Over the course of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many events that were scheduled to happen over the past few months had to be cancelled. Social activities today look quite a bit different than they did just a year ago; a reminder of the poem by Robert Burns who wrote in 1786, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry,” still as applicable today as it was then.

While many were forced to let their events go for this year, hoping for a better 2021, Mt. Carmel quickly shifted gears to move their free health and wellness classes online. Mt. Carmel’s wellness expert, Dr. Ivory Raye, who also helps to create and teach the programs, expressed that shifting classes online actually led to more participation from the community.

“I was really surprised at how excited everyone still is to take these classes,” said Raye. “We had an increase in attendance in the spring once people knew what we were doing. I would say some of them have even had more attendance. We’re looking at having both available now moving forward after the pandemic because we know we can reach different crowds.”

Raye also said there was still the ability for people joining the meeting to interact with instructors and ask questions just as before when they were in person. She also explained that the interactive part was generally the biggest learning curve to the virtual class format.

“The biggest issue with moving to our online classes is Zoom etiquette,” said Raye. “That’s something we all had to learn when we first started using the virtual platform. You want it to be interactive but if there’s a lot of background noise it can switch the camera screen and also make it hard for other people to hear. Once people understood that when you’re not talking, mute yourself, it started flowing.”

With the senior cooking class wrapped up, next month Mount Carmel will do a family cooking class. The classes were first offered last year and since then, Raye said they’ve always filled up with a waiting list. One of people’s favorites in the class: Chinese stir-fry.

“We do that recipe because everybody loves it and it’s easy to make,” said Raye. “Another popular recipe we did was lettuce wraps kind of like the ones you get at P.F. Changs [a popular Chinese-inspired restaurant]. People loved that class.”

Because of how successful the classes have been and how much interest has been generated, Raye said they plan for more in November and December as well. There is also talk of possibly doing a cookie making class for the holidays.

“We just want to provide some things to keep people in the spirit, happy, excited, and doing fun stuff at home,” said Raye.

Maintaining health during a pandemic

Another class that has gained more participants since the pandemic began was their Health Class, where she explained they talked about exploring common obstacles that kept people from being their healthiest, happiest selves.

“There are a lot of little snapshots of what’s happening in a person’s body,” said Raye, “and how they can remove risk factors, sleep better, manage stress, and all those things that help set you up for success. That class is on Tuesday’s at 5:30 pm.”

A healthy person is a happy person, Raye said, and she expressed that anyone looking at taking control of their health could learn a lot from the class including how to sleep better, eat better, and overall feel better.

“If we sleep better, our body is going to rejuvenate better and recover,” said Raye. “If we’re managing stress, we’ll have a better immune system and also sleep better leading to a better mood and a better perception of life.”

Raye also shared that movement was something else discussed in the class because of how important it is for maintaining health.

“When your stagnant, there’s more pain and less muscle mass leading to increased fragility,” said Raye. “That’s something that a lot of us are struggling with right now being at home all the time or not going out much. There are a lot of little things that you can do to feel better.”

Because everything in the body is interrelated, the classes themselves were also that way and classes often would come back to touch on previously discussed content.

“Anything you can do, even if it’s a slight change to your natural way of being, to come into healthier way of being, will actually help all the body’s systems work better,” said Raye.

With the current pandemic throwing off many people’s idea of normal, Raye said sleep and stress have been common issues for the people she’s worked with. She also said she’s noticed a lot of people eating higher carbs and sugars possibly as a way of dealing with the increased levels of stress.

“There have been a lot of people saying there’s weight gain pain, also maybe from the lack of movement,” said Raye. “That’s why me and everyone at Mount Carmel are trying to design a well rounded selection of classes for people in order to support all of those areas.”

Ultimately, Raye said it was important for her to remind people that even if we’re not interacting the same way we were before, that doesn’t mean we can’t be conscious of the foods that we’re eating or having movement in our life.

“We’re trying to enable people to have what they need on their own to stay healthy even though it’s a stressful time,” said Raye.

Most importantly for reducing stress, Raye explained she often reminds people that the world is often as we see it from our own point of view and shaped accordingly.

“I always talk about perception,” said Raye. “If we perceive something as good or bad, then our reality will be that way. So if we come into the consciousness or idea of gratitude, regardless of what’s happening there’s still always things to be grateful for.”

For a full list of the classes offered at Mount Carmel as well as links to access them, visit their website at MountCarmelCenter.org or give them a call at 719-845-4800.

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