Pandemic Survival Kit: My Top Podcasts, Books, and YouTube Videos.
Resources that have helped me navigate the pandemic.
One of the things I get most excited about are recommendations. Email me a recipe or suggest a podcast I might like, and watch me light up.
They are big beautiful gifts in tiny digital spaces.
Before the pandemic, Saturday and Sunday mornings were a sacred time. I would listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and play Youtube videos for hours. I did the weekend clean, laundry and cooking routine with a carousel of audio content. This helped me unwind and recharge for the week ahead.
I learned something new from each piece of content. My soul was awakened by some, and my heart was broken or put back together by others. There is a wonderful balance between escape and presence when listening to audio content. I welcomed both.
This past year I needed even more of this sacred time in my day to day.
I picked up the habit of going to bed very early during the strict quarantine in Madrid. When what was called “lockdown” or “confinement” began, people couldn’t leave wherever they called home. By law, enforced with heavy fines, everyone was indoors unless they were essential workers with documented permission in case they were stopped by the police.
At home in my little studio, in the absence of restaurants and tapas bars, the 10 PM Spanish dinners also became absent from my evening routine. Without the temptations of living in a thriving European capital city, FOMO faded, and I could sleep early. This made it possible to give my weekday mornings a weekend glow up.
Sleep was a pandemic survival skill. It helped shut out the chaos outside and improve overall well being. It was a welcome solution to the uncertainties each day presented.
Those early bedtimes allowed that I was waking up with less effort several hours before the workday started. I enjoyed big healthy breakfasts, a good stretch, positive media binge, and meditation.
The resources I’m sharing below are a big part of my wellness journey.
For me it was necessary to dedicate almost all my free time to self care. I was able to draw much needed wisdom, support and hope from the content below.
I hope you might find some of the same in some of what has greatly helped me through the last year.
Podcasts that have helped me feel supported, hopeful and stay informed.
Daily Breath with Deepak Chopra
If I could recommend just one podcast for being the most impactful and convenient, it would be this one.
This podcast was an everyday jumpstart for my workdays.
Each episode is only 5–10 minutes long, and come with brief insights to help feel grounded, connected, and purposeful for the day ahead.
This year has stirred up a lot of intense emotions.
Breathing is a major source of relief for anxiety. It doesn’t need to solve the problems of life to be effective. I’ve found that conscious breath and positive feedback (this podcast serves it up in spades) help foster a sense of well being when everything seems to be falling apart.
We have all had our secondhand stress, from people and circumstances outside of our control.
We have enough on our pandemic plates, but our response to stress doesn’t have to be stressful. I found that this podcast helped me focus more easily on what was right in front of me. I was not letting the other noise in as much.
Depending on your spiritual sensibilities, this may sound like mumbo jumbo, but trust me. If you listen to just one episode, it will be the most important and effortless 10–15 minutes, setting you up for come what may.
My top picks
The Dr.’s Pharmacy with Dr. Mark Hyman
Only a few episodes into this podcast I realized it was already part of my Kindle library. I had bought and read one his many books, The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First, having first heard of him on the Goop Podcast.
Dr. Hyman is a leader in Functional Medicine, using food as medicine to help heal chronic illness. I reread the book this year (he has written several which I plan to read as well) and I try not miss an episode of his podcast.
This is a doctor who truly wants to help people heal and to be informed and empowered in the management of their health.
He is consistently sharing new research and breaking down complex science into digestible content.
The most interesting episode for me this year was related to a treatment called Ozone. Ozone is a natural gas made of three oxygen atoms that when administered into the body, help build its natural immune defenses. It can fight viruses, bacteria and basically clean house when it comes to disease.
Never heard of it? Me neither. That’s precisely what makes this podcast so great!
He speaks with a doctor currently researching the effects of Ozone Therapy for Covid patients in Italy. The reduction of inflammation in the body that results from Ozone in the bloodstream, helps heal chronic illness. Inflammation can be a post viral monster. One that lurks it’s ugly head in many insidious forms, manifesting into pain, hair loss, depression, and poor quality of life for those who have had Covid-19.
I really recommend the Ozone Therapy episode to anyone struggling with any type of chronic illness.
For me it shed hope around strengthening the immune system and learning about an innovative treatment and the ongoing research around it to help fight inflammation.
My Top Picks
Super Soul with Oprah Winfrey
This podcast is reserved for Sundays, when a new episode is released each week. I want to listen to these right away. This is the touch the soul, make you cry, learn new things all in one podcast.
This is my church. Every single episode resonates with me.
Some episodes are interviews with authors, actors, and other notable people, while some may be Oprah sharing her wisdom or stories from past episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show, my childhood after school obsession.
