We are going through very different and strange times. It seems it is getting harder for people to socially isolate and there is a growing need to get back to normal activities. Stores, parks and golf courses are opening and people are excited to experience things that they took for granted months ago. But the medical professionals, politicians and media are telling us that this is far from over. Mentally we are still learning to cope and handle the stress that comes from recent events. I asked some of my friends and mentors to give me a list of favorite things that are keeping them sane, making them feel joyful and helping them cope with isolation.
I asked for inspirational resources, helpful podcasts, favorite books and routines that are keeping them grounded and here are the results along with my own recommendations:
Comforting Routines or Activities: gardening, walking, bike riding, having a set routine, spending time with family, virtual visits with relatives and friends, yoga, cooking and baking, eating healthy, being in nature, making a daily gratitude list.
Inspirational Movies - Wonder with Julia Roberts, Into the Wild with Emile Hirsch, The Shawshank Redemption with Tom Hanks, Pay it Forward with Helen Hunt.
Favorite Documentaries - What the Bleep Do We Know? (2004), The Shift by Wayne Dyer (on YouTube), Shark Water by Rob Stewart.
Spiritual or Self Help Books:
Excuse You, Your life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The Gift of Inspiration by Brene Brown
Thank and Grow Rich by Pam Grout
Happier than God - Neal Donald Walsch
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Favorite Novels that Make us Forget our Troubles:
Mrs. Mike by Nancy Freedman
Evening Class by Maeve Binchy
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (historical fiction during war)
The Paris Orphan by Natasha Lester (historical fiction during war)
Death Series by JD Robb
Troubleshooters Series by Suzanne Brockman
Charlotte’s Web - E. B. White
Oprah's Super Soul Sunday
The Doctor’s Pharmacy with Mark Hyman, MD.
The Joe Rogan Experience
The Ikonns - Alex and Mimi Ikonn
On Purpose with Jay Shetty
Goop - Gwyneth Paltrow
Dax Shepard - a mix of celebrity interviews and experts from many fields.
Next Question with Katie Couric
Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves
I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
Happiness by Ken Dodd
Happy by Pharrell Williams
Lean on Me by Bill Withers
Alive by Kenney Chesney and Dave Matthews
Girl by Marren Morris
It Ain’t my Fault by Brothers Osborne
24K Magic by Bruno Mars
Favourite Relaxing Music - Jesse Cook, Toronto guitarist, Deva Premal, Krishna Das,
Gentle Ocean Waves
Activities that give you comfort right now: Gardening, Family Dinners, Yoga, Being Outside, Making a Gratitude List, Going for Long Walks
Apps: Photomyne ( to make digital photo books). Spotify, Netflix, Zoom, Calm or Sam Harris (Waking Up App)
Websites or People to Follow: Susanne Jakubowski, MindValley, Commune, Oprah, Deepak Chopra, Hay House, LauraLizHughes.com, The Joyful Belly
I hope this list provides you with some new resources. It helps to feel like you are learning and growing each day. I am sure you could add to this list and I would appreciate any suggestions or favorite things that you could send my way. I will send out a follow-up list with new likes so we can keep sharing our knowledge. We are on this journey together so let's try to grow spiritually and in doing so change the world. Please send me an email with your suggestions with my Favorite things as the subject line. Send to email@example.com.
I have heard from many of my clients that even though they are cooking all their meals and eating better than ever during this isolation they haven't lost any weight. They are walking every day, getting exercise and fresh air and still no results.
Losing weight is much more complex than just eating less and exercising more. Here are some factors to consider:
So what will work if diet and exercise are not making a significant impact:
We want to be on a diet that we can maintain for our whole life. The best plan is one full of nutrient dense foods. It's not about being slim, it's about being healthy and strong and productive and avoiding getting conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Those conditions put us at risk for some many diseases and for suffering more severe outcomes if you get Covid 19.
