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The Happiness Connection  

Are you ready for the shot?

The hopes of many have been focused on a COVID-19 vaccine for a year now.

Finally, the reality of receiving an inoculation is getting closer and closer.

How do you feel about waiting?

It’s taken me a lot of years to let go of the impatience that descended every time I found myself waiting for something to happen or for another person’s decision to be delivered.

The sense of powerlessness that accompanies these situations can be torturous.

If you plan on getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and you struggle with waiting, I’ve got good news for you. There are things you can do now to make your eventual inoculation more effective.

Vaccines of all types work in a similar way. They start by initiating an inflammatory response, similar to a mild version of the illness they’re designed to protect you from.

This causes the adaptive immune system to spring into action.

Exposing the body to the viral or bacterial components of the disease, allows it the opportunity to create a plan of attack.

It can use this plan if the actual virus or bacteria appears. Faster response to the invaders means a greater chance of irradicating the germs before they can get established.

There are a lot of variables that contribute to how well your body reacts. Studies show that both physical and mental health have an influence.

It may seem like this pandemic has gone on forever, but in research terms that isn’t true. Because the COVID-19 shots are so new, scientist have turned to data collected about flu vaccines to help them.

This information, along with what they’ve uncovered from the recent COVID-19 drug trials have given scientists a good picture of ways you can prepare yourself to have the best response to and recovery from your vaccination.

In a nutshell, the healthier you are, the better you will react to an inoculation. Even a short-term adjustment to a healthier lifestyle will aid your body’s ability to remember how to attack invaders and minimize side effects.

Let me share some of the ways you can get your body and mind ready for a vaccination.

Get plenty of sleep.

I’m starting with this one, because it’s something many people struggle with.

I was interested to discover that a recent study found flu vaccines to be more effective in people who got a good night’s sleep the two nights before their inoculation. https://sleepdt.com/sleep-and-how-it-helps-the-immune-response-to-covid-19-vaccination/

You should also aim to get sufficient rest for a few days following your shot if you want to minimize side effects and have the best possible recovery.

If this doesn’t seem like simple advice to follow, start working now to establish healthier sleep routines. This will make it easier to follow the sleep recommendations provided by the research.

Release stress through relaxation.

Both long and short-term stress hamper your body’s immune response. Utilize strategies like meditation, journaling, and yoga to relax both your body and your mind.

Increase your connection time.

Feeling connected to others is important for both mental and physical health. The pandemic makes this harder but not impossible.

A study of undergraduate students found that those who felt lonely or who had very small social networks, had lower antibody levels than their connected counterparts. Antibodies help you fight invading germs.

A virtual coffee date, a walk in the fresh air with a neighbour or friend, or a telephone call are all great ways to boost your wellbeing.

Follow healthy living guidelines.

  • Eat fresh, whole foods.
  • Stop cigarette smoking.
  • Increase your physical activity.
  • Restrict your alcohol intake.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of ways to live healthily, but you get the idea.

If you’re planning to take advantage of having a COVID-19 shot, be proactive and put your body in the best possible position to increase your immune response and decrease side effects.

Rather than feeling you’re helpless, empower yourself. You may be surprised at how wonderful it feels.



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Balancing your needs

Of a life full of decisions, the hardest ones are often those that involve other people.

As my parents progress through their 90s, they need more and more support. They don’t want to leave their home, but the list of ways they need help is continually growing.

We already have assistance in place for personal care, meals, and cleaning, and I’m currently trying to persuade my mom to employ a laundry service. Even with this support, there is so much more they need help with.

I take them to all their medical appointments, pick up medications, get their groceries, deal with paperwork like bills, and help with other sporadic situations as they arise.

Does this leave them with more things to take care of themselves? Absolutely.

Things became trickier this week when I strained my lower back helping my dad get up after a fall. This isn’t a new injury for me. Nursing it back to health includes protecting it from further damage for a few weeks.

