MICHELLE OGUNDEHIN

Delving deeper than decor to explore the power of home as a path to wellbeing #happyinside

March 17, 2020

Some thoughts…

These are confusing/scary/revealing times. I myself, having read extensively about the virus over the weekend, with a whirring head, felt a compulsive need to start clearing the basement and ‘tidying’ the garden in order to seek a semblance of calm. They were, quite smply, two things I could do to exercise a degree of  ‘control’ over my realm when everything else seems to be so madly out of my control. And so, in no particular order, my recurring thoughts, because it also helps me to write them down. And I welcome your responses. It has been particularly fortifying to engage with so many of you via Instagram over these last few days, so thank you for that…

Prevention is better than cure.

Always has been, always will be. And for Coronavirus, there is at present no cure, so we’re reliant on prevention.

So the governmental ‘Delay’ tactic?

What did this even mean. Delay what? We certainly won’t ‘delay’ its spread if we do nothing apart from ask the elderly to stay indoors. Or does the government think the virus will get the memo and just hang on a bit until they’ve got the proverbial ducks in a row? It’s a bit like when a baby decides to be born, it doesn’t care if you’re still in the carpark or haven’t laminated your birth plan. This is happening now so we need to act to contain it best we can, now. As for “herd immunity”. Am I alone in despising being referred to as a herd? Quite aside from which, if I take into account everything I’ve read, absolutely no-one has as yet been able to confirm that exposure to the virus confers immunity afterwards, assuming a safe recovery.

Asymtomatic is still infectious

Nadine Dorries our health minister, let me say that again our health minister, according to her self-penned article in March 15th’s Sunday Times, despite having endured a fever so great she’d soaked her sheets, despite consistent coughing, was still “in shock” when she was told she’d tested positive for the Coronavirus. Admittedly she had taken herself into isolation on feeling “slightly unwell” beforehand even though she hadn’t been abroad, nor had she knowingly been in contact with anyone who had the virus.

However it’s been said repeatedly that symptoms can take up to a week to show all the while carriers could be highly infectious (hence harsh when the media pounced on the Brighton scout leader, dubbing him the first ‘superspreader’, when he had no idea he was unwell). Nonetheless, you don’t need to be medically-trained to realise that while someone coughing in your face unequivocally heightens the chance of you catching any virus, it’s more likely that touching something that a potentially asymptomatic other touched an hour ago (although some reports say viruses can live upto 24-72 hours on some surfaces), and you then touching your mouth, nose or eyes, will be the most common mode of transmission.

So the best way to prevent contamination? Take the 20-second hand-washing, meticulous cleaning, no handshaking, newly implemented social distancing directives seriously before you feel unwell.

The italian situation

The Italians have balconies and their intrinsic gioia di vivre compels them to sing to each other, engendering comradeship, comunity and a sense of we’re all in this together. I salute them. And ponder that we Brits have double glazing and net curtains.

Conspiracy theories

So many already circulating. Ignore them all. Looking for someone to blame doesn’t help anyone seek solutions.

flu season kills every year

Did you know that the UK government publishes annual flu reports (UK Winter 2018 to 2019)? I didn’t until I started ressearching for this post. It gives an interesting background on a disease that has kills between 8,000-13,000 people every single year in the UK alone. And yet, do we get screaming headlines about this come flu season? Do we get newspapers clamouring for people to get vaccinated? No. I also found this website from Oxford University to be the clearest on factual information about flu.

Seems to me we all really need to get generally up to speed on personal hygiene. It shouldn’t really have been necessary to ask people to sneeze into tissues if they have a cold, should it?

Meanwhile in Africa

Di you know that malaria kills more than 3000 children a day according to Unicef. And yet this is a disease that is preventable and curable. Every year 128,000 to 161,000 people die of typhoid in the developing world. A fact hugely contributed to because 1 in 3 people globally do not have access to safe drinking water. Antibiotics currently form treatment, although increasing resistance to different types of antibiotics is making treatment more complicated. When did you last see a headline about this?

