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Books To Read, Foods To Eat, Movies To Watch, Exercises To Do And More During Covid19 Lockdown
Why Books Are Comforting In The Era Of Coronavirus. Books To Read, Foods To Eat, Movies To Watch, Exercises To Do And More During Covid19 Lockdown
The Dog Is Welcome To The Digital Reader.
As Americans’ homes become inescapable refuges, are piles of real books soothing or just clutter? Our design columnist confronts her love-hate relationship with printed matter.
SOME OF MY best friends are libraries, but I wouldn’t want to live in one.
I thought of this last week when my daughter Ella visited and gracefully tried to off-load a fat, hardcover novel she’d read on a plane.
“Such a great story,” she said, eyeing me like the devil herself.
“I can’t,” I said feebly.
“A psychological thriller,” she said.
“Stop,” I whispered. “His word against hers,” said Ella. “Put it on my night table,” I said, hating myself.
Of all my worldly possessions—my furniture, my piano, my oil paintings of dogs—I love my books the most. But it is a tortured kind of a love. Because I have run out of room for them.
The scope of the book problem became very clear to me this week as I, along with much of America, sequestered myself at home to try to stop the coronavirus. Suddenly I had all the time in the world to survey my domain. And what I saw was that the books had taken over the place.
“I don’t want to say my books look menacing, exactly, but I am definitely feeling confined,” I told psychologist Darby Saxbe, who I admit I phoned partly for the sheer pleasure of talking to another human being.
“Clutter is especially bad for the psyche when our typical world is disrupted,” said Dr. Saxbe, director of the Center for the Changing Family at the University of Southern California. “When it comes to books, my personal tip is to organize them by color. On the top shelf, the left-hand book is red and then the books go through the rainbow. It looks really eye-catching—and soothing.”
What we want from our physical surroundings at a time like this is to have everything go back into its assigned place.
What we want from our physical surroundings at a time like this is to have everything go back into its assigned place, she said, adding that order can be difficult to achieve if adults are forced to work at home and schools are closed.
“Our personal stuff is getting mixed in with our office space, and the boundaries become blurred. It can exacerbate stress with people sharing small quarters together,” Dr. Saxbe said. “My kids right now are trashing the kitchen,” she added.
Shelves of #rainbowbooks soothe many people, as evidenced by more than 45,000 photos on Instagram, and I would consider trying the Roy G. Biv method if all my books fit on my shelves. But they are jammed with extra paperbacks lying on their sides on top of hardcovers. Gardening books are stacked under my bed. Cookbooks are muscling out the dishware on kitchen shelves. Not to mention all the books Ella has read on a plane.
The most perplexing part of this décor dilemma is that my books serve little or no functional purpose in my life. Like most people I know, I read almost everything on my phone.
So why do we even keep books in our homes when digital books are so much easier to store? Is it because real books make us look smarter?
To answer the question, I turned to Naomi S. Baron, a linguist and professor emerita at American University and author of “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World.”
When I reached her by phone, it turned out she too was surrounded by books—and liking it.
“I’m sitting here staring at my old friends on the shelves,” said Prof. Baron, whose research shows there are lots of reasons people still feel attached to the printed-and-bound word. “Books are part of your personal history. They’re mementos from trips you took. They’re part of who you were. I am looking at my Gothic dictionary, from a class I took when I was in graduate school. Do I ever use this dictionary? No. But just looking at the spine reminds me of the time when I was a student and learning exotic things,” she said.
“But do we only feel like that because we grew up with books?” I asked. “I’m afraid that if I add more shelves to the house, in a generation or two they will be seen as an anachronistic design flaw by people who have never seen a physical book.”
“I don’t think so,” Prof. Baron said. “You might think that younger kids who are on devices all the time couldn’t care less about print, but they do. When it comes to books, I would not call the patient expired.”
Last year, Prof. Baron partnered with European researchers, including cognitive reading specialist Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger in Norway, to ask teens and preteens what they thought about physical books. (The survey of 212 middle- and high-school students at the International School of Stavanger was suggested by the school’s head librarian, Kim Tyo-Dickerson.)
Many of the students said they preferred physical books over their digital counterparts for their tactile qualities. “We asked them what do you like most about print, and their answers were ‘I can feel the paper in my hands,’ ‘I like turning pages,’ ‘It feels right to hold a book,’ ” she said.
“That’s pretty much how I feel too,” I said.
“And you should feel good about that,” Prof. Baron said, before hanging up.
