If you’re like me, there’s a mess of advice vying for my attention as I begin to shape my personal strategies to leave the house and return to some version of normal life. So many voices, so many agendas, so much noise to filter, and now at such high stakes.
But I’ve come to a realization inside all of this noise, and it’s a simple one. This is up to me. As with so many decisions around health, I get to make this call. If you’re like me, that’s a scary, empowering, and daunting prospect, all at once.
In forming my own “personal protection plan,” I’m keeping a few big thoughts in mind:
- This pandemic is a window into a deeper story unfolding in our society, across our planet. There are lots of different windows into this story, but this particular one lets in a powerful breeze.
- Every moment of life carries some degree of risk. We can use this new reality as a way to measure and evaluate risk in more productive ways. We can re-prioritize behaviors and focus our energies where they’re needed most.
- The first responders and essential workers are heroes, warriors, saviors, yes. But they’re also our friends and family. They are not other. They are us. We’re all in this together, always have been.
- Immunity is not as simple as a sprained knee or viral infection. It’s not a topic for cold-and-flu season. Immunity is the way we meet the world, every second of every day, and it’s the right place to start for improving your personal health, regardless of the specific disease vapors circulating through your air.
It’s Up To You
There is no single way to re-enter the world, but there is a stark realization that it’s up to us to figure it out. Deference to some higher authority is not a viable option. Most of us will not wake up one day to a green-lit government decree and go straight to the movie theater. Most of us will ease back into things and test the waters in our own peculiar ways.
I’m reminded of a conversation with Doug Greene, an early investor at Big Bold Health and a pioneer in the natural foods world. “Getting people to modify their behavior, that’s such a challenge,” says Greene. “How do we get healthy habits baked into our everyday lives before things reach crisis level?” For Greene, the answer to that question lives in small steps, in fun and achievable goals. He starts the day with a loaded smoothie. He keeps a notebook on the kitchen counter to track healthy behaviors, from diet to exercise, meditation, and sleep quality. “I really think you upgrade human behavior by doing these small things, and only you can do it. You make these decisions, and there’s some tension baked into that. You have to overcome the fears around individual responsibility when you realize you can’t always punt to the doctor.”
“I really think you upgrade human behavior by doing these small things, and only you can do it … You have to overcome the fears around individual responsibility when you realize you can’t always punt to the doctor.” — DOUG GREENE
Makes good sense to me, more sense than anything in my newsfeeds. Why not use re-entry as the clarion call for change that it is? Why not place the rejuvenation of our health, and the planet’s health, high up in the mix as we take our baby steps back out into the light.
It’s Up To Us
Amidst all the noise, there is one storyline that always gives me pause. I pause when I see the pollution clouds over industrial centers in China dissipate during quarantine. I pause when East Coast relatives describe spring days with clean, crisp air like they remember from their youth, decades ago.
We know this stuff. Our personal health is part and parcel of larger systems of health. Our health depends on the planet’s health, and our ability to rejuvenate immunity at a global level depends upon renewal at a planetary level, too. We now get to prove we know it as we set the terms for re-entry into social life.
I’m reminded of another conversation with another key investor in Big Bold Health, Ruth Westreich, a vocal activist for change in health care. “We all know the language of disease,” says Westreich, “so let’s start to delineate the language of health. My entry point for that kind of thinking is this world we live in, a world in need of repair, and our ability to overlay epigenetics and lifestyle choices with that. We have some powerful ways to look at all of this together now.”
It’s an important reminder to guard the re-entry process from growing selfish. Here is an opportunity to reset the terms of life going forward. That’s a big deal. Shouldn’t we get expansive in doing so? Or should we focus on the quickest, easiest ways to tick off boxes on our to-do lists? The planet doesn’t much care for my to-do list.
“You can eat carrots all day,” says Westreich, “but if the soil’s depleted, you might as well be eating cardboard. The toxins in our environment keep us from being healthy. You can’t get where you want to be with health in a polluted world.” Let’s stretch that line of thinking even further. With our most disadvantaged citizens bearing the heaviest toll of this pandemic, can we ever get where we need to go with so many left behind?
“We all know the language of disease, so let’s start to delineate the language of health.” — RUTH WESTREICH
These are my thoughts in returning to life. I have a say in determining the version of life I return to, and together we determine a new collective vision for what modern life should look like. I’m going to try not to fear that responsibility. I’m going to go broad and expansive enough to acknowledge the interconnectedness of it all — the plants we eat, the people we love, the planet we share. Healthy choices abound across that chain, and we’re all about to make a lot of choices.