Over the last few days, I've been wondering how I can best be of service in these uncertain times. Other medical professionals have been writing about how to stay safe and sane during the next few weeks and possibly months. I will share these resources with you at the end of this blog.
I can no longer offer my in-person treatments because of the risk of spreading infection. I did a load of laundry this morning filled with sheets that ordinarily would be put on my treatment table. As I neatly folded them and placed them in my laundry basket, I wondered when I would be able to do this again. Honestly, I don't know.
But I can share with you some of the wisdom of Chinese and Japanese medicine. The lessons that it teaches. The ways it might be helpful now. How I came to discover it at a time that was personally for me not so different than what we are collectively experiencing now. A time when I was forced to dramatically change my behavior and narrow my expectations of life.
You may know the story of how I became an acupuncturist. I was working in high tech in the 1980s when I came down with a mysterious and not well understood illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had to leave my job as a technical consultant at the Boston office of the Environmental Protection Agency. I felt enormous uncertainty about my work, my health and what the future might hold.
I grew up in a very achievement-oriented family. But at that moment in time, I could no longer do the work that my BA from Colgate and Certificate in Software Engineering from Harvard had trained me for.
The illness put me on an entirely different path. I needed a new model of life that wasn't based on doing more, earning more, and producing more. I found that model in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This was a model that talked about our connection to the natural world, with its natural rhythms and the importance of balance.
With this model, I could imagine a different way of looking at the world. This model was a relative model that explained that at different times in our lives, we have different goals, different amounts of energy, different focuses. And I knew that while I was dealing with a chronic illness, my life needed to be simpler, with most of my focus on healing. This completely changed a decade of my life. I focused on getting the care that I needed; doing my best to eat, if not completely healthy, at least real foods; taking walks in the few hours that I had sufficient energy.
If I couldn't do all the things that I wanted to, I would at least watch these activities. The television (this was in the days before the Internet) in some ways became my lifeline. I watched cooking shows and figure skating and ski competitions. I allowed my mind to go to places that my body couldn't get to.
I've always been a pretty active person, and I gave up a lot. I had fewer friends, I shopped less, and I found myself at home more. But I got to get to know myself better. I had more quiet time, read and studied a lot, and had less choices and decisions to make.
And at the end of the that decade, and after years spent living simply and studying acupuncture and Chinese and Japanese medicine, I emerged. I got a part time job, started my acupuncture practice, and became active in the synagogue that I belonged to.
Then when I needed a ride to a ski weekend in Maine, I met my husband, fell in love and a year and a half later, got married. And once again, my life changed forever -- also in ways I could not have imagined.
All this to say that as we go through the upheaval of the coronavirus, it's important to remember that life will go on. This is not to discount the reality of loss of lives, disruption, pain and heartache. That brings with it an enormous sadness.
But for most of us, this too shall pass and each of us has the opportunity to emerge a little stronger, a little more resilient, perhaps even a little healthier.
You have inner resources you may not have been aware of. Humans are resourceful creatures. It's why we're all here after wars, natural disasters, other pandemics. When faced with trauma and tragedy, we go on and rebuild and reconnect. It's in our DNA.
So at this time, remember to take care of yourself. Here are the basics:
1) Eat 3 meals a day filled with nutritious, real, whole foods.
Take a look at my blog on getting your kitchen filled with nutritious foods. There has not been a run on broccoli or kale. I often counsel people to make one new healthy dish a week that they can then incorporate into their diet.
Here are some links to my favorite cooks. (Note: I do recommend avoiding sugar, white flour and dairy. So choose your meals wisely.)
2) Incorporate movement into your day. Take walks, go to the woods, climb a mountain.
Here is a list of my favorite places in the area.
~Go to Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton for a beautiful walk in the words.
~Visit Mount Tom State Reservation for hiking and walking. I use the entrance off of Route 5 in Holyoke. Walk around the pond for a relaxed walk. Hike up the K.B. trail for a more intense exercise experience.
~Chesterfield Gorge is just beautiful. Walk along the Westfield River. On a nice day, sit out on the rocks.
~The Manhan, Northampton and Norwottuck rail trails, which go from Southampton through Northampton to Williamsburg or Amherst, are great for biking, walking, jogging or roller blading. It’s perfect for any degree of activity.
~Paradise Pond behind Smith College offers a lovely walk in the woods along the Mill River.
~Last but not least, the Ashley Reservoir in Holyoke is a 3.3 mile loop on flat land.
3) Incorporate gentle stretching into your regular routine.
These are stretches that most people can do.
4) Keep your spirit strong.
Whatever your religious beliefs, whether you believe in a divine entity or not, this is a time that is reminding us that we are all connected. If you feel worried, take some time -- 5 minutes, 1/2 an hour -- to write down a prayer asking for what you and your loved ones need.
5) Here are additional resources written by medical doctors, chock full of good info and wisdom.
As you read this, know that my thoughts are with you, that I hold you in my prayers and that my wish for you is that this time allows you to see your strength and your resilience.
Sending healing energy…
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist