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COVID-Coping Sustenance for Your Soul

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail COVID CopingAs the calendar flips over to April, so begins another month of social-distancing in this new world of ours.  While coping with COVID-19 has been challenging, it has been heartening to see the outpouring of generosity, kindness and humour in our local and global communities.  People worldwide are providing and sharing COVID-coping sustenance for the soul.  Together we get more resilient every day.  The quote at left was something I saw posted on Instagram by yoga teacher, author and lecturer Eddie Stern in New York City.  It exemplifies the fighting spirit we are seeing there and around the world.

In times like these, it is just as important to sustain your soul as your body.  The limit is your creativity as you can virtually do anything!  Here are some of my favourite examples of COVID-coping sustenance for your soul.  And I hope you will share your favourites in the comments section.  So without further ado, here they are, from the sublime to the cerebral to the (sometimes or somewhat) ridiculous…

The Sublime

Travel “virtually” anywhere

Appreciate art / unleash your inner artist

  • The Art Gallery of Ontario may be closed right now, but you can view the collection of the AGO from home.
  • In fact, you can view virtually any art gallery in the world right here!

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail COVID CopingOr unleash your inner artist and try your hand at painting or other crafts.  I am rather artistically challenged so I have unleashed my inner artist with adult colouring books, like this one on the right.  I also call it “channelling my inner 6 year old”.  It is quite relaxing, actually!

Of course, after I ordered that and a few fancier, hardcopy-bound adult colouring books, I came across this enormous treasure trove online of free colouring books from 113 museums around the world.

Host a virtual dinner party

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail COVID CopingWe really miss socializing with our family and friends over dinner.  Between having the blues about that and realizing my planned May visit to England to see my brother was now dashed, I decided to invite him and my sister-in-law for a virtual dinner party.  Well, it was dinner for them and brunch for us given the time difference.

Not only was it a total blast (we were on Skype for almost 4 hours eating and yapping) it gave us an excuse to drink wine in the afternoon!  I was topping up my glass at one point and my brother put his out for a refill.  😉

So now I’m booking other dinner and coffee dates.  And it is fun to share recipes so everyone is eating the same thing.  Another bonus…no need to clean the house for guests!!

Unleash your inner chef

Another thing about dinner parties with virtual guests is you can feel free to unleash your inner chef and try new recipes since you are the only one to be eating the food if it doesn’t work out.  So, why not challenge yourself to learn a new cuisine… A Taste of Spain perhaps?

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail COVID CopingOr, for more everyday enjoyment, whip up these 3-ingredient Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.  They are great for an afternoon tea treat or dessert!  The potassium in the bananas and avenanthramides in oats help lower blood pressure and the chocolate is a mood booster!

Order in and support your favourite local restaurants

covid coping little sisterDon’t feel like cooking?  And, truly, who does want to cook every single meal for months?  I love to cook and even I don’t want to do that.  Thankfully, we in Toronto have fabulous restaurants and they could use our business right now.  So choose your favourites and order in now and again for a treat.  A favourite of mine is Little Sister.  If I can’t travel anywhere, at least I can eat as if I am in another country!  Last weekend we had an amazing Indonesian dinner along with a bottle of sparkling riesling (kudos to the Ontario government for allowing restaurants to sell alcohol along with takeout meals)!

COVID Coping FeedtheFrontlinesAnd you can support your local restaurants while also supplying our health care workers with meals.  If you live in Toronto, consider making a donation to Feed the Frontlines TO. This organization supports local restaurants with large meal orders for Toronto health care workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.  Our local restaurant workers stay employed and our frontline staff are well-fed and nourished with the spirit of the community – it’s a two-fer!  There are initiatives like this in many communities so I encourage you to seek them out and share them in the comments.

Remember to enjoy some silence and tap into your inner self too

  • Take a deep breath and check out this page of free meditation resources from Calm to help you take are of your mind and stay grounded.
  • Or to shake things up a bit, literally, try this Qigong Shaking Practice, a simple exercise for quick energy and relaxation that takes only a few minutes of your day (here’s a video that demonstrates the practice).  I first came across the shaking practice as part of a Transforming Stress Workshop online at Prashanta Yoga and loved it!  Prashanta is my local studio and they immediately went online for their students when the proverbial sh*it hit the fan and now their online classes are available to everyone.  I highly recommend you check them out for all kinds of yoga (flow, hatha, restorative) and Pilates and nama-stay-at-home!

The Cerebral

Enjoy a night at the theatre

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail COVID CopingWatch the best of British theatre by joining the National Theatre on Thursdays at 7pm UK time (2 p.m. EDT), for a series of much-loved National Theatre Live productions, free to stream on National Theatre’s YouTube Channel for seven days.  If you hurry, you can take in One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden, a comedy hit filmed live on stage at London’s National Theatre and streamed on the YouTube channel April 2nd.

Always wanted to see performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Bolshoi Ballet or The Royal Opera?  Well here’s your chance.  Enjoy theatre on demand, as well as dance and opera performances by these companies and more with a 30-day free trial from Marquee TV.

Stroll the hallowed halls of academia

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail COVID CopingTake a course in virtually anything…

  • Open Culture offers links to 1500 free online courses from universities worldwide.
  • EdX offers over 2500 from 140 top institutions including Harvard, MIT, The Sorbonne, The University of Oxford, our very own University of Toronto and more.
  • Still looking?  Coursera collaborates with over 190 leading universities and companies to provide its course offerings.  University of Toronto Psychology Professor Steve Joordens just launched this 10-hour short course that might be of interest:  Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19
  • Interested in British or Irish history?  British History Online has made all research content free to individual users until the end of July.

