We are at the one year mark of this pandemic and I think I can safely say what has worked for me and what hasn't as far as keeping myself mentally healthy. As everyone, I have had my ups and downs. There have been times of disappointment, times of fear, times of feeling of impotence, times of "I've got this" and times of "just give me the xxx vaccine already." Below is a short list of what has worked and what has not.
What Has Kept Me Mentally Healthy
1.Daily Exercise- A minimum of 20 minutes a day of physical activity. I've tried it all including walking outside, walking on the treadmill, running outside, exercising using youtube videos, zooming into my gym's classes, starting and continuing a virtual posture improving class (similar to yoga); working out with weights (used water bottles); exercising virtually with a personal trainer, biking.
2.Working, Studying, Reading, Learning- Keeping my mind active in a purposeful, intentional way such as preparing my lessons for teaching, learning a new technique, learning how to become more mindful.
3. Staying Connected with Friends and Family- I daily connected with friends and family either by telephoning, messaging or video calling everyday. I have family and friends that live all over the world and I would make an intentional effort to connect with them as often as possible.
4. Helping others- I get so much satisfaction mentoring and helping others whether that be writing a recommendation letter for a former student, volunteering at the nearby school, offering my time and support to others in the community and beyond.
5. Decluttering closets and drawers- Feels good and looks great.
6. Baking and cooking- I'm Italian.
7. Watching funny and cute animal reels on Instagram before going to bed. Want a mood changer instantly?
8. Watching my favorite comedian and his perspective on life during a pandemic has helped me. Thanks Sebastian Maniscalco and the Sebastian and Pete Show.
What Did Not Help Me
1. Reading too many newspapers daily- I was up to reading and rereading four newspapers daily. I would read them in the morning and then reread them during the day and at night. Too much!
2. Too much social media- fake news, bad news, sad news, stupid news- I can do without.
3.Taking everything too seriously and worrying. You cannot change a thing by worrying.
4.Being too tough on myself and feeling responsible for everyone else. Get rid of the feeling of having to control everything. As the quote goes "Life happens when you are busy making plans" or something to that nature.
Hello again. It is amazing that no matter where you are in the world, we are all pretty much doing the same thing. I realise that quarantine life is different depending on where you are and who you are, your income level, your "position" in society, whatever that means.
I surfed a little the internet, youtube videos and social media to see how that is so. It does not take much research to see how some have to make sacrifices in tiny spaces, staying indoors with small children, pets and trying to work from home if they are lucky enough to still have paying jobs.
I realise how fortunate I am to be living in the countryside where I can get some fresh air in front of my home. I have some green area I can take advantage of. I can go on my balcony and not have to worry about being too close to my neighbour. Yet I also realise that knowing and feeling fortunate is not enough. I know deep down I can do much more to help others. I have a computer and wifi so what else do I need? I have a sense of wanting to help others. This is where I am today in my head. I am not thinking so much of having to stay indoors. I am thinking of what will it be like after this is over? What can I do to start helping now? I think that is what each of us should be asking ourselves. We should not just be asking but we should be doing.
It has been a long time since I have blogged mostly because of lack of time and being overwhelmed with daily activities, chores and responsibilities. But here I am back to blogging on my living in Italy website due to a longing to express myself, to talk, to reach out, to help others, to help myself. Writing is therapeutic at least for me.
During this period of the Coronavirus Pandemic, we in Italy are finishing Week 3 of our lockdown and I thought I would share with others what we are going through and any advice I can give with dealing with quarantine life. With the belief that the United States are a few weeks behind in this onslaught maybe just maybe some words can help. I actually started to lead a quarantined life a little earlier as already the course I taught in Florence had moved to distance learning since my American students were sent home at the end of February.
Week 1 for us was the adjustment phase. We began to learn that our laptops and wifi would become our new best friends. We began to see what equipment worked or did not work. I started to think about buying some items that I would need for the long haul. During first week of lockdown we could get groceries, go to the pharmacy, go to the bank and some services were still available. I tried to make a hair appointment but that never happened. I filled up my tank with gas but really not sure why. I baked. I cleaned. I set up and adjusted the university course I teach through distance learning.
