I’ve experienced very few down moments throughout this exceptional time in our history. I’m enjoying my new role as Teacher and also the opportunity to slow down and appreciate what I’ve got. Rewind a few years and this would not have been the case. During my short affair with anxiety I learned some life lasting skills that are helping me and my family through this unprecedented time. I left the house today for the first time in 10 days as soon as I got in the car I felt my teeth clench and my heart pound. I jumped to action to identify the thought that was making me feel anxious; I was worrying about being stopped by the police (more about this later). All our feelings come from thoughts. If we can identify the thought we can change it, rebrand it, crush it with facts and ultimately feel better.
So, here are my tips for dealing with the lockdown or social distancing:
PUT YOUR OXYGEN MASK ON FIRST– relatively self explanatory but whatever your circumstances right now, look after yourself well and first so that you are in the best possible state to help others. I prescribe my clients 4/5 doses of oxygen a week! During the lockdown I’d up that dose. What’s your oxygen? Write a list, plan for it, commit to it like it’s as important as taking a breath. These can be simple things like being washed and dressed, a favourite breakfast, being alone, wearing your favourite clothes, a great song, looking at old photographs/videos …. anything that fills your cup, improves your mood or makes you smile.
I NEVER WATCH THE NEWS- I never have it on in the house and I leave a room if it’s on. News is designed to be interesting and grab our attention. Headlines like ‘Everyone listened to advice and stayed home’ will not get as many clicks as ‘Check out these donuts who all flocked to Snowdonia, risking their lives and the lives of 1000’s’. During this difficult time it helps to turn off unhelpful and scaremongering news. Helpful and important information will find its way to you from factual and responsible news outlets or friends/family. If I make the choice that I want to know more about the situation I can use a news website I know and trust to educate or inform myself.
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN– All humans like having a degree of control and in troubled times control is something we crave and need. Understanding what is within your control and focusing on that is empowering, comforting and essential. Focus on certainties and use them as an anchor i.e. everyday the sun will rise and set. If you find yourself worrying about something specific e.g. Other people not following the rules of the lockdown or a shortage of ventilators. First, question yourself ‘Is this within my control?’ – if it isn’t then worrying about it is like putting yourself through something twice. My mum used to say ‘you might as well get a great big stick and hit yourself with it’. Wise words, but how do you stop the worry? I cover a lot of the techniques in this article and another about how we can make good choices, especially when we feel like we’ve got no control. but, specifically relating to Corona Virus, here are some of the common worries I’ve heard and what I suggest:
– The Supermarkets running out of food/provisions: always start looking at facts and likelihood. How likely is this? How much would I be prepared to bet on this coming true? What is a good source of ‘truth’ on this matter? The owners of the supermarkets are telling us there is enough for everyone.
– What if I, or a member of my family gets sick: Worrying will not stop you from getting sick. If anything it will weaken your immune system. Follow the advice from the experts in terms of protecting yourself, cleanliness and isolation. Do what is within your control. If someone gets sick, trust your instinct in terms of the severity, seek and follow professional advice like you normally would. Again, look at the facts. The likelihood of getting the disease is still low and the chances of survival are high. Whilst I appreciate the threat of this particular disease is unprecedented, I refer to my previous point that worrying will not protect you.
– The police are going to stop me and it will be awful: I’m one of those people that when I see the police doing random checks my instinctive response is to feel guilty. Even though I own my car, I’m fully insured and I’m a responsible driver. Why is this? Because I’ve heard horror stories of people getting stopped, fined for leaving their house etc. These are stories. They are not the whole truth. I am totally entitled and allowed to go to the shops to get my kids some toothpaste, if I do get stopped I can explain this and as I’m not breaking any rules I will be on my way. Once again, I’m using facts to reason with the illogical part of my brain that causes anxiety.
– What do I say to my kids?: It’s pretty much the same principle as what you should be saying to yourself. Simple facts, no scaremongering and lots of reassurances. ‘We are being ask to do a super important job right now to help slow down the spread of a disease called Corona Virus. Sadly some people who are old or who were sick already have died; it’s even more important than ever that we do what we can to help. When people move around we help spread the disease, so to make sure as few people as possible get it and to keep us safe we are staying at home for a few weeks. Whilst we are at home we can do lots of fun things, keep in touch with our friends and enjoy the time together.