Putting Corona in context then, maybe this is a tiny taste of what it might feel like to live daily with the threat of a infection hanging over your head? It reminds me of a quote that goes something along the lines of empathy being the highest form of knowledge.

Our responsibility

It also made me stop and think that many of the most common first world diseases are self-inflicted through lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol, drugs and poor diet. Financial capability and mental health issues aside, there is so much that every single person could do to take better care of themselves, leaving vital medical capacity for those who can’t, or who have inherited issues.

the importance of robust mental health

Overlooked for so long. Fast becoming more and more talked about. This can only be a good thing. It is the underbelly of so many issues. The sooner we start normalising the conversation about it, the better, especially with our children. Check out this wonderful ‘Well-Reading’ list for kids.

Why are children not displaying symptoms?

Perhaps their immune systems are stronger as they’ve had less time to become compromised? Perhaps they’re less stressed. Perhaps it’s because schools initiate annual nationwide vaccination programmes so they’re regularly topped up with antibodies? Either way, I can’t help but feel there’s something profound to take from this (beyond the obvious comfort that at least we can be fairly confident our children won’t die).

Children ostensibly live in the moment. They stress less. They know the value of play. They run around a lot. In other words, on the whole, they’re pretty mindful individuals, who get a lot of exercise. We could do worse than follow their example.

Thus we’re back to prevention

The following are my suggestions. 6 proactive things to do so you can feel like you’re taking a degree of control over your life…

1. Do everything possible to naturally boost your immune system ie eat well, keep exercising, stay hydrated, prioritise good sleep, get into cold showering! All of which can be done at home. So much more to say on this, in fact it takes up entire chapters of my book, but I’ll leave it there for now.

2. Don’t fill your home with toxic anti-bac sprays. They will do more harm than good. Also this is a virus, not a bacteria, so they won’t kill it anyway. Use standard dish soap instead. Of course instill the habit of keeping everything clean, but engaging with point 4. below is without doubt the most effective thing to do.

3. Engage common sense. Don’t travel. Limit the contacts. Now is not the time for a night out or a weekend away. Take responsiblity for what you can personally do to not spread (as well as contract) infection. In fact, act now like you already have it, in order not to pass it on. And tell the truth! Don’t soldier on thinking it won’t be me. You put others at risk.

And not everyone with “an underlying health condition” wears a badge announcing it as such. If you don’t feel well, stay at home, and keep your family home too. Remember, you don’t have to have symptoms to be infectious.

4. Look after your mental health. Do whatever helps you to switch off the ‘Mad Monkey Mind’ of worries that can sometimes overtake us. Limit the compulsive desire to catch all the news updates. Get some fresh air by opening windows. Talk to your friends (on the phone). Don’t project into an unknowable future. Stay in the present and what you can actively and reasonably do right now to stay safe, and sane.

Certainly there’s never been a better moment to try meditating if you don’t already. I use the Calm app on a daily basis which can be downloaded for free. Obviously there are many complexities for small businesses, working parents who can’t just ‘work from home’, the juggle of childcare, not to forget all the immediate financial implications for many of the now essential lockdowns. But the answer is still the same, let’s all take one day at a time. We can not predict the future, let it get here when it gets here. See point 5.

5. But stay calm. Anxiety, fear and panic are entirely natural responses to such an unknowable foe, but they rarely lead to good decision making. I’ve always believed that we all actually know what is the right thing to do at any given point. It’s just that sometimes it’s hard, embarrassing, or against the crowd. So ask for help, refuse the handshake, take your child out of school if you can and it makes you feel better.

Ultimately, if you follow your gut, then no matter what, you’ll know that you did the best you could. And right now, that will be more than enough.

6. Finally, look for some wonder rather than more woe. The neighbour who gave me a huge bunch of rosemary, cut from his garden. Other acts of kindness that we can also read about. The ability of the Chinese to build a new hospital in 10 days! The videos of the Italians singing. The beauty of Spring beckoning regardless of all this turmoil.