In fact, I think of my favorite books as comfort objects. I pulled some off the shelf this week just to feel their weight in my hands, a feeling that Prof. Mangen said is not uncommon. “Touch and the physical interaction with things in our surroundings is a vital part of being human,” she told me in email earlier this week.
I may run out of things to watch on Netflix in the next few weeks, but my books will always keep me company. Maybe it’s time to reread Jane Austen’s “Emma,” which I haven’t opened since I toted it along to the hospital when I was in labor. Or my dusty-blue, hardcover copy of Ardyth Kennelly’s “The Peaceable Kingdom” (about a lovable family of polygamists), which I have carried with me from home to home since I discovered it on my grandmother’s bedside table when I was 9.
As we struggle to understand the scope of the coronavirus, reading fiction can help us identify with others, research shows. “The more fiction you read, the more you think of yourself in their lives,” said Keith Oatley, a cognitive psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, “and the better you become at understanding other people and empathy.”
So at a time when I’m spending the least amount of time around strangers, I might actually be learning the most about them.
There will be plenty of time next week, and the next, for me to get my house in order. So what’s the best way to make a home for too many books?
“People wrestle with this all the time, because they always think they are not going to continue reading things on paper, but they still do,” said New York City architect Lorraine Bonaventura. “Every client still asks me to find a way to incorporate their books.”
It might sound counterintuitive, but Ms. Bonaventura said the best way to keep books from overtaking a room is to “fill an entire space with bookshelves,” she said. “When the shelves extend from end to end on a wall and all the way up to the molding, they kind of blend into a room.”
Architect Elizabeth Roberts, who also is based in New York, said recessed, built-in bookshelves might be the best solution. “My way to solve the problem with books often involves renovation,” said Ms. Roberts. “I am constantly scanning walls of a home that we’re working on, and if I find a big blank wall where I can borrow space from an adjacent room, I’ll do shelves from wall to ceiling.”
Built-in bookshelves needn’t steal a lot of depth from a room, Ms. Roberts said, adding that the typical novel only requires a shelf that is 8 inches deep. “But it’s smart to give yourself 2 more inches for deeper books,” she said.
“What about for people like me, who aren’t planning to do construction but still have a lot of books?” I asked.
“You can get creative and use stacks of them in front of the sofa to use as a coffee table or as side tables,” she said. “I like the impression you get in a room that’s filled with books—they add a kind of colorful wealth of knowledge. At my house, I put tiny, wall-mounted L-shaped brackets on each side of the bed as a stand-in to bedside tables,” she noted. “My husband and I both have six to eight books we’re reading stacked on them, and I put my clock on top. The brackets are very inexpensive—I’ll send you the link.”
Later, I studied the description of the metal brackets, which look like wide, wall-mounted spatulas that hold books and disappear under a stack. Called the Umbra Conceal Shelves, they sell for $25 for a set of three.
The shelves won’t entirely solve my book problem. But I decided to mount them to both sides of the bed in the guest room. Next time Ella visits, I’ll know where to shelve her latest airplane read. I hope it’s a murder mystery set on a college campus.
Take A Break From Pandemic Panic With These Captivating, Guilty-Pleasure Reads
The Best of Everything
Rona Jaffe’s read-in-a-day soap opera follows three “Mad Men”-era women as they navigate the steno pool and groping bosses, a reminder of the benefits of working at home.
“…the first spray of my husband’s blood hitting the television screen” haunts protagonist Julie McNamara, and readers, in Jo Spain’s thriller set in Australia.
The Secret of Santa Vittoria
Italian peasants hide a million bottles of local wine from occupying Germans in Robert Crichton’s WW II-era comedy-slash-melodrama.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
A foundling child revives a bookseller’s will to live in Gabrielle Zevin’s tale of the ennobling power of books.
Five Home Workouts to Do During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Experts say it’s important to still get exercise while we’re hunkered down. Here are specially designed workouts you can do at home.
Gym closures and quarantine mandates are forcing people to make big changes to their workout routines. But exercise is especially important now, even when the logistics are more challenging, because it boosts us physically and mentally, says Craig Sawchuk, a clinical psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
“It’s easy to be sedentary right now and fall into a habit of grazing and watching Netflix,” he says. “Creating a daily routine that involves exercise can be therapeutic and bring a sense of normalcy to your day,” he says. We’re veering from our normal routine in this column by asking fitness experts to share home workouts tailored to different needs and abilities.