Invent something

Just don’t play with magnets!  Check out this story of an unfortunate astrophysicist who managed to get magnets stuck up his nose while inventing a device designed to help us not touch our faces during the coronavirus pandemic.  He definitely gets an A+ for effort!

If you have a fabulous idea for an invention or experiment and want some help, you can Skype a Scientist – for free!

Get quizzical

Now that you have all earned a Masters degree in online education, you might want to test your knowledge at a quiz night.  Even though the pubs are closed, the venerable pub quiz lives on both near and far.  Here are just a few:

  • Toronto pub McSorley’s offer the McSorley’s Trivia Night, every Monday at 6:30 p.m. EDT
  • And if you are okay with time travel, check out Spectacular Quarantine Quizzes. These are live streamed from the UK so some of the quiz times aren’t always so convenient (unless you enjoy popping straight out of bed and into a quiz show, though there are a few that are at mid-day on the weekend).

The (Sometimes or Somewhat) Ridiculous

Sing your heart out

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail COVID CopingOf course, if you are a professional (or even a good amateur), this should be in the Sublime category above.  Not so for me, however.  In fact, I thought of telling my husband I was going to do online singing lessons but I didn’t want to add more stress to his life, now that he’s working from home all day.  So now I just keep it in reserve to threaten him with if he misbehaves.  As you can tell, I’m not exactly vocally talented.  But, regardless of talent level, singing is good fun and good for your lung health too!  I like to sing in the kitchen while I cook (and, no, that is not a photo of me).

But it doesn’t have to be a solo endeavour.  Why not make it a family project, like the Marsh Family from England?  Their take on “One Day More” from Les Miserables was so good it went, you guessed it, viral!  You cannot watch this without it making you smile!

Or join The Sofa Singers, a free, weekly online event from UK vocalist James Sills that brings hundreds of people together from around the world for a 45-minute sing-along.  Note that the times are listed in BST and the UK is currently 5 hours ahead of EDT.  Find out more from this BBC news story on YouTube.

If you want a little instruction first, check out these online singing lessons.  With so many to choose from, you are sure to find something to suit you.

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail COVID CopingI am going to try this one: Singing Confidence in 30 Days.  It is offering a free two-month trial so I have time to take it twice!  Once I have upped my singing confidence game, I may ask my husband to provide musical accompaniment on the guitar.  He has been brushing up his skills in the evening of late using Jerry’s Guitar Bar and Shut Up & Play.  If you want to take a mid-day break, check out the Arkells ‘Flatten The Curve Music Lessons’ on Instagram Live daily at 1 p.m. EDT.

Once we get “our act” together, I want our first song to be “Rain” by Bishop Allen, chorus at left.  Lyrics for our times.  And it might just be in my key…if I have one.

Lastly, why not drop into an upbeat, down-home East Coast Kitchen Party?  Just log onto Facebook site the “Ultimate Online Nova Scotia Kitchen Party — COVID-19 Edition” to enjoy hundreds of videos including acoustic ballads, lip-syncing, and traditional Celtic reels.

Dance like no one is watching (because no one is)!

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail COVID CopingIt is important to keep the body moving, especially when we aren’t getting out and about as much as we used to.  There are tonnes of online workouts you can do.  But, let’s face it, sometimes they just feel like, well, work!  So, instead, channel your inner dancing queen with these two live dance parties on Instragram:

  • Mark Kanemura hosts his Instagram Dance Party from LA daily at 5 p.m. Toronto time and it is a hoot!  No talent required and I guarantee you’ll be smiling at the end of it.  This “rainbow in human form” is a former back-up dancer for Lady Gaga so lots of her music is featured and I had a blast dancing along to Gloria Gaynor’s I will Survive the other day.
  • Or try Ryan Heffington’s Dance Party on Instagram.  As the man himself says “It’s just a win win all across the board, spiritually, physically, mentally. Dance is so f[*]cking healing.”

Hell, even members of England’s cricket teams are putting out dance videos!  Do the worm, do the worm…

Revel in mystery

Spend some time with the Ministry of Mundane Mysteries.  This one costs a $35 fee, 100% of which goes to directly to employ actors from our community who have recently lost income due to the COVID-19 crisis.  In exchange you get an auditory adventure.  This “customized improvised narrative experience unfolds over a week’s worth of short daily phone calls, as our intrepid private investigators delve into your very own micro mystery using the investigative power of good conversation”.  A pay-it-forward option exists as well.

Cut your own hair.  Okay maybe not…

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail COVID CopingHere are some tips on how to cut your own hair while in coronavirus lockdown.

This suggestion comes with a giant bowl(cut)-ful of caveats…with one local stylist “begging everyone to not take matters into their own hands”.  So folks, perhaps do NOT try this at home…


If you do try this at home and the result is disastrous, feel free to swear

Sometimes nothing but some goodhearted swearing will do (as in the photo that opens this post).  Here are a few irreverent meditations guaranteed to make you giggle:

I hope you enjoy this collection of resources and that they inspire joy and connectivity to sustain your soul.  Please feel free to share your own discoveries in the comments section below.

To feed your body, I invite you to check out my Anti-Viral, Anti-Anxiety Menu.  And, stay tuned later this month for a menu of recipes that can easily be whipped up from all those pantry staples you stocked up on.  Stay well!

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