My Journey with FH and Heart Disease

Staying Physically Busy to Keep Mentally Healthy

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Disclaimer: This entry is meant to give you some ideas about what to do if you're bored during the pandemic (or when you can't leave the house much). Always listen to the medical officials' recommendations about what is safe and always know what is allowed in your area. If you feel like some of these suggestions endanger your well-being, by all means do not attempt them. This is my personal account only and this blog only documents things I have done safely since the COVID19 pandemic has started. Be kind to yourself! 

I am sure you have probably seen a million of these lists circulating on the internet. Well, here’s a million and one.

I spoke to a class of medical students about how I handle my FH and heart disease conditions during this COVID19 pandemic, and one of the questions that kept popping up from the students that kinda stuck with me was “do you think this pandemic will have an emotional or psychological effect on people?” And of course, even without being a medical professional, I am sure it will. Even if it’s not a bad effect, it will have some effect. For me, I truly hope that it will have a good effect just as much as a bad one: I hope this time reminded me to go back to living a simpler life, a much cheaper and less frivolous life, and I hope it reminded me that I have done this remoteness from people before and it didn’t kill me then (growing up in a remote village in communist Romania), and it will not kill me now. Not the isolation alone. At any rate.

The two main and important (for us) things we had to give up during the stay-at-home period of this pandemic have been not seeing our friends and not able to travel or go see out families. We used to make a point out of going out of town every month, at least once a month. And we usually had 2-3 big trips planned during the whole year. All that came to a halt!

Our state, NC, has started reopening some businesses on May 22 but given than we both are at high risk from complications from this disease, we are not jumping at the opportunity to leave the house just yet. We are still staying in and trying to keep busy. And that’s just the secret, I think, at least for me: if I keep my hands and body busy not only time will pass easier but I feel more focused, and at the end of the day more fulfilled, less lonely and useless.

I cannot relate to people that need togetherness so much, so forgive me for not really tackling that aspect of this lock-down. We are both quite happy just doing our hobbies, or finding things to do around our home, or around town that do not involve crowds that we’re not missing the human contact quite terribly. Yet. I am sure the day will come …

Before I give you the list of things we did to keep busy, I have to say: we do go out only for what is needed, and not wanted. We go out once a week for groceries (sometimes to multiple stores, because things are hard to find all in one place), we go to the pharmacy (usually drive-through only) about once a week, too; we go to the doctor’s office about once a month. We get take-out food about once or twice a week. Outside of these human-contact outings, we pretty much stay inside and do a lot of walking and hiking when we do get out for fun and not necessity, but usually we walk a non-crowded place.

Here are some ideas from some of the things that we have done to pass the time so far, during the past two and a half months of quarantine (and we are continuing to do, we hope, throughout the summer):

  • At night mostly, we caught up on TV series or movies that we always wanted to see (The Kominsky Method, The Mentalist, Dead to Me are some examples) and we’re contemplating finding more or rewatching old ones that we love (Downtown Abbey or Twin Peaks)
  • We have read books – my husband just finished Moby Dick – now, that is a time sucker! It’ll keep you busy for a long time.
  • I have caught up on my magazine reading: I have magazines (several subscriptions)  stacked since the spring of 2019 that I never have time to read. I am going through them mostly during weekend afternoons to relax after a walk or running an errand. Magazines are great because they are like open doors to me – I always find articles so interesting that they lead to searching something more about the topic or the author online and then I keep researching for hours (sometimes days) about something I found in a small filler article.
  • We washed our baseboards all over the house – two stories and all white glossy baseboards will keep you busy for at least a day.
  • We washed our windows – or at least most of them. Some of them are hard to get to, especially on the outside.
  • I planted lots of pots full of perennials in the back yard, and a couple in front of the house. I pruned, and cleaned up everything that was in the ground and came and went with the spring. We transplanted some bushes that took over the wrong corners of the yard. This kept us busy for a couple of Saturdays.
  • I started a journal about COVID19 and what this means for us, as a family and what it means for our country and the world. I update it virtually every day with my own experiences and frustrations, as well as the day’s headlines, what the governor’s ordinance says, what the president’s ordinance says, case and death counts, opinions, protests, how other countries do this, and any “new” experiences that are pandemic-related and new to all of us; if you want, you can even turn it into a blog, or write it in a new, fresh notebook. I find journaling very invigorating and I love reading about past experiences. Just think about it: what we’re living through today is active history. One day, your kids and your grandkids will want to know about these times and how you lived through them, what you did, what were your fears, insecurities, heartaches. This is how books like Anne Frank’s Diary happened. Just put it down on paper (or on Google Drive), just your thoughts. One day, it will make a nice little book, even if it is just for yourself or your family.
  • We redecorated a little. We are still to buy several pieces of furniture for at least two rooms in the house, but we have not gone shopping anymore since the lockdown started. Outside of that, we did redecorate our patio and our screened-in porch with things we ordered online or found at the hardware store. That took another couple of Saturdays.
  • We walked. A lot. We are on a mission to find a park, campground, forest, trail, etc, weekly and we walk or hike at least 2-3 times a week. We have found lots of trails nearby that we can drive to, and even some in our neighborhood that we are still to explore.
  • If you enjoy another type of exercise, or driving is not an option to you, you can look online for places in your area that offer online classes. Most yoga studios do, and there are others, like Pilates, Zumba, etc. Take an online yoga class (that’s what I have done), or take some form of online exercise online. If you find no live classes that are free or that you like, there are only millions of YouTube videos for whatever exercise appeals to you. Subscribe to a channel and make a date with your favorite video every day or other day of the week. Your mind will be busy keeping up that appointment and your body will thank you. Plus, don’t we all need to lose all this food we’ve been eating away out of boredom, anyway?!
  • Find a hobby you enjoy and revel into practicing it. You know that craft stores never closed during the pandemic, right? They were deemed “essential” for a reason, and they cater to every hobby there is. I have painted, sketched, and colored a lot. I still have a couple of hobbies I need to start a project in (below), so I am not done yet. My husband is a woodworker and he puttered in his shop a bit too. He made pens, a bowl, and a pendant for his mom for Mother’s Day. He also finished a project for our newly redecorated screened-in porch.
  • Take an online class. I found out through Facebook that one of my favorite writers was having a free online writing class called "Write Through This" and signed up for it on a Sunday afternoon when I normally don't have any plans at all.
  • Go out (with the proper protection and being mindful to avoid crowds) and shoot images of what the quarantine means to your city and surroundings: shoot pictures of restrictions notices, people misbehaving, or people in masks, etc. and create an online photo journal of these times. Just shoot anything that looks and feels different and pandemic-like to you. These times will (hopefully) not come back around maybe in our generation. So, record them in pictures. Again, your kids and grandkids will thank you one day, for documenting this for them. Just think about how much you’d enjoy seeing pictures from The Great Depression or The War that your grandparents or great grandparents might have shot for you. This is living history, again: help document it. We all have smart phones, so we don’t even need cameras for this project anymore. Upload them to your social media accounts, or create a Shutterfly account that you can share.
  • Explore new recipes: we all cook more nowadays, much out of need than pure pleasure. But make it fun: from your magazines (if you subscribe to them, like me), or from Pinterest, or other online sources, find recipes and try them out for the first time - experiment and improve. We made French bread which came out deliciously, Chinese dumplings, and a tomato and ginger jam with field peas curried patties that were to die for! I would have never attempted to make some of these foods, for fear that they might be too complicated, but they came out great. I love a new experience.
  • Meet your friends and family online: whatever your service of choice is, Zoom, Skype, Facebook – make a daily or weekly appointment to see them and catch up. You’ll be surprised at how much newness you will find from people who mostly just stay inside. They will have stories about their kids, the things they do, their neighbors, their coworkers, what shows they watch, what food they cook, etc. We text and email every day, sometimes several times a day, but I find the weekly video calls with my parents and sister recharging.
  • Take a roadtrip to a remote, deserted place and have a picnic - in your car or tailgate, or bring chairs: just park in front of a lake or river and just look at the birds or baby ducks (it’s springtime for a little bit longer, so the babies are here) and just stare at something different than your walls and your window view for an hour or so. You’ll be shocked how much peace and perspective that will bring to you and how much it will refresh your view on life.

