This rapidly evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) is a historic public health crisis none of us are going to forget. Engaging in safe practices such as more thorough handwashing, avoiding touching my face and staying home because of the COVID-19 pandemic is quite the change. A month ago I purchased tickets to visit New York City for the first time and there’s no way I’m traveling much outside of my neighborhood, let alone across the country.
If anyone’s prepared for this it’s you and me. With our systemic nickel allergy we’ve learned the importance of avoidance and preparing homemade food from scratch. We already rely on being our own self advocate and informing our coordinated medical care team of our severe nickel allergy.
How have your last couple of weeks been? This week I celebrated my ninth Wedding Anniversary and experienced a 5.7 magnitude earthquake while in the shower and felt several of the aftershocks. Wednesday was a particularly hard day that drove my central nervous system to the core. My emotions and cortisol levels have been more than a little unsettled, especially when the ground underneath keeps moving.
Trying to overcome the insanity, here are 6 Tips to Living Low Nickel During the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Stay updated on reliable information to stay safe.
There’s plenty of misinformation going around on the news and internet right now. Trusted sources for how to protect yourself include the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) or your own state or country’s trusted public health organization. Many of these articles include all kinds of tips, including how to clean and disinfect your home surfaces without disposable wipes.
Same with wearing masks to keep yourself and those around you safe. Initially there was conflicting data. However, for the last couple months now there are several scientific studies showing how wearing a mask slows the spread of COVID-19, especially when worn in any situation where you may interact with others outside your home or are closer than 6 feet away from another person. I sewed a bunch of custom sized masks for myself and my family members. I’ve been lucky to have such supportive family members who wear them whenever we spend time together.
Public health staff are working hard to keep this information up to date. It’s our responsibility to also stay up to date with the latest information in this evolving pandemic.
2. Safely ask for help if you need it.
No one knows what your needs are unless you make them known. Many of us can relate to what you may be going through. Businesses and organizations are trying to adapt to still offer their resources if folks need them. COVID-19 hotlines can assist with finding local resources offered by government agencies or non-profit businesses.
In the US, the CDC has requested employers be flexible with their staff. Hopefully you’re able to work from home or negotiate alternative working arrangements with your supervisor or HR rep. during this time. I’m really fortunate that my employer provides the option to telecommute and is actively encouraging everyone to be part of the solution by working from home.
With the volatile economic climate, financial institutions may be able to work with you to establish a payment plan or change your existing accounts. A couple years ago, a loan officer literally changed my life. She restructured one of my personal loans into a collateral car loan instead. It not only dramatically reduced the monthly payment amount, but cut the monthly interest rate by more than half.
3. Stick to the low nickel diet as much as possible, including avoiding processed foods.
I’ve heard of stories of folks struggling to access low nickel foods. Perhaps it’s worth reaching out to your local grocery store to find out when they receive deliveries and if you can shop then for a larger selection. In my state, the past couple days I’ve also heard that grocery stores have been able to restock goods they’ve been out of for the last couple weeks.
It’s been annoying to hear co-workers and others laugh about how bare grocery store shelves still have gross vegan foods available on them. Eating a restricted diet because we have food allergies is not a choice. Perpetuating these ideas is destructive. Personally I don’t have the energy to patron restaurants struggling with mandatory orders to not offer dine in options and order take-out. Unfortunately staff don’t listen to me as much over the phone or online when I ask for special consideration or request my dish not include a specific ingredient.
If you eat something that may be higher in nickel, it’s ok. We’ve all been there and it’s not worth being hard on yourself, particularly now.
4. Maintain your low nickel hygiene routine as much as possible.
Last week my hands were dry, red and itchy. Instead of using the liquid softsoap, I switched back for my cetaphil bar soap and have been more diligent with moisturizing afterwards. Slowing down and constantly re-checking in with my body has been really beneficial for me. Despite the hysteria, I’m constantly reminded I just need to trust myself and cultivate what’s worked for me.
5. Take care of yourself by engaging in self care activities.
Stress can worsen our systemic nickel allergy symptoms. Many of us may feel cooped up inside, because we actually are! I’ve walked more everyday outside this last week than I have in the previous weeks and I’m loving the warmer spring weather. If you’re unable to leave your home, perhaps you can create a space to stretch or follow an exercise video.
Limiting my social media and news activities, especially when I feel it fueling my anxiety, has been helpful. Meditation, reading a new book and finishing all my sewing projects has also been rewarding.
6. Find ways to connect with others while also engaging in social distancing.
While social distancing is one of the best known methods to slowing down a public health crisis, it can still be very isolating. Connecting with family and friends through text and web conferencing has been very therapeutic. My spouse has also been very resourceful. She learned about the web browser Chrome offering the Netflix party extension option where you can stream movies virtually with friends from all over the world. Today she’s organizing remote bingo!
My local mechanic shop has one of those old fashion message board signs with the black lettering. Recently they’ve updated it to say “Tough times do not last, but tough people do.” Truth. My hope is the vulnerability and courage we’re experiencing right now is making us a better society and people.
My hope is that this will be short term. What that means over the next period of time is truly unknown. We’re all doing our best to adapt.
I have immense gratitude for my family, for healthcare providers, delivery truck drivers, grocery store staff, my employer and for you.
If you have tips or stories of strategies on how you’re both striving to live low nickel, stay safe and sane during these crazy COVID-19 pandemic, I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below!