And keep in mind that this too shall pass. We don’t know when, or how, but it will, nevertheless what you do today prepares for how you experience tomorrow.

I hope some of this helps.

It is written with my deepest sincerity for our collective wellbeing.

PS Thank you for reading this, and if you’d like to know when I next post something, you can subscribe here.

16 replies »

  1. Couldn’t agree more! Only time I’ve become scared was a visit to the supermarket this morning. Not because shelves were empty, or the risk at catching bugs. Scared watching normally civil people act like the zombie apocalypse was upon us. I left immediately and went and bought cake from my local bistro. A slice of cake made the world seem much better 😋

  2. A well thought out read. Thank you. I found this on social media. It calms me.
    and the people stayed home. And read book, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

    And the people healed. And in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

    And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

    Kitty O’Meara

  3. Such thoughtful and comforting and wise words Michelle – thank you! I’m doing all I can as an over 70 year old but it all feels a bit “dad’s army”! However…hot drinks with chopped or grated fresh ginger root, a Star Anise, juice of half a lemon and / or ginger & lemon tea bag and honey to sweeten to taste. If any or all of these can be organic all the better…Star Anise has natural anti viral properties and ginger is known for its anti inflammatory qualities…lemon also cleansing + viyamin c…also, tea tree oil, am adding it to hand cream and using before going out + you may laugh but a dab of Vicks up the nose before venturing out where we have to! Much more to add not least my empathy gene going into over drive ‘re small businesses, the self employed, pubs, cafes, restaurants, the creative industries, museums etc etc all being decimated and potential cataclysmic fall out on livelihoods. And here in the UK left uninsured because of the government not enforcing the closures…these are unchartered waters for us and I hope and pray that it’s not too late for humanity to actually reap whatever the plusses are in the aftermath towards each other and the planet as nature strikes back at us…
    Namaste, and keep well I do hope each and everyone of us. With love ❣🕊🦋🌹

    • Such an inspirational response, thank you. And I’m not laughing at all about the Vicks! Grew up with my mother always slapping it all over us, and to date I do it to my son at the hint of a cold. For all our modern tech and so called advances, I’ve always trusted age-old, tried and tested, preventative cures more. Most over the counter medications just mask symptoms, they do nothing to heal. In fact, I need to add that line to my post!

  4. Oh Michelle, thank you so much for this piece. It’s is so good and can really help many people that are in fear mode at the moment.
    I just lost my job and my family is in Italy, hence there’s a lot I should be worried about, and even if I’m going from calm to panic every hour, I’m trying with all the power in my heart to stay focused and positive. Following the simple rules and making sure I look out for the people around me.
    Tough times ahead, but I’m sure that from the darkness there’s only one way out and it’s light. And it’s not rhetoric, it’s simply the truth. Take care and keep spreading love through your platform.

    Much love,
    Paolo x

    • Oh Paolo, I’m so very sorry about your job, and my love goes to you and family in this difficult time. I admire so much your positivity though, hold tight to the belief that after darkness there MUST be light. It behoves us all to try to do this, the alternative is too paralysing.

  5. I really do love this and it bolsters my existing resolve in ways I cannot even count. I trust and respect nature more than I ever did. For many years I have pondered the possibility that Mother Nature always strives for balance and we have been taking the proverbial for far too long. We are being re-balanced and have so much to learn from this. This will remind us of our place in the universe and our role as a species. Of our need to practice respect more than ever..for our planet and each other . The laws of the universe are far bigger than we as a species ever will be (or think we are).
    A wonderful read thankyou so much…oh and I’m on my fifth day of cold showers 😉👍🏻 Min Hof is a great teacher 👍🏻

    • Bravo re teh cold showers! And yes, you can’t help but take a bigger view of all this and wonder… plagues of locusts, raging fires, and now global disease… we are CLEARLY doing something very wrong. Time to change.

  6. Superb article Michelle. I think everyone should read it to get some much needed perspective, especially the Government!

    Back to my isolation with my many chronic illnesses. . .thank God for dogs ❤

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Writer, Author, Brand Consultant & TV Presenter

Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.