Keeping It Together (Part 2)

Advice from astronaut Scott Kelly and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Vincent Lavoie, acrobat with Canada’s Cirque du Soleil, says high-level performers have a particular “strength in our wheelhouse – to look at the situation and head straight to something that’s productive, rather than dwelling on our misfortune.” Nice to be like that!

OK. Well-being is about mind, body, and spirit – or some say mind, body, and emotions. This post is about body.

Eat well

Bodies have amazing layers of defences against getting sick. This is a time to treat those systems well – give eating for health a little more attention than usual.

The Globe and Mail’s nutrition writer, Leslie Beck, posted an article about immune-supportive nutrients, with good explanations. The article organizes these foods by nutrient, but if you’re on a tiny budget (as I am), just lean more often towards the foods she mentions –

  • almonds, dried apricots, asparagus, avocado
  • beef, black beans, Brazil nuts, fortified breakfast cereals, broccoli, brown rice, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash
  • cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cashews, cauliflower, cheese, chicken, chickpeas, citrus fruit, cottage cheese, crab
  • eggs
  • halibut, hazelnuts, herring
  • kale, kidney beans, kiwifruit
  • lentils, liver
  • mango, milk
  • fortified orange juice, oysters
  • green peas, peanut butter, peanuts, pork, pumpkin seeds, bell peppers
  • safflower oil, salmon, sardines, shrimp, spinach, strawberries, sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, Swiss chard, tomato juice, tuna, turkey
  • wheat germ, wheat germ oil
  • yogurt


Even a little mild-to-moderate exercise makes you feel better & more competent, boosts your immune system, and lifts your mood a bit for hours after. Do not overdo it – just take 10-15 minutes – 2-3 times a day is great, especially for cooped-up children and under-25s who have energy they need to burn.

Note – If you have any physical constraints, check with your doctor for what’s right for you to do. These are only useful links; this is not medical advice!

  • Canada’s famous 5BX (men) and XBX (women) – basic exercises to achieve a reasonably high level of fitness. For any age and level. No equipment. 11-12min/day, starting easy(ish). Designed for the RCAF in the 1950s, after 1/3 of pilots were rated unfit. Used today by the British royal family including William and Kate.
  • DareBEE – remarkable resource site by a small group of volunteers and fitness professionals –  fitness should be “accessible for everyone, not just people who can pay for it.” There’s something for everyone here.

I usually prefer exercise that accomplishes something (growing vegetables, walking) but this site is becoming a constant companion.

Search out spring

(On current rules, “You can go for a walk if you have not been diagnosed with COVID-19, if you don’t have a recent history of travel outside the country, and if you don’t have symptoms that could be COVID-19.” Toronto park infrastructure is closed, but you can still walk. Go alone or with a housemate, do not meet up with others, and stay 6’ away from other walkers.)

Starting in March there is a joyous and totally easy thing to do – just walk around for a few blocks searching out spring.

It doesn’t feel like spring yet – but the plants know more than we do! Snowdrops are in bloom, yellow and blue crocuses are open, tulip leaves are poking up. The first buds are swelling on rose bushes, and willows are turning yellow.

If you have a camera, take photos and share. People who can’t go out need to see this too.

Especially when your mind is fast-cycling and getting you worked up, a simple walk can put you back in control.

“Time spent in nature is linked to lower stress, restored attention, a balanced nervous system, increased levels of cancer-fighting “natural killer cells”, the activation of neural pathways associated with calm, and decreased levels of anxiety and depression. Phytoncides (compounds emitted from trees and plants), relaxation, stress reduction and awe are known to enhance immune function.”

Spring symbolizes endurance and renewal – good thoughts at this vexing time. Let Toronto’s marvellous natural infrastructure help you through. It’s there, waiting for you to see it.

Take a virtual walk

Even if you can’t go out, you can still get nature’s support.

A study in “horticultural therapy” showed that hospital patients who can see trees and gardens out the window recover faster, and report less anxiety and pain, than patients whose window looks onto a parking lot.

Experiencing nature reduces fear and pain – what can you do with that? Well –

Imagination is a human super-power, and you have it.

Think of a setting you like – mountain, lake, forest, beach? – or an animal, butterfly, flower, tree. Go looking for it on the net, or in your mind`s eye. Focus on a scene – Look closely, get immersed, imagine it with all your senses. Water lapping on the shore, pine scent on the warm breeze… Go “away” for 5 minutes, or 20.

You can enhance the experience with birdsong (I’ve been playing these every day. They make things .. just a bit better) –

Other ways to travel without leaving home.

Make a home retreat

Turn one small corner of a room into a mini-environment. Hang a flowered curtain or forest poster in the corner, put a comfortable chair or cushions facing it; add a little stack of resources – hobby or craft materials, books or magazines – and a water bottle so you don’t have to get up; maybe an incense burner, a bunch of flowers. Set birdsong or gentle music playing and settle in … Aaaah, that’s better!

If you have children at home, it will help them too.

With a large screen, you can also transform this corner into a personal travel guide – tour world-famous sites, museums and galleries, the Leslie Street Spit.

It’s really nice to have a place that means relaxing. Even in ordinary times a dedicated retreat like this is a luxury. And it’s your home, so how you arrange your furniture is totally up to you.