Now, we offer a brief discussion and two clever videos on changing bad habits byJud Brewer, M.D., Ph.D.: “Dr. Jud [as he is called] is the Director of Research and Innovation at the Mindfulness Center and associate professor in psychiatry at the School of Medicine at Brown University, as well as a research affiliate at MIT.”
“How are habits formed? What is the biggest secret behind our mind’s choices? Why is it so hard to break some of our most unhelpful habits, including worry and panic during this challenging time? How can we upgrade our mind’s habit system?”
Video 1: The Habit Loop — Anxiety
The first animation deals with the three stages of the habit loop: trigger->behavior->reward.
Video 2: Breaking Bad Habits
The second animation notes some recent research that Dr. Jud’s lab has done to help people quit smoking and stop overeating. And it provides simple tips on how you can learn to leverage your own brain for habit change.
“During my brief tenure, my boss has increased my responsibilities, promoted me, and proposed changing my position to be more in line with my previous employment. In essence, he is slowly transforming my work into the dream job I discussed during my interview. I suspect he has done so to ensure that I remain, not knowing that I am ill.”
“I have yet to tell my boss about my diagnosis. Legally, I suspect I am not obligated to, unless I need to take leave from my job. Yet morally, should I not at least advise my boss, particularly given his mentorship of me? I recognize that some of the potential requirements of my new job — frequent travel, increased responsibilities, extended time away from my instrumental supports — may be unsustainable 12 months from now, if not sooner. However, I am currently able to perform. What is my duty here?”
Excerpts of Response from the Ethicist (Kwame Anthony Appiah):
“As an employee, you are entitled to keep your diagnosis to yourself until it impairs your performance; and as long as you can fulfill the essential functions of your position, your employer must make reasonable accommodations for your emerging disabilities.”
“But as you’re well aware, you have another morally relevant relationship with your boss. This is someone you care about and who cares about you. That personal relationship brings burdens as well as benefits. On the one hand, your personal bond with him gives you the reasonable expectation that he won’t exploit what you tell him to your disadvantage, at least to an extent consistent with his duties as your boss. On the other hand, it also places a special demand on you to speak with him honestly. You may feel that you owe it to him to give him time to plan for your eventual decline and departure. More time, perhaps, than you would if you were dealing with a faceless institution.”
Author’s comment: Just a few days ago, my 37-year-old daughter asked me if I had ever seen anything like this pandemic in my lifetime. My response was an emphatic NO!! This is the most widespread and anxiety-provoking health crisis that I have ever seen. Most of us could never imagine a worldwide crisis that has put many of us in stay-at-home status. And threatens the world’s economies.
Observations About Handling Anxiety in Difficult Times
As a high-risk person, I know from my own situation how anxiety-provoking this pandemic can be. Especially now that millions of us are in isolation — either totally alone or staying with a limited number of family members. And with little outside contact, given all of the business, school, entertainment venue, and other shutdowns. Unfortunately, this looks like our living arrangements for a while.
For information on anxiety and loneliness during these stressful times, we turn to Business Insider and Futurity.
“While the implementation of social distancing —avoidinglarge gatherings and maintaining a distance from others — is crucial to preventing the coronavirus pandemic from intensifying, the practice could also cause a ‘social recession,’ or a collapse in social contact that especially affects populations who are most susceptible to loneliness and isolation, like the elderly,according to Vox.”
“And loneliness has proven to exacerbate health complications among the elderly: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a reportsuggestingseniors who experience social isolation or loneliness may face a higher risk of conditions including heart disease, depression, and mortality.”
“Use technology! For example, schedule regular video chat and phone dates with friends and family. Get creative. Watch movies, play online games, or participate in virtual book clubs.”
“Reach out to friends and relatives who are especially at risk during this time. Call older adults and people with chronic health conditions to give them meaningful social contact during these trying times.”
“A good strategy is distraction. If you find yourself thinking continuously about risk of illness, try to distract yourself by getting involved in an engaging activity. Or by picking up the phone to talk with a friend. Take advantage of nice weather and go for a walk in an open space. Get outside as much as possible if it’s safe to do so.”
“You can also try mindfulness meditation. There are several excellent mobile apps that can teach you how to practice meditation, such as the free appMindfulness Coach, which was developed by a team of psychologists at the Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD research. It walks users through the basics ofmindfulnessmeditation.”
“If you have trouble sleeping, check out the Veterans Affairs’ appCBT-I Coach(Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia), which takes you through different strategies to help quiet your mind at night. If you find that anxiety or insomnia interferes with your ability to function during the day, seek professional help to reduce the impact of anxiety.”
