It’s inevitable that the Coronavirus lockdown is taking its toll on all of us one way or another. If it’s not anxiety about catching the virus itself, it’s concern for friends or loved ones; working out childcare issues in the wake of school closures; dealing with claustrophobia due to being stuck in your home; struggling to find the self-motivation to be productive on your own terms; managing new family dynamics with everyone existing on top of each other; not being able to find fresh fruit and veg in the supermarkets. The list goes on.
Rather than hanging our heads in collective despair though, or allowing the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty sweep us away, let’s embrace the things that we can do to help us maintain our zen during these very strange times.
Whether you’re WFH or you’re faced with a long expanse of empty days ahead of you to fill, sticking to a routine will do wonders for your mood, your quality of sleep and your energy levels; human beings need a sense of purpose to thrive, and anxiety likes nothing better than an idle mind.
Draw yourself up a timetable and schedule in things such as work, mealtimes, time outside (for your allocated exercise time), daily meditation, (virtual) social time, and time for hobbies and activities that make you feel good such as reading, gardening, listening to music, drawing, learning a new skill etc.
Every morning get up, shower and get dressed rather than lounging in your pyjamas (however tempting it might be), this will help you to have some semblance of separation between relaxation time and productive time which will give more shape to your days and make them feel more fulfilling. Plus you’ll appreciate that duvet day on a Sunday so much more if you haven’t been in bed all week.
It is absolutely essential to our mental wellbeing that we stay mobile. A lot of people might be noticing how much activity they usually get in just by walking to the train station on their normal commute and be missing that kind of cumulative physical movement now that we are pretty much confined to our homes. Make the most of your allocated hour outside and go for a walk or jog through the park or the quiet streets. It can be hard to motivate yourself when you’ve been in your warm house all day, but it is 100% guaranteed to make you feel better.
There are plenty of online exercises/movement classes that you can do at home as well such as these online yoga classes with Balance Garden, home workouts from people like Kayla Itsines and Joe Wicks’ daily PE lessons that you can do with the kids.
There has never been a better time to get started (or serious) about meditation. Meditation teaches you to be able to weather any storm, no matter what is going on in the external world. Through regular practice, you will develop a more balanced nervous system, decreased stress and anxiety levels, greater capacity for peace and happiness and a feeling of true inner resilience.
Mediation offers you an opportunity to take a break from the endless activity in your mind (anxiety, worry, planning, remembering etc.) and reinforces your connection to peace and wellbeing. It can be done from anywhere and by making it a priority during this time you’ll be setting yourself up with a skill for the rest of your life.
We love the free morning meditations from As We Live and Breathe.
Probably one of the things that the majority of people are struggling with is the inability to meet with friends or family for chats and hugs. We all know by now how vital connection is for our own mental health and wellbeing so make sure that you reach out to friends to check-in and catch up. The video hosting app Zoom allows you to conference call with your mates, or you could opt for the slightly more chaotic Houseparty app (although be prepared for the weird guy you went on one date with to randomly gatecrash the chat you’re having with you best mates.)
With mental connection taken care of, it’s time to turn to physical connection. Many of us will be isolating alone, and this can really take its toll on our mood. Although it’s not quite the same, you can go some way to fill the gap left by touch from others while in isolation alone. Spend some time after a shower/bath or before bed massaging your own skin with oil or lotion: really staying present and intentional as you do this will help to stimulate the bonding hormone oxytocin that is triggered by touch.
Gratitude is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days, and when it’s not practised correctly it can leave you feeling no better than you did before, or sometimes even worse as you struggle to work out why it’s not working. Done right though, it can flood your system with happy hormones and help to completely reframe your day.
The key is to really feel it: it’s not enough to just jot down ten things you’re grateful for in a notebook and then forget all about it. Instead, set aside 15 minutes of your day, sit comfortably, and focus on your breathing for a few moments to begin to calm your mind. Next, bring a person, pet or thing to mind that you really do feel grateful for – someone or something that makes you feel better somehow, that you are glad to have in your life. Give that person/pet/thing all of your attention and think about all the characteristics that make it what it is. Maybe it’s the smile of your beloved; the cute way your pet greets you; a delicious mug of coffee that just hits all the right spots; a spiritual teacher or coach that really helps you make sense of the world; the comfort of your warm bed…
As you focus on your chosen being/thing, notice the sensations in your body: maybe you feel warmth in your belly or a hint of a smile of your lips, or a softening around your heart. Continue to observe the physical sensations that gratitude causes and then when you’re ready, you can add in more people/pets/things.
Continue this way for 15 minutes (you can set a timer) and see how you feel at the end. Hopefully, you’ll feel uplifted and in a more positive frame of mind.
For more wellbeing tips, yoga classes, and free exercises from expert health and wellbeing professionals head over to www.balancegarden.co.uk and browse their library of free resources.