Self-care in challenging times & why we need it.

So all of a sudden, Covid19 has altered our lives beyond imagination. Many of us are isolating, working from home, juggling kids and attempting schooling or being furloughed, scaling down our businesses or battling the chaos on the front line. Whatever our position right now, there will be moments when it all feels ‘too much’ and that’s okay. No one could have prepared us for the rollercoaster of emotions that we now face, but we can equip ourselves with the tools we need to look after ourselves when it matters the most.

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For many of us, our usual coping mechanisms may no longer be accessible in the formats we are used to. If your stress buster was lifting weights at the gym, hitting the shops or relaxing at a spa you might be feeling at a loss when missing those experiences and sitting with feelings of frustration and worry. Whether you are noticing the boredom creeping in, or juggling so many balls that you barely get a minute to breathe, it’s important to build up our coping techniques, and create some healthy habits that replenish our body and mind.

  1. Escapism- by this I mean giving ourselves a small chunk of time away from the stresses, strains or worries of our every day reality. You may spend your day battling constant social media notifications or news bulletins , and perhaps noticing your jaw clench tighter each time an alert comes through. Escaping from the kids, partners or the loneliness of 4 walls isn’t always easy, but it is possible. One of the easiest ways to escape for a chunk of time is to read, that pile of self-help books, wellbeing magazines or old favourites that has been laying around is calling your name right now! Reading transports us to a far away place, to a story of a stranger, a feel good moment or the discovery of a new passion and allows our brains the opportunity to re-wire our thought patterns and to feel more relaxed. Swapping our phones for books before bed will also help with limiting blue light exposure and creating a more sleep inducing environment. Win win! It also gives us more control of filtering out the ‘fake news’ and scaremongering that can be very triggering online right now. If you’re not into reading, why not try out a podcast, seek out a celebrity or a professional that inspires you and give them a listen.

2. Creating Calm. If you’re anything like me and have spent the day navigating conference calls alongside the demands of a snack-hungry toddler, a moment of calm can bring me back from the brink and give me the headspace to carry on with a more open mind. There are several ways in which I like to do this, the first being a simple grounding technique. (These are especially useful in times of anxiety, stress, anger or any heightened emotion.) My particular favourite is the 5,4,3,2,1 As follows:

5= Take 5 deep breaths, elongated inhales that fill your lungs and abdomen with air, and nice long exhales- focusing on the sound and sensation of your breath

4= Notice 4 things around you that you can see, observing shape, colour , location and detail

3= Find 3 things you can touch and feel, noticing texture and temperature

2= Listen to 2 things you can hear, your breath can be one, and if needs be, silence can be another.

1= Tell yourself one positive affirmation. Become your own cheerleader and give yourself some reassurance or encouragement! My chosen phrase right now is ‘This wont last forever, we will get through this’ or ‘I am doing my best, and that’s good enough!’

The idea being that you have used several of your senses to distract the mind, and bring your heart rate down. There may be one or two elements that work for you, so use and adapt in your own way!

Think about things that evoke a sense of relaxation or calm. For me that ranges from a bubble bath, a nice chocolate bar, a walk in nature or a quiet cuppa. Make time for something to calm you, and press the pause button on your day!

3. Take care of yourself. If you are someone who is used to going out for nutritious smoothies, seeing family, hitting the gym, getting a manicure or taking a trip to the hair salon, then think about ways in which you can create a piece of the magic at home. A D.I.Y facemask and some scented candles can feel like a tranquil oasis after putting the kids to bed. A run outdoors and a healthy meal can nourish your body and boost your mood. Or a family facetime over a cuppa can help you feel more connected and less isolated. Whatever your usual ‘treats’ , think about how you can adapt them to suit your home environment. Many businesses are offering online services and top tips such as yoga sessions, make your own beauty treatments, hair style tutorials, quick and easy work outs- you name it, right now its out there to be found! Even the very basics of drinking enough water and getting enough rest will make a huge difference to our wellbeing and mental health.

4. Ditch the guilt. This one can be particularly difficult to master, but perhaps the one piece of advice that can make the biggest difference. Its ok if the house is still a mess, or that DIY project you thought about hasn’t been done. You might be behind on work, or worrying about even having a job to go back to… Its NOT your fault. You could be looking at all the pinterest mums homeschooling their ‘perfect’ kids and wondering why your child wont even pick up a pencil today and prefers throwing mud around the garden. THAT’S OKAY. The healthy diet you decided you’d do, may have been replaced by several chocolate biscuits, its alright if you don’t have the headspace for another life change. No one has the answers right now, and behind closed doors, no one has it all together 100% of the time. What we can do is learn to cope in a way that works for our circumstances. Lets stop the comparisons, the self doubt or the niggling worry that we are not doing enough, and BE KIND to ourselves. Some days, getting out of bed can be a struggle, let alone the mountain of chores on your list. Acknowledge how you feel, allow yourself acceptance, and encourage yourself to believe in your capabilities and choices. The most important thing we can do now is to keep ourselves safe- and if thats all that we manage then we can still feel proud!

I’ll be adding some free recorded meditations and useful resources to my website and social media pages over the next few weeks, so be sure to follow / subscribe or drop me a message for more info!

Finally…. We’ve got this! Hang on in there… and we will come out of the other side more humbled and grateful than ever before! Stay safe xx

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