For The Type-A Overachiever
Virtual fitness classes can provide both instruction and motivation. Buying home gear like resistance bands, kettlebells and battle ropes will up the intensity of a home routine, says Chris Vlaun, a Miami-based personal trainer and co-founder of V-Art of Wellness. If money is no object, he suggests investing in streaming equipment such as the Mirror (from $1,500), a full-length, interactive mirror that streams boxing, boot camp, yoga and other workouts.
Or try a Peloton bike (from $2,245) or treadmill (from $4,300), or the iFit Coach app, which syncs with NordicTrack equipment (from $900). If you crave a custom workout, personal trainers, including Mr. Vlaun, are now hosting live private training sessions via Zoom.
Mr. Vlaun created this at-home workout for people with space and equipment. Perform each of the six exercises for 20 seconds. Use your transition as rest. For round two, do each exercise for 40 seconds and rest for 20 seconds between transitions. In round three, do each exercise for 60 seconds and rest 40 seconds, then reverse.
Standing with your feet close together and your hands clasped behind your head, push your hips back to get into a half-squat position. Jump your feet out to the sides, maintaining the squat position. Quickly jump your feet back to the starting position.
Lie on your stomach. Hold a yoga block or shoebox between your hands, breathe deeply and lift your chest, arms and legs off the floor and flutter kick your legs five times. Exhale and repeat.
Start in a push-up position. Lift your hips in the air so you look like an inverted V. Lower your hips back to push-up position, slowly lower your chest close to the floor without touching and push back up to the starting position.
Reverse Prisoner Lunge
Stand hip-width apart with your hands behind your head and keep a neutral spine. Take a step backward with your right leg. Once your knee almost touches the floor, push back up and forward to your starting position.
Resistance Band 100s
Lie on the floor with your legs raised, knees bent at 90 degrees, shins parallel to the floor and a resistance band under the arches of your feet. Hold the ends of the band and keep your arms along the torso. Exhale and lift the legs. Pulse your arms, moving from the shoulders. Repeat 10 times.
Battle Ropes Jump Slam
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart in a quarter squat, facing the anchor. Hold one side of the rope in each hand, then lower the battle ropes down to your sides with your arms extended. Lower into a squat, tighten your core, and then explode into the air, jumping high, while raising both hands overhead. As you land softly back down into a squat, slam the ropes onto the ground in a wave motion. Repeat 10 times.
For Aging Athletes
As we age, our balance declines, says Dani Johnson, a physical therapist with the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living Program in Rochester, Minn. Implementing balance exercises as simple as standing on one leg as you brush your teeth can help prevent falls. Getting a daily dose of cardio can boost the immune system.
This at-home circuit routine will get your heart rate up while also challenging strength and balance. Perform the circuit three times. Walk up and down steps or march in place for two to three minutes between sets. To up the effort, she suggests adding dumbbells or improvising with cans or tube socks filled with coins or rice.
Stand in front of a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees, lowering your hips back, keeping weight in your heels and your chest upright. Start by sitting into the chair and standing back up 10 to 12 times. If this is easy, hover above the chair then return to standing.
Place your hands on the edge of a counter, just beyond shoulder-width apart. Lower into a push-up then press back up. Repeat 10 to 12 times. For more of a challenge, walk your feet farther away from the counter.
Chair Triceps Dips
Sit upright in a chair with your hands on the armrests, elbows bent at 90 degrees. Straighten your arms, lifting your body off the chair. Hold briefly. Then lower yourself down. Use your legs to balance. Repeat 10 to 12 times.
Begin in a standing position. Rise up onto your toes, hold briefly, then lower back down. Repeat 10 to 12 times. Place one or both hands on a table or chair for more support. For an added challenge, perform on one leg at a time.
For The Homebound Yogi
Many shuttered studios, including YogaWorks and CorePower Yoga, are offering free online classes. San Francisco-based yoga instructor Sarah Ezrin is a fan of Glo, an app that offers over 4,000 on-demand classes, and Yogis Anonymous, with over 8,000 classes. A towel or carpet can replace a mat, couch cushions make great bolsters and a belt can double as a strap, she says.
To calm the mind in stressful times, Ms. Ezrin suggests these yoga poses.
Simple Cross-Legged Position
“This pose teaches us to sit calmly in the entirety of the moment, even in fear,” she says. Place your hands on the tops of your thighs for extra grounding.
Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. On an inhale, lift your heart up to the ceiling, arching the back, coming into cow pose. On an exhale, round the spine into cat pose.
