It's been roughly a year since we moved from Vienna to a picturesque village in one of Tyrol's many valleys. I am not a village-compatible person, I'm afraid. One year in, I have failed to start conversations with the folk, which I tell myself is because of corona - but I know the truth deep within. It's because it's almost impossible to "get in" to a Tyrolean village.
There are some bespoke customs, days, even daytimes you only understand when you've been "indoctrinated" with the folks' customs from very early on. Ways to speak, how to greet, whom to avoid, when to greet - every little piece of code the villagers are intrinsically aware of is a mountainous task to master for everyone looking in from the outside. Unspoken rules, rituals and customs rattle your everyday life, as you fail to grasp why the marching band is playing now at five am in front of your window. Why the children don their finest clothes, or who has mowed their lawn on a Sunday.
I don't mean to be condescending or disrespectful - it's just like being thrown in a jungle without knowing the rules, without knowing how things are done. And with a very little radius for gossip to travel, you know your fail to grasp the village concept may be living room gossip in a day or two.
I believe it's fair to say that the coronavirus hardly left anyone untouched. Whether it impacted you directly because you suffered from the disease or Long Covid, or even lost someone to the deadly virus; whether you've lost your job, your company closed, or you simply couldn't go to work for a few months, like my dad, for example. The impacts of the pandemic were global and, in many instances, harsh. Isolation, financial insecurity, health issues, resulting mental issues, and so on and so forth...it was surely not an easy time for most of us.
And yet...I also want to look at the positive impacts the pandemic had on my life. This is a personal account and I don't mean to diminish the suffering others have experienced. It just occurred to me and my husband that, ultimately, we both benefitted more from the pandemic than we suffered.
I am quite a restless person. It's difficult for me for things to stand still, my mind to quieten and to stay at home. Before I got pregnant and the pandemic hit, I used to be in a constant flutter, nervous to be still for too long, not wanting to deal with my issues, joy-threatening thoughts and future prospects. After finding out I was pregnant, a part of me worried about not being able to find calm and quieten my mind for the pregnancy and once the baby was here. I didn't want to be a mum who dragged her child everywhere because she couldn't be alone with her thoughts.
In the course of my pregnancy, I did lots of things to quieten my mind - meditation, visualisation, breathing techniques, the works. However, what ultimately helped me was the enforced lockdown in March 2020 when the whole world, it seemed, came to a standstill. There were no aeroplanes, no cars, the village to which we'd just moved had become quiet - the only soundtrack composed by twittering birds, some ambling villagers and the odd tractor in the distance. Apart from the obvious benefits for the environment, this new setting was also incredibly healing for my own mind. There was no possibility of distraction - no bars, cafes, cinemas, shops, not even family gatherings. Everything was still.
It was during this time that I first managed to quieten my mind. That the hectic little people in my head stopped dancing for once and I embraced being home. It is something I have returned to struggle with, but now that I know what it feels like, it is a place to return, not to find.
Another factor in which the pandemic played into my hands was my choice of therapist. Shortly before I found out I was pregnant, I chose to see a psychotherapist. I was in a very low point in my life and didn't know how to be happy anymore. However, I started therapy in Vienna, and a few weeks after we decided to move to Tirol, in the west of Austria. Had it not been for the pandemic, I would have had to choose a different therapist, as therapists are usually not allowed to do online sessions. This may sound trivial, but for me the change of therapist would have meant starting from step one again. The almost two years of therapy have helped me incredibly to overcome some of my issues - or at least to name them so I can work on them. I am grateful that I could end the journey with the same therapist I started it with.
When Lily was born, life was almost back to normal. It was August, everything was open - and yet, there were strict Covid procedures at the hospitals. Regardless the severity of the situation, I have always criticised hospitals not letting husbands join the birth of their baby. I think it's cruel for both parents. As a birthing mother, you need support - from your husband or any other person you choose to take with you. As a father, you have the right to be present when your baby is born - pandemic yes or no.
Thankfully, Jakob was allowed to attend the birth and could stay far longer than the allocated visiting hours; however, he was the only one allowed to visit. While I can understand that it was hard for my family to not see Lily in the first days, I cannot deny that it was a precious time, just the three of us in the hospital. Giving birth is quite overwhelming for most mothers, I assume (it certainly was for me), and the calm after the storm is a far more precious concept than I feel most consider.
Lily's first six months were more or less spent in lockdown. I couldn't drag her to any classes or many outings, for which I am grateful. I know it sounds selfish to be thankful for a pandemic imposing on me the calm to stay at home with my little baby, but that's just how it was for me. My restless self, once more, could find the calm I probably wouldn't have mustered so well in normal times. Jakob, again, was working lots from home during Lily's first six months, which was great for the bond between them. Also, I had much more help with cooking, laundry and the general workings of the household.
Finally, now that everything opens up again. I am grateful that I can appreciate the crowds and happenings much more. I feel I am in a better place to show Lily the wonders of the world because, due to the lockdowns, they are somewhat marvellous to me too again.
