Many of us can feel unsettled, uncomfortable and even anxious when sudden changes occur, or there are disruptions to our usual routines. In light of our decision last week to cancel all in-person activities, and with the government’s latest updates to stay at home due to Covid-19, we know that many within our quiet community and beyond, are feeling uneasy with a sense of uncertainty, and concern for their loved ones.
There may be temptation for some of us to want to withdraw or try to avoid feeling and sharing the experience of any unpleasant emotions. Maybe you feel as though you need to armour up, keep on with the show, or feel uncomfortable accepting support and help from others. Or perhaps the fear and concern has shifted into frustration and it’s being directed at others (yes, I have done this too). Whilst unhelpful coping strategies might be popping their heads up to say “hello”, let’s remember that connecting with others and caring for ourselves is essential to our day-to-day wellbeing. It’s vital that we maintain, and perhaps even increase, our daily activities to look after not just our physical health, but also our emotional health too.
In the midst of anxious feelings, it can sometimes feel challenging to consider taking a moment or two to ask yourself what it is that you actually need in this moment. I am not an exception to this. So, whilst I have you here, let’s stop for a minute, and ask “How am I feeling right now? And what do I need to care for myself?”
It’s okay if you feel unsure of what you need, it may not be an answer that comes clearly until you feel a sense of calm. So, let’s focus on that first…
What can you do to help feel calm?
You know us, we love breathing. Focusing on your breath is one of the easiest ways to calm and centre your nervous system; taking it out of fight or flight response (the state that induced panic buying), and activating the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system that helps us to rest.
To start this shift, completely empty out the lungs with a long exhale, and allow them to naturally fill back up, repeat this for a couple of cycles, before moving into a more balanced rhythm of equal deep breaths in and out.
You can use this technique at any point throughout the day, and even just a few moments are better than none. Why not try it whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, whilst cooking dinner (preferably with your eyes still open though, safety first), before drifting off to sleep, or even incorporate into an activity if you are currently now teaching your children at home – it’s a fantastic way for children to learn emotional regulation and self-soothing too.
Meditation can be seen as a focused breathing exercise – the next step, so to speak. You will want to offer yourself more time, preferably removing as many distractions as possible so you can direct as much of your awareness to your breath – at least to begin with, as you settle in.
Allow your thoughts and feelings to come and go. Recognise them for what they are – thoughts and feelings. It’s okay if any unpleasant sensations arise, notice them, and return to focusing on your breath. Breathe them out with every exhale, and allow them to be released from your body. When doing this, I often visualise them as a colour, which I picture coming from wherever in my body the feeling is sitting, and flowing up and out as I exhale.
Guided meditations are also helpful and many good ones are readily available on YouTube, like this one I’ve used:
We can view playing as doing anything that we find joyful and fun. For you, this may look like making art, or doing crafts, reading, writing a story, baking, gardening or dancing. Immersing ourselves in play can induce a state of flow (especially if there is a slight challenge to keep the brain engaged). With flow, often comes improvisation, and scientific research shows that the parts of our brain that are associated with authentic self-expression light up in activity when improvising.
From this place of non-censorship, you can more readily access your innate talents for creativity and compassion, whilst strengthening the connection to yourself; naturally offering peace of mind.
Keep an eye out for your gift at the end to download…
4. Creating a new routine
For many of us, we are now having to adopt a change to our usual daily and weekly routines right now. For some, this may feel unsettling and possibly arousing anxieties. In times of change, even if temporary, it can be helpful to create ourselves a new routine to offer structure to our days that gives us intent and purpose; allowing ourselves to focus on what it is we can control.
We’ve created a free day planner for you to use – don’t forget to download it when you’ve finish reading…
We are intrinsically connected to nature, which means it offers a huge host of benefits to our wellbeing. During this time, when getting out and about in our usual ways is not possible, it’s important we find creative ways to remain in touch with some sense of nature.
If you have a garden, go outside and sit in it. Bring plants into your home. Cook with fresh veg, or have a go at growing your own – if you are able to get some seeds. Sit by the window in the sunshine, as I am right now, and feel the warmth of the sun. Or even play some nature sounds, watch a nature documentary, or find a video of the ocean (try ‘Moving Art: Underwater’ if you have Netflix); use a little imagination and pretend you’re on the beach. Just like breathing, nature has a profound impact on our nervous system.
7. Listen to music
Our heartbeats automatically sync up with the tempo of the music (ever wondered why people feel so connected at live music events? It’s because our hearts are all sharing the same energy), as our hearts are directly linked to our Central Nervous System… you guessed it, it’s another way to help balance the system. For stressed and anxious states, choosing music with a slower tempo will reduce the speed of your heartbeat and therefore shifting into a more relaxed state. Alternatively, you may wish to start by matching the aroused state with an upbeat tempo first before moving into a slower pace.
8. Join in with our #ConnectionsGame on Facebook
If you haven’t already joined our private Facebook group, please do come and join us. Every day for the next 2 weeks, we will be posting prompts at the start of the day to generate conversations, share how we are feeling, and create a space for us to support one another during this challenging time.
What other ways have you been staying connected with the ones you care about? And how have you been self-caring?
DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE GIFTS
Create a new routine that fills your day with heart-led purpose and care – Download YOUR DAY PLANNER now
Combine calming breathing with painting for a mindful activity to quieten the mind and cultivate helpful emotional states – Download PAINTING YOUR BREATH now