Week 2 for us was the routine making week. I realised that this will continue longer then I thought and a routine will keep us sane. We slowly developed a routine for each of us in an informal way. We each have our own place in the house where we can work without major disruptions. The mornings we all work after breakfast and work until lunch time. After lunch it is resting time or doing what you want time which lasts about an hour and then it is homework time for the kids. I have adapted to let the kids do things I would normally not let them do like play video games with their friends since it is the only time they have any contact with their friends. They can do this after homework time and exercise time is over. We all exercise daily. We baked. We cleaned.
Week 3 has been a continued adjustment phase and comfort phase. We have found new hobbies and been able to develop those hobbies left on the sidelines. We bake. We clean.
Some words of advice for those entering quarantine life:
Keep a routine. Personal hygiene and more. I get dressed every morning and put on make up and do my hair everyday. I never lounge around the house in my pjs. I don't even when I'm sick so I am not going to now. Getting dressed and fixing yourself up makes you feel better about yourself and is pleasant for those around you! I exercise everyday. I have mini projects every day which could be cleaning out drawers, decluttering, cleaning the garage, etc. I also have productive times of the day when I work on a new work project, work towards new opportunities. I talk with colleagues, friends and family. I stay connected but avoid negative talk or people.
Stay well and healthy and thanks for welcoming me back.
I love to bake. However I am turned off by the clean up. I am constantly talking myself out of baking anything because I HATE the cleaning up afterwards. I am not into the gadgets that have to be taken out, then cleaned, dried and put away again. If you follow my blog you know I am always trying to learn how to do less and not do more. So I have come up with recipes that require little to no clean up. I refuse to take out my big bowl-blender-wisks contraption that requires way too much time to clean up. Here is one recipe taken directly from my Italian mother Elsa adapted for easy clean up by yours truly:
Italian Ciambella (Italian Bundt Cake)
200 grams sugar (7 oz)
3/4 cup vegetable oil + 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
500 grams flour (16 oz)
1 cup nonfat milk*
1 lemon skin grated
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 pinch of salt
1 TBS butter for greasing pan
* you can use any milk of your choice (rice milk, almond milk, etc.)
butter for greasing pan
1 mixing bowl
1 eight oz. measuring cup
1 fork for mixing batter
1 bundt baking pan
Preheat oven at 180 degrees C. or 350 degrees F.
In mixing bowl, beat eggs with sugar until creamy. Add to same bowl in this order: oil, milk, grated lemon skin, salt and baking powder. Add flour and mix all batter well. Pour in half of the chocolate chips and blend well.
Carefully grease bundt pan with butter and pour mixture into pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips evenly on top.
Place pan in middle of oven and bake for 45 minutes. Use the toothpick test to make sure fully baked. The top of the cake should be golden. Enjoy.
This post can easily be called ""How to Teach Your Child To Just Be" or even "How to Get You and Your Child to Slow Down and Simplify Your Lives."
When my first child was young I was interested in having him try new activities so my oldest got to take part in all sorts of interesting and not so interesting activities. I thought I was doing him a service by exposing him to music, dance, gym, karate, baseball, art, etc. Then as he got older and my second son was born, I started to tone down the activities. I began to tone these down for a number of reasons: lack of time, lack of money, lack of physical energy on my part. Then subsequently I began to further tone down the after school activities because not only did I not see the added benefits of more then one afterschool activity, I began to see the negative consequences.
The negative consequences were that my children were not happy having all their free time taken up by activities. They began to be vocal about it and tell me all they wanted to do was play freely. The too many activities had gotten so bad that the entire family had become a victim to try-outs, recitals, training, games, get-togethers. We had no time to just be. We had no time to travel. We had no time to go on picnics. We had no time to just play. We were constantly running from one activity to another ...until we began to say no.
The easiest way to get your child off the fast track treadmill is to have your child select the one activity that he/she really likes and enjoys doing. Your child may even say that he/she does not enjoy any afterschool activity and that is ok too. You will be amazed how happy your child will be that he / she does not have to go to the umpteenth training session and can go to a friend's house to play or have a friend over to play.
The changes will not only relieve your child's stress, but it will also lighten your load as well both in terms of physical energy and in terms of costs. How refreshing that you don't have to drive your children all over the city picking up and dropping them off to all their acitivities. How fantastic that you can spend time with them and they can enjoy free time to just play as kids were meant to do.
