Staying positive

In these days of social distancing, widespread home-working and self-isolation, there is a real danger that loneliness or boredom will affect us more deeply than we're ready for. We can't always manage our feelings, but what we can do is manage our activities to ensure they affect us as positively as possible. Any number of people are posting some brilliant suggestions to help us. Here are a few from me.

Structure your day
Drifting through an unstructured day is a recipe for boredom and procrastination. So set your alarm clock and get up at a regular time. Establish a few little rituals to mark the passing of the day: a morning walk, time to work, an online chat & coffee with a friend, early evening music. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, give yourself bursts of that at the same time every day.

Eat well
Start the day with a good breakfast and space your meals out as part of your daily rituals. You will need some treats to keep you going, as well as the healthier stuff, so have a cake in or some biscuits in and reward yourself with a little of them when you finish a significant task. The Beloved and I have been having "kaffe und küchen" (coffee & cake) each afternoon as we finish the day's spring cleaning. Not only has it made shampooing the carpet bearable, it's reminded us each day how much help we give each other.

Make sure you are buying fresh fruit and vegetables. The smaller, independent greengrocers seem to be having fewer problems with panic-buying, so have had a more consistent supply. It is important to support these shops now, as they will have more limited resources for surviving a long period of slow business.

If you have children, now is a good time to involve them in preparing food. Cooking involves maths (weighing and measuing), science (physical changes like melting & freezing, chemical changes like the reaction of bicarb with sour milk, the importance of hygiene for health...) and art (making the plate look attractive). It's also an essential life-skill, and one that will endear them to future suitors of either sex! Cut your kids some slack if they don't like certain foods. You're already living in an emotional pressure-cooker, so now is not the time to have arguments about cabbage. Sweeter, brightly coloured vegetables like peas, sweetcorn, carrots and butternut squash are more likely to appeal to younger palates than the more bitter flavours of brassicas. Be happy to promote any veg they enjoy - it's all good for you.

Why not try making a bowl of fruit salad with them? It's fun to make and will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, ready to snack on whenever someone feels the need. Simply take a selection of your favourite fruits, choosing a good mixture of textures, colours and shapes: apples and pears for crispness; orange segments, red grapes, blueberries, and strawberries for colour; sliced banana or kiwi for softer textures. Wash the fruit and peel things like orange, kiwi and banana, then cut them all up into bite-sized pieces. Instead of using sugar syrup, which adds nothing to the flavour or nutritional value of the fruit salad, I like to add apple juice or pear juice. You don't need lots, just enough to cover the fruit. That's it: wash some fruit, cut it up and add some juice. You'll be surprised how much children will eat of this. It's great at any time of day and full of vitamin C for a healthy immune system.

Watch your dinking
Image: Everleaf Drinks
It seems hypocritical, doesn't it, that a blog dedicated to the pleasures of food and drink is warning against excess, but this is an important one for those of us who enjoy alcohol. It's too easy to reach for the gin every night when we have nothing else to do. Why not explore some of the alternatives to alcohol? Simple tonic water with ice is refreshing and stimulating. Sharp grapefruit juice makes and excellent long drink with your favourite mixer. Have a look out for alcohol-free wines, beers and "spirit" drinks when you visit the supermarket.

That's not to say don't drink alcohol at all. If you do usually drink, incorporate it into your weekly rituals, but not your daily ones. How about skyping a friend for a Friday evening beer? A lot of local breweries are delivering selection boxes of their popular brews. If you both buy the same beers, you can do an online tasting. I know several organisations, bloggers and producers who are offering live streaming of tasting sessions via YouTube, Instagram and even Twitter, and this could be a fun activity for friends to join in with while we're all distancing.

Make time for family & friends
This is the biggie. It's vitally important for all of us that social distancing remains only physical. Humans are social beings and they cannot thrive without interaction with others. The good news is that if you're able to read this blog, you must have a smartphone or PC and internet access. We live in an age that has developed the means of social interaction over vast distances. Keep in touch with each other as much as you can, and never underestimate the power of seeing your loved ones. Use Houseparty, Skype, Zoom, Messenger, etc., as much as you can, so your grandchildren, elderly uncles and friends who live alone can see your face while you're chatting. Go outside to your back door and chat to the neighbours face-to face (at a safe distance). Make sure you greet everyone you pass while you're out exercising - yours might be the only voice they hear that day.

Family cocktail hour on Zoom

I am taking my evening aperitif online at the moment. Each weekday evening, I will be on Twitter (@AperitifGuy) between 18:30 and 20:00 with a drink in my hand and a bowl of nuts or olives. Come and join me for a chat if you like, by adding the hashtag #AperoTime to your tweets and filtering for that tag to see what others are saying. Everyone's welcome, however the day has affected you. There's no pressure to drink or to do anything. If you just want to read the tweets, that's ok. If you want to chat, that's great, too. I'll continue doing this until we're able to socialise freely again.


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