There is bountiful spiritual wisdom, illuminating the purpose of our life struggles, and transgressing any denominational leaning.
My Top Picks
Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik
This host has an authentic and charged energy that injects promise in the attainability of personal growth. Jim Kwik is an inspiring brain coach and author, sharing bite sized brain hacks for busy people like you who want to learn faster and achieve more, as the intro to each episode highlights.
No more than 20 minutes long, each episode offers a variety of self improvement hacks and techniques to improve brain performance.
The host suffered from a brain injury as a child. He has defied the odds to not only overcome brain damage, but become a coach for optimal brain performance. He is the author of the book, Limitless : Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life. The title of his book is a pretty great summary of the podcast as well.
His enthusiasm and curiosity make for amazing interviews, jazzing up the mundane tasks of the day.
My Top Picks
The goop Podcast with Gwenyth Paltrow and Elise Loehnen
I am tempted to just post the intro to the podcast where the famous host and Oscar winner perfectly describes what the podcast is about. It’s a long and beautiful list of words like “healers” “thought leaders” and “seekers”. Instead I will say that it consists of a great series of interviews and insights across varying topics.
The show does not shy away from the woo woo of the world, and that’s exactly what I love about it.
One episode may address social issues with a leading Harvard trained leader. Another episode introduces an author that one hour later has you swiping through the Kindle store to download their book. Next, a renowned scientist shares break through research, and later, an intuitive discusses how to connect with your inner psychic.
There is something for everyone.
It’s the curiosity and the intention of “starting conversations” that attracts me. The podcast doesn’t at any point claim that the topics are gospel, but presents a dialogue around the ideas instead.
The interview questions are thoughtful and play out naturally as a conversation without missing any important pieces.
I’ve also always been such a big fan of Gwenyth’s movies, fashion, goopiness growing up. I am fully on board with the Goop universe of wellness and her present day Gwenyth power as an entrepreneur.
My Top Picks
Books I actually read and absorbed.
I read each of these books during the summer after restrictions were loosened, where I found myself at the beach under the healing rays of the Costa del Sol in June. I was far too busy to sit down with a book in hand during that period. I was focused on recovery, long work hours, chores: the survival basics.
During confinement I had kept a routine that required digital content only.
I will never forget the feeling of sitting on those white sandy beaches. I would stare straight ahead at the ocean, not a mask in sight for the first time in months. Holding a book in my hand that offered hope, escape, understanding, those doses of magic that books deliver to us, felt like success.
Hope you can dream up a delicious location to soak up the healing powers of a good book. Here are a few I recommend that were fully inspired by the chaos of 2020.
Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
This book changed my life. Anyone present in my life at that point in time, will know I mean it!
The writer is a journalist, thus writing with a natural intense curiosity about the one thing we all must do our whole lives, breathe.
He highlights the history and curious impact breathing has on our health and quality of life, in addition to techniques and historical facts on the respiratory system. As someone struggling with post Covid syndrome, not being able to breathe properly was the most terrifying of my symptoms.
This book gave me hope and tangible solutions towards wellness.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
The Black Lives Matter movement in the US was one I was not present for on American soil. Despite a huge turnout for the BLM march I attended in Madrid, shouting platitudes didn’t feel like enough. Because it in fact isn’t enough, and neither is reading a few books, but it’s a start!
This book spoke to me as an immigrant living abroad, as a first generation American, an Iranian born woman, and an American witness to the dark side of the African American experience.
It was interesting to examine each lense of my own identity and life experience through the stories in this book. It is a deeply moving and important work that will resonate with anyone in the world, calling out their own racial and societal biases.
“Radical empathy, on the other hand, means putting in the work to educate oneself and to listen with a humble heart to understand another’s experience from their perspective, not as we imagine we would feel.”
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl
A very short read and a powerful reminder on what is important in life. There is so much suffering, isolation, and cruelty in the stories of this book. It makes being able to go to the kitchen and make a cup of tea feels like a miracle.
Packed with the punches of truth that come from living in a nightmarish circumstance.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
There was no better time to embrace a story about extreme suffering. If we weren’t already experiencing it directly during the early stages of the pandemic, then we were anxious about it, vulnerable to it, and expecting it to engulf at least one area of our lives. To connect with the words of someone who has been a survivor of a concentration camp, offers insight into the complexities of suffering and human resilience. It lets the reader understand their own reactions to extreme situations, offering positive methods to survive horrific circumstances. It helps us understand what it meant for many to survive, and what helped them push forward.
The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
I have had this book for years, and it is not only a spiritual page turner, but a go to pick me up. I can open it to a random page, absorb a few hearty paragraphs and feel satisfied.
