Pandemic Life Lessons Year 2022

We’re going into year three of the pandemic or what some like to refer to as the healthcare crisis. The word ‘crisis’ has a negative connotation but looking at the year ahead, lets focus on the positive lessons it has taught us and reflect on how we can make life even better going forward. I’d like to share a few things I’ve learnt:

1. Identify and manage stress

Admittedly, the first year of the pandemic was extremely stressful (and still is) as I found myself reading and consuming as much information about the virus as I possibly could. I wanted to know what it was, where it was, how it spread and what I could do to protect my loved ones and myself from it. It was an obsession, though an unhealthy one. To reduce stress, it was important to identify sources of stress and for me it was fear of contracting the virus and overthinking.

To limit overthinking, we learnt that it was best to just turn on the news for the morning, midday and evening updates. In between those hours, we could focus on work and on things that mattered to us. To reduce possibility of contracting the virus, stocking up on food and limiting exposure to others reduced stress. As long as we were home, we were safe. Home became our safe-haven, our sanctuary.

2. Make your home comfortable

Prior to the pandemic, Alex and I would often joke that we were boarders at our dogs’s house. They lived at the house all day, but we would just go home to spend the night before rushing off in the wee hours of the morning to work. Weekends were spent doing errands, meeting family and friends and so time at home was limited. Holidays were often spent abroad roaming the streets of a far off country.

The pandemic allowed us to really sit and observe the house. We rearranged furniture, decluttered, and bought new furniture that better suited our needs. Finally after ten years ‘living’ in this house, late last year we both commented how finally the arrangement was where it should be. We finally felt comfortable with the use of all our furniture.

3. Do things that give you happiness

An article in the New York Times talked about how we turned to baking and crafting during the pandemic because it gave us a sense of ‘control’ when everything outside was not in control. This was certainly true for me. I spent weekends finishing off craft projects, learning new skills, getting healthier, sleeping more, and rekindling my love of baking and trying out new recipes. There were foods I wanted to eat, but our house was far and delivery not an option. We cooked more, baked more, had less processed foods and lost a few kilos in weight each. Our epileptic dog became healthier with daily walks, and our plants also started living their best life and were no longer left to the “will of the gods.” We took our first family photo with our dogs after 9 years together.

4. Set up a routine

When you are home 24/7 its important to have a routine that gets you ready for the day and end the day to avoid the blurring of ‘work’ and ‘home’. We set up a routine, woke up at the same time each day, unless we were very tired, exercised, had breakfast, read the news then get ready for work. To end the day, we’d walk out into our garden, water the plants and walk the dogs. The routine gave us a start and end to the working day.

5. Have compassion, be grateful, and share

This may be one of the most important lessons of all. Time is limited and you never know when your time will end. You cannot tell what a person is going through by just looking at them or seeing their actions at a certain time. Everyone also handles stress differently and was experiencing the pandemic through different lens. Some live alone, some with large families and elders, some in small apartments, some in large houses, some with family in other countries. Whatever the circumstances, we must all respect others and be compassionate and grateful for what we have. Be kind and show kindness.

This pandemic, I’m grateful for my life and the opportunities I have. I’m grateful for being able to work from home, have a job and my loving family. I’m also grateful to the quality of Thailand’s internet network allowing us to work from home with ease. I’m grateful for all the little things like hearing birds chirp as I work, feeling the soft fur of my dogs as they lay by my feet, and being able to have lunch and dinner with my husband.

6. Seize the opportunity

Every cloud has a silver lining. There are always opportunities if we look for it and work for it. In less than a year, many companies were able to adopt technology and switch to online work. Businesses converted to online stores and reduced overhead costs. (Many companies are still suffering, but I am not going to discuss that here). Nothing in life is permanent and so we must therefore do the best with what we have. Many, at each their own capacity, were able to show their best versions of themselves, helping others who were not as fortunate. There is always a way to help others if only we looked for it.

We don’t know how long this health crisis will last. Let this year be a good year and one where we achieve our goals, get our health in order and become better versions of ourselves. We don’t know what will happen, but we know that we can start it out on a positive note and try to make each day better than the last. What have you learnt these past two years, what are you grateful for? What do you want to do next?