Start in warrior one pose, with your right leg forward, knee bent over ankle, and left leg straight and strong behind, foot turned out to a 45-degree angle. Clasp both hands behind your lower back. As you bend your chest forward inside of your right knee, bring your arms overhead. Repeat on the opposite side.
Kneel with hips over knees and toes tucked (flat for more of a challenge). Place your hands on the small of your back and slowly drop your head and shoulders backward toward the wall. If comfortable, reach down to hold the heels of your feet.
Lie on your back. Bend your knees, opening your thighs out to the side and bringing the soles of your feet together. Place one hand on your heart and the other hand onto your belly. Breathe here for five to seven minutes.
For Small Spaces
You don’t need fancy equipment or a large space to break a sweat, says Samantha Campbell, owner of Deep Relief Peak Performance Athletic Training Center in Maui. This high-intensity interval training workout delivers a boot camp burn with body weight and household items, like jars of peanut butter and jugs of water.
Four-way Lunges, Five Reps On Each Side
Hand Release Push-Ups, 10 Reps
This push-up variation prevents cheating because you must lower all the way to the ground and raise your hands up before pushing back up.
Warrior Pose, 10 Seconds
Round 1: Repeat Two Times
Plank Pose, One Minute
Glute Bridge, 10 Reps
Side Plank, 30 Seconds Per Side
Windmill Toe Touches, Five Reps Per Side
Stand with your feet just beyond hips width and your arms extended to the sides. Reach your right arm down the floor between both feet, right arm up to the sky, bending at the hips and keeping your knees straight. Switch sides. Add cans in hands for more weight.
Single-leg Deadlift, Five Reps Per Side
Stand with your feet together. Shift your weight to the right foot and keep a soft bend in the knee. Hinge at the hips, tipping your torso toward the floor as you simultaneously drive your left foot back while keeping your left leg straight. Your body should be in a T shape with your arms hanging straight down below your shoulders. Pull your left leg forward while keeping it straight and raise your torso up to stand. Repeat on opposite leg.
Round 2: Repeat Three Times
Burpees, 10 Reps
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Squat. Place your hands on the floor in front of you. Jump your feet back so you are in a push-up position. Do a push-up. Jump your feet back into a squat. Jump up in the air with your arms over your head.
Squat To Overhead Fly, 10 Reps
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms by your side, holding jars of peanut butter. Sit back into a squat position, pause and raise arms out to the sides and overhead to touch, palms facing up. Lower arms and return to a standing position.
In And Out Squat Jumps, 10 Reps
Stand with feet together, hands touching in front of your chest. Jump the legs outward and descend into a squat, then quickly jump the legs inward into another squat and repeat.
Water bottle turtles, 20 Reps
Lie on stomach holding a water bottle in one hand. Lift your legs and arms simultaneously off the ground and pass the water bottle behind your back as you extend the opposite arm to grab it, then extend the arms forward to pass it off in the front.
Lateral jumps, 20 Reps
Start standing with feet together, a soft bend in the knees. Jump side to side, as fast and far as you can, keeping knees bent when you land.
Woodchops, 10 Reps
Stand while holding a jug of water in both hands straight in front of you. Squat and twist towards your right knee, touching the jug to your knee with straight arms. Bring the jug up and across your body with straight arms. Rise onto your toes as you twist your torso and lift the jug above your left shoulder. Reverse the twist and bring the jug back down to starting position.
For the Outdoor Enthusiast
Studies suggest that even short daily amounts of nature improve our moods. If you can safely get outdoors and away from people, take a hike, jog, walk or bike ride. Or bring your workout to a park or your yard, Mr. Vlaun says. He cautions to keep distance from other people and to bring hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to clean any equipment that you touch before and after using it.
Perform a series of arm rotations forward and backward followed by high-knee skips to get your blood flowing.
Set up a circuit where you can rotate between exercises for three rounds. Perform each exercise for 45 seconds. Rest for one to three minutes between rounds. For added cardio, bring a jump rope and jump 45 seconds between exercises.
Bulgarian Split Squat
Place the top of your left foot on an elevated bench or low wall. Squat until the front leg is at a 90-degree angle. Perform on each leg.
Look for a parallel bar, tree branch or railing around waist height. Position yourself under the bar lying face up, grab the bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width and palms facing away from you. Keep your body in a straight line and pull yourself up to until your chest touches the bar. Lower yourself back down with proper form.
