Fall Issue 2020

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FALL 2020 - $4.95

























letter from the editor Dear readers: At one point six months into the pandemic, I felt that I had read enough about coronavirus death tolls and the California wildfires to make my eyes bleary for days. I had no other choice but to turn off both my computer and phone and deliberately disconnect from the world. My mind had become numb to the point that it could not process any more news –especially the negative news. My emotional energy had dwindled to mere molecules.

Charu Suri

It was at that point that I realized human beings just don’t have the energy to process endless negativity. There’s only so much that the body can withstand before it tunes off. That famous Malthusian law of diminishing returns is all too real in a pandemic of this proportion. Emotional scarcity, a palpable lack of self-care, constant stress and anxiety have started to become far greater wellness concerns than the coronavirus itself. These are some of the reasons why we decided to center the fall issue on the theme of celebration. The word “celebration” is an odd one to use during a year that feels completely devoid of celebratory moments. And yet, Wellness Interactive celebrates a milestone this fall with its 20th anniversary. And there are so many small victories that each of us has had that have not exactly been heralded with confetti and Champagne. If you managed not to get COVID-19, that is worthy of celebration. If you managed to pay your rent or mortgage during these uncertain months, that’s more than a reason to pat yourself on the back. If you had frayed nerves about going to shop in grocery stores during the pandemic, but managed to do it anyway, that mere courage is worth celebrating. The daily, crushing grind of news constantly undermines celebratory moments. It is alarmist and can provoke fear, but we need just the opposite right now. We need moments of reassurance, of being able to feel that we’re human, a hug, the warm touch of someone we love, and celebratory moments---all of them, any that we can find, that we can toast with Champagne---at least metaphorically. In this fall issue, we tell you why plant-based skincare works, how to alleviate your stress by doing more puzzles, and the economic challenges that minorities have in getting selfcare. There are some haunting personal essays on subjects not covered endlessly in the news: about Parkinson’s and being transgender during the pandemic and trying to find a community when one is so socially distanced. This is an issue that I hope inspires you to truly take care of yourself, slow down and take the time you need to celebrate life’s moments, even during a time when it seems hard to do so. Reading through it, I hope you will realize that we are all in this together. The happiness and well-being of the world starts by celebrating yourself first, especially the little victories. Send us your thoughts to: WellnessLoungeMag@gmail.com.

Charu Suri

PUBLISHER Wellness Interactive Branding, LLC® FOUNDER Desiree Watson EDITOR Charu Suri COPY EDITOR Laurel Dowswell ART DIRECTOR Deborrah McDowell-Davis VP OF MARKETING Ngbita Wallace BRAND MANAGER Elizabeth Beyer-Partin SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER Jade Gunver CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Ajeé Buggam Bridget Douglas Alice Draper Fran Folsom Amber Gibson Lois Alter Mark Pamela Dittmer McKuen Sheryl Nance Nash Kristen Schultz Charu Suri www.wellnessinteractive.com Cover Photo by Ricardo L. Rose


The editorial content in the Wellness Lounge ® magazine is for educational purposes only and is not intended to, nor should be construed as, medical advice and/or efforts to diagnose, treat or prescribe for any human disease, pain, injury, deformation, or physical condition. The editorial content in the Wellness Lounge® is not intended to, nor should it be construed as , a substitute for the advice or treatment of a health care professional prior to engaging in any alternative treatment or diet for exercise regimen discussed in the Wellness Lounge®, and/or relying upon or using any educational/informational information provided by or obtained from, the Wellness Lounge®. Under no circumstance shall the Wellness Lounge ® or its employees, independent contractors and/or agents be liable to a reader for any damages or injury arising out of, or related to, the editorial content of Wellness Lounge®, including but not limited to, the reader’s use or reliance upon, or the reader’s inability to use or rely upon, information provided by, or obtained from, Wellness Lounge® All rights reserved. Wellness Interactive Branding, LLC® is not responsible for unsolicited manuscript images, or other materials. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of Wellness Interactive Branding, LLC®.

4 Special Edition

An Interview with Desiree Watson

I By Sheryl Nance-Nash

nspiration usually comes from close to home. Something in your life speaks to you in a way nothing else has and sets you on a course toward your destiny. But too often when it’s happening, you may not get the full significance of it.

But Desiree Watson needs no convincing of life’s synchronistic moments. During her first pregnancy in her early 30s, fibroid tumors made her time so difficult that she and the baby almost lost their lives. Watson went into labor at five months. Her obstetrician stabilized the situation by stopping the contractions. After four months of frequent trips to the hospital to monitor the baby, despite a growing fibroid tumor, she delivered a healthy girl.


She felt that she had a mission, and began speaking at churches, community centers, and elsewhere spreading the word about alternative and complementary medicine.

When Watson got pregnant the second time, she knew a bit about alternative medicine. But this time around, she did a deep dive research behind the treatment of fibroid tumors. She found out that providing fluids was critical for both the baby and the tumor. She upped her water intake and avoided milk and sugar. Her second pregnancy was drama-free. The stark difference between the two pregnancies was a story worth sharing with women. She felt that she had a mission, and began speaking at churches, community centers, and elsewhere spreading the word about alternative and complementary medicine.

Pivoting from Her Career Change is always hard, but she pivoted from her marketing and advertising career and became a reflexologist to continue learning about complementary and alternative medicine through her studies at the Ann Wigmore Institute. She soon started hosting educational brunches for women. She brought in speakers to talk about colon therapy, raw foods, acupuncture, and other holistic health topics. Soon, Watson was traveling around the country and abroad, speaking on

5 Special Edition alternative medicine along with doctors and therapists. She served as president of Alaysher, a speaker’s bureau and special events platform focused on educating communities on wellness, preventative care options, including complementary and alternative medicine. By 2000, wellness was the center of her universe and she started her company, Wellness Interactive, that focused on educating the community. She set up an office in South Orange, New Jersey that served both as a corporate office and Wellness Lounge: a one-stop depot of sorts for information for living a healthier lifestyle. What started small, evolved gradually. Wellness Interactive became a major player in a budding industry. Alternative medicine, sustainability, shopping green, and promoting proper nutrition were trends that cemented her message. Her audience expanded as she began working with corporate clients like AARP, Kaiser Permanente, BET Networks, foundations, and civic groups, to get them to commit to improving the health and wellness of their employees. She did pop up wellness lounges on site at companies and organizations, participated in Harlem Week, functions for The Links’ and other big events. As much as she was and is for grasping opportunities to wave the wellness flag, she is mindful. “I’ve turned down opportunities that weren’t a good fit.

Institute. She is the Global Wellness Day Ambassador, an international celebration on the second Saturday of June that is devoted to raising awareness about living well.

we have been fortunate to work with some high-profile businesses, it remains difficult to message the urgency of helping communities who are reflective of our staff/employees.”

“When I was starting out, I didn’t see a lot of women at conferences. Men were making decisions about what to do to keep women well,” says Watson. That’s one of the reasons she is big on mentoring women who want to get into the wellness space. “That was then. There have been tons of progress. I always felt the need to mentor and support women. I share as much as I can,” says Watson.

Today, her concern is having so many people in the country in crisis given COVID-19. “We may not have enough resources to support safe spaces and the wellbeing of our communities. We need an innovative, progressive model that supports the wellbeing of workplace, home care, and social wellness. We all want safe, healthy wellness spaces, this is the reason why our signature brand the Wellness Lounge has done so well” she says.

Since she’s dedicated her life to educating people about wellness, and worked to ensure their welfare, what does she herself do for self-care? “My passion is boxing, walking, and cycling. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do two of my favorites, boxing and cycling, for the past five months,” she says. Each morning, she says a prayer to keep her focused on being thankful for the day. “I pray often for my family, friends, and the world to be better at receiving the gift we often take for granted.” She also does a cleanse once a year through raw foods at an ecofriendly retreat.