I am passionate about slowing down and simplifying my life and I talk about it sometimes with a real sense of urgency. I am finding that the more I speak to others about slowing down, the more I see their eyes light up and then they basically say they want to slow down their busy lives...but don't think it is possible.
There is a sense of guilt that accompanies wanting to slow down. We would feel guilty because our society does not accept the concept. Instead our society has always rewarded whatever or whoever is faster. Being faster connotes being more productive, more vital, more energized. Our society has created this myth that whatever is faster, is automatically better. We have been conditioned to think this way.
So here are some tips to help you slow down without the guilt:
1. Take a step back and think about what you are doing. Is the activity you are doing, or have signed up for, something you really want to do or are you doing it because you should do it? Is this something that you can politely refuse and say no to? What's the downside of slowing down? There is none. You only have to gain from it. It is a quality of life decision.
2. Realize that wanting to slow down is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. You have the reins on your life and want a stronger quality of life. You value your time and want more time to do what you want to do. This is through simplifying your life.
3. Know that having and doing more activities does not make you more productive. It is a misconception. How about toning down your extra activities and concentrating on only a few that you really enjoy doing?
4. Speak with others and become passionate about slowing down. This is something to be proud of and not something to keep as a secret. You will see the eyes of others light up as they too want to regain the reins of their lives. They will ask you how you did it. Make it a conviction of yours and others will follow.
5. Be your own person. Just because your neighbors are on the fast track treadmill of life, does not mean you should be. Just because the other chilren have three afterschool activities does not mean your child should. Don't go with the flow. Instead make a conscious decision to slow down and simplify your life. Be a role model for those around you. Afterall your child never asked to be put on the treadmill.
For more information and to take the easy to follow steps to a greater quality of life support my ebook, worksheets and audio :
The Mediterranean diet is healthier. Italians live longer then almost the entire rest of the world. Can we learn from them? I think so. In Italy caregivers including mothers, fathers, grandparents, babysitters, daycare and schools traditionally offer healthier alternatives to their children as snacks. Here are some more healthy snack ideas for your children. The next time your younger or older child asks for a snack, think of offering these:
The slow food movement began in Italy and Italians have one of the greatest life expectancy rates in the world. Their Mediterrean Diet is a factor for their good health. After 16 years living in Italy, I have learned what Italian children eat on a regular basis. Here are the easiest and healthiest snacks Italian children eat in Italy that you can prepare for your children no matter where you live.
1. Fresh bread with extra virgin olive oil.
We may not be able to purchase fresh bread everyday but we can choose amongst many different breads that are available. It is a good idea to read the labels and select that bread that has the least amount of preservatives, additives and food colorings. With regard to extra virgin olive oil, make sure you are using a quality product that does not have any added preservatives, has an expiration date, is stored in a glass bottle. High quality olive oil is not cheap and if it is, you are probably not getting the best product.
Use one or two slices of bread (toasted or not depending on preference) with the olive oil drizzled on top. The bread should not be swimming in the oil. I sometimes sprinkle very little salt on the bread before drizzling the olive oil but this too is an option.
2. Fresh fruit.
Italians opt for fruit that children can easily manage and store in a backpack such as bananas, tangerines, apples, oranges, .
3. Dried fruit and seeds
Here Italians use dried figs, apricots, apples, bananas and seeds such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
4. Freshly squeezed orange juice (not from a carton)
In the winter I see Italian caregivers give their children freshly squeezed orange juice. They will take 3 or 4 ripe oranges and juice them for the children.
5. Fresh bread sandwich with "frittata" (omelette)
Often times the omelette is fried but it can also be made in the oven with very little oil. Cool the omelette, cut and place within the sandwich and you have an instant delicious healthy snack.
For more healthy and easy recipes that are based on the principles of the Italian lifestyle please support my ebook and resources at :
I am always trying to find ways to not only simplify my life but how to do less. Let's face it quality of life has to do with not cramming more activities into one's precious day. Quality of life is about having more time to do what one really wants to do. I am not into multitasking, which is defined as simultaneous execution of more than one program or task by a single computer processor (wikipedia). We are not computers nor shall we want to be. We are not meant to be doing many things at once. So in all my research and talking to women, men, young people, college students and elderly, I am repeatedly told "Lucia, I want to slow down but I just feel it is a lost cause." So this list is for all of us and starts with you taking the first step.
