How to Stay Positive During a Pandemic
April 2, 2020 by Rose Nemunaitis

Experts Weigh in on How Keep Spirits High During Pandemic

We recognize our 25 parks and 78 trails are a valuable asset to our county residents and are honored to provide outdoor amenities for you and your family to enjoy during this time. – John Oros

Some might say we sure could use a little good news today.

And while there have been positive stories to come of the current novel coronavirus pandemic — such as local distilleries making hand sanitizer, major manufacturers working to provide ventilators and other personal protective equipment for the country’s medical professionals, and more people connecting with their loved ones and getting outside in nature — it is hard to ignore the daily daunting headlines about COVID-19’s progress throughout the U.S. and its impact on the economy and society.

However, just as Gov. Mike DeWine encouraged Ohioans to fly their American flags as a symbol of unity, Geauga County continues to rise to the occasion in keeping strong in spirit during these unprecedented times.

“Geauga County is strong and listening to the warnings,” Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand said. “We can stay strong by staying home with our families. We will all get through this because we are Geauga County residents and help each other even if it means keeping our distance, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care.”

The county’s largest medical facility, University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center, has been actively preparing for the pandemic.

“UH Geauga hospital has been working around the clock for the past month to make sure we are adequately prepared to care for Covid-19 patients,” UH Geauga President Donald DeCarlo said. “Currently, Geauga has the adequate resources and equipment to care for COVID-19 patients.”

Yet the comfort of preparation likely isn’t enough to cure the restlessness, anxiety and cabin fever many county residents are experiencing as they adhere to Dewine’s stay-at-home order until April 6.

“We are also pleased that Gov. DeWine recognized the benefits of getting outside (with social distancing) and going for a hike during these trying times,” said John Oros, Geauga Park District executive director, who is encouraging residents to utilize the park system to help with their mental, emotional and physical health during this time.

“We recognize our 25 parks and 78 trails are a valuable asset to our county residents and are honored to provide outdoor amenities for you and your family to enjoy during this time,” he said.

GPD Chief Naturalist John Kolar shared famous naturalist John Muir’s words, “Let nature heal and give strength to body and soul. In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”

It’s evident, as cyclists and runners can be currently seen whisking by on trails with smiles and greetings to each other.

Avid-exercisers are also adapting to new routines as a result of the pandemic.

Prior to an order for gyms to close, Hambden Township’s Sonda Kunzi attended daily CrossFit classes.

“When you have a routine like that, you are with the same people you work out with every day. You form a bond. It is like a second family,” Kunzi said.

Although it has been difficult to remain committed in the same manner under the current circumstances, Kunzi said the gym owner has made a point to reach out to members with videos and workouts.

“This past Saturday, we had a live class that finally brought us back together as a group,” she said.

Kunzi has also been doing more outdoor activities with family and her recently adopted dog, Jackster.

“Jackster is a very active labrador retriever and requires quite a bit of walking and playing ball outside,” she said. “This has certainly helped the family keep active together versus previously doing outdoor activities like running or walking separately due to schedules.”

Pet Support

For some, a dog might be your only companion most of the day, along with a momentary wave to an Amazon truck driver or someone passing by you on a walk.
Just after 9/11, veterinarian Wendy Frankmann took over the Animal Clinic of Chardon, along with her husband.

“So, we’ve ‘felt’ a similar sense of concern for humanity before,” Frankmann said. “There are numerous studies that show the positive mental benefits of pet ownership — not just dogs, but any pet. Pets provide companionship, connection and require us to be responsible for another being. In these times, where social distancing is required, the human-animal bond is needed now more than ever.”

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute has funded and gathered research that shows “animals can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, promote healthy activity and provide a boost to the cardiovascular system.

“The very act of petting a dog or cat reduces blood pressure and heart rate,” Frankmann said. “I think right now that, in general, if we can maintain any sense of a ‘normal’ routine, which includes our pet interactions such as walking the dog, playing with the cat, watching the hamster go round on its wheel, this helps boost our endorphins.”

Danielle Moats owns Pet Wants in Chardon and echoed Frankmann.

“As crazy as things have been in this pandemic, being at home with a pet can ease the mind by distracting us from the problems in the world,” Moats said. “Pets can ease our stress levels, reduce anxious feelings and allow us to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

It is very normal to be stressed and anxious in these times, but it is very important to remain calm and positive in light of what is going on.”
She said not only can stress cause illnesses, but pets can feed off that negative energy.

“Keep a positive attitude and allow our animals to divert this negative energy into playtime and snuggles,” Moat said.

Keeping Yourself Mentally Healthy

“I think the most important thing all of us can do as we face these uncertain times is to remain as grounded as possible,” said John Spiesman, licensed independent social worker and Lake Erie College’s Student Success Center director.

“The more grounded we remain, the better we will be able to stay present in the moment.”

There are several ways to do this, but he said one of best ways is to maintain a connection with nature and practice mindfulness.

“It is very important to stay as present in the moment as possible, remembering that we can control only what we can control, and that is how we respond to this present time of challenge and the unknown,” Spiesman said. “To effectively cope, we need to let go of what we cannot control, stay present in the moment and focus on self-care as we navigate the journey ahead.”

