Soup

There’s a tradition in our family started by Eva, my dad’s wife, to make a big pot of soup and have it ready when someone comes home from a trip. When you are jetlagged, the last thing you want to do is go out to a restaurant or cook. After a shower, opening the refrigerator and seeing a beautiful pot of soup in the fridge is nirvana. Soup made with love – you can taste the difference. 

I made a pot of homemade chicken soup and matzoh balls about two months ago in anticipation of Jeff coming back from Israel. He had been there since January, working in a busy Emergency Department in Ashdod, Israel. Today, I am defrosting the soup made for him. I don’t think I’m going to see him for a while.

I know for some of you it’s tough to quarantine with family. Tempers are short. You don’t have the usual distractions. But quarantining alone is no picnic. Everyone in my family is on lockdown in their prospective countries.  

My brother is staying here. He too, separated from family. And it’s kind of weird to live with your brother for weeks in the house you grew up in. It just adds to the surreality. 

We are both in Milwaukee with our 99 year old father. Even for a Holocaust survivor this current situation “feels like the end of the world”. He watches at a distance, as an outsider. His joie de vivre, social interaction, has been snatched from him. His hospice nurse recommends the two of us “use FaceTime or something” instead of visiting. His apartment is a short walk from my house. Going there makes me anxious but not going is even harder. Isolation and loneliness are leading to a huge decline in his quality of life.

So when I cook he wants Hungarian meals from the old country like Káposztás Tészta (cabbage and noodles), cholent and Toltott Kaposzta (stuffed cabbage). And of course soup.

Make soup for someone you love, they can taste the difference.

Pandemic Pandemonium

These are crazy-ass times. Every person in the world has been affected by COVID-19.

How we react is generally in line with our personalties. The anxious become more anxious and the cynics deny, deny, deny until they can’t anymore. Then there are people who have responded in a completely unexpected way. Those who know them are left scratching their heads thinking “I’ve never seen him like that before”.

We are being instructed how to act. We are required to follow rules to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe. Despite social distancing we are more connected than ever before.

This virus practices diversity – it is color, background and status blind. It prefers old to young. You cannot see it or feel it but it is in the air. Or on that surface you just touched. * note to self – I need to disinfect this keyboard. It is a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe there is no wrong place, it is all wrong.

We think that suddenly we are living with uncertainty. The truth is the uncertainty is always there. We think we control it by following certain traditions, symbolic dates on the calendar and rituals.

Now our markers – opening day in baseball, work, March Madness, concerts, church, NBA, buying what we need at a store – are gone.

This is our challenge as humans. We will make it work – set up home gyms, watch Netflix, work from home, catch up on nagging tasks. Making it work is not enough. We need to make this a meaningful time both mentally and spiritually. We can’t just wait until it’s over – that may be a very long time.

Freedom from Worry

Now that we understand how dangerous it is to worry, readers are asking for answers on how to control it.

Physician, Heal Thyself is an ancient proverb appearing in Luke 4:23. How can a worried psychiatrist treat worried patients? My answer? Better than a psychiatrist that doesn’t know what worry feels like.

While most of us are wary of medication, it may be beneficial, even short-term. Chronic unrelenting anxiety is toxic. Medication may be needed if anxiety is so severe that it interferes with functioning. For 50% of people diagnosed with anxiety the benefit of medication outweighs the risk. Taking medication does not label you. It is you being self aware, educated and taking care of yourself.

What about us “worried well” that worry but not severely enough for conventional medicine?

This is when I take ideas from my readers. From readers’ comments from my very popular article on Worry , I gained insightful feedback I want to share.

10 MAGICAL WAYS TO FREEDOM FROM WORRYING

Write.

Get fresh air.

Talk with someone way older than you.

Love.

Make Art.

Meditate.

Plant something.

Breathe.

Play with a dog.

Get wet.

{Can anyone find a mnemonic here?}

WORRY

I come from a family of worriers. My mom and her twin sister were always “fretting.” Other family members are worriers. My friends are worriers too. I am surrounded by people who worry. They may call it by other names like insomnia, back pain, or fatigue.

I worry about health. I worry about my kids. I worry about my dad. I worry about my friends. Then I worry about my friends’ health, their kids and their dads. I worry about my patients.

I worry when I go to the doctor. I worry about going to the dentist. I worry about falling on ice, getting randomly shot, riding in elevators, car accidents and Corona virus. I worry about not finding a job.

Then there is worry on another level about this country, fires in Australia, Israel, the environment. I’m not going to go there.

I am not alone. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common anxiety disorder. It affects more women than men. More than half of older patients with GAD say their symptoms started after age 50. Late-life anxiety is underdiagnosed and undertreated and will have a huge public health impact as the population ages.

Besides the time and energy lost worrying, chronic anxiety is toxic to our bodies. It can lead to depression, suicide, substance abuse and poor quality-of-life. Anxiety is a significant risk factor for death after bypass surgery, stroke, hypertension and coronary artery disease. It is also associated with a higher risk of memory problems.

When your body is in a constant state of “fight or flight” there is an increase in excitatory messages in the brain. Your body is stuck in overdrive. Scientists are trying to understand how this effects the body over time.

For most of us, worrying has become the new normal. We find ways to cope with insightful podcasts and books, self care, alcohol, meditation and yoga. Others benefit from psychotherapy and medications.

I’ve been working on allotting myself only a certain amount of time per day to worry. I sometimes use imagery and dump worries into a body of water, Being present and concentrating on my breath has helped. I try to focus on what is well and good at a particular moment. Does this stuff help? Meh.

By this age we have experienced traumatic events. We know life changes in an instant. We have a solid collection of peeps that we want around us for a long time. We may or may not be afraid of dying but one thing is for sure – we don’t want to miss out.

My goal is not to freak you out about freaking out. This is a reminder to all of us to be kinder to ourselves. We need to give our body what it needs – nourishing food, movement and above all, peace of mind.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of our sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” – Leo F. Buscaglia.

Have a peaceful weekend

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