Looking Back On 20 Years of Wellness

Another big part of sharing the wellness philosophy included producing publications for physicians and therapists, as well as consumers. The company’s website, wellnessinteractive. com, is a resource for articles, videos, event listings and more.

As she looks back on the last 20 years of running Wellness Interactive, she shares one of the biggest lessons she’s learned, “If something is not available to you, for you, build, collaborate. Find the tools to do it, for your community to support the village.”

A Life of Wellness Advocacy

What does she know now that she wishes she knew back then? “It is the difficulty of merging intergenerational influencers and decision makers with what should be a gift for all, health and wellness. I know this so well because it has not been easy to scale a wellness business. While

Watson has spent her life advocating for wellness, particularly to women. She is the founder of the Women in Wellness Award for the Global Wellness

No doubt, there’s more that companies can do. “They can support their employees/staff in the workplace environment, in addition to being sure their home environment is not compromised by the need of food, water, and healthy living,” says Watson. But ultimately, the onus is on everyone to take responsibility. “People need to stay informed on how to protect their families to get through the COVID virus. If not already, become educated on the resources that are available to be used at home, such as supplements, therapies, and over the counter drugs. Also, find out what's available in their local communities to help heal their families when necessary. Become proactive!” The high energy Watson is hardly slowing down after two decades. This has merely been the warm-up. As for what she hopes for when all is said and done, “That I helped build the wellness industry, which did not exist when I began my journey as a wellness entrepreneur, and that I helped launch, promote and market women business entrepreneurs.” That is a legacy well worth celebrating.

Sheryl Nance-Nash is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, business, and travel. Her work has appeared on CNTraveler, RD.com, Afar, Newsweek.com, Daily Beast, Money.com, Business Insider, Newsday, among others. She is based in New York.


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When associated with a wellness interactive brand, one demonstrates a commitment to promote a holistic approach to a wellness lifestyle. For example, with our signature brand “wellness lounge”, we are committed to engaging all 40 registered wellness interactive brands dedicated to eco-friendly sustainability, complementary & alternative medicine, education, and women in green sustainable businesses. This allows communities to change the trajectory to profit, people, planet, therefore, accelerating csr (community, social, responsibility), and sustaining business models while sustaining communities. We as a society are in need of a quality of life that is uninterrupted. This is why wellness interactive, its branding opportunities, and its partnerships were created.

7 Personal Health


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Travel & Beauty Powered by Plants: Simple Skincare Plants are a great source of natural antioxidants, vitamins, and hydration to support healthy skin

10 Travel & Wellness


he works closely with local California farmers, receiving shipments of leafy kale and goat's milk yogurt, and grows many of her own ingredients in her backyard with homemade compost. But Justine Kahn is not a chef.

By Amber Gibson

She's an aesthetician and founder of Botnia Skincare, crafting small batches of plant-based skincare at her micro lab in Sausalito using the highest quality organic plants – just like you might find in fine dining restaurants. Along with plants from her garden and certified-organic California farms like Marin Roots Farm, Kahn also works closely with SingleThread Farms, the three-star Michelin restaurant in Healdsburg, to source botanicals like chamomile and calendula. The pollinators attracted by these herbs help create a healthier ecosystem for the produce that's used at the restaurant.

11 Travel & Wellness

The Clean Beauty Boom Plant-based skincare is an important part of the clean beauty movement, the largest portion of the wellness economy, which continues to grow, outpacing conventional beauty and skincare. The global organic personal care market size was estimated at $13.33 billion in 2018, and is projected to reach $25.11 billion in 2025, according to Grand View Research. Despite beauty sales dropping significantly since the pandemic hit, prestige clean beauty is up 11 percent this year, according to The NPD Group. Over the past decade, shops like The Detox Market, Follain and Credo have educated consumers on the benefits of clean beauty while challenging retailers like Sephora and Ulta. Documentaries like Toxic Beauty urge us to think more critically about the ingredients that we're putting on our body's largest organ. What if we fed our skin the same pure, nourishing foods that we eat? “Simple skincare is more effective and healthy,” Kahn says. “We make our own hydrosols and extracts from our plants, grown in healthy soil, to ensure that the raw ingredients we use in our skincare come to your face fresh and ready to heal, nourish, and ultimately contribute to your overall health and well-being.” Kahn extracts hyaluronic acid from edamame and squalene from olive skins. With her radiant skin, Kahn's fresh-faced beauty speaks for itself and she's the ideal spokesmodel for her company. As customers begin taking more interest in how products are grown and manufactured, big retailers like Nordstrom are taking note too. Nordstrom just started carrying Botnia in August 2020 and have grown their inventory of natural beauty products dramatically over the past few years. Prestige beauty brands like Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) have embraced the plantbased trend as well. YSL Beauty's new collection of serums all feature different plants or flowers sourced from the brand’s Ourika Gardens in Morocco. The night reboot serum even includes moonlight cactus extract, a plant that only blooms for six hours every year.

"Plants are a great source of natural antioxidants, vitamins, and hydration to support healthy skin," says board-certified dermatologist Jessie Cheung MD. “Look for plant ingredients with minimal processing, and preferably organic, listed first on the ingredient list. Beneficial plant ingredients include polyphenols, fatty acids, oils, carotenoids, catechins, and phytosterols.” Cheung says more of her clients are seeking to decrease exposure to synthetic chemicals due to possible associations with hormone disruption and disease.

12 Travel & Wellness

Both Gentle And Effective Leah Kirpilani, founder of San Deigo's clean beauty emporium Shop Good, is a Botnia devotee and also carries brands like Tata Harper, Agent Nateur, and OSEA Malibu at her boutique. “We have seen incredible results in our clients' skin utilizing plant-based skincare,” she says. “Most end up benefiting from a radical shift into simpler, plant ingredients and even a gentler approach. This can work to build the skin's moisture barrier back up and reestablishing the skin's normal oil production, supporting a more plump, youthful, and hydrated complexion.” During the pandemic, Kirpalani created at-home facial packages and consultations when she wasn't able to offer facial treatments at Shop Good. Weekly Instagram TV natural skincare tutorials were a big hit and helpful resource to clients stuck at home. Travel restrictions may be slowly lifting, but Kirpalani's clients are better equipped to give themselves facials complete with gua sha at home. OSEA Malibu was at the forefront of the plant-based skincare trend when they began making their ocean cleanser and atmosphere protection cream from certified organic seaweed, blended with cold-pressed essential oils 24 years ago. “At that time, most people were unaware of the harmful effects of some of the most common skincare ingredients,” says OSEA founder and formulator Jenefer Palmer. “People did not really believe that plantbased products would work, much less be more effective than traditional skincare.”

Palmer recommends that clients play facialist once a week at home. “It just takes an extra 10 minutes,” she says. “Double cleanse, exfoliate, and then mask. But most importantly, massage and layer products into your skin. Start with a serum, next a face oil, and then your favorite moisturizer. This will help your skin glow and feel like you’ve just come from the spa!” At The Shore Club in Turks and Caicos, Tata Harper facials are among the most popular treatments. Aesthetician Romaina Talbot says that Tata Harper is especially good for clients who have rosacea or eczema because it's so gentle. “These peels don't leave you literally peeling for days and avoiding the sun,” Talbot says. “There's no redness, you're just glowing.” The multi-acid peel used in Tata Harper's signature brightening facial is made entirely from plant-based extracts like pomegranate and papaya enzymes.

