Finding the Silver Linings in a Time of Quarantine
Several days ago, I pulled out my journal and began writing down the positive benefits of living in sequester during the coronavirus pandemic and the quarantine that goes with it. I came up with several “bright spots.” It may be debatable as to whether having more time to brush dogs or spend in sweatpants actually qualify as “bright spots,” but silver linings are in the eye of the beholder.
The scientific link between positivity and health:
According to John’s Hopkins Medicine, there is a strong link between positivity and health.
• Smile more. The act of smiling reduces heart rate and blood pressure.
• Reframe your thoughts. Appreciate what you have rather than stressing over what you cannot control. For instance, a traffic jam: rather than beating your fists on the steering wheel or lobbing obscenities (one of my favorites), be grateful that you have a car and that now you have some extra time to enjoy music or an audio book.
• Boost resiliency. Resiliency is the ability to adapt to stressful situations and losses. This includes maintaining good relationships with friends and family, accepting that change is part of life, facing problems and coming up with actions rather than hoping the problems will disappear.
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology analyzed data from 2004-2012 from 70,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study.
“The study found that healthy behaviors only partially explain the link between optimism and reduced mortality risk. One other possibility is that higher optimism directly impacts our biological systems.”
According to the study, the most optimistic women had a 16% lower risk of dying from cancer, 38% lower risk of dying from heart disease, 39% lower risk of dying from stroke, 38% lower risk of dying from respiratory disease, and 52% lower risk of dying from infection (Feldscher, 2016).
Acute stress versus chronic stress:
Acute stress, such as public speaking, taking a test, or mental math actually triggers a boost of natural immunity that accompanies the flight or fight response.
Chronic stress such as unemployment, traumatic injuries, or chronic illness, triggers immunosuppression.
Chronic stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes, the white blood cells that help fight off infections.
When we are chronically stressed, such as many of us certainly feel during this time of quarantine, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced, causing us to be susceptible to infections and viruses.
Our intuitive animals:
Studies have shown that horses, dogs, cats and other animals can experience long-term stress and anxiety through us. In other words, we can pass our stress onto our four-legged friends—maybe especially now that quarantine guidelines mean so many of us are spending so much more time at home with them.
Chronic stress in animals can impair their immune systems and increase their susceptibilities to infection and disease.
Seeking the silver linings:
Especially in the midst of COVID-19 quarantine conditions, dedicating time each day to recognize and acknowledge the silver linings not only helps our health but our animals’ health as well.
As difficult as it may seem, particularly in this time of intense crises, seeking positivity is vital to our short and long-term wellbeing, and that of our animals.
1. A silver lining doesn’t have to be news-worthy or incredible. For instance, as I am writing this, I look out my window and see that some goldfinches have arrived at the thistle feeder. We haven’t seen goldfinches for most of the winter. For me that is a silver lining. If I was out and about this morning, I might have missed the first signs of their return.
2. A silver lining can be something we recognize outside our own circle. For example, because of the Coronavirus, I am much more conscious and grateful to the doctors, nurses, and first responders who are on the front lines. That they are there fighting for us and our families and friends, is a silver lining.
3. Kindness is a silver lining. Daily I am inspired by what communities across the country are doing to support local businesses, to support students from a safe distance, to rally and support those that are ill.
4. Silver linings can be personal. Last night I stayed up past <gasp> 1 AM watching a movie I really wanted to see. Under normal circumstances I would have gone to bed at 11pm in order to maintain my rather structured routine. I gave myself permission to throw my routine out the window. That was a silver lining.
If you find yourself in the “glass half-empty” mindset or are feeling the crush of quarantine related media messages and fear, there are a couple of things you can do to lift your spirits:
• Drink tea. Teas that contain Tulsi or Ashwaganda are especially helpful. Under chronic stress, the adrenals produce more cortisol, which can lead to gastric imbalance, fatigue, weight gain or weight loss, and lack of energy. Tulsi and Ashwaganda are adaptogens, capable of balancing the endocrine, circulatory, and glandular systems including the adrenal gland. (I am a big fan of Organic India’s Tulsi Tea with turmeric and ginger.)
• Seek that which brings laughter. Give yourself 30 or more minutes to chuckle or guffaw. Find a funny sitcom, or a rerun of Saturday Night Live. For me it’s watching old Robin Williams interviews, anything from Pixar, the Coneheads, and old Rocky and Bullwinkle shows.
• Smile to your dog, horse, or cat. They read our faces and a smile transmits love.
• Do something for someone else. Helping others takes your mind off of your personal worries and makes you feel better. Some ideas: Set up a communal food or supply box in your neighborhood, call friends you haven’t talked to in a while, buy local restaurant gift cards and email them to your barn manager, trainers, and grooms. Say thank you to every grocery store cashier and staff member, start a neighborhood garden, start your own veggie garden to share with friends and family, seek out what your community is doing to stay positive during quarantine and share the information with others.
• Support your local farmers. Find out if your local farmer’s market supports delivery or pickup in this special time. In our town, the farmer’s market is closed, but the vendors are now online as Local Food Hub, and you can order and pay ahead of time for produce and meats, even bakery goods and plants, then pick them up on designated days.
The brightest silver lining:
The horse and dog communities are one of the brightest silver linings in our lives. Our love of sport, training, and care-taking with our beloved horses and dogs transcend this virus. Covid-19 and its quarantine cannot take away our connection and devotion to our animals. That each of us are joined to one another because of hooves and paws is a source of immense blessings.
We are a community that packs carrot pieces, apple slices, sugar cubes, and dog treats in our pockets. We speak the language of “impulsion, strides, meters, and topline”. We utter words such as “down, stay, come, leave it” as easily as we say “hi” and “hello.” We are the tribe of whinnies and barks, falling off and getting on again, icing legs and cleaning up, even studying closely, animal messes most people consider gross.
We are tough, intuitive, and know the power of positivity. We know how to handle turbulence, whether from lliving in quarantine or from other sources, and understand that we must keep going.
We are a community of hopes and dreams, luck, and lessons taught to us by animals.
We are a community of silver linings.
About the Author: Tigger Montague of BioStar US is the daughter of a baker, and the granddaughter of a dairyman, and has inherited the same passions as her family about real food. With over 30 years experience in the equine and human supplement industry, Tigger knows nutrition from the synthetic side as well as the whole food side. She started BioStar in 2006 with formulas she created in her kitchen. Before she started the company, she was an avid rider and competitor with eventing and show jumping, until she got hooked on dressage in the late 1980’s. She has competed on horses she’s owned and trained all the way from training level to grand prix.
Feldscher, K. How Power of Positive Thinking Works. The Harvard Gazette. Dec 2016.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. The Power of Positive Thinking. 2020.