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Charleston folks aren't exactly thriving during coronavirus. Wellness experts weigh in.

Parivrtta Utkatasana_01.JPG

The Parivrtta Utkatasana, also known as the chair twist, performed by Katie Heatley near the Nowell Creek on Daniel Island. In this article, registered yoga and mindfulness instructor Casey Higgins and other Charleston wellness experts give advice on how to take care of yourself while staying inside during the coronavirus. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

The pandemic has brought with it changes in our routines that impact our health and wellbeing. While some people have taken this time to work on their physical and mental health, others struggle. 

We reached out to some Charleston residents who are feeling the stress — consuming too much junk food and beer, calling their "workout" of the day the walk from bed to couch or screaming into the void. They've written some comical takes on how they're managing. 

Then, we reached out to Charleston health and wellness experts for tips on how to take care of ourselves during this trying time. 

Nutrition

"The Fat-Pact"-er: Kay Thorn

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Kay Thorn. Provided

In these uncertain times, the one thing I can count on is my tendency to mindlessly binge-eat in front of documentaries about people I've convinced myself are somehow worse-off than I. 

I just want to make sure we are all on the same page. I propose the Fat-Pact. Any person found to not have gained 20 pounds since April 1 will not be permitted to leave quarantine when the time comes. This is to ensure the confidence of our community. Mayor Tecklenburg can expect the bill on his desk Monday morning.

Kay Thorn is a Charleston-based musician, actor and teacher who is on Instagram at @KolonelKernel.

The nutritionist: Melanie Perez

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Melanie Perez. Provided

During this difficult time, it can be challenging to keep up with a sustainable routine, especially when it comes to diet. Realistically, each day will never be perfect, and step one is coming to terms with that. We feel we are lacking control of so much happening around us, so it’s important to focus on what we can control.

I try to avoid the foods that impair my immune system. I eliminated processed foods, prepackaged meals, simple carbohydrates and anything with added sugars, substituting plant-based foods such as spaghetti squash for boxed noodles or cauliflower rice for white rice.

I also take a whole food multivitamin each day to make sure I’m getting all of my nutrients. Right now, the two most critical vitamins are Vitamin D and Vitamin C, as these work together to support the phagocytes, which are the cells in our bodies that fight harmful bacteria.

I also transformed my front yard into my own farmers' market and have been using social media to show others how simple pantry staples can create a nutritious meal. 

Melanie Perez received her certification in nutrition and wellness in 2018 and is currently working toward her Bachelor of Science in nutrition. She's been living in Charleston for six years and enjoys creating healthy ethnic foods and sharing them on her Instagram at @melbec_.

Fitness

The "Missing Planet Fitness" former gym-goer: Joseph Dubay

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Joseph Dubay. Provided

The first thing that this pandemic took from me was my gym routine. I had just course-corrected from the detour Thanksgiving and Christmas had set me on and was well into my third month of regular weekly gym time. (I actually work out so that I'm strong enough to push back the concept of an early death.)

I loved going to Planet Fitness, in part because I fear judgment. But now? Well, technically, I could use my guitar amps as weights. I could even use the actual weights I own. But working out at home just doesn't make the sweet serotonin that a gym routine made for me. So, until I can get back to Planet Fitness, I guess my workout will be shoveling a whole bag of Totino's into my gullet. 

Joseph Dubay is a Charleston musician. Find him on Instagram at @josephdubaymusic. 

The fitness trainer: Stan Tsoy

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Stan Tsoy. Provided

As a CrossFit coach and registered nurse, I have a new appreciation for the value of health and fitness during this pandemic. A few weeks ago, I flew to New York City to join healthcare providers on the frontlines and have seen firsthand the importance of fit bodies and minds in the face of COVID-19.

Data and personal experience has shown that physically fit individuals tend to fare better than those with underlying health conditions. As we now know, COVID-19’s greatest threat is to our lungs and ability to breathe. Patients with enhanced cardio-respiratory systems from consistent exercise simply have more resilient lungs and a better fighting chance.

What can you do? Focus on the Big Three: activity, nutrition and sleep.

Keep moving. Take a walk, do a home workout, knock out 15 squats on the hour to keep from sitting too long. However you can, just move.

Put down the pint, and pick up an orange. Fruits and veggies pack a micronutrient and antioxidant punch, which will do wonders for boosting and protecting your immune system.