Lastly it is a time to be kind to ourselves, to sort out how we want to live our lives and what matters to us. I have known since my own health challenge that nothing is as important as physical and mental health. If we don't have our health we have nothing.
Easy, Healthy and Delicious Recipes and an oops..
Apologies.... I got distracted while writing out my zucchini recipe and put in a line that was unnecessary. No need to line a cookie tray with parchment paper.
Broccoli, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese Pasta
I just love this easy recipe. It is my new comfort food. It takes approximately 10 minutes to make and the creamy sauce makes it seem very decadent. I use penne but any pasta will do.
2 tablespoons avocado or coconut oil
1 red onion, diced
1 bunch of broccoli, chopped
1 package of mushrooms (approximately 10), sliced
2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes in oil
150 grams of soft goat cheese (1/2 the Kirkland brand package)
½ cup coconut milk or to desired thickness
Gluten free pasta
Cook the pasta in large pan of boiling water.
In a large frying pan, sauté onion in oil until onion softens. Add broccoli, mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes into the pan, mushrooms, and heat through. I like the broccoli cooked but firm. Add in the goat cheese, and milk and heat until cheese is melted. Drain the pasta and serve the mixture over the pasta.
Cacao Brazil Nut Bites
This healthy treat is a fun way to get our selenium, magnesium as well as powerful antioxidants. This recipe is quick, easy and satisfies chocolate cravings. It is quick to throw together and does not require cooking.
Makes 8 balls
½ cup raw Brazil nuts
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ cup raw cacao powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Large pinch of cinnamon
2 tablespoons raw honey
Process the nuts and coconuts in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients.
With your hands, roll the mixtures into balls using about 2 tablespoons for each.
Place on a parchment lined plate or on a baking sheet. Chill in freezer for about 30 minutes.
Remove and enjoy or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Chocolate Brownies with Sweet Potato and Avocado
These brownies are gluten free, contain the healthy fats of nuts and avocado. They are a great way to use those past the prime avocados. The nutritional superstar, sweet potato, adds a nice texture to the brownie and is packed with fibre, B6, vitamins A and C, and beta-carotene. Great served with some coconut cream or non-dairy ice cream.
½ cup creamy nut butter
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup mashed avocado (about ½ of a large)
½ cup cooked and mashed sweet potato
¼ cup coconut milk or alternative
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons of cacao powder.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips. After blended stir in chocolate chips. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 20 minutes.
Some Thoughts on our Collective Experience on Self Isolation
Yesterday I missed seeing family and friends over the holidays. I really wanted this social isolation to end and the curve to flatten so we could see each other in person once again. I know that I will so appreciate each moment we spend together even more than we did before. As often happens. I opened my email and the first one l I read explained that out of hard times comes wisdom. New behavior and new ways of thinking emerge from an experience of fear, anxiety and loneliness. And we see this in the stories of love and compassion that are shared on social media.
Some of my thoughts on the new behavior patterns that may emerge due to the crisis:
Maybe people will realize that your health is the most important thing and that we need to take care of our immune system every single day.
Maybe people will realize that cooking your own food is a life line to good health and is easier and tastier than you think. I would love to see people turn to cooking natural, unprocessed foods that nourish our bodies.
Maybe we will realize that convenience foods aren't really all that convenient or at least choose foods that are healthier for us.
Maybe we will realize that cooking together as a family can be a way to have fun and build a relationship.
From that email ((Jeff from OneCommune) I was reading are additional patterns that may possibly emerging:
Maybe remote work is more efficient and the better for the environment?
Maybe I don't need new clothes, trinkets, and devices to be happy?
Maybe I actually like my kids, and more surprisingly, they like me:
Maybe growing a carrot makes it taste better?
Maybe I should know my neighbors name?
Maybe I don't need to travel the world?
Maybe if enough people wake up to a better way of life then we can define new metrics of collective success and the myth of endless growth can wither away?
Maybe we can create sustainable local economies that don't require exploitation of anonymous workers and landscapes around the globe?