Food for Thought: At-Home Activities to Stimulate Us
As we seek to find our own routine, we turn to the Automobile Association of America (AAA) for suggestions.According to the AAA:.
“News of the COVID-19 is everywhere. And many people try their best to stay healthy and help slow the virus’s spread. Due tohigh transferability, acts like social distancing, working remotely ,and self-quarantining are used as precautionary measures. Stuck inside the house for a while? Make make the most of it. Here’s how to stay busy, entertained, productive and healthy at home.”
Home maintenance — Start with home projects you’ve been meaning to get to, like small repairs or organizing a junk drawer, closet, and so on.. Go through your fridge, pantry, and cabinets, getting rid of anything expired.
Self-maintenance— Take care of your physical and mental health, and know how to keep your mind busy,
Use technology — Watch movies. Play video games. Listen to music.
Connect with others — Text. Face Time. Call..
Get creative— Do something artistic, like drawing, painting, scrapbooking, crafts, or writing.
Engage your brain — If you enjoy learning, take online classes, quizzes or try watching some how-to videos/tutorials. Do crossword puzzles and/or Sudoku. Read a good book.
Update from the author: For the most part, I stayed at home last week. Went out to the supermarket a couple of times and ate out once. However, as of today during my routine checkup, my endocrinologist (Dr. T) told me to stay at home. Period! And when Dr. T speaks, we listen. After all, he saved my life with his early discovery of my pancreatic cancer.
Food for Thought: What We Should Do Now – Cleanliness
The number one COVID-19 tip is overwhelming related to cleanliness. Washing our hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. Reducing how often we touch our faces. Washing down surfaces we and others touch. Even cleaning our cell phones. And more!
“The CDC recommends daily disinfection for frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. The CDC also recommends the use of detergent or soap and water on dirty surfaces prior to disinfection.”
“Whatever cleaning solution you use, let it remain in contact with the surface long enough to kill viruses and other pathogens. The time depends on the chemical. Don’t use different cleaning agents at the same time. Some, if mixed, can create dangerous and poisonous gases.”
“Bleach can be diluted with cold water to make an effective disinfectant against bacteria, fungi, and many viruses — including coronaviruses. Be sure to follow the directions on the label of your bleach.”
“You can dilute alcohol with water (or aloe vera to make hand sanitizer) but be sure to keep an alcohol concentration of around 70% to kill coronaviruses. Many hand sanitizers have a concentration of about 60% alcohol. And Lysol contains about 80%. These are all effective against coronaviruses.”
“Vinegar, tea tree oil, and other natural products are not recommended for fighting coronaviruses.”
As those of you who readLiving Well While Surviving Canceralready know, the author of this blog (Joel Evans) is a pancreatic cancer survivor with a compromised immune system. As well as a Type I diabetic. And a senior citizen. That puts me in the highest-risk category if I contract COVID-19.
Something else to worry about. Or not. After all, what am I supposed to do now? I refuse to lock myself in my house. But what smart things should I do?
[On Thursday March 5, 2020] “Amid a coronavirus outbreak in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging older people and people with severe chronic medical conditions to stay at home as much as possible.'”
“This advice is on a CDC Web site, according to a CDC spokeswoman. Early data suggest older people are twice as likely to have serious illness from the novel coronavirus, according to the CDC.”
“The CDC guidance comes as two top infectious disease experts with ties to the federal government have advised people over 60 and those with underlying health problems to strongly consider avoiding activities that involve large crowds. Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University professor and longtime adviser to the CDC, said these two groups should consider avoiding activities such as traveling by airplane, going to movie theaters, attending family events, shopping at crowded malls, and going to religious services.”
Also, check out the CNN video.
My Advice to Myself
In light of the CDC’s warning and my health status, what am I to do? My answer for ME (which may be different than your advice for YOU) is to BOTH be smart and live life every day.
I will go out to restaurants, but not to movie theaters. Linda and are rethinking our vacation plans and not going on the cruise we were planning. Also, the thought of air travel does not excite me. I will wash my hands more often and more thoroughly. I will continue my volunteer work at United Cerebral. I guess I will fist pump rather than shake hands, even though this seems somewhat silly to me.
“Older Americans and adults who take routine medications to manage chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, should make sure they have ‘adequate supplies’ on hand as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to climb in the U.S.”
“Avoiding sick people and washing your hands often are two preventive strategies public health experts have been pushing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Older Americans living in areas that are experiencing spikes in coronavirus cases may also need to think about the actions they take to reduce exposure to the virus. This may include social distancing strategies, such as teleworking and avoiding large public gatherings.”
“Health officials also advise taking everyday steps that can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. Wash your hands often with soap and water (scrub for at least 20 seconds), and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap is not an option. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. And cover your coughs and sneezes. “