How to self-care in lockdown

Nobody is finding anything easy at the moment – the world feels very strange, unknown and uncertain.

Our routines have been thrown into disarray again, we’re once more having to stay at home and avoid social events or groups of people and all while vigilantly protecting the health of ourselves and our families. It all feels quite overwhelming.

Mental health issues can be very tricky to manage in isolation. We may rely on the support of friends, therapists and medical staff that we can’t meet for a while or have a strict routine around food and exercise that will now be compromised.

It’s certainly a distressing time for many of us but we’re not alone as thousands across the country can relate to our struggle.

It’s more important than ever to practice self-care in order to remain as calm and level-headed as possible at the moment, and here are a few practical tips on how to do it…

Maintain routines where possible

Even if your work or study pattern has changed, try and stick to your usual daily routine as best you can. By that, I mean waking up and going to bed at the same time, working, eating and drinking when you usually would and scheduling down time to relax or engage in safe distraction activities. You may be at home more than you’re used to, but it doesn’t mean you have to adapt to a completely new daily routine. If elements of your schedule change, adapt and build that into a new pattern that you can stick to whilst isolating.

Regulate media exposure

There are some scary stories out there again and the more time we spend reading them the more fearful we become. It’s key to remember that not everything you read is true, and media outlets are paid to shock and hook people in with dramatic headlines.

Whilst it’s important to be as informed as possible, exposing yourself to negative press is going to be detrimental to your mental health so set aside time to read news from a trusted source and then switch it off.

Meditate or be mindful

It’s not always easy to find the time, but whilst we’re cutting back on social activities and staying at home more – it can be really therapeutic to do a guided meditation or mindfulness session to calm your busy mind. Apps like Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer do some really good ones that range from two minutes to an hour so fit nicely into your day.

Go outdoors (if safe)

I don’t know about you, but staying indoors all day makes me feel claustrophobic so just going out in my garden or around the park for a short while helps me to get a change of scenery. Yesterday I was struggling with my anxiety so went out for a walk in the winter sunshine and it reset my mind wonderfully. Just feeling the fresh air on my face and counting the trees along the way helped distract me long enough to carry on with my day.

Engage with people

I’m feeling really cut off from people at the moment so I’m making lots of effort to contact them digitally instead. That might be via message, email, FaceTime or a good old-fashioned phone call. I should have been meeting a friend this weekend but now that it’s not safe we had a good long phone chat instead and it brightened us both up a great deal. Humans are social beings and communication helps our wellbeing so it’s important to maintain contact wherever possible.

Re-frame your thinking

How many times have you found yourself saying you’re ‘stuck’ in the house? Why not try rephrasing that to being ‘safe’ in the house. When you substitute one word for another, your whole outlook can alter too.

When lockdown started last year I couldn’t see anything very positive, I believed we were all living in a state of fear and panic and my thoughts became quite negative. However, I then tried to change that and see it as a period of self-improvement, reflection and recharge instead.

I don’t mean we should all be doing online yoga or re-decorating the house in order to improve, I see this time as an opportunity to evaluate what and who is important in our lives and work to ensure we take this with us when things get back to normal.

Self-care

This alters from person to person in line with how you like to unwind, relax and focus on whatever it is that makes you feel good. Now more than ever, it’s vital to set aside time each day to look after yourself and engage in something that boosts your mood and positivity.

For me this has included watching my favourite TV shows and films, listening to music, walking, writing, colouring, speaking with friends and painting my nails. It’s also good to do the little things that make you feel better – the other day I was just about to forgo washing my hair for the second time (after all, who’s going to see it?!) but I forced myself to do it and I’m so glad I did. Feeling as good about ourselves as possible is really important when you feel anxious or out of control.

Be grateful

I appreciate it’s really tough to still find positivity in such uncertainty but even in the trickiest times, there is still a great deal to be grateful for and focusing on the good is really key.

Whether it’s a small achievement that day, a caring message from a friend or even just relaxing your mind for a short time, it’s helpful to recognise the good in life.

If that feels too hard at the moment, why not make a list of things you will appreciate when you start to feel a little more back to normal, or something you look forward to doing again in the near future.

