Advice for being Proactive in the Face of COVID-19 from our Farm’s Family Physician
With COVID-19 turning our social landscape upside-down and with closings happening everywhere, our farm and family is actively working to be part of the solution, using our medical knowledge and remote location to carry initiatives forward with intent and integrity.
This virus, SARS CoV-2, is new, so we humans have no baseline immunity to it. This means that all of us are at risk of infection. Currently, social distancing is being offered as the first line of defense, not only for individuals reducing their risk of infection but also for helping to reduce the risk of unwittingly giving the virus to at-risk loved ones and overwhelming the medical system with cases. (See the article by Dr. Asaf Bitton to read more and the science behind this.)
So, as we quarantine ourselves in our homes, what more do we need to consider to vitalize our immune systems, protect our communities, and move forward with integrity and purpose through this difficult situation? Here are eight key actionables:
While you’re at home, this is a great time to prepare meals from scratch. Processed and prepared foods are often made with sub-standard ingredients, agricultural byproducts, and additives, preservatives, and conditioners that are harmful if not toxic to the body. Choose to eat color—fruits and vegetables are infused with micronutrients and vitamins that will naturally enhance your immune system and vitality. Because there are currently no medicines for COVID-19, then it’s time to rely on the Ancient Grecian advice of Hippocrates—“Let food be thy medicine.” Eat to feed your immune system, rather than as a stress habit.
Just because we need to stay at home doesn’t mean we have to stay inside. Yard work is always in season, as is walking the dog. Even vacuuming can help you stay active. Instead of binge watching on Netflix, find activities you enjoy that keep you moving. An active body is a healthy body. Being outdoors daily has also been shown to greatly reduce clinical signs of stress, anxiety, and depression, so it’s good practice for your mind and body. This does not mean going to the gym—remember the essential nature of social distancing at this time. If you see a neighbor, wave and greet them from a distance. We can still joyfully acknowledge each other without having to touch.
The news is bombarding us from all angles—the TV, our phone, everywhere. Sensationalism is part of their marketing system, and they’ve learned how to enwrap our attention. But this can quickly become very toxic to our psyche. While it’s important to keep up with the issues, keep enough distance so you have some breather space. Look for positive stories about what’s coming out of this experience, and how we can learn from this to be better people and societies. Keep in touch with nature and loved ones, practice yoga, meditation, or other methods that help you feel grounded and at ease.
Get Good Sleep
We’ve all heard that we should get better sleep, but now it’s time to be serious about our sleep habits. Good sleep has been shown to be just as important to a healthy body, mind, and immune system as eating well and exercising. Poor sleep is directly linked with heart disease, obesity, type two diabetes, stroke, and depression. Eight hours or more of sleep at night not only improves memory and energy but also boosts the immune system’s ability to fend off viruses. No more putting it off—make sleep a priority.
Creative expression is central to the human spirit. It is an often-overlooked piece of whole-person health, and we all have creative abilities. Just because we’re stuck at home doesn’t mean we need to vegetate on the couch. Engaging in creative activities increases vitality and positive outlook—important aspects of keeping the body and mind healthy. Additionally, it stimulates and sharpens the brain, boosts self-confidence, and is fun and enjoyable.
Everyone is suffering in this unprecedented situation, which means that we all need to consider the plight of each other, especially the elderly, immunocompromised, and disadvantaged members of our society. Check in with each other—your neighbors, family members, friends. Help as you can, given the constraints of social distancing. Dropping off groceries on someone’s porch may be a real lifeline at this time. For example, one of our CSA families purchased a number of frozen soups from our farm store to give to a neighbor who just came home from surgery.
Think Global, Act Local
Issues arise at universal levels that can seem insurmountable, like global shortages of much-needed supplies. Instead of being overwhelmed, there may be something you can do right now to help make a difference at the local level. As large scale systems break down, the truth of the efforts of each of us as individuals shines through. For instance, knowing the real need for medical masks will soon hit our area, Kara is spearheading making our own improved fabric versions and offering them to friends on the front lines of care. This has since spread virally (how apt a term at this time) online, and now she is launching a campaign to help others learn how to make this personal protective gear.
Move Forward with Integrity and Purpose
We find ourselves at a pivotal moment. Not everyone or every business is going to make it through this process. If we choose to feed that which serves goodness, health, and wellbeing, these qualities will be able to thrive. If we can also choose to not support that which is predatory, narcissistic, and unhealthy, these will fall away. Pandemics like COVID-19 shake up the social fabric, allowing us to question the status quo and put our efforts and attention towards the world we build together in the aftermath. We urge you to deeply consider the initiatives, businesses, and efforts you choose to support during this time. Your actions based on these choices will greatly influence the type of society and community we have on the other side. Our deep hope is that all of us can rise from this trial stronger, more unified, kinder, and humbled.
Social distancing doesn’t mean leaving each other in the cold. It means being smart about how we look out for each other. It means thinking about community in a whole new way and placing integrity first. Guided by our sustaining vision for a healthy planet and all its inhabitants, we at North Star Homestead Farms are helping to lead the way of re-envisioning the landscape of whole-person health.
Stay safe, wash your hands, and choose kindness.
Co-written by Laura Berlage and Ann Berlage, M.D.
Ann Berlage, M.D.
Focused on proactive care, Ann is the founding force of our lived vision for a healthy planet and all of its inhabitants. She is also a dedicated advocate for building community, empowering women, and bringing mindful compassion to this human experience.