I have a few goals I want to achieve, and one of them is my return to writing. Miss you all.

Paying it forward with Pann Imm

The past few months has toppled the world upside down and inside out. Lives for many will have been changed forever. It’s been around a hundred years since the last pandemic of the Spanish flu and we are the generation that have been born at a timely manner to experience this special time. It’s a devastating pandemic but there is some good to it.

The pandemic is bringing out the best in people and encouraging each other to help those less fortunate, to reach out to our friends, and to be more caring and attentive to those we may have lost touch with due to “life” as we used to know it. These are just some examples but one such project that I want to share with you is a local crowdfunding program called “Pann Imm.” The name means to share the feeling of “being full” as in after a good meal.

The program was initiated to help the vulnerable groups affected by the pandemic. They are usually the service providers we rely on and who are paid for a day’s work and cannot afford to lose their jobs. These “temporary workers” are usually the first to go when companies make cost reduction decisions. As a result, millions have lost their jobs in Thailand without adequate savings to see them through the month. Imagine the situation now that this has lingered on for over a month. We all have families and mouths to feed and with everything in shut down, life isn’t easy.

The program helps by “Paying it Forward.” A friend of mine, together with local businesses, has worked together to put in place a system where meals are paid for in advance by donations. A sign in front of the restaurant indicates the number of meals available for those in need. Those who need a meal can then come to the restaurant for a meal or even ask to bag some back to their family.

Although less than a week old this program is already making a difference. If you want to make a difference, you can contact the administrator via her facebook page “@pannimm” – https://www.facebook.com/pannimm/ – and you can discuss with her regarding developments. I’ve known the founder of this wonderful program for twenty years and she has always had a heart of gold, helping others. Make a difference and help Pann Imm pay it forward.

Ed Whitlock, 85 year old marathoner because he can.

Sitting on the plane from Sapporo to Bangkok, I read an interesting article in the Bangkok Post about Ed Whitlock, an 85 year old marathoner who ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 3:56:34. It’s inspirational. He doesn’t do any specific training, doesn’t adhere to any strict diet or use any gadgets to monitor his heart rate and training. All he does is run by the cemetery by his house in 15- year old shoes. He doesn’t run for his health, or gets runner’s high. He runs because “the real feeling of enjoyment is getting across the finish line and finding that you’ve done OK.”

Numerous tests have been conducted and he apparently has a large VO2Max capacity and good muscle retention for his age. I suspect his genes play a big part in his being able to continue running at such an age. What I find more intriguing though is his attitude which I think is what really keeps him going. In the article he is quoted as saying, ” I believe people can do far more than they think they can. You have to be idiot enough to try it.”
This, to me is probably his secret. If you believe you can do something and truly work at it, I believe you can achieve anything you want to. It’s the story we tell ourselves that determine the story of our lives.

If you tell yourself you can’t do something, then you can’t and you won’t. If you tell yourself, and believe in yourself, you can accomplish whatever your goal is. That said, it might take some time before you accomplish your goal, but if you work at it long enough, you’d be closer to your goal than if you had never started. If you focus on the end goal, you might get frustrated at not being able to reach it, but if you focus on taking action towards those goals, then you’d keep moving forward. As Ed Whitlock showed us, age is not a limit and is not a constraint to living your life because at whatever age you start working towards your goal, you are one day closer to your goal than the day before. 

Thank you Ed Whitlock for reminding us that life has no limitations than those we set for ourselves. Now, the burden is on you. What are your goals in life? Let’s get moving!

Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year my readers! First of all, I’d like to thank all my readers for your comments and for sharing your updates with me. Although I have not written as much as I would have liked to, some of you have continued to keep touch and in the meanwhile inspired me as well. 
Looking back, 2016 for me was probably one of the craziest, funniest and unexpected years in a long time. There were so many changes going on both globally, in Thailand and within my work itself. Changes to challenge us all. I’m also grateful for all my family and friends. It’s been a year of reunions with friends from times past and a year of unexpected happenings. So much is going on, the question now is what are we going to do in 2017?  
For 2017, I hope you continue to stay healthy, exercise and have some ‘Me’ Time. With those things, we can achieve anything we set our minds to. Stay focused and ‘just do it’ I wish you all lots of success in all you endeavour.