13 Travel & Wellness

Rooted In Science, And Sustainable Too The best and most effective plant-based skincare products are grounded in scientific research too. Botnia works with a Stanford-trained plant biologist to get the maximum nutritional benefits from each plant and you can book a facial at Kahn's boutique spa in San Francisco, Skin Remedy, where individual ingredients are mixed to order to treat the skin in that moment. Newcomer For The Biome treats the skin and its microbiome holistically, using fermentation and volcanic CO2 extraction to increase antioxidant capacity in their formulations. Their ingredient glossary explains the benefits of active ingredients from ashwagandha and amaranth seed to pomegranate seed and radish root, detailing where each is harvested and in which products it appears. Sustainability is also a key value for these plant-based brands. OSEA bottles their products in recyclable glass and sources hand-foraged seaweed from a family-operated cooperative in Patagonia rather than relying on suppliers using invasive methods to harvest from the ocean floor. While some beauty brands might claim to be green but purchase bulk plant extracts,

both Tata Harper and Botnia value transparency and tout the farm-fresh origins of their ingredients. Both of their websites have traceability tools, so customers can learn more about when and how their product was made. Not only is plant-based skincare healthier for you, but these low-impact brands aim to make it more sustainable for the planet too. The pandemic has reinforced how interconnected we all are in this world, both to the earth and to one another. Plant-based skincare is not just a trend but a return to our roots as we rediscover how to nourish our skin with the gifts from nature. We’re going to see more products in this space in the coming years, and who knows, more seed to skincare kits for those who want to do this at home. These products are making people realize that Mother Nature always knows best.

Amber Gibson is a Chicago-based journalist specializing in travel, food, beauty and wellness. Her work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Saveur, Departures and Travel + Leisure.


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16 Personal Health

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Unlike other activities that provide dopamine, jigsaw puzzles have the added benefit of giving you a much-needed sense of control at a time when we feel we have so little.

17 Personal Health


ince the pandemic began, selfcare has become more important than ever. With many stuck at home, uncertain about the future, there’s always the looming question of how to de-stress. Along with traditional healing techniques like meditation and exercise, many people are turning to jigsaw puzzles. Puzzle companies are not just surviving, but thriving, during these unprecedented times. “We've seen puzzle companies doubling and tripling their sales during this pandemic,” says Faith Taylor of the USA Jigsaw Puzzle Association. “One company reported a whopping 800% increase (in sales)." Sure, doing puzzles is a fun way to spend time but experts point out that the benefits are much deeper. Studies prove the process is actually good for you, helping both your mental and physical health in a number of important ways. “The most obvious benefit is that it enhances your mood, and a natural consequence of feeling happy is reduced general stress level,” says psychiatrist Dr. Zlatin Ivanov, MD. “It also increases the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, motivation, attention, memory, positive thinking, and optimism. Each time you put a puzzle piece in the right place, you release dopamine.” Unlike other activities that provide dopamine, though, jigsaw puzzles have the added benefit of giving you a muchneeded sense of control at a time when we feel we have so little. “Some people say that the jigsaw puzzle is a metaphor for life,” Dr. Ivanov explains. “All those pieces are symbols of life’s challenges – relationships, work, health. Putting the pieces together gives you the confidence that you are strong and capable and smart enough to put together everything else going on in your life.”

Dr. Ivanov emphasizes that, although this empowers you to believe in yourself – which is valuable in itself – it also translates into practical skills to actually help you reach your goals. Doing puzzles enhances focus and concentration, improving your productivity. Together, it offers a combination for success that goes way beyond just completing the puzzle itself. Experiencing this firsthand, Abigail Imperati founded her own puzzle company last year. Lemonade Pursuits curates “mindfulness puzzles” designed by women artists, and bills itself “like yoga, for the brain.” Art is selected not just for its visual appeal but for its use of design elements that are shown to foster relaxation, such as natural fractals, repeating patterns, green landscapes, or shades of blue. “I’d been dealing with anxiety for over a decade, and it worsened in recent years,” says Imperati. “I’d always loved jigsaw puzzles but started doing them more intentionally. I found that they forced my brain to focus singularly on the task at hand rather than the downward spiral of endless checklists, second-guessing social interactions, or extrapolating what-if scenarios.” Imperati’s findings have been proven by scientists, who discovered that puzzles shift the brain from Beta waves, which are associated with anxiety, into Alpha waves connected with focus and relaxation. “Doing jigsaw puzzles engages the brain on so many levels and provides a well-rounded brain workout,” according to Ruth Curran, author of Being Brain Healthy: What My Brain Injury Taught Me ... And How It Can Change

Your Life. “From hand-eye coordination to visual-spatial processing to being inspired by the beauty of art, the act of putting together a jigsaw puzzle allows you to think in new ways, challenges your patience and keeps under-used pathways in the brain active, nourished and alive.” Artist Sally Prangley agrees. “I always have a puzzle going,” she laughs. “My artwork is a process that can take days or even weeks. Turning to a puzzle at the end of the day or during a break gives me immediate success and a sense of accomplishment when I find a piece or two that fit. When it’s slow going in my studio, it’s instant reward at the puzzle table.” “Puzzles allow me to space out, calm my mind and think about nothing while also sorting my thoughts about work and whatever else is going on in my head – which means I think about everything but in a slightly abstract, removed way,” she continues. “It allows my very busy mind to slow my thoughts and let those ‘aha!’ moments happen. It also keeps my eyes and mind trained to details like miniscule differences in shadows, colors, and shapes, which definitely helps my creativity.”

18 Personal Health Prangley’s love for puzzles has recently started filtering into her artwork. She used an actual puzzle piece in a purse she made for the ESSE Purse Museum, called “My Life as a Purse,” and her “Jigsaw Puzzle Necklace” just headed to the Bellevue Arts Museum shop. Even the puzzles themselves are getting more artsy these days. “Puzzles used to be kind of dull and were mostly aimed at kids or older people,” says Steve Vickers, co-founder of Cloudberries. “When we launched Cloudberries, we wanted to make sure every puzzle we released was good-looking enough to stare at for hours on end. Our designs and the fact that we plant a tree for every puzzle sold really appealed to younger adults looking for fun things to do at home.” With so many new enthusiasts, Stephanie Aponte, National Sales Manager of New York Puzzle Company, nails it when she says, “Puzzles and a pandemic go hand in hand.” Facebook groups like Jigsaw Puzzlers and Jigsaw Puzzle Enthusiasts now boast more than 15,000 members each, and Pandemic Puzzlers was started so recent converts could share their quarantine creations in a virtual community. Corporate Training Specialist Hope Stephens discovered jigsaw puzzles at the beginning of the pandemic when she was cleaning out a closet and found two unopened puzzles she’d bought years ago.

represent something meaningful to me because I really enjoy spending time with those. They take me away from all the terrible news.” Puzzle sales show no sign of slowing down. In fact, new puzzle companies are springing up (many of them women-owned, featuring unique, vibrant artwork) as manufacturers continue to rush to meet the demand. “We’ve never seen a worldwide sales impact like the one we’re experiencing now,” says Thomas Kaeppeler, President of Ravensburger North America, one of the giants of the industry. “Months into the pandemic, the factors that led to this increase – a desire to relax, feel calm, and reduce stress – remain the same.” Those factors are likely to remain long after the pandemic is over and we’ve gone back to our busy lives. They may be even more necessary then. “Jigsaw puzzles can be the ultimate break from the world,” says Dr. Noah Kass, Psychotherapist, NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy. “They pull us away from our addictive TV screens and other devices, and keep us focused on one thing, which is incredibly rare in our multi-tasking society.”

“I thought, ‘Well, this is the perfect time to work on these,’ and then I was hooked,” she admits. “I alternate between challenging 1,000 piece puzzles and more manageable palate cleansers of 300 or 500 pieces. I always opt for images that

Puzzled about where to start? Here are some of the best puzzle companies out there:     

New York Puzzle Company: Great covers of The New Yorker, perfect for framing eeBoo Piece & Love: Gorgeous feminist illustrations, vivid and glossy pieces Cloudberries: Eye-popping and sophisticated images Lemonade Pursuits: Soothing artwork from women artists Piecework: Irreverent and Instagrammable designs

Want to use your own photos or drawings? Ravensburger will custom make a puzzle for you

Lois Alter Mark is a contributing writer for Forbes and USA Today 10Best. The founder of Midlife at the Oasis, she is a three-time BlogHer People’s Choice Award winner and has been obsessed with puzzles since March.

