Given the current situation, it’s unsurprising if you’re feeling anxious or vulnerable. Though everyone will have their own experience of - and response to - the uncertainty, rest assured that you’re not alone.
Whilst we ride out these times together, it’s important that we all carve out the time to find ways to calm the mind and feel grounded. So as you begin to figure out your new day-to-day routine, it’s important to think about how you can use this time constructively to regularly check in with yourself and take positive action to reduce stress, anxiety and worry.
1. Delete the news apps on your phone. If you haven’t done this already, this is a great place to start. This doesn’t have to mean completely disconnecting or ignoring the situation around you, but instead it’s a positive action for taking back control of how regularly you receive updates. Receiving alerts for ‘breaking news’ every few minutes isn’t conducive to feeling calm. Instead, decide on one or two times in a day that you will update yourself on the situation - this could be the daily BBC news conference between 4-6pm, for example. After all, receiving news once a day was the way it was before smartphones, when anxiety levels were arguably much lower!
2. Limit consumption on social media. Though there are many people spreading very positive messages and bringing people together during this time, if at any point you find your social media channels are triggering you to feel anxious or overwhelmed, simply take back control and limit your time spent on them. This goes for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, and so on.
Movement is so essential for calming the mind, reducing anxieties, improving sleep, boosting the immune system, improving focus and positivity, and so on. Remember that movement/exercise doesn’t have to be rigorous. Use this time to listen to your body and feed it what it needs, be that a gentle walk in the park, some yoga, pilates, dancing, running, or star jumps in your kitchen! There are many great platforms and teachers sharing at-home workouts and yoga classes, so tap into the online community to keep you motivated and moving.
Choose your Environment
It’s well documented that our environment affects stress levels and overall well-being. Prioritise keeping your home tidy (maybe use any extra time you have to organise cupboards?) and getting fresh air each day. Even a short walk around the block will do wonders for your mood so try and make this a daily occurrence. Spending time in green spaces - a local park or your garden - is a great way to de-stress and feel grounded.
Exploring your Breath
The idea of meditation can be intimidating if it’s not something you’ve practiced before. The main difference between meditation and breathwork is that with meditation you are simply observing the breath, which with practice allows you to become very present in the moment. Whilst it can take a bit of time to develop a meditation practice, breathwork is accessible to everyone at every age. Instead of observing the natural breath, it’s about changing the pace of the breath.
When it comes to reducing stress and anxiety, you want to think about slowing down the breath and lengthening your exhales. Below is a really simple breathwork exercise that, once familiar, is a brilliant tool to have that you can use anytime and anywhere.
- Find a comfortable place to be. This can be sitting or lying down
- Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly
- Begin to notice the natural rise and fall of your belly and close the eyes
- Start to draw the breath in through the nose as you slowly count to 4. Let the breath fill your belly and notice your belly rise on your inhale
- Exhale slowly to the count of 5. With every round of exhale, relax the muscles in your face and your body in turn
- Try to notice if the mind starts to wander and bring your awareness back to the breath. See if the breath can become your single point of focus
There are some brilliant apps available to help support stress, anxiety, focus and sleep. I’ve found Calm and Headspace to be most popular amongst clients, as both offer really accessible introductions to meditation and mindfulness. Whether you choose to tune in to a sleep story or calming background noises to help you quieten busy thoughts at night, or follow simple guided meditations, these apps are brilliant to help you take some time out whilst teaching you life-long mindfulness tools.
Write it Down
Writing down your thoughts and feelings is a great way to tune in and understand what is coming up for you. For anyone feeling overwhelmed or struggling to process worries or anxieties, keeping a journal is a helpful way of gaining control of your emotions and improving your sense of calm.
This doesn’t need to mean spending money ! Indulge in things that make you feel good - having a hot bath, listening to music, cooking, reading a book, playing an instrument, connecting with friends on FaceTime, Google Hangout, etc. Structuring your days to include things that feed your soul and make you feel happy will help you feel positive and uplifted.