This article was written and initially appeared February 1, 2020 on my Chinese platform under the title “Long holidays, slow living”. As coronavirus hit China right before Chinese New Year Break, the city of Shanghai where we live officially extended holiday break for one week to avoid mass travel, crowding and spread of the virus.
Initially, it did feel like a continuation of a vacation – despite inability to purchase masks and having to use our pollution ones instead of recommended surgical type, to venture out for grocery purchase and a permitted stroll late in the evening or early in the day when not many people were outside. Then things got strange – despite official finish of the holiday, work did not resume fully, companies and clients did not flood back to the city and the suspension mode hit everyone.
Now, as the rest of the world is staying at home in order to avoid the spread of the virus, I am hoping that my experience in navigating this period of time, staying at home in Shanghai, can be useful for others. As I joked with my friends, we are finally getting some return on investment into our exorbitant megacity rents by staying in! I hope you find your balance, too, and that you and your family stay well, healthy and mostly indoors during these times. Onto my original piece:
Coronavirus outbreak have put us on forced holidays, and Shanghai is eerily empty. The feeling is unsettled – most of us are anxiously checking the news, some are trying to get in or out of the country, and regardless of our current location in the world, we are all in the middle of a huge unknown.
How soon will we all heal from this? We don’t know, but what we do know is that China has taken extraordinary measures to protect all of us living here from the spread of the virus and that health professionals are working tirelessly to heal those who have fallen ill.
How safe is it to get outside, shop for groceries, travel? A personal decision for everyone, you know best what works for keeping you calm. I put on a quality pollution mask and run a few errands every day – this keeps my body and mind well, as well as brings necessary groceries and supplies home and keeps one foster kitty fed and checked on daily.
How will my work and business be affected? It remains to be seen. But I know for sure that this, too, shall pass. All of us, small business owners in Shanghai, talk about how it affected inflow of customers, but I believe we can all emerge on the other side with a lot of new lessons learned about how to adjust business model and offerings based on how we are affected now.
We have a lot of time on our hands to consider these, but please do not go into disaster scenarios and focus your attention on the fact that what you never had the time for – now you do! How to spend the most precious resource of TIME this extra-long holiday when you are at home in Shanghai? Here are a few suggestions:
Put a chair or folded blanket on the floor, sit with straight spine and just breathe. First attempts may be difficult, as you progress it may not get easier. That is why we call it a practice and we show up every day, regardless.
Every second in (even attempted) meditation is beneficial. You will start noticing emotions and thoughts that have been stuffed deep inside. You may need to express them with tears, movement, writing. You will have to be compassionate to yourself while all of this is happening.
In the end, we all just have the present moment, and now is the time like no other to actively practice trust and living in the moment and creating peace inside of yourself. Meditation practice helps with building and maintaining your nervous system resilience as you sit in non-action with what actually IS. And extend you parasympathetic bliss by following these few simple steps.
Writing stream of consciousness, pen to paper, is actually proven to take the burden off the nervous system and crystallize what exactly it is that bothers you. From the clear ideas and fears you can take constructive, proactive steps to protect yourself, understand which fears are unfounded or connected to old triggers, and process those, and yet again affirm the habit of taking it moment at a time in life.
Working with your wellness team online
Whether a coach, a therapist, a healer – technology allows us to connect in real time, and when it comes to energy healing, it knows no boundaries.
I have a scheduled call with my therapist this week which actually has nothing to do with current state of events and is part of my long-term work with her, but this mental health routine certainly grounds me.
I am also seeing clients from all over the world for distance Reiki treatments – just in past few days I connected with people in France, United States and Vietnam as part of our long-term healing work, but each one told me it was reassuring to have this work to fall back on.
My beloved MeWellness gym is closed, like many businesses in Shanghai, for our own safety, but we get daily home workout plans and community support when people post clips of creative use of homewares as equipment.
YouTube is full of bodyweight HIITs, all kinds of yoga and stretching. Something as simple as blasting your favorite music and moving, shaking, twisting, dancing free-style to it will get your heart pumping, blood and lymph moving and endorphins racing. Living room dance party is a great way to burn off adrenaline and cortisol, get the whole family in a better mood and create amazing memories.
In Dragon lady toolkit you can find a simple set of restorative yoga poses that calm the nervous system and allow you to drop anxiety a few notches down.
I want to give this one its own space because in my circle of friends almost everyone does a lot of hard exercise, and almost everyone has very little time dedicated to mobility, fascia and slow, mindful movement, myself included. Now, instead of sporadic foam roller on IT band, we have time to get into the slow and regular work with fascia.
A tennis ball to roll your feet’s plantar fascia daily will rebalance gait and posture (can be done while you’re watching that Netflix, too!).
Foam roller under your shoulder blades will open the chest, helping to create spacious breath.
Rolling out hips and buttocks will counter hours of sitting – whether generally for work or now, during holidays.
Internet will give you so many plans and ideas!
When was the last time you pulled out that fancy all-natural scrub or had a facial? Had a good foot soak? Had time for hair mask? Used that amazing crystal guasha tool?