Sometimes this can be difficult. When it snows, I still have to clear my driveway, although I take my time and move slowly. When I’m grocery shopping, there are items that need to be loaded and unloaded several times.

A few days ago, my mom had something to do that I knew she’d struggle with. I also knew that if I did it, it would cause me to further strain my back. I was on the horns of a dilemma.

Whose needs do I put first?

I’m not sharing this because I’m looking for sympathy. I wanted to write about my situation because I know I’m not alone and that there’s a certain comfort that comes from that knowledge.

What do you do when your needs collide with someone else’s?

This problem of prioritizing needs isn’t exclusive to people with elderly parents. If you have children at home who need your support, I’m sure you’ve been faced with this, too.

Does putting yourself first mean you’re selfish?

No!

I’m aware that some people, especially women of a certain age, may find that hard to agree with. My mom spent most of her life being guided by guilt and societal expectations. Her attitude was typical rather than unusual.

I know many people who’ve chosen to put their own lives on hold for a few years to care for an elderly or ill family member. Sometimes those years stretch into decades.

Is that the decision everyone should make? No.

Is that what a good person looks like? Sometimes.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to conflicting needs. The trick is to find balance and to decide what’s right for you and your situation.

Doing something out of obligation, is very different than doing it because you freely choose to. You’ll suffer if guilt or societal expectation is at the heart of your decision, and so will the person you’re caring for.

Obligation often leads to anger and resentment Those feelings don’t benefit anybody.

Freely choosing to do something doesn’t mean it fills you with joy. You may not want to do what you do, but your heart is guiding you, nonetheless.

  • Take time to consider the situation from different angles.
  • Consider possible compromises.
  • Look for ways to offer support that don’t involve you.
  • Sleep on it.
  • Say each option and pause to see how it feels deep inside.

Re-assess your decision regularly to see if it still feels right. What felt good a few weeks ago may no longer seem like the best choice.

Your self-care is important, but so is honouring your values and beliefs. Take time to know what’s important to you.

Shut out the voices of judgment that may be shouting in your head. This is about finding what feels right for you, not doing what you think is expected. If you think others are judging your decision, you’re probably judging yourself.

Happiness is about living an authentic life that’s right for you. Trust yourself to know when you should put yourself first and when it’s OK to come last.



COVID fatigue taking over

A change is as good as a rest.

Recently, I had an unexpected reminder of this sentiment.

When it comes to writing my column, I get my weekly inspiration from life. I’m constantly on the lookout for encounters, lessons, and observations to share.

As we near the one-year anniversary of social distancing and some degree of lockdown, this has become more and more challenging. New experiences are scarce and people watching is almost non-existent.

I spent a lot of time during the last week of January trying to choose a topic for my upcoming column. It was almost the end of the month, so February popped into my head. Along with that came the idea, Be Your Own Valentine.

It wasn’t until I attached the finished document to an email and got ready to send it to my editor, that I realized the theme might be a little premature. I didn’t have time to write something different, so I sent it anyway.

I received a reply saying my submission was going to be saved until the first Sunday in February. This meant I didn’t have to send another article for two weeks.

At the time, I didn’t think much about it. But as the days passed, I noticed there was an unidentifiable, uplifting energy hanging around that wasn’t usually there.

I realized I was enjoying a change to my unusual routine. I didn’t have to start looking for inspiration or carve out enough time to write a draft and then clean it up.

I love writing my column, and wouldn’t want to stop, but having a week off was like an unexpected ray of sunshine in the middle of a snowstorm.

I know a lot of people, including myself, are experiencing COVID fatigue, a term used to describe being tired of the pandemic. You may feel bored or frustrated. The light at the end of the tunnel may seem barely visible.

Something as simple as not writing my column for a week was all it took to give me a needed break from the routine. It didn’t erase the boredom, but it gave me a significant lift.

