March 13, 2020

Finding Calm in the Storm of Coronavirus as a Chronic Illness Survivor.


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These are difficult and confusing times.

I don’t have to tell you that. Everywhere you turn, there is an update on Coronavirus. We wake up every morning to the news of the COVID-19 negatively impacting our lives and well-being.

Deaths. Higher incidents in certain geographic areas. Increase in numbers of those affected.

What doesn’t help is the plethora of information out there. Not all of it is sensible or reliable. Anxiety has found a home in all of our minds. Social media makes it easy for people to share information, but how many of them are truly mindful or knowledgeable about what they post online about a pandemic like Coronavirus? Do they check themselves to make sure that they are not contributing to the mass hysteria?

I am bombarded with “How to take care of myself in times of Coronavirus,” because I am a chronic illness survivor. I’d like to believe most people mean well, but I also firmly believe that a larger majority doesn’t process every thought that leaves their brain and enters their mouth. In times of instant gratification, impulse often drives what people post on social media or how they craft their messages.

I know first-hand what containment and social distancing mean—my illness rendered me immobile for months. Last year this time, my body was still healing from surgery and months of being homebound. My mind had fought equally hard to not go into a depression. My doctor and surgeon were amazed at the quality of my mental health. I had lost my ability to eat, sleep, and walk. I saw seasons change through our living room windows. I missed every family function, holidays, celebrations, friends’ successes, my own literary events, book readings, and workshops that I offer my clients. I lost clients and my career. Once again, containment and social distancing weren’t my choices or doctor’s orders, but my body failed to function, so the choice was made for me.

Trust me, many of us chronic illness survivors know what illness can do to your mindset. It’s a lot of hard work to find and focus on one ray of sunshine when everything around you seems dark and bleak. It’s not easy to go from living a regular life (in my case, winning one of the most prestigious awards for my novel Louisiana Catch) to finding yourself in the ER and suddenly fighting for your life. No signs. No symptoms. And you find yourself in the most horrific situation.

I have made self-care a priority in these times.

I have been trusting Ayurveda to help me stay grounded and boost my immunity. I have been relying on this ancient healing of life to navigate these bizarre times.

Being mindful. Ayurveda teaches us that compassion that doesn’t include you isn’t true compassion. I have chosen to not read or respond to messages where people share unsolicited advice about surviving Coronavirus as a chronic illness survivor. They read something online, start to panic, and pass it down to me. I am sure there is warmth and love behind their action, but I don’t need to be reminded that my body is susceptible to falling sick, again.

As a chronic illness survivor, like many others, I know what frailty of life means. I don’t need to be retold that chronic illness survivors are more vulnerable to Coronavirus as I watch and read the news too. I don’t need to be reminded that my body is weaker than other people’s. I work doubly hard to keep it strong and going.

Drinking warm water. When I wake up in the morning, one of the first things that I do is sip warm water. I continue to do so throughout the day because warm water detoxifies the body and lessens any congestion in the chest. It’s also known to aid digestion and decrease stress levels.

Cooking with spices and herbs. Ayurveda talks about the importance of spices and herbs in the stages of prevention, maintenance, and healing. I have been cooking most of our meals at home with organic ingredients (whenever possible) and using turmeric (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant), cumin (reduces toxins and helps with indigestion), ginger (eases cold and reduces inflammation), and ghee (anti-inflammatory properties). Our kitchen cabinets can be powerful adversaries to all kinds of ailments.

Practicing sun salutations. Yoga, for me, is my anchor. If I don’t have the time for a 60-minute class, I will at least practice it at home for 20 minutes. But my daily practice is important to me. Surya Namaskar or sun salutations build up heat and boost immunity. According to Ayurveda, sun salutations can also aid in digestion, improve heart health, and unwind the mind and body. It can calm the nervous system.

Breathing right. Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellow’s breath) has beneficial effects on the digestive and respiratory system. It can help drain out excess phlegm from the lungs and mucous from our respiratory system. It’s known to purify the blood and relieve inflammation in the throat. Bhastrika also calms the mind.

Meditating. In all of this mayhem, we have control only over our thoughts. We have a choice to fall prey to the plethora of information and hysteria. We have the option to make mindful choices and pay attention to what leading health authorities share but not give in to the madness. Meditation can be your best friend in these trying times of uncertainties. It lowers anxiety, enhances focus, reduces stress, increases self-awareness, calms the mind.

Using essential oils. I burn dosha-specific (Ayurveda speak) essential oils in diffusers in our living spaces—mostly lavender, peppermint, lemongrass, and frankincense. They help relax and soothe the mind. Some oils lower anxiety and aid digestion. I also blend body massage oils with high-grade essential oils.

My point: while it’s important to take care of our physical health in these times (practice good hygiene and be pragmatic about what you feed your body), it’s equally important to nurture your mental and emotional health without giving in to the frenzy.

Trust your instincts, use your common sense, and make informed decisions.


The Coronavirus is already feeding these Bad Things. Let’s use it for Good. ~ Waylon


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