 

I am making a new list with some things I still have left to do and maybe you can take some of these as ideas we well:

  • I still need to really clean out my closets, pantry, laundry room, cabinets and make a donation pile for GoodWill. We have already done this partially because we sold our camper, so everything that we had in the camper was donated. But we need to move to the nooks and crannies inside our house.
  • I still need to clean out my (physical) files, in our filing cabinet: old receipts, tax documents, refile my important documents that I do want to keep (like birth/ marriage certificates, inheritance papers, stock market accounts, will, etc.). I have a huge filing cabinet that can hardly open it’s so full. I doubt all the stuff in there is truly needed.
  • I have already done this on January 1st, but if you have not, you can organize and archive files in your computer (for those who still have computers and don’t rely solely on tablets and phones). If you have not done this for years, it’s time! And this can take a while! If you can, buy a terabyte drive or some cloud storage and go at it. And as my husband says “Be brutal!”. A resume that is from 1999 is probably outdated. Refresh it and delete the old copy.
  • Make your will if you’ve been putting it off – I know at least one couple who did just that because, like all of us, they never get around to it in “normal” times.
  • If you have not done this already: turn your cd collection into a digital/ cloud archive.
  • If you have the equipment, scan your pictures and negatives into the cloud/ digital archive. I am still to do this. I bought a device a long time ago that scans negatives into pictures and I have done about 30% of my negatives but I have a long way to go. It’s around $50, but this will be money well-spent to keep your memories for future generations.
  • I still need to iron my husband’s and my dress shirts and dress clothes and cover them so they will stay protected. Something I never ever have time for.
  • I also need to iron my festive tablecloths and napkins – I love a fresh, ironed napkin for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner but I never have the time to do it.
  • I want to start a new knitting, crocheting, or cross-stitching project. I am having trouble choosing which one, but my materials for all these are ready for me.
  • If you are truly, seriously bored with no ideas, just look at baby animal pictures online – I could not read when I was in the hospital recovering from heart surgery and all I could do is look at pictures. This cheered me up so much I could not tell you!

 

I hope this will get your imagination going and will make you think of something to do safely in your plenty free time. Of course, our time is also spent at work (if we are lucky enough to still be employed) and with kids, if you have those (I don’t but I see how busy my sister is with two boys). But for the long weekend days, or the empty evenings that have no agendas, I hope some of these ideas will help.

Stay healthy, all. Stay busy, and well!

This blog is reprinted with permission from A. Wilson. To view original post visit:
https://livingwithfh.blogspot.com/2020/03/a-new-member-of-my-health-care-team.html

Blog Post by A.W.

FH Advocate for Awareness - Alina W. About this Blog

In this blog I will follow my everyday journey of living with familial hypercholesterolemia (or FH). I am sharing my own experience with this inherited disorder, and how I manage it daily - from what literature I read on the topic and what my doctors say to how I live my life (what I eat, what medicine I take, how I exercise, etc). This is solely a personal account that might or might not offer some insight on what to expect when diagnosed with this condition. This blog does not offer advice, in any way, to anyone suffering from this disease.

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