Jennifer Emch, co-woner of Ubuntu Wellness Center in Chardon, said given some of the news coverage, it would be hard not to worry.

“We are social creatures, so it can feel incredibly difficult to feel so disconnected from our family, friends and neighbors during this time of ‘social distancing,’” Emch said. “Maintaining social balance in our lives is even more important. We have seen wonderful things happening with the use of live video platforms such as Zoom, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts, so schedule a virtual get together with a group of friends or family and enjoy a meal together.”

She added people should feel fortunate to live in a community that offers so many different avenues of support for mental and physical well-being.

“Even though many places have temporarily closed their brick and mortar locations, there are many ways to keep engaging with those supports virtually and provide the time to develop some additional supports and coping strategies,” Emch said.

Ubuntu Wellness continues clinical counseling services via telehealth during this period of social distancing.

“We understand the worry, stress and anxiety that many of us are experiencing,” Emch said. “Everyone worries to some degree and some thinking ahead can help us to plan and cope. There is no ‘right’ amount of worry. We say that worry becomes a problem when it stops you from living the life you want to live or if it leaves you feeling demoralized and exhausted.”


8 Immune Boosting Practices

Information courtesy of Melanie Jatsek, Heinen’s corporate dietitian, and Shilah Cipriano and Christine Dowler, wellness consultants at Heinen’s in Chardon.

1 – Hygiene

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds—especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing and/or using the phone. Soap and friction kills viruses. Keep sanitizing wipes with you, sanitize your phone, steering wheel, gas pump etc… regularly. Be conscious not to touch your face.

2 – Stay active

Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Get outside in nature, it’ll do your mind and body more good than you realize. Be sure to stay away from crowded areas and playgrounds they are a breeding ground for the virus. Great time to get caught up on home projects, clean the house (that is exercise too!) do some fun crafts with the kids, bike ride, do a puzzle, board games. The silver lining in all this could be the much-needed family time we have all been missing with our busy work schedules. Remember to stay in your house though, do not visit other family members’ houses.

3 – Sleep

Research shows that sleep keeps your immune system in tip-top shape, but if you are sleep-deprived (less than 7 hours of sleep per night), you’re more susceptible to viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections. It’s no joke. And NO excuse is good enough to skimp on it!

4 – Lemonize

Lemon is Mother Nature’s detoxifier. It supports the liver in pulling toxins out of the body and is especially powerful when taken first thing in the morning. So start your day with a glass of lemon water (1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice mixed in 16 ounces of water).

5 – Eat Earthfoods + other immune-friendly foods

  • Garlic: crush one or two garlic cloves, add vinegar, spices and olive oil for a flavorful and healthy salad dressing.
  • Green leafy veggies: Arugula; cabbage; collard greens; dandelion greens; endive; escarole; kale; mesclun; mustard greens; radicchio; Romaine; spinach; Swiss chard; turnip greens; watercress
    • Toss a big handful of spinach or kale into your breakfast smoothie, or morning omelet.
    • Eat a tossed arugula salad with your dinner
    • Add greens to soups, stews or sauces
    • Make healthy coleslaw out of shredded red and white cabbage and toss with apple cider vinegar.
    • Add a scoop of greens powder to your lunch smoothie.
    • Fold cooked spinach into your Sunday omelet.
    • Enjoy a big Romaine lettuce salad for lunch, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, fresh blueberries, nutritional yeast, and broccoli sprouts. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and top with avocado slices.
  • Cruciferous veggies: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale
    • Add roasted broccoli to wild rice or quinoa dishes.
    • Steam and puree cauliflower and enjoy in place of mashed potatoes.
  • Berries (fresh or frozen): blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, goji berries
    • Add a handful of raspberries to cooked quinoa and eat for breakfast.
    • Toss a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries into your morning smoothie.
  • Functional foods:
    • Herbs and spices: ginger, oregano, turmeric
    • Mushrooms/mushroom powders especially turkey tail, rishi and chaga.
    • Fermented foods: kefir, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha, raw sauerkraut, Bragg apple cider vinegar (dilute a tablespoon in 8 ounces of hot or cold water and drink it once a day!) All a great source of probiotics. Two tablespoons are equal to the bacteria in a probiotic pill.

6 – Supplement with these 6 immune-boosters*

Remember healthy food first, then supplements

  • Vitamin C
  • Elderberry
  • Probiotic: particularly those including the following strains: B. infantis, S. boulardii, L. casei, L. Salivarius
  • Vitamin D3
  • Zinc
  • High quality fish oil

*As always, please be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement.

7 – Chill out!

Take 5-10 minutes each and every day to practice quiet meditation. If the word “meditation” doesn’t resonate with you, call it: breathing, contemplation, reflection, or prayer.. A regular meditation practice has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, provide you with a calm and easy state of mind, and guess what else? Increase your immune function! Go for a peaceful walk around the block, and use that time to think about things, clearing the mind of stress.

8 – Practice gratitude

According to Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis, “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Studies further indicate that grateful, optimistic people actually have more disease-fighting cells in their bodies.”

So open up a fresh Word document or notebook, write today’s date, followed by three things you are grateful for. It helps to do this first thing in the morning. You can also start a gratitude journal on your smartphone using one of the many free apps out there.