Bench Dip With Kick
Sit down on a bench about knee height, hands next to your thighs. Walk your feet out so your knees are bent 90 degrees, lifting your bottom off the bench with extended arms. Hinging at the elbow, lower your body down until your arms form a 90-degree angle. When you come up, kick one leg straight. Repeat and alternate sides.
Find a set of monkey bars or a strong tree branch and with an overhand grip just beyond the shoulders perform as many pull-ups as possible in 45 seconds. If pull-ups are difficult, do negatives where you hold the bar at chin level and slowly lower down, or just hold your chin at bar height and hold as long as possible.
What’s On Your Quarantine Watchlist?
Viewers are compiling therapeutic lineups of movies and TV shows to help make them feel better during the coronavirus crisis.
There’s something soothing about the work of filmmaker Wes Anderson. At least that’s what Seattle psychotherapist Chad Perman is learning from his clients, many of them tech employees forced to work from home.
Mr. Perman has long used “cinema therapy” to get people talking about how they relate to themes and characters in movies. Lately he’s been discussing movies more than ever at his practice near a nursing facility with at least 30 deaths linked to coronavirus. And Mr. Anderson’s name keeps coming up.
The director of movies including “Rushmore,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Moonrise Kingdom” is known for his meticulous composition of costumes, sets and color schemes. “There’s something about going into these beautiful hermetically sealed films,” says Mr. Perman, who is also founder and editor in chief of the online film magazine Bright Wall/Dark Room. “It makes you feel that you’re in a controlled world, not the chaotic one you see when you turn on the news or look at your Twitter feed.”
In the face of a spreading sickness, thousands of deaths, and economic damage around the globe, the question of what to put on TV while riding out the pandemic isn’t as trivial as it may seem. Mr. Perman’s clients for example, aren’t just looking for something to pass the time–they’re looking to quell feelings of isolation, anxiety and uncertainty. Now, as millions more people confront an indefinite stretch of social-distancing and school closures, they are assembling rosters of movies and TV shows to help cope—and finding new virtual ways to watch with family and friends. For some, such watchlists seem as essential to the home stockpile as toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
“For me the research suggested that media-marathoning can be therapeutic. It offers something unique that other forms of coping don’t,” says Lisa Perks, a professor at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass.
She researches media-engagement patterns and has published studies about people using binge-viewing as a way to deal with health struggles, including those laid up with injuries and isolated with flu. She’s been recommending “The Good Place,” about characters hashing out ethical problems in the afterlife, as a TV show whose comedy can, as she says, “restore faith in humanity.”
Hollywood is scrambling to meet this new need even as most movie theaters have gone dark. Universal rushed its still-new theatrical releases, including “Emma” and “The Invisible Man,” out to on-demand platforms this week. Disney did the same with Pixar’s “Onward,” and last week released “Frozen 2” on its streaming service three months early, offering sequestered families a new diversion.
“We’re trying to use Disney+ as a carrot,” said Alicia Curley, who lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and two children, ages 4 and 2. “We told them, if you behave well during the day, you can watch ‘Frozen 2’ at night.” She and her husband, for their part, are watching more Netflix comedy specials to lighten the mood.
Last week, when L.T. Ward of Peoria, Ill., learned that school was closed for her four children, ages 5 through 16, she responded by turning on Bob Ross. The late TV host’s “The Joy of Painting,” which streams on Amazon Prime, played in the background for four hours that day. “His voice, the pacing of the show, seeing the art develop–it’s a very simple way to reset when you’re feeling stressed,” says Ms. Ward, a writer, noting that even her teenagers agree.
On Letterboxd, a social-sharing site where movie lovers log their viewing history and share lists of recommendations, more than 4,800 movie lists have been created since March 1 that somehow reference the pandemic in their name or description. Many, such as “Coronavirus Quarantine Watchlist,” are heavy on post-apocalyptic flicks like “I Am Legend” and “World War Z.” However, as more users are forced to cocoon at home for an indefinite amount of time, the list-making is skewing toward classic films and more recent comfort fare.
“Our members are suckers for ‘La La Land,’ ‘Lady Bird’ and ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ Those three titles keep coming up again and again” this month, says Letterboxd editor Gemma Gracewood. “There’s such an abiding love for them, so they feel like a safe place.”
TV Time, an app that helps people track the shows and movies they watch, surveyed its users last weekend to find out how being homebound would change their screen habits. Almost all of the 3,130 users who responded said their TV consumption would go up, and 86% planned to catch up on shows they’d been meaning to watch. Many craved shows promising escape (73%), laughter (72%), and comfort (53%).