Maybe we can rediscover a passion for civic engagement and reinvigorate the public square?
Maybe there is a new human story?
During this difficult time we are all staying at home more and one way to occupy our time is to eat. That’s okay if we stick to eating healthy foods and limit our sweets or treats.
I have a tendency to emotional eating and I love food. I eat when happy, stressed, bored, or anxious. I have had food issues all my life but I now know what unhealthy food items can do to my system and how they impact my overall health. There are better alternatives. I have posted some great recipes for healthier treats and comfort foods and will post more in the days ahead. Someone who survived the coronus virus asked people to not smoke, as you may one day need your lungs. I am asking that you not eat sugary nutritional bankrupt foods as you may one day need your immune system.
I am also trying to be patient, kind and forgiving to myself and ask you to do the same. I am not perfect, no one is, but I also do not want to come out of this quarantine worse off than before.
Here are a few things that might help with emotional food issues during stressful times:
I hope these suggestions help. This is a great time to reflect on how we are treating our bodies, our minds and even the environment. It is a great time to explore how what we eat affects well-being.
As promised, my favourite comfort food:
Sauteed Cauliflower Pearls with Veggies
2 tablespoons (30 ml) coconut or avocado oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 cup (250 ml) diced mushrooms
1 cup (250 ml) green vegetables such as zucchini, spinach, asparagus, cut in small pieces
2 cups (500 ml) cauliflower pearls (or small pieces of cauliflower)
¼ cup chicken or vegetable broth
½ to ¾ cup goat feta cheese, crumbled
In a large frying pan on medium heat, saute onions until soft. Add mushrooms, green veggies, and cook until tender. Add cauliflower and broth. Turn heat to low and simmer until cauliflower is cooked and liquid is reduced. Add the cheese, remove from the heat when it starts to melt. Serve. Great as leftovers.
“Will your marriage survive the coronavirus? “
That was a CNN headline I read and I also read a statistic that divorce rates in China have soared with the virus emerging. The stay home or shelter in place mandate has us spending much more time together, and that, combined with the stress of possible illness, financial stress and loneliness is taking its toll on each and every one of us.
Here are some suggestions that may help:
Take this time of togetherness to grow your relationship and help each other.. Some of the best advice a therapist gave me once was “just be nice”. A little ‘niceness’ goes a long way and can change the trajectory of your life.
Whenever I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed I do the grateful exercise. It really truly lifts my mood so I thought I would share.
Here are the things I am grateful for during these unprecedented times:
I am grateful I live in Canada which is taking the threat of the Coronavirus seriously and imposing strict regulations to stop its spread. I truly believe because of this we will conquer this threat and create the plank the Health Minister is talking about.
I am grateful that most Canadians are adhering to the rules of social distancing and staying home.
I am grateful for those who have had to go to work on the front lines exposing themselves to possibly catching the virus. This includes medical and hospital staff but also those that are keeping our grocery store shelves stocked and serving us at the check out.
I am grateful for my friends, family and clients and the long conversations in which we are indulging.
I am grateful to social media, Facebook messenger and skype that allow us to communicate with those we love who are not close by.
I am grateful for the “love you’s” at the end of those above conversations.
I am grateful for the musicians, entertainers, comedians, etc. who are putting out free concerts and amusing us with their funny posts.
I am grateful that we can still go out for a walk without being arrested.
I am grateful for employers who are sending their staff home and paying them as they realize that people need to pay the bills.
I am grateful for the generosity and kindness of all those who are looking out for their neighbours, friends and those who are in need. For example, those that rely on food banks.
I am grateful for the free cable channels that Cogeco provided to keep us entertained.
I am grateful for news that keeps us informed of what is going on but also that I can easily turn it off and distance myself from the bad news.
I am grateful that I know how to cook healthy vegetable packed foods that will keep us healthy and strong.
I am grateful that I have a safe place to live.
