen a lot of people who look like they are winning at this new, bizarre way of life. 

If this is an accurate depiction of your life these past week, I’m genuinely happy for you. In my own family there have been beautifully mundane moments of board games together, of punching down homemade dough, and even surviving a few math lessons around the table. 

But I’ve also had to lock the door to my room and barricade myself away for fear of screaming at my kids. I’ve read accounts of the war-like conditions in hospitals in New York State and felt chilled.

I’ve wandered my house, lost. Picking up my phone to refresh a feed I just looked at five minutes ago. Searching through cupboards and fridges I’m nervous about not being able to restock. 

I don’t think I’m an outlier. I think many of us are tired and scared. Some of us have given this new life it’s best possible start, and two weeks in, we’re wondering how long we can keep this up.

We’ve seen the cracks begin to show in our best intentions of staying positive and productive. We’re running out of shows to distract ourselves with. We’re sick of playing Monopoly. Our home office is no replacement for a real one.

We’ve seen a 40% increase in alcohol sales. We’ve contributed to these sales. We watch the exponential rise of cases in our province and country. We wait and we watch, unable to move, unable to escape it.

We’ve felt the end of this crisis become more and more elusive. 

Many of us are looking for lessons, looking for silver linings. We’re trying to see this in the best light possible. But many of us can’t. Hope can be our greatest ally, but it is hard to come by these days. It’s okay if it’s illusive right now. 

We have to be patient with meaning. Perspective is developed in time. In these hardest of moments, these initial weeks, it’s okay to be honest. It’s okay to admit that we are not winning. That we are not okay. That we are tired and afraid. This is not a game we win; this is a crisis we survive. 

One day, we will see how this has shaped and taught us. One day, we will be OK. 

That day doesn’t have to be today. 

Matthew Christopher is a grateful husband to one, father to three. He works as a Registered Nurse in emergency and acute care. He writes, records, schemes and dreams at somethingfromeverything.com

 



Keeping anxiety in check

Managing stress during these challenging times

By Jennifer Kirkbride

As a clinical counsellor, I want to contribute what I can during this challenging time.

I have compiled some basic, yet important strategies to mitigate the impact of stress during the pandemic.

Maintain connectedness

During isolation and quarantine, it can feel impossible to stay connected to loved ones and friends, but there are many ways to do so, and it is crucial to our mental health that we do.

Ideas for connecting include:

  • Starting a group chat or text message
  • Use Facetime or Snapchat
  • Make a Skype call
  • Write a note to a neighbour with your phone number and leave it at their door.

Information and media

It is important to know yourself in this regard. Some people feel more empowered by obtaining current information via reading articles and listening to broadcasts. 

Be especially careful to filter the information you are taking in, as there are significant amounts of misinformation available.

Suggestions for reputable sources of info include:

  • World Health Organization
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Health Canada.

If excessive media and information creates increased anxiety or stress, consider limiting the amount of time you expose yourself to news and social media.

Keeping informed on up-to-date government requirements is important, but being bombarded by social media threads can create undue fear.

Strategies for Anxiety and Stress management:

BODY SCAN: 

  • Sit in a comfortable position.
  • Feel the floor beneath your feet, the chair beneath your legs.
  • Scan your body from head to toe. 
  • Notice any tension, any sensations, any pain.
  • Now wiggle your jaw to loosen any clenching. 
  • Raise and lower your shoulders. 
  • Gently shake out any tension in any other areas of your body.

DEEP BELLY BREATHING: 

  • Place your hands on your lower abdomen. 
  • Breathe in slowly (through your nose if possible), trying to raise your hands on your belly.
  • Count to five as you inhale and when your lungs feel full, slowly exhale through your mouth.
  • Repeat at least 10 times, and as many as needed.

MINDFULNESS:

This is the ancient art of staying in the moment. Anxiety can occur when we fixate on the past, the future, or things we cannot control. Mindfulness helps us to stay present. 

Try this basic mindfulness exercise that can be done anywhere: check in with your senses in your current environment.

What do you see? Notice the little things. Notice the colours and shapes around you.

What do you hear? Even if it is quiet, you may still hear something subtle like the hum of your refrigerator. 

What do you smell? Food cooking? The scent of the laundry detergent on your shirt?

What do you feel? The temperature of the room? The softness of a blanket?  What do you taste? Your toothpaste? The linger of your morning coffee?

SELF SOOTHING:

Develop a list of self soothing tools. This will be unique to you. Think of what evokes feeling of comfort. Suggestions include having a cup of herbal tea, listening to music, a warm bath, burning scented candles or diffusing essential oils.

Tap into things that calm the senses.

Get your thoughts down onto paper.  Anxious minds tend to ruminate on the same thoughts over and over.

When we get our thoughts down in writing (or drawing), we are better able to process them, that is, sort through them and challenge any unrealistic or unhelpful thoughts.  

When our brain feels it has dealt with the concern, we are better able to move past the obsessive thought. 

This can be particularly helpful before bed, when it is common for people to struggle with anxious thoughts.

Build a List of activities and interests that you can do at home. Again, this will be tailored to the individual but some ideas might be: small home improvements, creating art, crafting, reading, home workouts, or online courses. 

Beyond keeping you busy and bringing joy to your life, the activities create a sense of accomplishment, which has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health. 

Finally, if you are seeing a therapist, or believe you should, do your best to keep your appointments, even if the format has changed.

Most therapists have moved their practices to online sessions for the time being.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, the crisis line in B.C. can be reached at 310-6789.

Take care of yourselves and take care of each other, from a distance for now. We will get through this together.

Jennifer Kirkbride is a Kelowna clinical counsellor. She can be reached at
[email protected]; jenniferkirkbridecounselling.ca





The dog and the robo-vac

By Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel

The robot vacuum whirled to face us, and then circled menacingly, or at least the dog thought so.  

Whenever the machine would roll towards her, Tig’ger, the Australian shepherd would tuck her stubby tail and run out of the room.  After all, the robot did make strange, loud, humming sounds, like some kind of alien animal.   

To make things even spookier, the rolling, whirling, dirt-eating disc had later knocked the wicker basket laundry lid on top of itself, and now was incognito. I grabbed my cell phone and recorded the strange phenomenon. 

It spun round and round in tight circles, akin to a buffalo with a brain injury after rutting season. I think the lid had obstructed its vision and then became disorientated, leaving the robo-vac dazed and confused. 

 I must admit, the thing gives me the willies too, especially when we first got the self-propelled vacuum. I couldn’t help but wonder if there isn’t a camera inside, hidden in plain sight.  

In this day and age, one has to be concerned about our smart phones, TVs and even our own vehicles recording our every move and conversation since home surveillance systems and baby monitors are being hacked by nefarious individuals or entities. 

I was having tea with an elderly woman a few years back when we heard a really bizarre growling gurgling noise coming from her bedroom’s audio video monitor. 

“Sounds like Gremlins,” the 90-something-year old said nonchalantly as she took another sip. 

It was all I could do not to run screaming from her house. 

Another case in point, I was alone recently and using my nine-year-old lap top late one afternoon and happened to say out loud that I didn’t understand why I was so tired. 

Seconds later, an ad came up on the screen about chronic fatigue syndrome.  Now that was freaky.  The camera had been taped over, but how do you shut off the sound? 

Hence the notion of a roaming vacuum saucer spy, sneaky enough to cover itself in camouflage, may not be that far-fetched after all. 

Perhaps it thought it would blend in better with the surroundings of the hard wood floor and tanned carpet, believing it fooled this inferior human. 

 The appliance is a more compact and flattened version of Artoo Deetoo  —the glorified shop vac — and quite possibly, far more sinister.  

They say to trust your dog’s instincts about things.  I don’t know who “they” are, but that’s good advice.   

My dogs over the decades have warned me correctly about sketchy people, whom I initially had been fooled by, but the previous pooches never encountered a robotic vacuum either, and some canines actually attack them.   

Good thing Tig’ger’s a pacifist. 

This robo-vac is plenty shifty too, besides going undercover and terrorizing the dog, it also acts like a unionized employee.  Some days it works for 30 minutes, then goes back to roost on its home base.   

I then have to retrieve it, lift it up, carry it to another room and shut the door to its recharging station, so it won’t try slacking off again. 

Other days the vacuum travels throughout the house and cleans for two full hours, before calving from exhaustion, or a dead battery.  

I catch myself talking to, or scolding it, saying:

  • “Nice try, but you’re going back to work”
  • "Oh, honey robovac, I'm home, you hoo, where are you?"

Oftentimes, there is the issue of the machine going missing, and my having to go on a search-and-rescue mission. 

One time I found it under the bed, and it had dragged one of my boots by the laces and got all snarled up in it.  The following week, it got tangled up in my apron strings. 

I heard of adult children being unable to let go of Momma’s apron strings, but this is ridiculous. 

I can never be certain where it will end up at on any given day. I can’t help, but wonder what it does when home alone with the dog.

I may need a home-monitoring, audio-visual system to spy on the vacu-spy. 

The results may very well be spine tingling. 

Tig’ger and I may need therapy after. Caesar Millan, dog whisperer, here we come.

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel is a Kelowna writer.



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Welcome to Writer’s Bloc, an opinion column for guest writers to share their experiences and viewpoints with our readers.

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