With so many people cooped up for the same reason, the social side of TV has taken on a new importance too.
Some are opting to use Netflix Party, a Google Chrome extension that allows people to remotely watch the same movie or show on Netflix and allows for chatting at the same time. Seth Rogen live-tweeted “Cats.”
Mr. Perman’s online magazine Bright Wall/Dark Room organized a Quarantine Live Tweet Movie Festival throughout March, encouraging its 21,000 Twitter followers to view the same movie together on their separate home screens. To kick things off last Sunday, the journal—known for essays on film history and auteur directors—chose “Paddington 2.” The 2018 sequel film based on the children’s book character (and featuring a scene-stealing Hugh Grant as Paddington’s nemesis) is a favorite of many movie buffs for its craftsmanship and verve, emphasizing the power of kindness, acceptance and marmalade.
“Every time I’ve watched it, I felt better,” says Mr. Perman.
Meanwhile, many viewers are heading in the opposite direction. “Contagion,” a 2011 film about a societal breakdown caused by pandemic, has been hovering on the chart of top movies in the iTunes store since late January. TiVo says there was a six-fold increase among its users for outbreak-related titles, including “12 Monkeys” and “Children of Men,” between March 3 and March 14. On Netflix, 1995’s “Outbreak,” is ranked among the 10 most popular movies.
“There is this notion of homeopathic viewing–you get this small dose on the screen, and it might help you deal with it in real life,” says Ms. Perks, the media-studies professor.
Caitlin McFarland, co-founder of the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, is waiting to see if the three-day fan event can go forward in June. Meantime, she’s been considering her pandemic watchlist—and that of her mother, who recently texted a request for a new show to watch while Ms. McFarland’s parents, both in their 70s, are hunkered down at home in Houston. She recommended the HBO series “The Young Pope” with Jude Law and “The New Pope” with John Malkovich, because they offer substance with a sometimes surreal exploration of faith.
The prescription for pandemic viewing will be different for everyone, depending based not only on their tastes but their emotional state, Ms. McFarland says. That said, she often suggests escapist fare that comes close to one-size-fits-all: TV comedies such as “‘Parks and Recreation,” “Friends,” and “Parenthood,” she says, “are all very comforting things to have happening in your living room.”
Tips And Inspiration For Home Viewers
Letterboxd: Users of the social movie site have been busy making lists such as the “Ultimate Quarantine Watchlist,” loaded with some 260 titles, from “Adaptation” to “You Were Never Really Here.” Filmmakers make recommendations there, too, including director Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) who recently pointed his online followers to a Letterboxd list of his 1,000 favorite movies.
Isolation Film Club: Brett Goldstein, a comedian, actor and host of a podcast called “Films To Be Buried With,” created the club to unite home viewers. Different friends of his host each installment and tweet a running commentary about a movie of their choice. The roster has included “Long Shot,” “Moonstruck” and “Thunder Road.”
Live Tweet Film Festival: A social-media audience is also gathering for the event, which takes place on the Twitter timeline of the film magazine Bright Wall/Dark Room. The communal viewing sessions started with the heartwarming “Paddington 2” and will continue with director Wong Kar-wai’s “Chungking Express” and James L. Brooks’s “Broadcast News.”
Countdown To Christmas: Starting Friday, the Hallmark Channel launches an emergency feel-good movie marathon of the network’s seemingly endless supply of holiday movies, for those who want to fast-forward to a different reality.
Anxious About Coronavirus? This Crisis Guru Wants to Calm Your Fears
Nancy Lublin and colleagues at her Crisis Text Line field thousands of nervous texts; ‘We are in surge’.
Fear of illness. Anxiety over potential financial strain or job loss. Concerns about closed schools and canceled events.
These are the issues Nancy Lublin is watching pour into Crisis Text Line, the nonprofit text-messaging organization she founded in 2013 and operates with funding from tech-industry billionaires and others. The volume of messages has surged during the coronavirus pandemic.
The service connects individuals via text message with volunteers who have completed an online crisis-counselor training program.
“What we need right now is physical distance and social connection,” she said.
Ms. Lublin, 48, wakes before 7 a.m. to examine the number of messaging threads volunteers completed the day before. On Tuesday, for instance, about 1,200 counselors at the organization participated in 6,362 text conversations in the U.S. Roughly half of those messages included the word “virus.”
“We are in a surge. The difference is I don’t have surge pricing to incentivize my drivers,” she said. “When it’s surge time, there’s more people in pain and that’s when they come running.”