Lots of love from snowy Japan somewhere in between the airport and Otaru.

PS. I’m going to start blogging about Tokyo, Otaru and snowboarding now so keep posted!

Lunch with Chef Cayito

Living in Bangkok, I am fortunate to have so many options for good food.  From street food to the fanciest restaurants, you can find almost anything to your taste and budget.  A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to be invited to savor delicious food by Chef Cayito and days past the taste still lingers on in my memory.  Having good food served beautifully whilst chatting with good friends is an experience all in itself. Experiences to be enjoyed, cherished and memories formed.

What did we have?

We had so many dishes, I had to look at the photos to remember what we ate.  The menu offered us a variety of tastes leading us from one dish to the other.  The first dish was a mix of yogurt and granola with some fruit sauces. ( I didn’t ask what sauces they were, I was too busy eating). It was just lovely and light enough to get your taste buds ready.  French onion soup was next with just the right amount of crunch and flavors. There’s something about warm soup that just seems to soothe and relax the soul. Trained in French cooking in Spain and coming from Mexico, our dishes were a mix of French and Spanish influences.  Grilled octopus and mussels in marinara sauce reminded me of our trip to Spain many years ago.  The sauce was so good I requested extra bread to dip into the sauce.

Main dishes arrived with a light tomato salad to accompany the grilled lamb with raspberry sauce and duck confit.  The grilled lamb was tender and melted in your mouth whilst the duck confit was divine with crispy skin and meat melting off its bones.  Duck confit has always been one of my favorite dishes when dining at French restaurants and Chef Cayito’s version was so good I would have more if I weren’t afraid of rolling out the door.  In case we wanted some more accompaniment, gratin dauphinois followed. A lover of cheese and anything creamy and hot, no matter how full I was, I had room for gratin dauphinois.  Our dessert was a wonderful surprise of light pancakes with strawberries and blueberries to end the meal. Perfect.

There’s something about having European food that always makes my heart smile a little more. It’s perhaps because it reminds me of growing up in Europe and the many trips we’d have enjoying the good food. If you want to sample Chef Cayito’s cooking, you’lll have to find him at charity events.

Sweet dreams readers. I now have to get myself a snack.

Be Kind to Yourself

This morning I had the opportunity to Skype with one of Having ‘Me’ Time’s readers and we had a good discussion about our journey to better health and weight loss.  A lot about the path to better health means avoiding processed, unhealthy foods, sweets or what seems to be almost all of our favourite foods.  It often feels like we are starving ourselves of what we love, especially if that’s how we’ve been eating our whole lives.

What happens when we mess up our diet and fall for that piece of decadently delicious chocolate fudge cake, or that juicy cheese hamburger?   Nothing. Nada.

Many times we are so strict with ourselves that when we fall for that piece of cupcake or donut, we feel like we’ve failed the diet and end up eating for the world.  We throw all our hard work away and lose hope. We go back to our old ways and eat and eat.

My advice to you is this:  Be kind to yourself.  Don’t lose hope and enjoy the experience.

Remember that it’s okay to treat yourself every now and then.  If you crave a hamburger really badly, go out and eat it.  If you want that cake, eat it.  Sometimes having a bite is enough to satisfy the craving. Enjoy it, savour it and then just make a mental note to yourself to work out extra at the gym the next day.  Add an extra session to the week’s workout.

No big deal right?  Have fun being healthy.  Enjoy the experience!

I’ve lost 5kgs or 12 lbs since the beginning of the year and every night I treat myself to some dark chocolate.  I have ice cream and egg tart.  I do, however, make sure that it’s super delicious and worth my extra workout time.

There’s no failing, no wrong in becoming healthy.  It’s a journey that goes up hill, down hill, turns corners and brings you to wonderful new places.  Just keep working at it! Keep on walking down the path. Don’t stop and turn back.

