12 Rules for Life
May 18, 2018
March 17, 2020
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 (incidently, 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.
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 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.
Did you know that the UK government publishes annual flu reports (UK Winter 2018 to 2019) which give 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, 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? 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.
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 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.
Good 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. 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. 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 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, I hope you enjoyed it. And if so, why not subscribe so you get notified when I post again…
I don’t do it too often so I promise you won’t be deluged! Sign up here
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.