Crisis Text Line is used to high volumes, having handled 141.8 million text messages since it began. The extra load, however, has Ms. Lublin working to double texting capacity in the next three weeks. She is adding volunteer-training slots and recruiting more volunteer coaches.
Ms. Lublin had been participating in conversations with people in need each day, juggling four or more live threads at a time. Now her time is primarily spent communicating with her roughly 100-person staff on Slack, shared Google spaces and phone calls. The organization now offers a 15-minute meditation session for its staff at noon each day.
To help people cope with virus-related stress, volunteers try to validate the pain and anxiety on the other end of the text. They ask questions like “What things can you do tomorrow to stay strong?” And they focus on short, immediate time frames.
Escapist Reads And Podcasts To Try Now
We asked playwright Lynn Nottage, podcaster Evan Kleiman and writer Lily King to share the works they find most transporting, from meaty novels to hilarious podcasts to plays you can–and should–read aloud with your family.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, whose opera ‘Intimate Apparel’ opens this fall at Lincoln Center Theater
I revisit the work of the playwrights August Wilson, Alice Childress, Wendy Wasserstein, Lillian Hellman and Adrienne Kennedy. You can read them together with your family—it’s a way to keep the communal aspects of theater. I’ve also been listening to podcasts: Brooklyn Deep’s “School Colors” follows the fight for desegregation in Bedford-Stuyvesant; “Slow Burn: Tupac and Biggie” looks at the lives of two seminal rappers as they converged and ended tragically.
Host of the radio show and podcast ‘Good Food’ on NPR member station KCRW
My go-to podcast is “99% Invisible” about design, because of its expansive reach: There’s an episode about who really wrote “Who Let the Dogs Out!” It’s so funny. As is the very smart “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” series. The quirky “Everything is Alive” has inanimate objects like “Louis, the Can of Off-Brand Cola” and “Scott, the Stethoscope” tell their life stories. And I lose myself in egg-heady audio books like “Against the Grain,” an agricultural deep dive into the rise of states.
Author of five novels, including the new ‘Writers & Lovers’
‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett comes to mind, though it’s about entrapment! Still, there’s wonderful tension and a great love story within the confines of a South American mansion. Now we have time to dig in to meaty books like “Independent People” by Halldór Laxness, set in Iceland. “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri is powerful, as is “Disgrace” by J.M. Coetzee, about the ethical and generational divides in post-apartheid South Africa.
Foods That Battle Stress During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Berries. Nuts. Olive oil. How to craft an eating plan to help manage your emotions.
Are You Anxious? Angry? Feeling Depressed?
Consider what you eat. For more than a decade, studies have shown that a healthy diet—high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and other lean protein—can help fight depression.
Now, emerging research in the nascent field of nutritional psychiatry suggests that certain foods can help manage a broader range of emotional challenges, such as anxiety, anger and insomnia. And while the most established treatments for mental-health conditions such as depression remain antidepressants and talk therapy, researchers say food can also be a very useful tool.
Uma Naidoo is a nutritional psychiatrist and author of the new book “This is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, PTSD, ADHD, Anxiety, OCD and More.” Dr. Naidoo, who is the founder and director of the Nutritional & Lifestyle Psychiatry clinic at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, specializes in helping people cope with mental illness through nutritional strategies.
I spoke with Dr. Naidoo about how our diet can help us handle the emotional challenges of the pandemic. Here are edited excerpts of that interview.
Researchers Have Been Studying The Connection Between Diet And Mood For Awhile. What’s New?
Dr. Naidoo: We have come to understand more definitively in the past year that personalized treatment plans for nutrition are very important. This is because of the connection between the gut and brain. They connect via the vagus nerve, which allows for two-way communication. The balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut microbiome is so important because they communicate with the brain.
But the composition of bacteria in each person’s gut is unique. So one person with depression may respond very differently to certain foods than the next person with depression.
To develop a plan you can see a nutritional psychiatrist. But because the field is so new, there might not be one in your area. So speak to your doctor and ask for a recommendation to a lifestyle medicine physician. You can also educate yourself about nutritional psychiatry. And then experiment with different types and quantities of recommended foods, to see what your body responds to positively.
Why Is It Important To Pay Attention To Our Food Right Now?
When people have chronic stress, their gut microbiome gets out of whack and inflammation sets in. This leads to inflammation in their brain. In addition, when there is disruption in the gut—when the bad bacteria overtake the good—the whole line of communication between the gut and brain breaks down. It’s like static on a telephone line.