Even if you don’t have products in the bathroom, kitchen will be a perfect source of safe all-natural ingredients. Yogurt, honey, turmeric, sugar, coffee, matcha, cucumber slices, sea salt, olive oil for your face, hair and body.
Apply some yogurt mask on your face – or use the clean beauty products you never had time to use.
Mix oil and sugar or coffee for a delicious body scrub.
Heat up some sesame oil for an Ayurvedic ritual of abhyanga, gentle lymphatic self-massage – or a treat for your partner.
Use simple sea salt and a few drops of essential oil for relaxing foot soak, then give your feet some extra love with a tennis ball and a foot rub, working out all tense points.
Word of warning: caution with turmeric and matcha required as they stain, although if you have kids they will probably love a homegrown Shrek, hehe. Don’t ask me how I learned that!
Julie & Julia in your kitchen
Thanks to the business owners of Shanghai who are working with shortage of human resources, we do not have shortage of groceries and other supplies. Avocado lady is open and carries so many items, it is often hard not to end up being overly ambitious with kitchen projects. What are the dishes you always wanted to make but never had the time? What are the appliances you bought but never used?
Reading all those books
How many do you have on your Kindle and bookshelves, honestly? And which ones have you been planning to read? With all this time, you can actually read many – and actually have time to realize that some are just not that interesting to you, and declutter them.
Below is a loose list of my recommendations.
Pema Chodron “Comfortable with uncertainty” which is very fitting for current situation, but in fact, any and all of her books
All Brene Brown books
All Esmeralda Santiago’s books
Any of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books
Elizabeth Alexander “The light of the world”
Michelle Obama “Becoming”
Lori Gottlieb “Maybe you should talk to someone”
Jennifer Lewis “The mother of black Hollywood”
Lisa Taddeo “Three Women”
Bianca Bosker “Cork dork”
Thordis Elva “South of forgiveness”
Maya Angelou – any and all!
And ones below are closer to my specialty, but are incredibly interesting for everyone who wants to take care of their health and wellbeing
Jill Blakeway “Energy medicine”
Lee Know, ND “Mitochondria and the future of medicine”
Catherine Shanahan, MD “Deep nutrition”
Gabor Mate “When the body says no”
Carolyn Myss “Sacred contracts”
Gary Taubes “Why we get fat”
Bruce Lipton “Biology of belief”
Lissa Rankin, MD “Mind over medicine”
Candace Pert, PhD “Molecules of emotion”
Special place goes to HSK books – I know we all have them! Take an hour every day to read in a foreign language you don’t comprehend fluently yet, or just get in that HSK prep mode.
*HSK is an acronym of Hanoi Shuiping Kaoshi, a standardised Chinese comprehension test like TOEFL or IELTS are for English language. Apply the language paragraph to any foreign language you always wanted to work on, but barely had time to.
What are you reading now? What have you read that touched you deeply, opened the new worlds to you or educated you lately? Share in comments so we can all build on this list!
It is the perfect season to get into the nooks and crannies and clear out things you haven’t used for a while. Books, memorabilia, clothes and shoes, toy chests, kitchen cupboards and spice drawers, your phone memory and external hard drives – cleaning actually gives sense of control and purpose and in this vast big unknown you may benefit from a dose of that.
Maybe there is GoPro footage that is waiting to be edited into the video? A few gigabytes worth of vacation pictures that are waiting patiently to be sorted into folders?
Sort into “sell, donate, recycle” boxes, take pictures of things you want to resell, take the recycling out, find out which organizations may need the things that served their purpose in your life already, thoroughly vacuum the corners and enjoy more space and less anxiety.
I went under the sink the other day – the stuff you can find in there! Now every time I wash the dishes I just feel that energy of cleared sink cupboard radiating to my knees, haha.
All those programs with long video classes, contemplating and journaling assignments or home workouts, photography classes, posture work, coaching work, new language, webinar recordings – I have a huge note of those I am yet to finish on my phone, and I am slowly chipping away at those now in a calm, systematic manner.
When else do we just LIVE? Vacationing in a foreign country is usually different from slow, simple LIVING, as it is full of new emotions, places, activities. When, if not now, can we just be, just live, just feel the spaciousness?
Wake up, unrushed, deliberately noticing details that make your life good – a warm bed, a favorite teacup, a cozy pajama (is anyone getting out of those lately?:), a deep book, a family meal, a smile of your child and rustle of your pets, feeling gratitude that it needs not be a hectic morning or urban hustle.
If you are feeling unsettled and anxious these days – reach out to schedule Reiki healing, which is available over distance so you can stay safe and protected at your house and be anywhere in the world. Hold yourself gently and enjoy the slow life, it won’t be long before Shanghai and all of China and the world is healed and back to its usual bustle. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are well and find those tiny silver linings in a rustle of real paper pages, your child’s smile, your cat’s paws and all the cosy home things we get to enjoy now – unlike many medical professionals around the world, tasked with frontline healthcare.
With a big warm hug,