FILLING THE VOID– I’ve seen plenty of people expressing concern about being ‘stuck’ with family on lockdown and I’ll come onto that later. What about people who are alone? I am someone who doesn’t enjoy my own company, (well I certainly prefer to be around people) the thought of doing this alone could be so overwhelming. There are so many wonderful things you can do with this time we’ve been gifted; sort out your wardrobe and get ready to make some amazing donations to the local charity shop, spring clean the kitchen cupboards whilst bopping away to your favourite tunes, get in touch with long lost friends, write a diary, learn a new skill … the options are endless but the point is, fill the void. Focusing your mind on something that brings you joy leaves little room for overthinking and unhelpful thoughts.
LAUGH AND HAVE FUN– That’s an order! One dose of oxygen, and a mighty one! Find and plan things to do that make you happy! Get some of those natural happy hormones surging around your body. Enjoy the company of your family (at home or away!), a good book, a film, dust off a board game (not just good for Christmas!), draw, paint or get stuck into a good TV series. Make good choices with topics/games that are uplifting and lighthearted. Music is a great tonic for the soul. I’ve dusted off my guitar and filled the house with music. Use this time to create special memories, cherish your family and what you have.
EXERCISE– Now’s the perfect time to take on a personal physical challenge, you’ve got the time and the perfect motivation. Exercise makes us feel good, you never regret a workout (once it’s done!), it makes us healthy and strong! There are plenty of free videos on YouTube or Personal Trainers doing live feeds. All good things and all within our control! Another awesome dose of oxygen, literally!
FOOD– I love food! I have a great relationship with food. I love preparing it, thinking about it, buying it and eating it! Eating well and healthy is another thing you can control. A good balanced diet, everything in moderation and plenty of fruit/Veg! Adding a light sprinkling of your favourite treats! Dig out your cook books, try something new and challenge yourself. Feed your soul.
SOCIAL INTERACTION– How on earth did people (Anne Frank for example), survive a “lock down” without technology? Most of us are so lucky to have access to amazing tools to help up communicate with people all over the world! We’ve signed up for an app called ‘Houseparty’ – last night my husband did a ‘pub quiz’ with his mates whilst I caught up with some of my pals in the UK. FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype… a good old fashioned phone call! Reach out to people who are vulnerable and alone. Be kind, another thing you’ve got full control over.
PRACTICE GRATITUDE– This is such a great technique and I use it all the time. Sit quietly and list the things your are grateful for, the things that make you happy, the people you love, the opportunities you have. What is it about those things/people that makes you happy? How does it make you feel? Spend at least 5 minutes at day on this (Another dose of oxygen). I promise you that when you are doing this, it is impossible to feel anything other than happiness, joy, optimistic, lucky, privilege, grateful, thankful…… What’s not to love about all those feelings! You can choose to sit and do this every time any unhelpful feelings come knocking at your door!
CHOOSE YOUR MOOD- I covered this in my blog last week (Tips for Parents: Homeschooling and the Lockdown) . Your attitude and mood are the strongest tools you have right now. Acceptance of the situation is key. Accept it and embrace it.
It’s a worrying time for everyone, especially kids and the vulnerable. As adults we can choose to help ourselves and others to get through this. I’d be lying if I said I’ve been as cool as a cucumber all week, I’ve had my moments but I’ve felt it coming, taken a breath and reminded myself why I’m doing this and how I want to feel at the end of it. Proud! Proud of how my family and I have taken on the challenge, worked together and thrived. One of my favourite quotes ever is ‘whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right’. If you wake up each morning and think ‘this is awful I can’t do it’, I promise you it will be awful and you are going to feel some very unhelpful feelings. If you wake up each day and think, I’ve got this and it’s going to be fine; equally I promise you, you’re right!
If there is any aspect of the events you’re struggling with, drop me a note. I’m always open to suggestions and inspirations for my next blog.
I’m also offering video Whatapp coaching sessions on an evening if you want some extra support. Get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.