Food can fix this imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. And research has shown that if you change how you eat, and change your stress level, you can start to rebalance the bacteria in your gut in a single day. The inflammation may take a few weeks to heal. But whether you make a good or bad choice of food, your gut bacteria will respond, positively or negatively, in a day.
Is There An Easy Way To Remember What To Eat?
Yes. In general, you want to eat whole foods in what I call a Mediterranean eating pattern. I don’t like the word diet because it implies you need to restrict things. I want people to feel they have an abundance.
There is a mnemonic I use: BRAIN FOODS. B is for berries, which give you fiber and antioxidants. R is for the rainbow of colors of fruits and vegetables, which provide a diversity of fiber and nutrients. A is for antioxidants, which get rid of damaging compounds made in the body. I is for include—remember to include lean protein. N is for nuts, a good source of nutrients.
F is for fiber-rich and fermented foods, which feed the good gut bacteria. The first O is for healthy oil, such as olive oil, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The second O is for omega-3 fatty acid rich foods, such as fatty fish, which also have an anti-inflammatory effect. D is for dairy, which adds good bacteria to your gut. S is for spices because certain spices have excellent brain benefits.
It is also very important that people understand there are foods to avoid. Processed foods. Sugar. Artificial sweeteners. Foods with the wrong type of fats, such as trans fats, and fried foods.
Can Food Replace Medicine, Such As Antidepressants?
It cannot. I still prescribe medicine for people who are seriously ill.
How Can Food Help With Stress Or Anxiety?
When you are in a state of anxiety, your body is in a fight-or-flight mode. This impacts your hormones. Cortisol, the stress hormone, goes up.
Food can help you boost feel-good hormones and decrease cortisol. One of the foods I recommend is turmeric with a pinch of black pepper. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, and it does a few things: It improves the gut microbial ecosystem. It may increase serotonin and dopamine and decrease cortisol. And it reduces inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory pathways. Meanwhile, the piperine in black pepper increases the absorption of curcumin.
What About Depression?
When people feel depressed, they have a lower level of serotonin, the happiness hormone.
One type of food that helps is food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish or seeds such as chia, flax or hemp. Omega-3 fatty acids help to build cell membranes in the brain. They’re anti-inflammatory, which is important because depression includes elements of neuroinflammation.
Does Food Have A Connection To Anger?
Research shows that diets high in trans fats are linked to anger and aggression. Trans fats interfere with how the brain produces and uses omega-3 fatty acids. So you’ll want to cut back on trans fats and eat more omega-3-rich foods, such as fatty seafood.
Now take the term “hangry.” Studies have shown that there is something to it—low glucose is related to aggressive and angry behaviors. So it’s important to eat healthy, whole grains or complex carbohydrates to stabilize your blood sugar. Vegetables and almond butters are also nutritious and will break down slowly in your body and also help stabilize your glucose level.
How Can Food Help With Insomnia?
In insomnia, one of the problems is that certain chemicals in our brain that regulate circadian rhythms become unbalanced, such as melatonin and tryptophan. Food can help replenish them. In fact, food is our only source of tryptophan; the body doesn’t produce it.
There are many foods rich in melatonin, including eggs, fatty fish, asparagus and broccoli. And chickpeas are a good source of tryptophan. I often recommend that people eat an omelet for dinner to boost their melatonin levels or have an evening snack of hummus and whole-grain crackers to get some tryptophan. The carbohydrates in the crackers help to transport the tryptophan to the brain.
How Can We Make Lasting Changes?
Start with something small. When you make one positive change and see the positive impact on your mental health—maybe your gut settles down and you feel less anxious—then you will want to keep going.
So start with small changes, try to sustain them, and then continue to build on your healthy habits.
A Diet for the Pandemic
Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist and director of the Nutritional & Lifestyle Psychiatry clinic at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, says it’s important to follow a Mediterranean eating pattern, full of whole foods and healthy fats. Here are some of her suggestions.
Fiber-rich Foods. These feed the good bacteria in the gut.
Sources: Beans, legumes, fruit and vegetables. Kefir, miso and kimchi.
Vitamins B9 and B12. These help protect brain cells.
Sources: Legumes, leafy green vegetables, fish and shellfish.
Prebiotics: Foods that feed the good bacteria in the gut.
Sources: Beans and legumes. Oats. Bananas. Berries. Garlic. Onions. Asparagus. Artichokes. Leeks.
Probiotics: Live bacteria and yeast that replenish good bacteria in the gut.
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