With people reeling over data security issues left, right and centre (are you annoyed with people using Signal, too?), it is worth reconsidering your data privacy settings and how you can protect your personal data better. Especially as a blogger and keen social medialist (is it a word??), I sometimes want to share a little on such topics; however, I had to learn these things the hard way, too, and am no expert. So, I am happy to share a guest post from TurnOnVPN here in which you find succinct and helpful tips to get your privacy data secured.
Whether an individual everyday user or an enterprise, data security, and privacy should be important to you.
With every passing day comes some tech to reduce the level of privacy that we enjoy on the internet. It could be browser fingerprinting, IP address tracking, intelligent cookie tracking, hacker attempts, or something else. Now is a good time to learn how to take control back into your own hands.
Know Phishing Signs
Phishing attacks are the most successful social hacks because of how they leverage user trust to work.
Whenever you get a message, email or call from a supposed company that you are affiliated with, beware of giving out sensitive information. Instead, go to their official websites/pages and initiate a customer service request to know if they truly reached out. Avoid clicking on links in emails too. Instead, type the official company address in your web browser by yourself.
Speaking of web browsers…
In my lactation group the main topic, apart from bleeding nipples, is sleep. Every parent, it seems, struggles to get their offspring to fall asleep gently; napping terrorises the better half of the day, and we all know about the sleepless nights.
Why write this post here and not on the mummy page? you might ask. When you have a baby, sleep, invariably, becomes a topic, but I feel it is a massive issue with most people - children or not. And if we know that sleep is not only a topic for the smallest among us, is it possible that we, as parents, make it an issue, rather than it actually being one?
I have a book about sleeping and babies in which it says that tribal African women were asked what "bed routine" they have with their children. They were puzzled by the question and simply said, "they sleep when they are tired." As a society we seem constantly tired. Everyone is tired, all the time. It seems none of us get any sleep - children or not - measured from the level of tiredness around. I also hear "I really should go to bed earlier more often" from many, many people - so what's keeping us?
There is no doubt that the coronavirus did not have massively positive impact on the lives of most people - even though I did also experience some positive effects from the pandemic. However, one globally positive impact was definitely how people behaved during this winter season and how little the flu (remember the good old flu) played a role this season. Maybe, just maybe, we've learnt how to keep the curve low on other viral diseases as well and learn for the future - but more on that on the guest post by Patriot Medical Devices.
Face Masks and Their Value During Flu Season
We know the deal with masks and COVID-19, but what role do they play in the midst of flu season? As COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly, masks are vital in slowing transmission rates. However, they don’t just protect against COVID-19: they are effective in reducing the transmission rates of many respiratory illnesses. The flu, like many respiratory illnesses, is spread through infectious respiratory droplets. Masks prevent those droplets from being exchanged between persons.
Research tells us that those infected with the flu are usually infectious one day before showing symptoms and around five to seven days after they start to exhibit symptomatology. In healthcare settings, surgical masks are used as protective measures between infectious individuals and staff. During the cold and flu season, pre-COVID, some clinics may have even asked symptomatic individuals to wear a mask in their waiting room. Prior to COVID-19, there were many reasons you did not see people wearing masks in the community. As the flu is not a new illness, we have many more medical interventions to prevent complications. However, as mentioned, masks are important in protecting against a variety of respiratory illnesses. Data this year shows that the use of masks and social distancing has had a large impact on the rates of the flu. The CDC reports a historical low of positive flu results, and the United States experienced a 98% decrease in influenza activity when compared to 2019. In part this decrease could be attributed to a decrease in individuals being tested for the flu, but it may also be attributed to the use of masks and social distancing.
When the world begins to move forward from the pandemic, masks will still play a vital role and can be utilized in both the community and healthcare settings.
Transmission Based Precautions.
Modes of transmission of virus causing COVID-19: implications for IPC precaution recommendations.
This article originally appeared on Patriot Medical Devices
I've always hated January. The drab weather, the biting cold and the Christmas cheer over. I used to cling to my Christmas tree until February when it was more of a dry stump than a festive decorative item and spent the month wailing for the month to be over.
Part of why I always hated January was also school-related. In secondary school January is the month where Christmas-hungover teachers squeeze in the last tests before the term ends; and in university it is the month in which all exams take place - as if the month wasn't depressing enough. Coupled with fog weighing down, darkness wrapping up the land and a bitter-cold chill cascading through the streets, it was the perfect recipe for a deep-seated depressive episode.
Even after I graduated from school and uni, the month never managed to fully pick up and be anything else than the most depressive time of the year, but this year I have a plan to make it less daunting and more enjoyable - yes, you read correctly, I am attempting to bring light into the darkest of the month, and do you know how I will attempt to do it? By embracing the darkness and not moaning about it.
Do you already have a face mask for every occasion? One for Christmas, one for date-night, the little black one? Quite unbelievingly (and involuntarily), face masks have become THE fashion accessory of 2020 and will most likely remain an integral part of our lives for the next year at least. But is there actually a difference in quality between cloth masks and disposable masks? Patriot Medical Devices have the answers for us in the guest post below.