I am grateful for all the practices I have learned over the years that keep me sane and grounded. These would be affirmations, yoga, meditation, pranayama (breathwork), mantras, and mostly, savasana (relaxation).
I am grateful that even though the world is going through a crazy time I still feel optimistic about the future.
I am grateful that out of this isolation the planet has begun to heal itself. So amazing that it didn't take long for the rivers in Venice to become clear and fish to appear that hadn’t been seen for years.
I am grateful that there are people who will miss me during this exile.
I am grateful for the sun today.
I am grateful for the emails that are not selling something but just trying to help people. I realize we all need to make money but during these uncertain times do we need to be selling 24/7?.
I am grateful for changes that this crisis will evoke in the spiritual consciousness of some of the people in the world.
I am grateful for love, kindness and compassion
I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from this collective experience.
Please add what you are grateful for in the comments section and please share if you found this post helpful. And remember that during this crazy, difficult time there is so much to be grateful for.
I first read the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman at least 10 years ago and thought it was one of the best relationship books I had ever read. I chose it for the first book in our self-help book selections because it is all about cultivating and showing love and compassion for others. The book is based on the premise that we all have our own way of expressing love. One person might feel loved when being complimented, another when giving gifts. Misunderstandings arise when our love languages aren't in sync.
Here are some revelations from the book that I would like to share with you:
Are you being inundated with news of the spreading corona virus and the warnings that we are heading for a worldwide pandemic?
Aside from washing our hands what else can we do to protect ourselves?
The answer is to create a strong immune system. Here are some ways to boost our bodies natural ability to fight disease.
1.Wash your hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizers kill good and bad germs. The “all germs are bad” hypothesis leads to a weakened immune system. We need live bacteria for a healthy gut microbiome which determines the strength of our immune system. Our ancestors ate dirt on their veggies and didn't use strong chemicals to sterilize their environments. A new study compared a small town in Norway with a high incident of asthma, viruses and colds to one in Russia whose populations were unusually healthy. These towns were close to each other and similar in many ways. Results of the study determined that the Norway town members kept all their doors and windows closed and lived in a sterile environment. Bleaches and harsh chemicals were used to achieve cleanliness. They were not exposed to any live organisms and their health suffered. There are also studies that indicate that families with dogs have stronger immune systems because dogs bring in all kinds of bacteria from the outside. I am not saying to never clean but water with a little essential oil is a totally fine way to clean.
2. Keep moving – moving stimulates our lymphatic system. In fact, it is the only way to get the lymph moving as it doesn’t have its own pump system like the heart. Moving reduces stress in the body and lowers cortisol levels. Movement also helps with weight management and inflammation. Yoga and mind/body modalities are especially important.
3. Practise good sleep hygiene - go to bed before 10 p.m., try to go to bed at the same time each night, stay away from stimulating substances such as caffeine, alcohol and screen time, and wear a night mask or sleep in total darkness.
4. Avoid sugar, avoid sugar, avoid sugar! There is nothing that negatively affects our immune system more than white sugar. Stay away! If you need to use a sweetener choose honey which has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is full of antioxidants.
5. Eat a clean, healthy diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds and organic meat. Stay away from processed and chemical laden foods. Toxins kill those good bacteria, destroying our gut health and causing a weakened immune system.
6. Increase your consumption of vitamin C through food but also through supplementation. Especially if you are feeling symptomatic then begin taking 1000 mg of C every hour or to bowel tolerance. 7.
7. Make sure you are taking enough Vitamin D3. Deficiencies are rampant in North America and studies show a correlation between low D and cancer, immune diseases, and mental health. Get tested and then make sure you are taking enough to be at the top end of the range.
8. Other supplements that boost immunity are Vitamin A, and E. If you are dealing with high levels of stress the B vitamins are important.
9. Look also at the adaptogen herbs such as ashwaganda, astragulus and tulsi or holy basil. They help with stress as well as being anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory and are readily available at your local health food store.
