I started putting this together before the current wonky times as I was spending a lot of time with clients struggling with anxiety and there were a number of themes that were common to them all. I’ve made a few tweaks and have now have this list for now – what seems to be referred to a lot as ‘these uncertain times’. I don’t know how I feel about that term, but one thing I do know is that when things feel less certain than usual, we can choose what we control to help ourselves feel better. Some things are trickier than others, but if we start with the basics, at least we have started to bring some balance back.
As is the case with everything, not everything works for everyone and you might find only bits of the below will help you, or you might find it’s all exactly what you need reminding of. I’ve put together a little print out (which is a lot shorter!) and if you’re the sort of person who likes ticking this off a list, it’s for you! Just send me a mail or a facebook message and I’ll send it over.
- Get up, every morning – Whatever you’re doing, keep a routine going. Don’t lie in every day just because you can. Get a decent amount of sleep, sticking to your usual pattern. A ‘decent amount of sleep’ means you should aim for the opportunity to sleep for 8 hours – and that means being in bed without phones, tv etc. Sleep is absolutely vital in reducing anxiety but also in supporting your immune system. If you do nothing else, focus on good sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org as I’m putting together some resources around the topic that you might find useful.
2. Get dressed – It might have been a novelty to stay in your PJs to start with, but before it brings you down, get up, get showered and get dressed and make your bed; you will feel so much better for it, I promise.
Top tip: Put on your usual jeans / trousers / skirt at least once a week rather than tracksuit bottoms or leggings. That way you will notice if you’re doing a bit too much snacking. (Trust me, I learned the hard way when I started working from home a few years ago that a week or two in comfy yoga leggings was lovely but resulted in half a stone I didn’t notice creeping up on me as my leggings stretched with me!)
3. Get outside (within the guidelines) – as little as 15 minutes of sunlight (or just clouds!) can make a difference to your mood. While you are outside, grab a leaf. Science has shown that 15 minutes of focussing on the veins, patterns and colours of a leaf has a positive effect too… Take it home and you’ll get to feel good later too.
4. Get some exercise – you don’t need to take up running or anything dramatic if you don’t usually, but do get some movement into your day. It’ll also help combat any additional snacking that might be going on.
There are a million and one online offerings right now – and many are free. Try out something new while nobody is watching. If your regular classes are running online, sign up to some of them and support your teachers and coaches. You Tube is great, but there’s nothing like being shouted at by name… (weirdly). If movement is tricky for whatever reason, just be sure that you’re moving around the house and not to stay sitting on the sofa / at a desk / on your bed all day.
5. Eat sensibly – it felt like a holiday to start with and maybe your eating and drinking habits reflected that, but even one glass of wine a night will affect the quality of your sleep. Which in turn has a huge impact on anxiety levels as I already said. And we all know that a diet of chocolate, crisps and biscuits won’t help build a decent immune system either…which is what we all need right now, more than ever. That’s not to say ‘no treats’, just have them in moderation for your own sanity and health.
6. Do something that uses your brain – I don’t mean take a course or do training (but if that takes your fancy, go for it!) I mean something that takes you away from any negative thoughts for a while because you’re having to concentrate on something else – a puzzle, a book, sewing, knitting, your child’s maths….anything at all that allows that part of you that’s doing all the worrying to step back and have a bit of a rest.
7. Lower your expectations – I saw this at the start of lockdown in relation to your partner / children / family. And do, because we are all having little wobbles at different times, and for some of us that will come out as snapping at others, some it will be getting more easily upset and…well, there are as many ways to deal with the unknown as there are stars in the sky really. But it’s not just about people and emotions. It’s about expectations of what we can do / go to / buy / eat etc right now compared to before. It’s all changed and maybe if you can, it’s better to look at was IS available now, compared to what WAS. There are different choices now that we may not have considered before, and they have the potential to improve our home life, our direct environment (even if that’s just tidying your sock drawer and finally getting rid of the ones full of holes), the bigger environment (have you seen the changes in pollution levels reported in China and Italy?) and give us the opportunity to remember what’s important.
8. Have something to look forward to – something each day and each week. Ask your family / friends / colleagues what they are looking forward to. Verbalising or writing it down makes it more likely to happen and it gives everyone the chance to focus on a positive. It’s unlikely that these will be the usual things you would look forward to, but a phone call – or a video call if you can master the technology – , the family cooking a meal – or a cake – together, then eating together is something a bit different. Or facetiming a friend while you both cook and eat, or make a cocktail or two – you don’t have to be in the same house. My friends mum managed an online cookery class with grandchildren in two households and it went ‘surprisingly well!’, our local pub is still doing the weekly quiz (online), I managed to go for a run with my friends at the weekend (ok I admit I wasn’t meant to – I forgot we’d arranged a video call until half way through my run….so I joined and plodded and chatted while they sat in their separate houses looking a lot less sweaty! And it was SO much better than a normal run on my own!) – your imagination and a bit of positivity is the only limit on this one.
9. Limit access to the news and social media – it can get too much, it can become obsessive and while it’s important to stay informed, it’s also important to spend more time living your actual life than living through the worry and concern those screens bring. And when you do look at them, FACT CHECK the information. There is a lot of rubbish floating around and you just don’t need that.
10. It’s ok to not be ok – This is all really tough. If you’re on your own, if you’re in a flat with no garden, if you’re a single parent home alone 24/7 with a small person, if you’re trying to juggle working from home, childcare and home schooling, if you’re just not with the people you want to be with; it’s all tough. Throw in being scared that someone you love or you will get sick and it can get too much at times. And a wobble is ok; we are all having them. Remember that not everyone will wobble at the same time though, so talk it through and ask family or friends for support when you need it – it will make it easier for them to ask when they wobble and you can hold them up. I’m here too, and so are an awful lot of different therapists who are really good at stopping wobbles and helping people regain a sense of balance.
11. Keep a sense of perspective and sense of humour – Yesterday a meeting I was supposed to have was delayed as the other person what ‘taking part in a singalong’ with her young son and his play school via Zoom. It doesn’t matter (and actually, it made me laugh and ask if I could join in). I think someone’s parents have moved in over lockdown a few houses away. They have a dog which they let into the garden at 6am every morning where it barks a lot. The older lady seems to spend her day talking really loudly across the garden to any neighbours she sees for hours at a time. I’ve started doing commando dives out of the back door to avoid becoming part of it. The dog is irritating, but in the scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. Considering camouflage to leave the house? Well, it’s making me smile typing this, so it can’t all be bad.
So, at the times when you can, laugh. Laugh at the daft things your children to, laugh at the utter stupidity of the juggling you’re having to do, try your best to find the funny side. Consider whether a bit or a change of plans ir irritation now really matters in the scheme of things.
12. Go to bed at a sensible time – Sorry for sounding like your mum, but I’ve done a fair bit of research on sleep and if has SUCH an impact on how we feel – physically and emotionally. So yes, go to bed at a sensible time, then you’ll get up at a sensible time and you’ll have the basis of a routine that will help you look after you.
A long time ago when I was having a tough time a therapist said to me ‘this too shall pass’. At the time I thought she was talking utter rubbish. It was all too big, too much. But it did; it always does. And one day we’ll all look back on this and realise it was right, even now, to think ‘this too shall pass’.
Stay safe, you lovely people. x