COVID-19 left us in need of masks on a scale like never before. Cloth face coverings were the creative and economic solution for many. Being washable and reusable, they allow community members a cheap and convenient way to mask up. Let’s face it, they’re much more fashionable too! So, how do these cloth masks compare to others?
In theory, any mask worn correctly is better than no mask. In covering the mouth and the nose it prevents, to some extent, the exchange of respiratory droplets. However, the level of prevention largely depends on the type of mask. It is important to first differentiate between a non-surgical face mask and a surgical mask. Surgical masks are tested to meet certain standards and approved for clinical use. A cloth-mask would classify as a non-surgical face mask. While there is no testable standard for them, the CDC still recommends cloth masks as a mode of infection prevention in the community setting. The historical use of cloth masks and prior research shows that cloth masks are still effective in reducing infection rates.
While surgical masks are overall more effective, and are considered the gold standard by the CDC, the benefits of cloth face masks should not be overlooked. In reality, most of us are not actually using our disposable masks just once. We’re throwing them back into our purses and pockets, and then fishing them out the next time we need them. This is where cloth masks have their time to shine. We can throw the dirty one we just wore in the laundry to disinfect it, and then pick up a clean one for next time. It is important to note that not all cloth masks are created equal. If you are using a cloth mask, consider the fabric, number of layers, and fit. The most effective cloth mask will have a fabric with a tight weave, multiple layers, and one that cups tightly around the face. This will most securely block your respiratory droplets from contaminating other individuals and surfaces.
If you are opting for a disposable mask, be sure to check whether it is a surgical mask or a non-surgical face mask. Surgical masks will offer the most protection, both for yourself and others. Surgical masks are tested by The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). They are tested for bacterial filtration, particle filtration, synthetic blood splatter, flammability, and breathability. Surgical masks are sorted into three levels, ATSM 3 offering the highest degree of protection. If you’re looking for a quality, comfortable mask, Patriot Medical Devices makes ATSM 3 surgical masks that offer the highest level of protection against particles and fluids!
For my English and American readers, this post may be a little bewildering, but I've been recently asked various times why I put up my Christmas tree so early (mid-December) and here's why.
In Austria, can you believe it, it is customary to only decorate the tree on the 24th of December, maybe the 23rd. I have never quite understood why, as the day of Christmas Eve is stressful enough without having to trim the tree, right?
When I first had my own Christmas tree in our first flat, I put it up two weeks prior to Christmas, and I've done so ever since. I know that in America and the UK, it is pretty much normal to put up the tree so early, and I can only advocate it, so why do I do it the British-American way and not adapt to the Austrian way?
I am a sucker for Christmas, like my mother. For me there is nothing more wonderful than the festive season and I cannot get enough Falalalala in the running up to Christmas. I love it all. Christmas music, punch, choosing presents for everyone, wrapping, baking cookies, putting up fairy lights, choosing a tree - it is an immense joy for me and our entire family.
The Christmas tree symbolises this festive cheer perfectly, in my opinion, as it twinkles with lights, shows off my most precious baubles and emanates that Christmassy forest smell I love so much. So why not make the most of it?
As much as I love Christmas, I love pre-Christmas even more. The run-up to the holiday, the time of cocoa, snuggling up, lighting the advent wreath, opening the calendar, enjoying looking at the tree while watching Christmas movies. It's truly the most wonderful time of the year. A Christmas tree makes every living room cosier - in fact, I chose to put up THREE Christmas trees this year, one in the kitchen, the balcony and the living room - so I bring in this Christmassy warmth as early as a real-life tree allows (and I absolutely hate fake trees, I mean, what's the point).
So while most Austrians can only admire their trees from the 24th December to the 6th January, I can relish the Christmas season already, and my heart warms every time I look at the twinkling tree, hailing Christmas.
We survived the coronavirus, thank God! A few weeks back my sister was tested positive after they had an outbreak at her work and everyone in my family (except for my Mum, the medical wonder), caught it. Even our four-month-old daughter, Lily.
Thankfully, we all only had mild cases, actually like a mild cold. Lily had a high temperature for one day and threw up a few times, but that was it. To be honest, I've had colds that were worse than that, but the mental impact of the two weeks were indescribable for me.
I never really feared the coronavirus. I took it seriously and am an advocate for the measures taken to prevent it from spreading; but it never really touched my life personally and I didn't expect it to be a big deal for me.
Until it suddenly was very personal. I had actual panic attacks, being completely catatonic that I or Lily might die, up to the point where I was convinced that would actually happen. Even after she was brought to the children's hospital to have her checked through (just as a precaution), I was convinced she would have to die - or I would and leave her alone.
Inching towards thirty, I have noticed that my body and, particularly, my skin do not forgive as readily as ten years ago.
While aging may not be the most pleasant experience, the memories, experiences, and life lessons we learn along the way are invaluable. But what if someone told you there are ways to stop, or at least limit, the symptoms of aging. With help from specific vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, we can help rewind our body’s biological clock by replenishing valuable nutrients that we lose with age. That being said, aging is inevitable, and symptoms are almost impossible to avoid altogether. If anything, utilizing this collection of nutrients can help improve quality of life and raise bodily optimization.
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