There are exceptional truths in each chapter. For anyone on a wellness journey, it offers the type of actionable spirituality that not only benefits you, but those around you.
When a problem is disturbing you, don’t ask, “What should I do about it?” Ask, “What part of me is being disturbed by this?
You’re floating in empty space in a universe that goes on forever. If you have to be here, at least be happy and enjoy the experience.
For me it helps tremendously to look at difficulties through the lense of spirituality. As someone who was raised without any faith, books like this one provide a modern roadmap. It’s a book I can connect to based on my personal life experiences, rather than getting lost in the specifics of major religions I was not exposed to on a deep level. Mainly, it’s a reminder that we are all here to learn and grow, and that suffering is not an invention of our time.
Youtube: a foray into topics and channels.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Videos
This foray was inspired by James Nestor’s book mentioned above, and my quest to resolve breathing difficulties and chest pain.
I definitely do not breathe correctly! As I have learned, it is a pretty important thing.
There is no shame in admitting you are not doing one of life’s most natural and essential physical processes. At least that’s what I told myself.
I decided to practice breathing techniques 2–3 times a week in addition to meditation and yoga.
I realized that I hadn’t been taking conscious breathing from those practices with me throughout the day. I had slipped back into old habits, and needed to make a greater effort.
The goal was to move away from chest breathing, where I was experiencing a lot of pain, and train my respiratory system to automatically breathe from my diaphragm.
My favorite video to practice with is a Youtuber who teaches singing, called the Singing Sensei.
My Top Picks
Ever heard of Fascia?
Me neither. This was an entirely new concept to me. Over a cup of coffee, a friend of mine explained why she sees an Osteopath. Also a new concept. She delved into her experience with Myofascial work.
Just a day after the fascia intro at the cafe, I saw a Functional Medicine Doctor discussing this connective body tissue in an IGTV post.
It was a fated discovery for my wellness journey.
I had been aware of this mysterious spider web from anatomy images only. No one ever bothered to explain how it functions and why it’s there. Nor did I inquire.
Thanks to the internet and a visit to the osteopath my friend recommended, I had another Youtube education to explore.
I learned that there are really subtle movements and exercises that can relieve stress through what is called fascial release. You don’t have to go to an Osteopath to get results. Though I do wish there was more content on Youtube, I have been able to incorporate some of the exercises in my daily routine.
My Top Pick
Jay Shetty and Radhi Devlukia Shetty
This married couple are goals. Their content is engaging, informative, playful, and original, which can be a stretch within the wellness space these days.
I first heard about Jay Shetty’s book, Think Like a Monk, on one of the podcasts mentioned above. Both he and his wife, Radhi, share practical advice on living a more fulfilling life.
Jay Shetty has said that his goal is to make wisdom go viral.
He has definitely captured my attention. Having lived as a monk for years, his credibility is unmatched. You’ll see candid interviews, tutorials, motivational talks, and a variety of content on various other channels that is always uplifting.
I love the modern spiritual of their lifestyle and a commitment to empowerment and self improvement.
My Top Picks
This is a guru of the very traditional sense of the word, long beard and turban, well of wisdom. I find myself feeling connected to a lot of his advice and challenged to apply what I can to my life. He shares incredibly simple explanations of complex human problems.
I’m also learning a lot about topics that are incredibly unique to yogic traditions, and Indian culture and religion. Topics can range from food and sleep best practices, to Hindu gods and goddesses.
My Top Picks
This man is wisdom in motion! There is a lot to be learned from anyone with actual life experience. Russell Brand is the paragon of overcoming challenges, and doing so publicly. His comedic side radiates through his content, but it’s the inquisitive, bold, and considerate nature of approaching serious subjects that elevate each episode.
The energy and authenticity he brings are what attract me to this channel. Animated Hand gestures are an added bonus.
There host interviews guests and shares impassioned monologues, a kind of recycled stand up comedy of what we have known from him, to an enlightening sit down conversation. .
I love to connect with people who embody the ”life as a journey” philosophy.
It allows for vulnerability and growth to be on full display, which I think sums up my first impressions of his Youtube Channel throughout the videos I’ve seen.
Knowing what we all have learned about his struggles with addiction, there is a genuineness to his curiosity and natural connection to the people in his videos.
There are more. . .so many more incredible people and ideas out there serving up hope and promoting wellness. I find a lot of comfort in the pursuit of self improvement and knowledge. If it wasn’t obvious from my list above, then there. . . I’ve said it.
To be spiritual for me is to stay curious and open to experience. As this year has isolated us from what is often our source of groundedness and simple comforts, it has been wonderful to draw from the wellspring of insights within the digital space.
Would love to hear about some of your top picks!