A 10-point plan to get you through the (hopefully) last few weeks of lockdown.
We thrive and grow from our interactions with others. So how do we stop ourselves from over thinking and sending our nervous systems going into anxiety meltdown. Our current situation is causing overall population stress, but what about those who were already impacted by trauma, depression or anxiety. Northern Ireland has woeful rates of Mental Health and suicide so let’s use our imagination and creativity to give the tail end of these dark clouds a shiny silver lining.
I’d like to invite you to use this time to experiment with new ways of living and being, that won’t just help you to cope in these difficult times, but allow you to implement practices that are less materialistic, more meaningful and harmonious both to yourself, your family and the planet as a whole.
No 1) - Learn to self soothe
Being able to reduce your anxious response in the moment will support you to make better decisions and have a calmer and more tranquil life. When we get anxious and overwhelmed, we are giving meaning to experiences that include elements of inescapability (being or feeling trapped). The best way to navigate this is to self soothe, a new psychosensory approach called havening is a perfect way to do this, simply rub the arms from shoulder to elbow 4-5 times then rub the palms together while saying out loud or thinking to yourself “What if I am calm” this will allow the whole internal response to fear, panic and anxiety simply disappear. Check out the website for more information and videos on this ground breaking technique and other self-soothing approaches.
No 2) - Remember you are human
We are living in unprecedented times; it's ok to be emotional, it's ok to be a little panicked, it's ok to cry! It’s equally ok to remind yourself that you are getting through this. We are currently going through the most uncertain time that some of us have ever known. I know there has been war, the troubles and other viruses however this one feels a lot more unsettling. Be kind to yourself and remember your self-care. Learn to breathe properly! In through the nose to the stomach and out through the nose, three deep breathes will instantly change your state, plan a good ole pamper, this is for all genders. Have a nice bath with Epsom salt and essential oil, make your own face masks, cook tasty food and take time to just enjoy those around you (either within your home or virtually).
No 3) - Think about a new routine
Routine and structure are hugely beneficial to improving our mental and physical health, for those of us who have children it has been vitally important. Developing a daily routine can support us to feel more in control and to create time for what’s important. Routine helps us cope with change, to form healthy habits and to reduce our stress. As humans we like to feel we are moving forward, and a written down plan affords us this pathway. In partnership with my 7-year-old we developed a daily plan to keep a routine, it included cooking, nature, science and exercise. We haven’t always stuck to it, and it might be completely different from what we are both used to but it has helped us to create a new normal and kept us on track until he gets back to school, but even after this we are looking to design a new “normal” based on what we have learnt over the last few weeks.
No 4) - Get outdoors
It is well documented and evidenced that our environment can reduce or increase our stress which in turn has a huge impact on our bodies. Remember in a lockdown the likelihood is you will only be allowed out individually.
Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature if you really cannot get out, will reduce anger, sadness, and stress and increase more pleasing feelings like relaxation, calm and connectedness. Nature and natural environments contribute to reducing your blood pressure, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones. And according to scientists Stamatakis and Mitchell it may even increase your life span.
No 5) - Distract yourself
While it’s important to keep up to date on advice and guidance around the pandemic try to keep away from scrolling through latest news and information on social media. Your mind can’t hold 2 thoughts at once, we can’t panic about what’s happening and focus on a task at the same time. So, if a worrying thought slips into your mind commit to distracting yourself with something else. Don’t just simply say, “I won’t think about coronavirus” it’s like saying “I won’t think about pink elephants, you will inevitably think about pink elephants. In order to not think about something, you first must create an image of it in your own mind. It’s the same with coronavirus or any other unwanted thoughts, distracting yourself with a task like something work related, or an overdue household task, or even something silly like a you tube video will be far more effective in changing your state. This works as it provides your mind with an opportunity to be focussed and consumed by something else.
No 6) - Stay connected
The thing that impacts our mental health the most is disconnection from others and while distant socialising is exactly what we are being encouraged to do, socially isolating is a very different thing. We can still have phone chats and virtual meet ups for work. This is achievable by using zoom, skype etc to stay in touch and plan. It’s also a great way to explore how you can best serve your community. I am using facetime and video calling to keep in touch with my family in Scotland, and zoom etc to still keep developing work “stuff” thus reducing my feelings of disconnection.
No 7) - Keep factually correct
Its so easy to watch and pass on video and written content on social media, or listen to Betty up the road who knows Johnny in the town who met David at the shop who said … this is how fear, incorrect and damaging information has been passed on. I have been presented with many conspiracy theories, and internet-based pictures with scare mongering quotes. All these do is place vulnerable and already anxious people further down the rabbit hole of doom! Ensure any advice or information you are taking on board is from a reputable source,. Ultimately you are responsible for the information you pay attention to and act upon, make sure its information that supports you to have clarity and a balanced mindset.
No 8) - Keep making use of resources
The internet is teaming with great ideas on “How to learn to” decorate, cook aging vegetables, exercise with your kids, do yoga, play a musical instrument, understand another language or culture, cook recipes from around the world, be creative, create online courses, use zoom, use mindfulness, or publish a book, its all on there.
Explore the contents of your house. This is a great time to get out the old games and challenge your family members or yourself around knowledge, skills, etc.. Read the books you bought but have never got around to reading or re-read that old favourite that lit you up or gave you great ideas and viewpoints.
No 9) - Protect small ears
Children and young people need factual, age appropriate information and concrete instruction about how to avoid spreading the virus (hand washing, using tissues to cough sneeze etc). They look to the adults in their lives to guide them on how to react to worrying and stressful events. If the adults in their lives seem overly worried, their own anxiety may rise. Without the facts, they often imagine situations far worse than they are. Let children ask questions as they naturally arise.
They may have been asking things like Will I get sick? Will granny/grandad die? Reassure them that not everyone will get the virus and that the vast majority who have got it have fully recover.
No 10) - Have another clear out
Go through cupboards, drawers, and the loft to gather all the things you no longer use or need and bag it all up to donate to charity when we are back out and about. The charity shops seen a slump in donation before lockdown so when they reopen again, they will be extremely thankful to you for replenishing their dwindling stock, and you will feel good about supporting your favourite charity. Having a clean clear living space has a huge impact on our mental health too, and at this time anything that can improve our mental health and give us a clean sterile environment is surely a good thing.
And remember that during this time some of the pictures merging from around the world, are ones showing nature returning and beauty being restored, never let a bad situation bring out the worst in you and always remember, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
We cannot wait to welcome you all back into Hydro-ease and have been working hard throughout this time to maintain our exceptionally high standards you have all come to love and look forward to.