Five years on and I am still working on it 🙂  Step by step, little by little, we’ll get there. Be kind to yourself and be patient.

The Up (Weight) and Down (Weight) Cycle

If you’ve been through weightless and moved towards a healthier life, one of the questions is how do you sustain it? I don’t think there’s a simple answer to that question, and you have to find a model that fits you. For me, it’s been five years since I lost half of me and I am still working on it. I am still exercising and watching what I eat, but there are cycles that results in weight gain. The Up (Weight) and Down (Weight) Cycle.

The Up Cycle starts when there’s a lot of work, you’re tired, and you find reasons to work out less. When I was at my most healthy, I’d work out four to five days a week. After awhile, I grew comfortable with my health, and the workouts gradually decreased to three times then two times per week. No matter how much I ate, the weight barely moved on the scale. I was in a cycle of happiness. Sustained health (or so I thought.) I was good, I told myself. I could still run well. No problem.

Then age started playing a role coupled with my love of eating. Age, because I think my metabolism slowed down. It seems to slow down every five years and now that I’m nearing my forties, it seems to have moved a notch lower. I have to work out more to get the same gains.

My love of eating, over two months from Thanksgiving dinners, celebrations with friends, to New Years, trying out bread recipes, having pastries and eating it all, my weight went up. Of course, if you eat that much and still just work out two days a week it’s going to go up. Finally, my body caved and my weight went up 6 kgs (13 pounds) in a matter of one week. It’s like a technical barrier had been broken and you weren’t quite sure where it was going to stop. ‘Stop, stop’ I’d tell the weigh scale, but it didn’t listen.

The only way to stop it was to ‘reboot’ myself.

The Down (Weight) Cycle starts when I got back to running four times a week, getting to the gym earlier, working out a little bit longer, and even going on weekends. I started cooking, not just for dinners, but also for lunches. I brought my own lunches to work which consisted of various recipes with vegetables as the main dish coupled with some pork or chicken. It just required a bit more advanced planning, but you are assured a healthy meal. I cut out on my favourite baked goodies and processed foods. I have now lost 5kg (11 pounds) now and feel reenergised. I’ve still got a few more to lose but as the technical barrier broke on the way up, it breaks on the way down too.

So how do I sustain a healthy lifestyle? I realise now that for me I have to constantly remind myself, that no matter how much you have going on in your life, there’s never a reason to reduce the amount of exercise you do.  Do not cave into the ‘Lazy Me’ which comes in many forms.  She’s a tricky gal with a million reasons.

For me, I have to keep it up exercising three times per week and as I age, I find that I probably have to up the intensity as well. Also, make sure that your fridge is stocked full of veggies and good wholesome foods. Don’t fall into the trap of commercial food industry!  I make my own hummus now. 🙂

What works for you? How do you sustain it?

Guest Writer: From Binge Eating to Olympic Distance Triathlon

Today’s post comes from one of Having ‘Me’ Time’s readers who is now having a healthy lifestyle and working towards an Olympic distance triathlon! Isn’t she inspirational?  She inspires me to keep up my healthy lifestyle and keep working at it! Thank you!

 *****

I had struggled with my weight for the majority of my teenage years. I grew up relatively skinny, but started to gain weight during high school and college. It was right around this time that I was introduced to binge eating. Food became my main source of comfort when I was stressed out, bored, or lonely. My weight started to creep up on me, and it never really went back down. I didn’t like taking photos because I thought my face was too round. I wore baggy pants because I didn’t like the way my thighs look. I avoided wearing sleeveless shirts because I didn’t want to expose my flappy arms. And the list went on.

I had tried restricting calories, but once my stress level passed a certain threshold I would grab anything that was in front of me and ate it like there was no tomorrow. I would hate myself the next day, which resulting in over-exercising the next day to compensate the calories I over-consumed the night before.