19 Personal Health

By Pamela Dittmer McKuen

“In these times of crisis, we all need to find ways to cope,” says Caroline Fabrigas, chief executive officer at Scent Marketing Inc. in Scarsdale, N.Y. “Scent is an essential part of this new way of living.”


t the start-up of the COVID-19 pandemic, we grabbed all the hand sanitizer and disinfectant we could find and hunkered down. Our homes became the headquarters for every aspect of our lives, from career to family to leisure. Six months in, the isolation continues, and the stresses continue to mount. “In these times of crisis, we all need to find ways to cope,” says Caroline Fabrigas, chief executive officer at Scent Marketing Inc. in Scarsdale, N.Y. “Scent is an essential part of this new way of living.” The role of scent has evolved since the initial phase of sheltering in place. At first, our brush with fragrances came from hygienic tasks. We turned to acrid-smelling alcohol and ammonia to scour away possible viruses from anything we may have touched. After that, we needed lotions to soothe hands dried out from frequent washings and gobs of sanitizer.

20 Personal Health

But scent also has a higher calling. It can improve our emotional well-being and enhance the quality of our locked-down lives. Whether your choice is a bouquet of flowers, refreshing room spray, a flickering candle, fine perfume, or any other form, scent is a sensory experience--not just something that smells good, Fabrigas says.

Let’s explore some of the ways scent can carry us through these new, uncertain times:



With all this sameness, it’s hard to remember what month it is, much less maintain any sort of schedule. Use scent to bridge one time of day to another, says Fabrigas, who specializes in scent marketing and branding.

Except for the blazer you slip on before Zoom conferences, the virtual workplace has all but canceled power dressing. Sweatpants are comfy but depressing.

“Maybe you’ll have one scent that revs you up in the morning and another one to help you concentrate during the working hours,” she says. “When you’re getting ready to wind down for the day, something calming like a candle that smells like a fireplace or that has lavender or jasmine notes can signal to you and your household it’s time to change.” Several fragrance entrepreneurs, including Fabrigas, have been inspired to create aromatic responses to the coronavirus. She is working on a trio of yoga-inspired fragrances under her ScentFluence consumer brand: Child’s Pose for surrender and release, Tree Pose for balance and strength, and Yoga Nidra for peace and transformation. You might not be able to go to your yoga class, but you can light a candle or spritz a room spray that takes you to that state of being, she says.

“When you feel joy in your life, it’s not so difficult. The more attention you give to joy, the less attention you give to the pandemic.

“So many people are at home, not getting dressed up,” says Sue Phillips, chief executive officer and bespoke fragrance developer at Scenterprises Inc. in New York. “They get into a state of inertia, and it becomes a snowball effect. That’s not a good feeling for your psyche.” Take guidance from Shalini, who has single-name recognition in the fragrance industry. She is the founder, president, and creative director at New York-based Shalini Parfum. Her exclusive collection of five perfumes, created by French master perfumer Maurice Roucel, has been lauded among the most luxurious in the world. Because her business is international, Shalini constantly works in multiple time zones. She’s sure to show up at Zoom meetings in full makeup, fragrance, and cocktail attire like the training class she conducted at 4 a.m. New York time. It was 10 a.m. in Paris, and she couldn’t fly there. Wear pretty dresses and perfume and whatever else makes you happy, she tells us. “We are all going through this,” she says. “When you feel joy in your life, it’s not so difficult. The more attention you give to joy, the less attention you give to the pandemic. I don’t think about it at all.” Phillips’ pandemic contribution is “Roses Are Red,” a moodboosting combo of rose-forward perfume and passionate red lipstick in collaboration with beauty maven Heather Fink of The Sexiest Beauty. “When you look better, you feel better, and when you feel better, you look better,” Phillips says. “The two work hand in glove.”

21 Personal Health

3 CONNECT WITH OTHERS We can’t hug all our special someones, but scent will bring us closer. The sense of smell is an extraordinarily powerful connector of memory and emotion.

you of them. Perhaps your grandmother, who resides in an assisted living center that isn’t allowing visitors, adores White Shoulders. Or maybe your brother, a first-responder in quarantine except for work, always smells woodsy.

“You can grow up in a place and leave, and 40 years later smell a scent, perhaps a food or a flower, that triggers your memory and takes you right back,” Phillips says, who has experienced the phenomenon in regard to her native South Africa.

“You can grow up in a place and leave, and 40 years later smell a scent, perhaps a food or a flower, that triggers your memory and takes you right back,”

Try this tip to deepen virtual connections: While talking via telephone or Zoom, or even while writing a letter, light a scented candle or spray a fragrance that reminds



“Fragrance is very much about how you feel and how it transports you and how it heals you,” Shalini says.

“Yes, it healed me through that time,” she says. “It transported me beyond my illness.”

The annals of aromatherapy have long upheld such therapies as lemongrass to relieve stress, and ginger to support digestive health. Shalini presents herself as a case study:

Loss of smell, or anosmia, is a critical diagnostic indicator for COVID-19. A majority of patients experience it to some degree. If you experience a sudden onset, call your health provider for medical advice. Fortunately, virus-related anosmia seems to be temporary. You can look forward to smelling the roses once again.

In February, she fell very ill. She first thought she was overworked, or maybe she had a bad flu. It turned out to be COVID-19. For three weeks, she could barely walk. She was unable to taste or smell. She didn’t go to a hospital, but she took aspirin and, perhaps instinctively, sprayed herself several times a day with her Paradis Provence perfume. The fragrance is designed to bring to mind the celebrated Provence region of southern France. Among its ingredients are lavender, known to ease headaches and induce sleep; neroli, or orange blossom, an anti-inflammatory; and thyme, used for respiratory congestion and sore throats.

We can’t hug all our special someones, but scent will bring us closer. The sense of smell is an extraordinarily powerful connector of memory and emotion.

Pamela Dittmer McKuen has places to go. She is a Chicago-based freelance features journalist who specializes in travel, home and fashion.

22 Travel & Wellness

By Charu Suri

By Charu Suri


ith the pandemic blues in full swing, and over 300 million people using Zoom to connect with users worldwide, the term “fashion” has taken an entirely new meaning. No one knows the power of a visual presence better than Jill Kirsh, who has been dubbed “the guru of hue.” Kirsh is frequently called upon by celebrities on the red carpet, Grammy-winning musicians, and companies for color coaching. She started her company, Jill Kirsh Color, to help find people’s best fashion and makeup colors that help their pictures truly pop.

23 Personal Health

“You have to work with your hair color to pull everything together so that everything is in sync

“I worked in the fashion industry because both my parents were in the business,” she said, of how she gravitated towards her mission. After working in retail, wholesale and many showrooms, she started to realize how powerful colors could be in helping project people’s best image. An idea for her system germinated as she realized your hair color frames your face and really matters. “You have to work with your hair color to pull everything together so that everything is in sync,” she says, of photographs, television appearances, and just the simple act of looking and feeling good. Several wellness studies have observed the impact on colors and mental health. The color green is more than just a shade: a study published in 2001 by the American Psychological Association showed the physical and mental restoration that people have experienced by painting their homes green, or simply introducing more plants and nature to their spaces. Research has also shown that wearing specific colors can change your mood and positively affect your stress levels and even your behavior. Kirsh started studying and organizing hues that suit each individual’s hair color, and experimented with that concept. The result is her JKC system that divides hair color into four specific palettes, from sexy grays, ash blonde hair to redheads. She studied television appearances and red carpet photos to figure out the fashion colors that truly flatter the color of people’s hair.

24 Personal Health The other side of this color spectrum would be those with golden brown, deep honey blonde, and red hair. Kirsh recommends colors like teal blue, light olive, avocado, mustard, rust, eggplant, and rich warm browns and a lot of Earth tones. “With this palette, instead of wearing a dead white, you’ll go towards a Champagne, warmer white,” she says. For warm blondes, like Anna Faris, a palette that has aqua, light green, lemony yellow, caramel, and ivory really do wonders. “Ivory is a little bit lighter than Champagne, but it’s not a dead white but more pearl-like,” says Kirsh.