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End your days with a digital detox (around an hour before bed) and get those quality snoozes. Sound sleep is critical for reducing stress, improving brain function and recovery.

Stan Tsoy is a co-founder and coach for Rhapsody CrossFit and a registered nurse in Charleston.

Mental Wellness

The porch starer: Shawna Jarrett

Shawna Jarrett (copy)

Shawna Jarrett. Provided

I have kept up a strict routine of pacing around my house and vigorously wringing my hands, making sure to take breaks to sit on my porch and stare into middle distance; I'm not trying to pull something.

I've been getting my doctor-recommended 3-16 hours of sleep every night, and a few times a day, I like to stand over my kitchen sink and eat loose lunch meat until I'm not hungry anymore. To flush out the sodium and feelings of ennui, I drink plenty of clear liquids, often including water. My Diet Dr. Pepper can says, "You Deserve This," and I think "That's cold-blooded, Diet Dr. Pepper. I'd never talk to you like that."

In the Before Times, Shawna Jarrett was a stand-up comedian performing in Charleston and across the Southeast. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (@shawnajarrett) for "a prolific stream of content, because what else is she gonna do right now."

The psychotherapist: Tina Kaminski

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Tina Kaminski. Provided

Disruption derails us. Loss of structure, routine and purposeful activity can trigger feelings of anxiety, worry, sadness or fear. One way to get back on track is to reflect upon what is important and meaningful to you.

Breathe deeply. Visualize yourself at your best in mind, body and spirit. Ask, “What am I doing, thinking and feeling when I am my best self?” Write it down.

Identify your needs in each area, and commit to one actionable step each day. This is your personalized road map to improved wellness and may include a daily practice of mindfulness, movement, connection, kindness to self and others, hydration or eating more fruits and vegetables, to name a few.

Engaging in values-driven activity allows you to realign with your sense of purpose and to experience fulfillment in your daily life, despite external circumstances. Because we are integrated beings, improvement in one area has a positive ripple effect throughout.

Tina Kaminski (MA, MSW) is a licensed psychotherapist in Charleston specializing in helping individuals struggling with anxiety and life transitions. She utilizes a holistic perspective that draws from her education and training in developmental psychology, clinical social work and integrative nutrition and wellness. You can reach out at charlestonbehavioralhealth.com.

Yoga

The non-Yogi: Jake Sunding 

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Jake Sunding. Provided

I’ve been thinking about it for years, but under quarantine I can finally say that I have begun a strict regimen of not doing yoga. It’s actually easy. The minute I wake up in the morning and get out of bed, I don’t do yoga. Since I am working from home, I find it very helpful to take extended breaks not doing yoga. And sometimes, in between long homeschooling sessions on the iPad, I catch my children copying me, not doing yoga. (Really, I should probably do yoga.) 

Jake Sunding is a mechanical engineer for Cummins and owns a guitar repair business in Summerville.

The yoga instructor: Casey Higgins

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Casey Higgins. Provided

There's no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on our collective wellbeing. Our nervous systems are in overdrive, resulting in a constant "fight or flight" response that can look like moodiness, lethargy, stress, anxiety and uncertainty about the future. 

If you’re looking for a way to calm the mind and come back to the present moment, yoga may be just what you need.

Yoga is an ancient, 5,000-year-old practice known to relieve stress and anxiety, reduce chronic pain and inflammation and promote heart health. It can also help improve sleep — something we could all use more of right now.

Here are some tips for beginning your yoga practice:

  1. Get into some comfy clothes (yep, pajamas count) and find a quiet space in your home.
  2. Begin in a comfortable seat. Take five deep breaths in through the nose, exhaling out the mouth.
  3. Start with a gentle movement practice like Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, or Beginner’s Yoga. There are virtual classes available right now.
  4. After 10-15 minutes of movement, take five more deep, cleansing breaths. Notice how you feel. Then, end by silently thanking yourself and your body.

Repeat as many times as needed, for the rest of the pandemic, or maybe for the rest of your life.

Casey Higgins is a registered yoga and mindfulness instructor in Charleston. For online classes and private instruction, visit caseyhigginsyoga.com or email caseyhigginsyoga@gmail.com.

Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.

Kalyn Oyer is a Charleston native who covers arts and entertainment for The Post and Courier's Thursday edition, Charleston Scene. She used to write about music for the Charleston City Paper and Scene SC.

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