10. There are other anti-virals that work such as oil of oregano, ginger, propolis, garlic, eucalyptus and peppermint oil, bone broth, coconut oil and echinacea. There are many good remedies with a combination of these factors in them you could try.
Last tip: gargle with salt water, or apple cider vinegar diluted in some water at the onset of a cold.
Just in time for Valentines Day - two super easy and delicious recipes featuring Chocolate!
The first is Dark Chocolate Superfood Bar from Joy McCarthy’s new cookbook, The Joyous Cookbook. Her recipes are similar to mine in that they are easy to make and healthy, with commonly found ingredients. You can check her out at https://www.joyoushealth.com/
I made these for our last full day seminar and they met with rave reviews! Dairy-free, gluten-free, grain free and vegetarian!
Dark Chocolate Superfood Bars
½ cup (125 ml) + 3 tablespoons (170 ml) coconut oil
1 cup (250 ml) raw cacao powder
1/3 cup (75 ml) real maple syrup
2 tablespoons (30 ml) unsweetened nut milk
½ teaspoon (2 ml) cinnamon
1 tablespoon (15 ml) chia seeds
2 tablespoons (30 ml) raw pumpkin seeds, divided
2 tablespoons (30 ml) raw sunflower seeds, divided
2 tablespoons (30 ml) hemp seeds, divided
2 tablespoons (30 ml) dried cranberries, divided
1 tablespoon (15 ml) bee pollen, optional
Line a 8 ½ x 4 ½ (1.5 L) loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving extra to hang over the edge to make it easier to lift pans out when completed. ( I used an 8 in square pan)
In a medium saucepan, melt the coconut oil over low heat.
Stir in the cacao powder and maple syrup. Once fully combined, add the nut milk and cinnamon. Stir and make sure not to burn the mixture.
Add chia seeds and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) each of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, and cranberries. Stir well.
Pour the mixture into the pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of seeds and cranberries. Then sprinkle with bee pollen if you are using it. (I didn’t have any so left this ingredient out).
Cover with wrap and freeze for 4 hours or overnight.
To serve, remove from freezer and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing. Lift squares out of pan and slice into squares. ( I found that a small bar was quite satisfying but you can cut them to whatever size you like).
Store leftovers in freezer for up to 3 months.
The second recipe is from my cookbook, Fight Fire with Food and is one of my favorites. Not only are they addictive but they have a great combination of nuts and seeds making the texture unique and satisfying. Yum!
Dark Chocolate Quinoa Bark
½ cup (125 ml) maple syrup or honey
2 tablespoons (30 ml) coconut oil
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 cup (250 ml) uncooked quinoa, rinsed and dried
1/3 cup (75 ml) pistachios, roughly chopped
1/3 cup (75 ml) sliced almonds, roughly chopped
1/3 cup (75 ml) raw seeds (chia, hemp, flax, for example)
3 ounces (90 g) dark chocolate
Cranberries, coconut flakes, and additional nuts for topping
Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small pot, melt together syrup and coconut oil until smooth. Stir in vanilla and salt. I
n a large mixing bowl, combine quinoa, pistachios, almonds, pecans, and seeds. Stir to combine. Add syrup mixture to the bowl.
Make sure all dry ingredients are wet. Spread mixture onto baking sheet in a thin layer.
Bake for 25 minutes until quinoa is golden brown. While bark is cooking melt chocolate and then pour over cooked quinoa in an even layer. Sprinkle with desired toppings. Place in refrigerator or freezer to harden. Break in pieces.
Both of these recipes are nutrient powerhouses and can be adjusted to your likes and desires. Add different nuts and seeds or different spices! Have fun creating and enjoy. And, of course, spread as much love and compassion as possible on both Valentines and Family Day.
Check out more delicious recipes in Fight Fire with Food.
Susanne Jakubowski is a holistic nutritionist, yoga teacher, Thai Yoga Therapist, and cancer survivor.