There are a lot of colors in the fashion world, and shopping for precise shades can be hard; to make things easier, she made swatch books that people can take with them to stores to make shopping easier. Her line includes unique silk scarves that are hand painted with beautiful hues. “If someone has highlights, that’s no big deal, but right now, I’m dealing with a lot of women all over the world having reddish gray hair, and gray is a huge change from their color, which could be reddish brown hair,” she says. “If you change your hair color drastically, like going from a golden blonde hair to gray, I always say you should wear colors based on your present hair type.” For those with black, dark brown hair, salt and pepper and silver, she recommends royal blue, fuchsia, navy blue, charcoal gray, a true red, royal purple and white. “Everyone can wear white, but there are different shades of white,” she notes.

The advice paid off: numerous people worldwide have complimented her for changing their lives and transforming their appearance, aesthetic and personal happiness. Currently, Kirsh is featured as the Color Expert on the iPad App for the hit movie, Divergent, and can currently be seen in the awardwinning documentary, Gray Is The New Blonde.

Colors for Online Calls As the world moves online to Zoom calls, Kirsh says it’s important to try to stick to the color palettes because that makes a huge difference. “When you’re in sync with your hair color and fashion colors, the viewers are more interested or drawn to your message,” she notes. She remembers a client who was about to be interviewed on cable television, and whose colors made her look washed out; Kirsh recommended that she change her outfit hue and the difference was “staggering,” she says, compared to the previous outfit (she didn’t even change her client’s makeup). Kirsh also remembers a client who wore her perfect colors and felt that she

immediately looked 10 years younger. “With all of this Zoom stuff going on, what you’re wearing is as important as what your background is,” she says. She works with a lot of performers, and advises that even in an online age, it’s a good idea to look your best self because the art of dressing up also uplifts your mood while being relatively easy to achieve. Here are some of her tips to make you look –and feel- your best during these days when we are all online. Choose a background that enhances you, but don’t make the background too interesting; Kirsh hears a lot of people getting dressed in sweats. “It’s such an unusual time, so I’d never begin telling anyone that you should do this or that, but a little bit of TLC in choosing a flattering top or outfit can go a long way in buoying spirits”; Black keeps you neutral, and it’s a good choice if you’re undecided; Even a little lip color can help---just give it a try. “Colors can remind you of different things and can add some joy to your day,” she says. During this time when everyone is struggling to feel good, little things can make a big difference. So maybe, it’s time to dust off that eggplant jacket or wear that beautiful red beret you’ve been saving for a trip to Paris: wear it on a Zoom call instead and feel good about it!

Charu Suri is a freelance journalist and also the editor of Wellness Lounge®. She is also a pianist and composer.

25 Personal Health

Wellness & Me Parkinsons Disease and Me The new normal during COVID-19 has put a lot of weight on minorities.

26 Wellness & Me

The burden of caregiving — which 29% of adult Americans carry according to the National Alliance for Caregiving — can make self-care difficult.

By Alice Draper


y father was reluctant to get a brain scan.

“A waste of medical aid,” he said. Following a traumatic head accident in 2016, my dad became increasingly forgetful and experienced major behavioral changes. In 2018, the students he lectured at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa voiced multiple complaints that he wasn’t staying on topic during his classes. Eventually, after being persuaded by family members, he got magnetic resonance imaging (an MRI) and was diagnosed with major cognitive disorder. And that was not all: his psychiatrist said that he had generalized cerebral atrophy. We knew that this meant his brain damage would worsen. This year, a computerized tomography (CT) scan showed mini-strokes to his brain, symptoms of vascular dementia.

27 Wellness & Me At the time of my dad’s diagnosis, neither he nor the rest of the family expected him to develop dementia. We didn’t think that a year from his diagnosis, he’d lose the ability to manage his finances. And that in another year, his forgetfulness would become a danger to his health. I was under the impression that his condition was relatively stable. That with a little assistance — like

I worried about his safety living alone. On the day I planned to move in with my dad, I arrived to find a police van outside his house. He had spent the weekend in prison for accidentally shoplifting. No one in the family knew he was arrested three days earlier. Living with my dad meant moving to a fairly remote farming community. While my days were previously occupied with writing and editing work — I now have my dad regularly interrupting my work, social phone calls, and even online meetings to show me an old photograph or tell me a story.

help with managing his money — he could continue living alone. But increasingly often, my dad’s behavior raised concerns. He’d do things like phoning me to say his tv isn’t working. When I went to his house, I’d find that it was just turned off. In early June of this year, I arranged to move to the same property as my father. While my dad struggled with loneliness during the pandemic’s lockdown,

Understand Your Caregiving Role The burden of caregiving — which 29% of adult Americans carry according to the National Alliance for Caregiving — can make self-care difficult. I would describe myself as a patient person under normal circumstances. But a few weeks after taking on the role of caregiving, I found myself snapping at strangers or becoming enraged by minor traffic delays. To find out how to adjust to life as a caregiver and address this kind of behavior, I spoke to Leslie Sessley,

28 Travel & Wellness

The burden of caregiving — which 29% of adult Americans carry according to the National Alliance for Caregiving

a licensed therapist and social worker based in Decatur, GA, a city just outside of Atlanta. Sessley specializes in working with people who are taking on caregiving roles. She says that if left unchecked, symptoms like irritability and frustration can lead to depression, anxiety, or putting your loved one in a nursing home. “Caregiving doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” explains Sessley. “You’re dealing with the relationship with the individual and you’re dealing with your role shift as a caregiver.” For me, understanding that my role as a writer would shift since I don’t have a surplus of uninterrupted time was an important part of this process. Luckily, since my father is mostly independent but needs assistance with driving, companionship, and certain tasks, I am still able to prioritize my career. Caregiving can place a much bigger burden for people whose loved ones require more intensive care. Josie Ries, who lives in Michigan, is currently looking after her 94-yearold mother. “She walks gingerly with a walker but needs support. She has some dementia. She cannot wipe herself or clean herself at all. She eats by herself but cannot prepare food. She is forgetful and got up while I was out of the room for five minutes and fell and broke her pelvis,” Ries says. This is Ries’s fifth month looking after her mother full time. She moved her mother out of her assisted living facility in February after some residents became

infected with Covid-19. “Before the pandemic, I had a bit more time for selfcare, which included support groups. I also run to relieve stress, but the care of my mom (lifting) has caused me back issues! Now with my mom living here, I truly feel trapped,” Ries explains. “I find myself praying this ends soon, and then I feel guilty. I know my freedom will mean my mom is gone.”

Find Your Support System Adjusting to a caregiving role is difficult, and usually isolating. The extra struggles of the pandemic and social distancing guidelines have added to this. Sessley says that to avoid burnout — which Ries might be at risk of — it’s important that caregivers assess ways they can accommodate their own needs. One of the first things she recommends caregivers do is to look at their support system. “I give folks a ‘village chart’ which goes through, you know, your village. Do you have mentors? Do you have teachers? Who are your confidants? You’re going to need all of those people as you shift into this role,” she says. In my case, my mother visits occasionally which offers me some relief from caregiving. I also have a network of friends to reach out to for emotional support. For caregivers like Ries, whose loved ones are frailer, finding a sufficient support system can be harder. Right now, Ries has limited assistance from her adult children. However, she may need to hire professional caregivers to give her additional relief from the caregiving role.

Practicing Self-Care What does self-care look like as a caregiver during a pandemic? For me, it’s about taking time for myself. This includes walking every day, meaningfully connecting with a peer at least once every two days over the phone or a video call, being able to schedule in time to write, and reading. But Sessley points out that depending on the type of care your loved one needs, these sort of activities aren’t always possible. “Some people can’t leave their loved ones. And so, they do need to get support,” she says. I’ve also found in moments of frustration or confusion, explaining my situation on Facebook support groups for caregivers has helped me gain clarity on the situation. Sessley recommends online support groups in place of in-person group therapy during Covid-19. This includes things like an Alzheimer’s Support Group or arranging virtual meetings with other caregivers on sites like Memory Cafe.

