It’s understandable that even the calmest amongst us may be feeling uncertain and uneasy at the moment, with all the news surrounding Coronavirus changing on a day by day basis.
Most of us are going to be affected by this in one way or another. We cannot stop this from happening, but we can do our best to remain as calm as possible. Stress and anxiety actually stop the immune system from working so well, meaning we are more susceptible to catching any bugs or viruses, so it is essential now to be doing as much as possible to release stress. By remaining calm, we are more able to respond to developing situations more objectively rather than getting lost in a spiral of panic, fear and catastrophising thoughts.
Here are some tips and techniques to help:
Take a few minutes when you wake up and several times throughout the day to focus on your breathing. This calms down the fight, flight, freeze response quickly and helps to stop it spiralling out of control. Use 3/5 breathing, breathing in through the nose for the count of 3, holding for 2 and then a long out-breath through the mouth for 5. Practise this for 2 mins, several times a day.
Think about your posture. When we feel low, anxious or uncertain we often stand with hunched shoulders, heads down etc. This tends to make us feel worse about any challenges we are facing. Instead, think about how you stand when you are doing something you love. Adopt that position several times a day and combine with your breathing. There are many scientific studies showing how altering body posture to a more upright position improves mood and energy levels.
Be mindful. This can be meditating, there are many free apps out there such as www.headspace.com or you can practise mindfulness wherever you are. In the shower, focus on the temperature of the water, the smell of the shower gel, when eating breakfast, focus on the temperature of your first morning cup of tea or coffee, the taste of it etc. When going for a walk, notice the smells, the colours, the feel of your foot on the pavement or earth. Mindfulness keeps our minds in the moment rather than spiralling out of control.
In times of unease, we tend to catastrophise, panic and think of worse case scenarios. By learning to be more flexible and adaptable, we are far more able to manage any situation we find ourselves in. I always use the catastrophising scale. I imagine a scale of 1 to 100, 100 being the actual worst-case scenario I could ever find myself in, something like being directly involved in a terrorist attack or held at gun point in a robbery. 0 would be lying on a beach somewhere, reading a book and with a glass of something lovely in my hand. We tend to automatically go straight to 100, whereas when we use a scale such as this, it still might not be something we relish, such as self-isolating, but it helps us get perspective and start to curb that catastrophising to something more manageable.
Eat healthily. Although the supermarkets are running out of some dried goods, fresh produce doesn’t seem to be so severely affected. It’s so important for mental and physical health to eat a balanced, fruit and vegetable rich diet. It sounds obvious but we often ignore this one.
Make sure you get enough sleep. Keep a good bedtime routine by limiting phones and tablets before bed, keeping to similar bedtimes and get up times. Sleep is when the body repairs and replaces any damaged cells so at times like this, it is essential to get between 6 – 8 hours’ sleep a night.
Exercise is so important for physical and mental health. I’m not a gym bunny but I love taking my dog for longs walk a couple of times a day. If you are self-isolating, or the country goes into lock down there are so many YouTube videos you can access on your phone or tablets, from dancing to High Intensity Workouts to Yoga. Keep moving to keep body and mind healthy.
Talking of lock down or self-isolating, have a plan in mind now of things you can achieve and accomplish during this time. Having that meaning and purpose and that sense of achievement is so important at times like this. It might be reading that pile of books that have been sitting by your bed for months, clearing out a cupboard, spring cleaning the house, catching up on TV or paperwork, sorting the garden out. There are plenty of virtual museum tours online, or free/minimal cost courses to access…all helping to fulfil that need of accomplishment and occupying the mind.
Many of us are concerned about loneliness if self-isolating or in lock down. Make use of phone calls, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp video call to keep that sense of connection. Even a 5-minute phone call can make such a positive difference to you and the person you are calling.
Consider your mindset. We have more choice here than we imagine. If we are to go into lockdown as a country or are asked to self-isolate, we can ruminate on how awful it is, how bored we are. We can engage in that black and white rigid thinking of how everything is so awful. Or we can be more adaptable and choose to think in a different way. We can choose to think that it may be better than we actually think and be grateful for the opportunity we have to rest and nurture ourselves and our interests. It may take some practice, but it will make that time go much quicker when we accept it rather than fight against it.
Kindness to yourself and to those in your community is vital. Be considerate, offer help and assistance to those who may be vulnerable. Getting through something ‘together’ builds such strong relationships which will continue after this has passed. I’ve heard some wonderful tales of this in action on social media. Use your creativity and think about how you could make a difference to someone.
Lastly, limit the news and alarmist social media posts.
For information, go to www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
There is no denying this is serious, but it will pass. Stay aware and observe sensible hygiene practices. Look out for all the beautiful things that are still happening around you. Remember to find something which makes you laugh. We are resilient and adaptable. We will come through this. Focus on keeping yourself and those around you as well as possible and continue to spread love, kindness, understanding and a sense of calm.
If you'd like any help during this time, please get in touch. I'm working over Zoom to support you during this time.