I hope this helps in some way – please take care of yourselves, and reach out if you need to.

G x

Keeping positive this unique festive season

Like many, I can’t believe how close to Christmas it now is and that this crazy year is drawing to a close!

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the festive period because there are elements I adore and others I really struggle with.

This year is no different, yet totally different!

The traditions are still there but come with limitations and we can’t act as we usually would. For some that’s a relief, but for others it’s harder to take.

I feel very mixed. I’m sad about the things I can’t enjoy experiencing this year but happy to be safe and well in a loving family home that we spent last weekend decorating.

I love seeing friends and family but it now feels like a risk and something to take great care doing. I will keep my social events strictly outdoors and at a two metre distance and won’t be able to meet my long-distance pals in person, so those encounters will have to be through a screen.

My immediate family is small but we have a circle of 15 people we would usually celebrate Christmas with. If we all come together we will exceed the number of households that can mix so I doubt it will be possible unfortunately.

This is undoubtedly the most upsetting bit – the cancelled unions of loved ones.

I know we’re all in the same boat. I’m not bothered about having fewer presents, or even too scared of the different food (shock horror!) but it breaks my heart to not maintain our beloved festive family party traditions. That’s the saddest part.

Change is scary, daunting and sometimes upsetting and I have found myself feeling really down about Christmas ‘not being the same’ this year. But maybe that’s OK.

Maybe it’s time to count our blessings however small and try to be at peace with things being different this time round.

If we still have a safe home, loving family and friends in our lives and our health, we’re more blessed than we think.

We’re all feeling the strain, but trying to do our best.

G x

Surviving a second lockdown

This week, I had the privilege of guest writing for the wonderful Sistem magazine again – this time with a light-hearted piece titled ‘My top five tips for surviving a second wave of Covid‘.

There’s far too much fear and negativity surrounding the possibility of a second lockdown this winter, so I took a humorous and reflective view of the lessons we’ve learned so far this year and how I’ll use them again if forced.

Do you agree? Take a look and see what you think…

It’s OK if all you did in lockdown was survive!

We all know a social media show off, who uses their channels as a shop window of how perfect their lives are.

Whether it’s their amazing figure in their work-out gear, their latest glistening expensive purchase or their envy-inducing home and garden, it can feel like these people exist to make us feel completely inadequate in comparison.

Sadly, they didn’t take any time off from flaunting in lockdown and continued to spend their days showcasing their best lives for us all to see and crave.

With a reported 87% increase in social media usage over the last few months*, it’s been impossible to escape seeing others using the pandemic to upskill themselves, renovate their properties or embark on new healthy eating and exercise regimes. It’s exhausting to scroll through, let alone actually do!

The Covid-19 crisis has been the most extraordinary event most of us have ever experienced, altering the way we live our lives and creating new rules and protocols to abide by in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

We were each forced into our homes for an intense period of three months and left to make our own entertainment, distractions and coping strategies to endure what was, on reflection, a pretty terrifying period of time.

Even those without any pre-existing mental health difficulties have admitted to finding it tough – the uncertainty, concerns about unemployment and struggling to stay confined to our homes all the time. It wasn’t great for anyone!

Some chose to use the time to study online, broadening their skillsets and qualifying in new areas. Some made home improvements, brought pets and modernised their gardens. Others bought home gym equipment and bikes and vowed to eat healthily or quit drinking.

All that is great. Seriously, hats off to everyone who made the most of it and managed to be productive – but it’s OK if all you did was survive.

If you were able to calm a racing mind, if you made it through the days without crying or, heck, if you just got up and dressed most days, you did great too!

Thankfully, restrictions are easing now and the ‘new normal’ is upon us. As many emerge as ‘better’ people with new skills and outlooks on life, it’s important to remember that it’s OK to return to life as it was before. To not be a new person, or to not have changed in a big way.

Anxiety, depression and mental health conditions are on the rise as a result of lockdown and it can be difficult enough to get back to our former lives and routines, let alone trying to be brand, shiny new versions of ourselves.

So however you’re ending lockdown, remember it’s OK. This is a situation unlike any other and there’s no right or wrong way to be. Keep going – you’re doing great!

* – Business Today