Reset the Sails One of the hardest parts of self-care as a caregiver is adjusting a mindset. Sessley says that understanding that caregiving is a whole new lifestyle and shifting your expectation of yourself and what you can and can’t carry is crucial in preventing burnout and depression.

Alice Draper is a freelance journalist who writes about wellbeing, identity, pop culture, and social justice.

29 Personal Health


There are 200+ Black-owned restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and more in the Bay Area! Here are a few.

• • • • •

Anthony's Cookies Red Bay Coffee Claire's Crunch Cakes Brown Estate Vineyard Cupcakin’ Bake Shop

Brown Estate Vineyards

Red Bay Coffee

30 Wellness & Me

By Bridget Douglas

rontline workers tend to be thought of as nurses and doctors — it’s not often that the other employees in the hospital are thought of as frontline. You also have your environmental and food service workers, administrative workers, patient representatives, and social workers that are also frontline.


most materials used in the nursing units are supplied by the Materials department. Often I feel as though I’ve run a marathon, even for simple items. The department is a half office, half warehouse on the lower level of the hospital. We have a crew of workers that picks items from the warehouse and stocks the supply rooms in each intensive care unit.

With the rising number of COVID-19 cases, every hospital employee right now has their own unique set of stresses. I probably have the least known position within a hospital, and that is a ‘Materials Management/Central Supply Customer Care Technician.’ I think a lot of people are curious as to what it’s like to be on the frontlines and we’ve heard a lot from a nurse’s perspective, but not as much from a non-clinical employee point of view, so I’d like to offer a glimpse into my daily routine.

To the layperson, these are all areas where patients reside, and where clinical employees provide care for them. In my position, I answer calls mostly from nurses and doctors about specific supplies that they don’t have stocked in their supply rooms or have run out of and get those items to them promptly.

So, here’s what I do, really... If I were a character in M.A.S.H., I’d probably be Radar - the frantic assistant to the lieutenant. I deliver important instruments and supplies to doctors and nurses. I’m always ready for the next call of duty. In my department and position, all of the IV fluids, blood tubing, and

It can be stressful when we run out of an item or if it’s on backorder. A doctor may call in a panic wanting a certain product that is currently out of stock. I have to call one of our sister hospitals to have it shipped over as soon as possible because it can sometimes be a matter of life or death. Just last week, a special type of tubing used by the inpatient pharmacy was almost all out, so I had a case couriered over right away. Normally, requested items aren’t a problem. But during COVID, it’s a totally different ballgame.

31 Wellness & Me

Like a kid with ADHD, routine requests seemed to change daily ever since March when the pandemic went full force in the U.S. Much like the initial toilet paper shortage, PPE supplies have been and are still in a shortage. During pre-pandemic times, we used to stock supply rooms with masks and cleaning wipes: now, they are by request only. Nurses now request a large number of these PPE items, so we’ve had to put a cap on them, like only two to three canisters of cleaning wipes per day. A lot of these masks and face shields are donated, and we even supplied masks made in the hospital when the shortage was really bad at first. The material used to wrap up the metal boxes that carry the surgical instruments was utilized to make homemade masks. Employees from different departments were recruited to sew hundreds of these masks, which we called ‘steri wrap masks.’ But there are constant changes... Like a juggler trying to keep track of many balls in the air, I have to watch the PPE protocol that changes all the time. Just last week, all the health professionals who came in contact with a patient -- regardless if they have COVID or not -- had to wear face shields. Before that, only COVID unit nurses had to wear face shields. Until recently, every entrance of the hospital had temperature stations where employees had to have their temperature taken. If it was over 100, they had to be checked out. Now, every employee records his or her temperature within the department. Of course, patients and visitors are still screened for their temperature at the front and at ER entrances. Other notable changes include elective surgeries that the hospital stopped doing: this forced some layoffs and caused the hospital to lose millions of dollars. To

save money, all employees had to cut their hours for about two months and use their PTO to do so. My work week is four 10- hour workdays; for a while, I had to cut two hours off my workdays. Elective surgeries have been back up and running for a good while, but not at the capacity they were at pre-pandemic. I’ve chatted with several employees that have worked at the hospital for years that are worried about being laid off.

Like most people, I had my fears when this all started, but it’s lessened over time. But I think a lot of people are extremely burnt out. Recently, I overheard two ICU nurses talk about how depressed they were, that they wanted the pandemic to be over because they felt like they had nothing to look forward to. Also, the fact that we don’t know what’s going to happen this fall and winter if we are going to be hit even harder with the virus.

...And patchy routines My workday routine since this all started has been up and down. The first few months were the hardest with the conjunction of the news cycle and the chaos of the hospital. I’d be at work all day talking about and being around COVID, and then I’d come home and my partner would have CNN on, which was, of course, talking about the virus. I was all day, every day, immersed in COVID. We were getting daily email updates about the number of COVID patients in the hospital and the number of those tested pending results. Many days we’ve been slammed with PPE requests, especially during the height of it all when we had at least 40 COVID positives at all times. At that time, the units housing COVID patients seemed to change all the time. The orthopedic unit housed most of them,and then it was the surgical unit, followed by the new intensive care unit. Right now, we have about ten patients, a thankfully low number compared to what it was at its height; all patients are housed in the ICU and intermediate care unit. With the oncology unit closed, those patients are now housed in the respiratory unit, in case there is an influx of COVID patients to have those rooms available.

I don’t have the same fears that nurses and doctors have of coming into direct contact with COVID patients, but I too have my stresses. The advantage of working at a hospital is that I’m not as scared of the virus because I’m around it all the time. Before all this happened, I had been meditating for a few months, which turned out to help tremendously throughout all of this. It’s been quite the experience working on the frontlines during a pandemic. But there’s a silver lining. The silver lining is that it’s brought everyone together and made everyone respectful of all of the roles in the hospital. My department is more respected now because we provide precious protective supplies that shield against the virus. But on a positive note, I have learned that we’re all in this together, whether some people are on the frontlines or not. The important thing I’ve learned is to not let fear consume you: get out in nature, meditate, eat healthily — find ways to relax, and get your mind off of it. Life is full of struggles, but we find ways to get through them. I’m confident that this pandemic is one of those struggles that we will get through.

Bridget Douglas is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her interests include wellness, travel, and sustainability. Check out more of her work here: bridgetdouglas.com

32 Wellness & Me

Why was this happening?


was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. And these hallucinations, along with double vision, are side effects of a medication that I take for it. An adjustment to the dosage set things straight again. Some of the medications I’m on come with heavy side effects. I’m constantly aware of any changes in my vision, mind, and body. I report these to my neurologist as it usually means an alteration of one or all of my medications.

you will be active, exercise, and take medication. Right now, you’re undermedicated. We’re going to correct that.” Hearing this, I realized there was hope. I live alone and was picturing being confined to a wheelchair unable to care for myself, and having to depend on family and friends. I even thought far into the future where I might have to go live with one of my brothers or in a rehabilitation center or nursing home. My neurologist spent a lot of time with me, two hours on that visit, explaining

Over a span of two years, I was experiencing weakness in my hands and fingers to the point that I had difficulty holding silverware when eating. I also had tremors and involuntary movements of my extremities; it was hard to get in and out of bed and stand up from a seated position. On my prodding, my primary care physician did a battery of tests: CT Scans of my brain, head and neck, and blood work-ups.