1. Say No without the guilt. It is ok to tell your son's coach that your son cannot make it to the game or cannot come three times a week for training. It is ok to tell the dentist's secretary that you cannot schedule that appointment that day. You don't have to justify yourself with anyone. It is ok to say no to your child that you cannot take her to the mall. It is ok to say no to your spouse that you cannot have Mr. and Mrs. X over for dinner tonight.
2. Wash and dry clothes only once a week. If possible, hang your clothes outside to dry. Even if there is no sunlight, the air and wind will dry your clothes. This was something I did not know and learned from the Italians. There is nothing like air dried clothes and you will save in electricity costs.
3. Shop for groceries only once a week. Be creative with your meals and use what you have without having to repeatedly go to the supermarket.
4. Run your dishwasher only once a day. The more you run your dishwasher the more you have to empty your dishwasher which also consumes more electricity.
5. Keep only one waste / recycle bin area in your home. You don't need waste bins in every room. More bins equal more trash equal more physically having to empty them. If your home has more then one floor, each floor should have one recycle area.
6. Don't bring home unnecessary advertisements, pamphlets, business cards. You can find most anything nowadays online and these create clutter which will then lead you to have to do more de cluttering. I now refuse any free gifts and all the packaging materials, free pamphlets, free gadgets, free clutter!
7. Tidy up your bedroom as soon as you can first thing in the morning before leaving your house. This means fold and put away clothes, make your bed, etc.
8. Clean your kitchen, counters, etc right after mealtime. This will save you loads of time and help you feel less cluttered.
9. Go outdoors. Spend as much time as possible outdoors. It is an energy booster and will rejuvinate you.
10. Eliminate your telephone land line. I was constantly interrupted by solicitors all day. I eliminated the land line and have one personal mobile and one mobile that I use as a land line for emergencies. This one change has freed up my time and put a skip in my step.
I want to hear what your suggestions and tricks are for doing less and living more!! I welcome your comments.
For more information on living a slower and simpler life as the Italian lifestyle reach out for my book and resources at:
I am no jet setter but I have done my fair share of traveling with my children when they were in my womb, infants, toddlers, elementary school children and now adolescents. Not only have I done a lot of traveling with them but I have done long sixteen hour plus flights with them.
These have included all sorts of unexpected arisings: dropping the pacifier on the airport floor, diaper changes in every imaginable place and then some, hauling carseats across various European airports, suitcase breaking apart at check in, dropping my bracelet in the airplane's toilet, accepting stares and glares from other passengers when my son's ears were hurting at landing, etc. The list goes on and on and I can sure give advice on all sorts of do's and don'ts. I go on long trips for long periods of time with children. The following is what I have learned about packing that will make your trip so much more enjoyable:
Packing your luggage:
1.Each family member should have one small piece of luggage. This will save loads of time when searching for items, clothes, toys, shoes. Also each airline allows for one piece of luggage (within maximum weight limit) per person.
2. Bring only one week's worth of clothes for each family member. Yes this actually works! Each family member should only have one week's worth of underwear, socks, nightwear, tops, pants, sweaters, one jacket (heavy or light depending on season), and one extra pair of shoes. You will love me for this. This tip alone will make travel so much more enjoyable because it entails less packing, less clutter, and less unpacking. Think simple!
3. Bring clothes you won't mind discarding at the end of the trip. You will want to donate them or discard them so you will have extra room in your luggage for new purchases, souvenirs, etc.
4. Pack one or two favorite toys, books or activities per child in his/her luggage.
Packing your carry-on luggage:
5. Give each child over the age of 5 his / her own small backpack to carry with a favorite toy and healthy snack. Itg ives the child a sense of responsibility and is one less thing the adult has to carry!
6. Bring one extra top, bottom, socks and underwear for each child with your carry on baggage. This is for possible spills or accidents. Each child should wear Velcro strap shoes with socks for easy on and off.
7. Bring plenty of healthy snacks and keep them in zip lock baggies in your carry on luggage.
8. Bring medicines you may need for each person. I usually bring fever medication for adults and children, allergy medicine, cortisone ointment, asthma spray. These will be according to your particular needs of course.
9. Buy water right before boarding. Any other liquids will be asked to be tossed.
10. Don't bring lots of toys and activities for flight. Children get bored quickly and toys end up on the floor or between the seats.
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