You can do the same thing by choosing a regular activity or chore and giving yourself a break from it. It doesn’t have to be something you hate, just something you do regularly.

If you live with someone, take on one of their responsibilities for a week and then let them take on one of yours. You might even choose to swap household tasks for a few days.

Adding a new hobby or activity can also do the trick, but many people I’ve spoken with recently, feel they’ve exhausted their list of projects.

The trick to lessening your sense of COVID fatigue is maintaining a balance of certainty and uncertainly in your life.

These are two of the six basic emotional needs that all people have. You don’t just want them you need them if you’re going to feel happy and satisfied with your life.

Tony Robbins created the list, based on the psychological elements included in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Certainty comes from routines and knowing what to expect. They help you feel safe.

Uncertainty provides variety. It gives you a sense of excitement and adventure.

If you have too much certainty, you’ll feel bored. This is what’s happening for many people and is at the centre of COVID fatigue.

If you have too much variety, you may feel fearful or insecure.

The secret is to find balance between the two seemingly opposite needs.

If you’re feeling the rug has been pulled out from under you, remind yourself of all the things that haven’t changed. Establish new routines to strengthen your sense of safety.

If you’re feeling bored and restless, change things up. Find some routines that you can release or experience more consciously. Being mindful stops them from being habitual.

A change really can be as good as a rest. I didn’t realize just how relevant that statement is to today’s pandemic world, until I received an unexpected break from my column. It was just what I needed.

There was another gift that came with this experience and perhaps it was even greater than the injection of variety into my life. I didn’t have to struggle to find something to share with you in my column this week.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make life special.



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Be your own Valentine

Whenever I think about February, I see pink, red, and hearts in my mind’s eye. How did one day take over an entire month?

I don’t think about green and shamrocks when I consider March. Nor do I immediately think about turkeys and pilgrims when October springs to mind.

Since the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day has been associated with love and romance. Lovers would exchange small tokens or notes. In some places, it became traditional to send an anonymous card to someone, asking them to be your valentine.

I couldn’t wait to have a boyfriend to share the day with. I spent many years in my early teens imagining how wonderful it would be. When the day finally arrived, it was everything I had envisioned.

Some years I was single in February. Although I put on a brave face of sisterhood and went out with friends, those occasions brought with them a sense of shame.

  • What was wrong with me?
  • Wasn’t I worth loving?

I’m sure there are many people who can relate to this situation. It’s easy to fall in love with the idea of being in love and believe that if you don’t have a partner, it’s because you’re lacking in some way.

If you need other people to validate your worthiness, you aren’t alone. This is a common misconception.

No one needs another person to complete them. If you were a beautifully iced cake, your significant other might add some extra decorations on the top, but without them, you’re still a beautiful work of art.

Valentine’s Day encourages you to show your love for others, but how often are you reminded to show your love for yourself?

Rather than looking for someone else to validate you, turn to the person who’s always there and who deserves your love the most. You.

Celebrate your love for a partner if you have one, but don’t forget to do the same for yourself.

Here are some important reasons why prioritizing self-love is important.

  • The way you treat yourself shows how you’re willing to be treated by others.
  • The less you judge yourself, the less you judge the people around you.
  • Loving yourself makes it easier to love others.
  • You’re more resilient when you know your wellbeing is in your hands, not in someone else’s.

Be your own Valentine this year.

  • Put your needs and desires first. That doesn’t mean to ignore everyone else, but remember, they aren’t more important than you are.
  • Book time in your calendar for some pampering and self-care. No one else knows what feeds your soul as well as you do. Caring for yourself is not selfish.
  • Accept who you are rather than trying to be the person you think you should be.
  • Be kind to yourself.

Love is limitless, yet somehow many people find it uncomfortable to be their own Valentine. It can feel selfish or lame to make yourself the focus of your own loving attention.

Use this month to create a habit of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-care. Showing your love isn’t just for Valentine’s Day.



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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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