All were negative. But my symptoms got progressively worse. When I brought up the possibility of Parkinson’s, my doctor was adamant that I was too young. I was 68 at the time. She claimed that Parkinson’s affected people that were older, late into their senior years. That’s when I mentioned Michael J. Fox and the young age at which he was diagnosed. She agreed to refer me to a neurologist in the Neurology Department and Movement Clinic at the Massachusetts General Hospital. On my first visit to my neurologist, after watching me walk to steady my gait and balance and complete some neurological testing, she said the words that I will never forget: “You have classic Parkinson’s Disease symptoms. You will not end up in a wheelchair;

Fran Folsom

how there was no definitive test for diagnosing Parkinson’s. It was based on symptoms and neurological responses to manual stimuli of a patient’s extremities. My symptoms were out of control because I had not been put on any medications. She went on to say because of the continuing research being done at the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Parkinson’s Foundation, nowadays, doctors have an abundance of medications with which to treat the disease. That’s a giant leap forward

from when it was discovered by a pharmacist, James Parkinson in 1817, who called it a ‘palsy of the body.’ I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about Parkinson’s. Research has shown that it’s a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by a decrease of dopamine, a neurotransmitter our bodies make, to our brains. Levodopa is a medication that changes into dopamine when it reaches the brain. It’s combined with another medication, Carbidopa, which stops the Levodopa from breaking down in the bloodstream so it can get to the brain. Think of Carbidopa as a bodyguard making sure the Levodopa does what it’s supposed to do. The two combined are the “gold” standard treatment for Parkinson’s. Research and medical statistics have shown that an active lifestyle and regular exercise; juggling aids to increase hand and eye coordination; dancing to improve agility;strength training with hand weights for toughening muscles; aqua aerobics for balance; and boxing for increasing footwork to prevent falls - all help to slow down the progression of it. I’ve joined a class that meets twice a week with a physical therapist who specializes in strength and balance enhancing exercises for Parkinson’s patients. And, I’m learning how to box. It hasn’t been easy; any kind of illness never is. When I was first diagnosed in November of 2019, I wanted to run away and hide somewhere that Parkinson’s couldn’t find me. It took me a long time to come to terms with and face the fact that I have this disease. I don’t have a crystal ball I can look into and see my future, although I do think about it. Right now, I’m taking things a day at a time and doing the best I can to get on with my life.

Fran Folsom lives in Cambridge Massachusetts with Stella, her very spoiled cat. She has written for the Boston Globe, USA Today Go Escape, Orbitz.com, AAA Go magazine, Art New England, Fiber Art Now, German Life and many other publications.

33 Personal Pers Pe r o on nal a Hea Health altth



34 Personal Health

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By Kirsten Schultz


t the end of 2019, my hockey friends and I were enjoying a robust season filled with activities. By mid-March of 2020, our entire season was cut down. My ability to physically visit with my chosen family had been stripped from me just as I had found it. As many transgender people do, I had a falling out with my family of origin several years ago. That fallout hit hard. Discovering my chosen family - my friends - has helped immensely. Our shared queerness really provides us a source of connection stronger than many of our familial ties. They’ve helped me through my divorce and the wildness that 2019 was. To be apart from them for so long has been difficult. While virtual calls are great, they’re really no match for that bonding feeling that being out on the ice together brings.

A Tough Year for the Community On top of the viral pandemic we’re already dealing with, this year has been a deadly one for transgender people. While anti-trans violence has been on the rise over the last several years, the US has already surpassed the 2019 murder rate as of July 2020. Unfortunately, the anti-trans sentiments couple with racism to put BIPOC transgender people, especially women, at most risk.

36 Wellness & Me

“...along with my fight against injustice, the boldest and most revolutionary thing I could do, each day, was to live fully. To unapologetically be myself, love myself, and show myself for all to see.” Andy Duran, a Blaxican living in Oakland, says, “As a queer/ trans person of color, seeing all the violence happening to my community by racist, transphobic cops and civilians alike, has kept the harsh reminder that we are hunted like prey.” With Black and Latinx communities being hit hardest by Covid-19 - and the heightened risk for trans folk - it can feel like nothing is getting any better. With all of the turmoil in the world happening, it can often feel like we’re unable to celebrate anything. We can’t share physical space with many people we care about. Our lives are at risk from multiple directions. Most of us are struggling financially. Amidst it all, the transgender community has to fight for basic rights like using public bathrooms that fit our identities or being addressed with respect. All of that activism, especially when we have to encounter harmful people, can lead to severe burnout. At the same time, it has led to both self-care, and community care. Like the show Pose reminds us, we cannot wait to experience joy or freedom. From violence and hate crimes to dysphoria and health issues, our lives are filled with more strife than those of our cisgender peers. During our lives, we fight as hard as we can for progress. If we waited to celebrate anything, we’d never experience joy.

The Importance of Celebration It turns out, though, that celebrating joy has other lasting effects. Celebration has been evaluated academically and found to bring positive results. During or shortly after moments of crisis, celebration has been shown to help build resilience, lower rates of depression, and improve our ability to thrive. Stress is unavoidable, to be sure but, through celebrating along the way, we can create positive coping methods. We know that positive emotions and activities like laughter lead to healthier bodyminds. They can improve cardiovascular health, lower disease progression, and help buffer our bodyminds from some of the effects of stress. In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rose Tico offers some valuable advice. She reminds Finn that we can’t always fight what we hate, but that we can fight to save what we love. I feel this is what Rose was touching on. Saving what we love isn’t just living to fight another day - it’s about keeping ourselves as healthy as possible right now. Joy gives us time to rest, recharge, and review how far we’ve come. During times where we may feel lesser and tired of the fight, it also provides us with the motivation to keep going. We have to find our joy and unapologetically celebrate it. Celebration, especially now, is in and of itself an act of resistance. It’s why entertainment and joy are often the first things squashed under oppressive regimes. adrienne maree brown writes in Pleasure Activism about the notion of “pleasure is a measure of freedom.” It’s why, for many of us, celebrating our sexual lives becomes important. Sexual activities are often impacted by things like stress, hormones, dysphoria, and control of our bodies by others. Why wouldn’t we celebrate it? With everything we know about the impact of celebration in our lives, what is there to celebrate during such tumultuous times for trans folks? Actually, a lot. As Thomas Wade McBee wrote for them in 2019, “If I pay attention, happiness because of and not despite my trans status is embedded into every aspect of my life.” Being trans means being self-made. While some buy into the notion of being born in the wrong body, others blame the gender binary for boxing us in. Either way, becoming who we know we are is a feat some aren’t able to do due to medical or safety concerns. Still, from finding a name and pronouns to undergoing surgeries,

37 Wellness & Me

there are numerous steps we take in our journey towards authenticity. These steps often relieve gender dysphoria, or the mismatching of our appearances with our perceptions of self. Unfortunately, this joy often brings sorrow. Many of us lose contact with parents, siblings, or others in our families due to their perceptions of transness. This both helps and hurts us, freeing us to be ourselves and reminding us that we’ll never be accepted by those we felt closest to. This also gives us the opportunity to grow our family of choice, a family built of the friends and loved ones we find along our journey. Much like my experience with my hockey family, we build long-lasting and integral bonds with people along similar journeys. To be trans is also to revel in dismantling oppressive systems. We don’t just focus on tearing down transmisia, but other anti-LGBQ+ sentiments, ableism, racism, and more. A great example of this is the way we approach the gender binary, or the notion that there are only two genders. Not only does science dispute a binary, we also know that binary is rooted in white supremacy. Before colonialism, many cultures had multiple genders in addition to accepting LGBTQ+ relationships and more. By working to dismantle the binary, we honor the LGBTQ+ folks who came before us while fighting for positive change. Andy has reached the same conclusion: “...along with my fight against injustice, the boldest and most revolutionary thing I could do, each day, was to live fully. To unapologetically be myself, love myself, and show myself for all to see.”


