Coping with social distancing – we can stick together

Written by Endeavour College of Natural Health | 23 March, 2020

With the spread of COVID-19, health authorities are encouraging us all to practice social distancing. The reason being the more space between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread. While social distancing may mean less contact between you and other people, our Head of Department for Social Sciences Anita Milicevic and Naturopath Camilla Adams encourage us all to see it an opportunity for greater self-awareness and kindness.

“Social distancing does not mean that we have to be socially isolated,” Ms Milicevic says. “Let’s change this thinking. It’s about physical distancing, and remember that the ‘physical’ is just one dimension of our relationships. This change in our social rules is an opportunity for us all to increase our emotional awareness. Let’s think about what we’re missing and perhaps what we took for granted before. Like a handshake with a stranger, or a hug with our grandmother.”

Choose kindness over fear

In difficult times, we can choose to focus on fear or kindness, Ms Milicevic says. “Kindness allows us to look for ways to act differently. We must apply kindness to ourselves as well as others. For example, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest information, but not to the point that we are overloaded. If you are following the news or social media and start to feel a sense of unease, anxiety and fear – it’s time to step back, switch off your phone and take a break,” she says. “Reach out to a friend or family member by phone or Skype. There’s no denying fear, it is understandable, but find a way to balance your fear by doing something positive, like connecting with the people you love.”

Naturopath and Endeavour graduate Ms Camilla Adams says many studies have shown that people who focus on positive information are more likely to have stronger immune systems. She suggests we spread joy, not germs. “There are beautiful and uplifting videos, quotes and good news stories circulating the internet. Share these stories.”

Remember to pause, breathe and move

Ms Milicevic recommends a simple exercise that everyone can do, anywhere to create a pause. “It’s a three-minute breathing practice. For the first minute, focus on your breathing and ask, ‘Where am I? What’s going on? What’s my experience right now?’ During the second minute, just focus on your breathing. During the third minute, continue to focus on your breathing, but visualise the breath travelling from your lungs through your entire body.”

Ms Adams echoes the importance of staying active. “If you can take walks in the open air, dance in your kitchen, spring clean, do star jumps, yoga or light stretching. Even if you’re in self-quarantine, there is something you can do. By moving, you can boost endorphins naturally, which will help to enhance your mood and support your immunity.”

Now is the time to download those workout and healthy lifestyle apps – like Centr by Chris Hemsworth – and take advantage of free trials. YouTube is also an endless and free resource for exercise videos. Here are some suggestions from Ms Adams to get you started: Yoga with Adriene, POPSUGAR Fitness, Pamela Reif andThe Body Coach TV.

Nourish your body and mind

Ms Adams reinforces the importance of boosting your immune system and supporting your nervous system by eating well. “Herbs and medicinal mushrooms, like Shiitake, Reishi and Turkey tail, can amplify your body’s resilience to infection and help maintain balance,” she says.

Ms Adams’ list of useful herbs includes Echinacea, Astragalus, Codonopsis, Elderberry, Garlic, Thyme, Wild cherry bark and Pelargonium. While nerve nourishers include Ashwagandha, Passionflower, Chamomile, Skullcap, Oats, Lemon balm, Motherwort and Holy basil.

“Holy basil, for example, is India’s revered plant and a herbal ally in times of stress. It is an immune balancer, especially when we still have to show up to life’s responsibilities,” she explains. “Oats are a gentle go-to herb for the nervous system. They help to calm frayed nerves and exhaustion. Oats also have antiviral and antifungal properties useful for fighting infections.”

If you’re working at home with wandering hands for snacks or suddenly find you have a lot more time to bake, make sure you’re cooking up nourishing treats. If you’re in lockdown, Nutritionist and Endeavour graduate Jessica Cox recommends the chocolate donut recipe from her new cookbook e.a.t. “These donuts are a fabulous wholefood snack that provides satiety, while also being high in fibre and quality fats,” Ms Cox says. “Plus, they are low in natural sugars overall, and chocolate lifts dopamine levels, and we all need a bit of that right now!” she says.

Stay motivated

Whether you’re choosing to work or study at home, or you’re in quarantine, Ms Milicevic recommends focusing on your motivation. “If you focus your energy on your motivation – such as being safe and keeping those around you safe – then fear takes a back seat. Allan Wallace calls this ability to discern which desires and intentions truly lead to one’s own and others’ wellbeing, ‘conative intelligence’. The fact is physical distancing helps to save lives.”

Dr Milicevic encourages us to use these challenging times to find new ways to be kind, nurturing and supportive. “On a global level, we’re being forced to stop and reflect. People all around the world are finding ways to convert these awful circumstances into something beneficial and empowering. Look at the great examples of people supporting their neighbours, friends and strangers – like the Italians singing together from their balconies. There are many ways we can keep or even enhance our social connections, even at a distance.”

Endeavour College of Natural Health

Endeavour College of Natural Health is Australia's largest Higher Education provider of natural medicine courses.

The College is known as the centre of excellence for natural medicine and is respected for its internationally recognised academic teams and high calibre graduates. Endeavour offers Bachelor of Health Science degrees in Naturopathy, Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine, Acupuncture Therapies and Chinese Medicine, Undergraduate Certificates, a Diploma of Health Science and massage courses.

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