After many failed attempts of losing weight through restricting diets, binge eating, and hating myself, I told myself that something had to change. I decided that I would focus on completing a race instead of purely losing pounds. A sprint triathlon came into mind because I have always enjoyed biking and swimming, and even though I never really liked running all that much I knew I could run a 5K. I looked into the distances that constitute a sprint triathlon: 600m swimming, 20K biking, and 5K running. I knew it was totally possible if I really put my mind to it. I found a race that was 3 months away and started training.

I did not know how much 3 months of training could have changed my perspective about my body. The race started of as a way for me to lose weight, but it did so much more than that. I have not reached my goal weight yet, but I am a lot more comfortable with the way I look. I view my body as the main vehicle to get me to my fitness goal. I can proudly say that I am physically and mentally stronger. There were days that I really did not want to get up and train, and was too tired after work to do any exercise, but I did it anyway. I knew that if I didn’t put in the necessary work each day, I would not be able to reach the goal I set for myself. I know I would not be ready by the race day. Every workout counted as a small step towards a bigger goal.

Through this experience of training for a triathlon, I learn that life is about setting goals and achieving them. My goal, however, has shifted from purely losing weight to becoming a triathlete and accepting my body every single day. My next goal is to finish a half marathon in April and an olympic distance triathlon in May. I am in the middle of my journey, and I cannot wait to see where it will take me.

 

Our Journey Together:  Join our “Having Me Time” Community 

It’s a lovely cool day in Bangkok today after a blistering hot few weeks.  It’s 25 degrees celsius  outside, lovely breezy winds and just heavenly.   Perfect for reflecting and today thinking about my life journey these few years. Its been a little over five years since I lost my unhealthy me and 15kgs worth of weight.  That 15 kg was a big part of my life and I’m still adapting to my healthier body.  Being healthy and fit comes with a completely new lifestyle. It requires an altogether different frame of mind that often wants to get bumped off track tempted by all the junk food advertisements.

It’s amazing how many advertisements for burgers, ice creams and deliciously devilish desserts are around.   It’s amazing how much sugar is in everything and how much Thais love sweets.

The healthier lifestyle means having more balanced diets with vegetables and fruits.  Good food and quality now prevail over quantity.  Of course, the old fatty me would say, “Hey have both! Have both good food and in high quantities!”   Now, before I indulge, I wonder if it’s worth the calories and the exercise that follows.

Five years on, I still get my lazy days and weeks when I don’t feel like going to the gym. Sometimes I feel like just having lots of processed foods and ice-cream.  What keeps me going and motivated though is when I hear from readers of “Having Me Time” who are now pursuing healthier lives and on their new journey to a new and healthier person.  A few days ago, I heard from a reader who completed her first triathlon and is now signing up for an olympic length triathlon! Congratulations!  You did it!

You definitely are an inspiration. (You know who you are)

To my readers, my proposal is this:  Let’s all continue to inspire and motivate each other so that we don’t get bumped off track to the unhealthy life.  Together, we’ll embark on the second part of our journey that works best when we have a community of people helping each other and sharing our stories, and our journeys.  If we could each support one another, we would all be on the healthier and happier track.

Please feel free to share your stories on our wall or if you would like to share your personal story on Having Me Time, please email me your story  🙂

I’m excited, are you? 🙂 Let’s do it!.

Snowboarding: The days after

You realise how unfit and how old you are when after just one hour of snowboarding, you are still feeling the effects three days after.  It’s a great wake up call that we need to exercise all parts of our body to be truly fit; work other parts of the body. Running three to four days a week, you get spoiled into thinking that you are fit, when in reality only certain muscles get trained.

After an hour of snowboarding (indoors), I started feeling the effects a mere one hour after. My legs and lower back were tense. It’s as if I did an hour of squats. After lunch, I could barely get up and then I had to walk slowly. Very slowly. Grandma style slow. Turtle slow with duck like feet.

Looking back it’s not surprising. I had never properly trained my body and taking up running was the most ‘real’ exercise I’ve ever done.  This realisation comes at the perfect time. This New Years I will begin an exercise routine to build up my core strength. Do you snowboard? Do you have any recommended routines? Please share!

Happy holidays!