Living Well Integrative Health Center

2176 Windsor Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. (902) 406-1500

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A short survival guide for Covid-19 isolation, Dr Maria Patriquin MD CCFP FCFP



There is much to be grateful for as we enter a new week with so much fear, confusion and vulnerability. Gratitude may be harder to access than social media would suggest or imply so I am going to help guide you through that if you wish.

The desired goal is to hold our shared vulnerability with gentleness, generosity and compassion. This is our SHARED HUMANITY and we are all together in this.

May we be creative and grateful for each and every moment we have and when struggling to access this try and connect to someone remotely to help you see it.

It indeed is a scary unpredictable time but together we fare this better.

We must enjoy, tolerate, endure, rejoice, relax into this. Regardless of what it feels to us in a given moment, we must understand that to stay inside and isolate physically is the only way we will reduce the human toll. Find some way to embrace it or connect to others than can help you do this. It is my wish to try and help you do this.

Consider this...

1. Make a SCHEDULE (gasp she said that?) humans thrive on routine. The predictable in a time of unpredictability gives a greater sense of normal and we don't just want this we NEED it.

2. RESTRICT, LIMIT AND DEFINE YOUR exposure to the NEWS. By define I mean, define the purpose, be clear about why you are tuning in. Checking once, max twice a day will suffice. Choose a reputable source, there is a lot of fake news going around. We will post reputable information to the Fb page and our website. The most important way you can use your news time is to be up to date on local measures, laws, resources etc. Please consider that children and teenagers do not need in fact need to hear everything, just the critical stuff like NO PHYSICAL CONTACT and we can DO THINGS TO STAY HEALTHY.. Teenagers are often attributed more capacity to deal with the difficult and fearful than they are able to. DON'T ASSUME PLEASE, ASK WHAT THEY NEED. People often say of smaller children that they aren't listening or don't understand anyway. They do. Just trust me on this one.

3. Ensure you do all the SELF CARE things you thought or said last month you didn’t have time for. Sleep, eat well, exercise, socialize (phone or through social media), pray, make something, listen to music, get fresh air....all that feeds your mind, body and soul! Indeed there is time NOW.

4. MEDITATE. Use guided to begin. See my website page under mindfulness or UCLA or YouTube for many options and variations of a seated meditation or body scan. This helps center the mind and calm the nervous system. If a meditation or body scan doesn't feel accessible or safe to you, just BREATHE. Count your breaths or say in, out. The exhalation should be longer than the inhalation thereby activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms the body ad nervous system which become activated by stress.

5. Name three things a day you are GRATEFUL for and they can’t repeat. This is my trick to ensure we don't put that on autopilot and get granular about it. We do gratitude as grace at dinner. It is also a great way to begin and end the day. Feel free to surpass the three. Also consider doing what we call in our house "BLAHTITUDE or FAILITUDE , you know giving voice to the difficult feelings, thoughts or the things you "perceive" yourself as having failed at. They count too and need to be shared not held inside. Just ensure to follow them with some gesture of gentleness or gratitude. That may be hard but we need it. Make it small, I mean micro. For example I might be grateful that the sun was warm on my front step when I ventured outside. I saw a blue jay or a random stranger walking down the street said Hi while they walked their dog. WRITE THESE DOWN as JOURNALING works. Keep a small booklet or create a gratitude jar (clear) so you can see the gratitude piling up. This will serve as an external reminder each time you pass by it. A little notebook like I give in my class can be in your pocket and in a moment of deep discouragement or darkness you can pull it out. It's pretty hard to believe those thoughts as facts when you read through all that you felt grateful for in another moment not so long ago in time. EXTERNAL REMINDERS work, write them on your mirror and windows, or post a picture of a dreamy place or loved one around your home.

6. Let yourself FEEL. You are going to have feelings and that is human. Breathe, soothe, move and know this too shall pass. Fear, anger, sadness, frustration, grief, loss, confusion are all normal. These emotions and the thoughts that accompany them are telling you something. You can't not feel or think but thinking you can by fighting, numbing or detaching from them them enhances and intensifies them. There's no over, under the thinking and feeling, only through. I suggest pairing the moment with something soothing, grounding or positive that normally gives you some sense of comfort or pleasure. I call this "positive piggy-backing" and it is the principle of using our conditioned positive response to something to color a not so positive state. When we revisit, remember, recollect we are actually re-experiencing it physiologically.This brings some of the re-experiencing to the current difficult moment and can help us lean into and soften our response to the more negative or intense thought or feeling. This will help move through the feelings and thoughts in a healthy and reasonable time. It wont be gone but will be manageable. Use the feelings you have to inform your day of what activities will be of most help. To do this you must be mindful, listening to how it is you feel, think and sense. If it isn't meditation, then don't meditate, do jumping jacks! If you choose Netflix, chose a positive, inspiring show or movie. This isn't the best time for a downer drama or horror movie. Stay safe and healthy emotionally and cognitively.

7. Think OPTIMISTICALLY. So when it doesn't go how you wish or someone or something disappoints you, rather than lashing out at someone or in at yourself, consider that it is just something that happens. Give yourself and others the latitude to be human, because you are, we all are. That means stuff happens, we also fail, we fall and well, everyone feels this way sometimes, this is at the heart of SELF-COMPASSION. Envision a different outcome understanding that regret differs from guilt (which holds hands with shame and blame) and from that place we can CHOOSE differently next time.

8. Do something KIND for someone else. "BE KIND ON PURPOSE" is my trademark, motto, mantra and motivation. Yeah we know you can’t leave your home! Call, draw a picture and text it. Sing out loud to your neighbors, text them and perhaps sing together. I texted some moms and got kids to go outside and a block away they exchanged bird calls. Draw a picture or a message on the sidewalk for all to see. Need more ideas just ask me and keep tuned to our website and Living Well Fb page. I guess I'll have to master instagram now!

9. Remember that we are the only species that can THINK ABOUT HOW WE THINK. This translates to being able to hold something in our conscious minds (that's right just decide to) and we then see things differently, as if through that lens. So choose a word that reflects a quality or attitude that you want to embrace at this time. It needs to align with your value system. For example I might choose BRAVE, THOUGHTFUL, KIND, COMPASSIONATE, COURAGE, STRONG, RESILIENT. Each time I do something with intention I repeat that word to myself and voila, I see and experience that intentional act through that lens. The more I do it, the stronger it becomes and more powerful in transforming my experience into one that embodies that quality as well.

10. There is good evidence supporting the understanding we have that not only can we be "resilient", we can actually GROW and surpass where we may have landed if there had not been some major challenge/trauma/crisis. This is called POST TRAUMATIC GROWTH and it means that how you develop ways right now to cope and manage have the potential to enable this growth or hinder it. You may not think these measures or suggestions work, but they do and you don't even have to buy in (although that does help strengthen the practices), you just have to DO IT! Whatever we do repetitively we get better at. So is there any other reasonable choice than a healthy one?

11. I have always said it's not what happens that's most important but the attitude we take towards what happens that matters. DECIDING WHO YOU WANT TO BE in the face of this challenging time and crisis, is the most important decision you can make. So take some INTENTIONAL TIME TO THINK and jot down your personal VALUES, who you are. Then BE YOU, DO YOU. Be authentic, be in wonder, be empathetic and empowered by making healthy choices like the ones we just read. I call this being "In AWE", AUTHENTIC, in WONDER, EMPATHETIC and EMPOWERED.

We are in isolation, we are alone in some sense....AND we are in this together. Tune in for more and sending much love.

Dr. Maria Patriquin MD CCFP FCFP



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