Thank you for asking what you can do to help me feel more comfortable! It really means a lot. USE THE NAME AND PRONOUNS I’VE ASKED YOU TO. I know it might take time to always refer to me the way I’ve asked. I promise, I don’t expect you to get it right all the time right away. What I want to see is the effort because it shows me you care. If you mess up with a name or pronoun, don’t panic! Just correct yourself. An involved apology comes off as my needs being a burden to you. STAND UP FOR ME! Whether we’re together or not, if someone in the family that knows my new name/pronouns messes up, gently correct them. If it feels like it’s being done out of hate, ask them to explain more. That will usually get someone to realize the harm, be quiet out of guilt or embarrassment, or out themselves as transphobic. SUPPORT ME! Despite the difficulties our relationship might have, I really care about you. Having you as a part of my life not only makes me happy - it makes me feel whole. I don’t want what we have to disappear, even if it changes. At the end of the day, I just want you to see me as who I am - not someone else.

Finding delight during a pandemic isn’t easy. Some of us find peace in our community. I was on a call with my hockey league, catching up and playing trivia this weekend. It was glorious. As for Andy, he’s “been reaching out to my seniors and disabled community more who have been restricted inside, knowing that they’ve seen harsh times and struggles before and persevered for us to see.” Connecting with our elders and contributing to their joy and wellbeing is paramount to the battles of tomorrow. We cannot be content to only celebrate each other in mourning. As Andy says, “We just all want the best for each other and want to give each other our roses while we’re still here to smell them.”

Kirsten Schultz is a health writer, sex educator, and transgender activist living in Wisconsin.

38 Personal Health

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39 Travel & Wellness

Self Care The Racial And Economic Divide Of Self-Care The new normal during COVID-19 has put a lot of weight on minorities.

40 Personal Health

By AjeĂŠ Buggam


Minorities are often taught to suppress their emotions at a young age because nobody values their cries and loss, and strength is looked at as keep fighting and making noise no matter how exhausting it is.

41 Personal Health

Self-Care Challenges During the Pandemic Three Black women spoke about the issues they had during the COVID lockdown, their thoughts on self-care and internal growth. Some of their responses were surprising.


OVID-19 deaths have been disproportionately high among the Black community in several places like New York, Chicago, and Louisiana. In Chicago, for instance, the Black community accounts for 30% of the population, but about 70% of COVID-19-related deaths. In Louisiana, Black people make up 32% of the population but 70% of the virusrelated mortalities. The words “self-care” have created a buzz during times of unprecedented stress, and it sounds like a laudable goal. It may be harder for some minorities to achieve this, however: they have issues with getting proper mental health or self-care because of divisive societal barriers, and have often resorted to ways of suppressing their pain instead of addressing it. Psychologist Meghan Marcum notes, “Research has shown people of color often endure more stress than white counterparts.” Along with financial disparities, microaggressions, and other factors, chronic stress can be a trigger for many health-related issues. Marcum says that chronic stress can lead to insomnia, obesity, diabetes, and mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Systemic racism has led to multigenerational feelings of anger, frustration, and despair. Trauma, anxiety, and feelings of insecurity are often experienced much more frequently by people of color, and these symptoms are often a direct result of ongoing experiences of racial disparity, says Marcum. Minorities are often taught to suppress their emotions at a young age because nobody values their cries and loss, and strength is looked at as keep fighting and making noise no matter how exhausting it is. Many minorities feel that even though they want self-growth, it is difficult to tend to internal growth and self-care when you have society against you. Also, there’s a lack of resources on how to get help due to a lack of knowledge about mental health or financial disparities.

Shannine Huggins, a fashion designer in New York City, was surprisingly positive about certain aspects. “COVID has actually done more to improve my mental health and internal growth than any other point in my life, because I had no other option but to sit with my thoughts and really figure myself out. So I would have to say I do not have an issue living in this COVID season when it comes to internal growth– if anything, it has helped me.” A few others have voiced how the quiet time during COVID has given them the chance to be introspective –but these are outliers. Some are struggling with little balance to do other things in life because they're afraid of losing financial stability, and don’t have the time for self-care. Nyleah Ford, a technical designer in New York City, said, “My workload has increased during COVID due to many layoffs at my job. I am working longer hours at my full-time job, which is often very draining and leaves me with little energy to tend to myself. When I have freelance work in addition to my full-time job, I absolutely have no time to care for myself.” For all of the women, being financially secure doesn’t mean they were doing well economically, despite unemployment benefits. Huggins noted that trying to move in a pandemic with little to no job prospects, and seeing that despite the pandemic realities, the rent isn't really coming down anywhere in New York, and the loss of her health benefits make her a little paranoid, pushing her into the realm of uncertainty. Many minority individuals often do not have access to generational wealth, and are unable to rely on their parents or go back to their homes. This creates additional pressure. Huggins said, “As soon as I lost my health insurance, my allergies attacked me, which made me extremely anxious if I needed medicine. Now I was starting to question just how much I was willing to pay for my health, which affected my self-care because I was questioning, ultimately, the quality of my life vs. the quantity of money in my account."

42 Self Care

The new normal during COVID-19 has put a lot of weight on minorities. Dominique Panton, another fashion designer in New York City, noted how the struggles have left her exhausted, but that she makes time for personal care. “In today’s growing social climate, I think there are countless barriers. For me, being a dark skin black woman in America is a barrier within itself. I am a part of two of the most unprotected groups. Black women face a multifaceted experience with racism, dealing with intersectionality, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, highlighting black women facing oppression based on gender and race. So they deal with layers of misogyny and racism every day of their lives. I walk into a room, and I am black first, and then I am a woman, and that’s a steep hill to have to climb up while living in a country that does not go out of its way to protect us. I also face colorism, and that in itself is a hardship I rather not have to deal with. Overall, these barriers have me exhausted, and have to double up on self-care some days to smile on my face. It’s hard, but I think practicing more patience with myself is helping so far.” Huggins noted that self-care has become harder. “It’s been 400 years of oppression from slavery, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, and systemic racism continues to marginalize the black community. This will not be a day-trip-to-the-spa-type of fixing, but an internal soul searching one. There is no band-aid for fixing institutionalized racism; a day trip to the spa won’t fix it.”


Surround yourself with a support system In terms of improving your self-care routine, psychologist Meghan Marcum mentions, “surround yourself with a solid support system. Give yourself selfcompassion; it can be easy to internalize our experiences, and many times we neglect our own feelings.”

Acknowledge your feelings In the face of negative encounters, remember that your feelings are valid. You have a right to feel angry, hurt, or sad. Acknowledging those feelings as valid is an important first step toward self-compassion. Oftentimes we invalidate our experience by telling ourselves not to feel upset or to just push it aside and move on. This type of response prevents us from processing the event, and in turn, it stays with us. Selfcompassion and experiencing feelings as they come can be a helpful step in dealing with stressful experiences.”

WAYS TO GET CARE DESPITE FINANCIAL HURDLES However, due to financial disparities that are more prevalent among minorities, therapy may not always be accessible, and there are still ways you can tend to your self-care. You can take a break from social media, the news, protesting, and take time to journal more about how you’re feeling instead of feeling the need to suppress your emotions. Sometimes, you have to create boundaries to succeed through a system that doesn’t want you to succeed. We can all help each other by checking in more to see how we're doing to make vulnerability more common. We can also normalize joining support groups to help process what we’re going through. It’s a very uncomfortable reality, but the silver lining is that there are people out there going through the same issues, and online communities are growing. Just realizing that you’re not alone in your quest for peace and good health can go a long way in alleviating some stress.

Seek professional help when you need it Lastly, Dr.Marcum mentions seeking professional help when needed. “Therapists can help in times of stress and uncertainty. If you think you may benefit from talking to a professional, ask your primary care physician or managed care company for a referral. You can also find resources in your community by searching for community mental health services near you. Don't hesitate to explore the options available to you and choose a therapist you feel comfortable talking about your experiences, including racism.”

Ajeé Buggam is a content writer and fashion designer from New York City and an alumna from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She specializes in writing about race, social injustice, feminism, entrepreneurship, and mental wellness.

43 4 3 Personal H Health ealt ea lth


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