We are in strange times. As I write this, much of the world is in Lockdown due to Covid 19 and we are finding our way around the new normal and often coping with increased anxiety. Our actual situations may vary, from a house full of people to one where you are alone, from working from home to having no job and feeling the loss of structure, healthy or not healthy, caring responsibilities and financial worries. And all this on top of whatever you were dealing with before this came along. It is no surprise that many of us are overwhelmed by it all. Anxious. Worried. Scared.
But there are things we can do to lighten the burden a little and come out of this situation stronger, more prepared for the future and with tools to manage that anxiety. Or, at least to survive the next few weeks.
1Know yourself – as soon as we were put into Lockdown, the invites and suggestions for self – improvement and home-schooling groups on Facebook, links to healthy home cooked recipes, how to knit yourself a life came thick and fast. Not only we were thrown into an unfamiliar situation with alarming speed, we were being encouraged to use the time effectively from the get-go and become superwoman over – night. They may have the best of intentions, but, don’t fall for the lie that you MUST fill every minute of your day with optimum self-improvement – unless you want to.
Follow what feels right to you. I don’t mind cooking but I don’t love it so I wasn’t suddenly going to become the next culinary sensation. I have never really been into crafts and don’t particularly want to be. I would love to be doing an online qualification of some sort but, hey, home schooling, running a business (and only being able to type two sentences of this blog before I get disturbed) means there’s not much time or brain space to do that.
For some of you, this will be the perfect time to develop an area of your life you may not have been able to previously. In which case, go for it!
But, what if this is your time to step back from “normal” life?
To allow your body and mind to rest without taxing them with new things. Giving your brain the space to come up with innovative solutions perhaps, or, to confirm that what you have in life is exactly what you need. How often do we have the luxury of that time?
2Control what you can and let go of the rest – the feeling many of us have that we are no longer able to have any control over our lives. The almost daily changes are leading to huge anxiety and stress. To alleviate some of this feeling it’s important the we choose carefully what to focus on.
Some sort of structure to the day is essential otherwise we will never get out of pyjamas ever, ever again. But there does need to be some flexibility built in to allow for the inevitable mood and energy fluctuations we all experience. If you are still working to your employer’s timetable, go with the flow, accept you can’t change that and then use your personal time in the way you want.
Don’t overload yourself with huge tasks that you are unlikely to achieve. If there is a big project you want to undertake, break it down into sections and then even smaller micro actions. Then, chip away at it by doing say 5 small actions a day, set a timer for 30 minutes and get on with it. You’ll feel a sense of achievement without being overwhelmed.
Limit your news and social media – it is very easy to get caught up in 24-hour news and the rabbit hole of arguments on Twitter. Only use trusted news outlets ( you might like to try fullfact.org to check information) and remember that Barry from Wigan on Facebook does not have an Epidemiology qualification. Engaging him in argument is not going to release the pressure and worry within you, only increase it.
3Get Physical – in whatever way floats your boat! At present, we are still able to exercise outside so make the most of it. If not, try to exercise near an open window. Be creative. Run up and down the stairs, lift cans of beans. There are literally thousands of on-line classes you can take. (And a point I want to make here – it is wonderful that so many people are offering free information and classes currently. However, do remember that there are many small businesses who are not able to do this and may have lost most or all their income at this time. If you are financially able to do so, please consider supporting them by paying for their services.)
10 minutes blocks of exercise several times a day will keep you moving if you can’t manage an hour at a time. Movement heightens those happy hormones. Good for your physical and mental health.
4Take time out – It’s so easy for our brains to become overloaded with information, eventually creating a physical reaction in our body. So, it’s really important that we take some time to quieten our thoughts.
Allocate a minimum of 15 minutes a day to quiet – there are many meditation apps which can guide you, but it may be as simple as sitting without distraction, no phones/tv/books, and watching the world go by. Really noticing what is around you. If unwanted thoughts come in, allow them to and then let them float away.
If it’s really difficult to get the peace and quiet then why not put a sign on the door and train your family – tell them that this small amount of time is very important to you (and that you’ll be a much nicer person afterwards!).
Failing that, lock yourself in the bathroom for 15 minutes!
And remember to BREATHE – proper, wide and deep breathing.
Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, visualise your lungs inflating, gently causing your ribs to widen and lift, hold that breath for a count of 3, and then gently release it from your mouth for a count of 4.
The key word is gentle. Quality breathing does not involve your whole body moving and your shoulders touching your ears.
5Find the funny – this is the time to find joy in the small thing, catch up on comedy shows, podcasts, terrible jokes that make you laugh. Create a group video call and make each other belly laugh. I find that YouTube is my go- to place for compilations of the best bits from shows I love. Humour is vital. Not to diminish the seriousness of what you are going through, but to alleviate the pressure. Laughter has a positive physical effect on the body and helps to release tension.
It’s important to take small steps towards coping. Simple strategies that help us through the difficult times. What works for you? Pop over to Facebook or Instagram and let me know.