10 tips to help you thrive during lockdown
We are currently facing very difficult times and trying to overcome challenges we never imagined having to overcome.
These are unchartered waters and some of us will cope well, whilst others will feel totally at sea. So, here are my 10 top tips to help you thrive during this time and to come out mentally stronger. I hope they help. Please share if they do, it could be just what a loved one, friend or colleague needs right now. Thank you.
Tip 1: Exercise
There’s a reason why the government is allowing us out to exercise, it’s incredibly good for our mental health and strengthens our immune system. So, don’t think about it, just do it!
The type of exercise doesn’t matter too much but doing it does. Whether it is a few hours working in the garden, speedy housework with some upbeat music, a brisk walk, a gentle jog, long run, a cycle ride, or a fitness or yoga class in front of the TV or computer, there is no right or wrong. What matters is that you get your heart rate up, work up a sweat, release some endorphins (the natural mood-lifting chemicals that will make you feel happier), and burn off some stress-related adrenaline, making you feel calmer and ironically, more energetic! Don’t overthink it, you will just talk yourself out of it and find reasons why you shouldn’t.
Tip 2: Take a break
Whether you are working from home, homeschooling, or looking after very young children, take a lunch break. Time management studies consistently find that by taking a lunch break away from your desk or regular environment, you are actually much more productive afterwards and rather than suffer a loss of say, 45 – 60 minutes in output, you actually gain in quality, productivity and results. So, don’t kid yourself that you “haven’t got time to take lunch”. By looking after yourself and your well-being, shutting off from your work and home demands, and getting away from the stressful environment, relaxing and recharging, you will achieve so much more by the end of the day, feel healthier, better able to cope, and much less stressed.
So why not use your lunch break for spending time outside and enjoy your daily exercise allowance, together with the children if relevant, and by so doing you can apply two techniques to your self-care and benefit even further!
Tip 3: Connect with your friends
There is extensive evidence that shows that connecting with our friends and loved ones significantly increase our happiness, and although we are unable to meet face-to-face at the moment, we have a vast amount of technology that can make this possible. Zoom, Houseparty, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, and the telephone, all enable us to keep in regular contact with our loved ones, friends, and colleagues. Be spontaneous and take the lead, don’t wait for them to initiate contact. Check on how they are doing, catch up on their news and share yours. The more we invest, the more we get back, and special friends deserve the time and effort – so do you!
Tip 4: Get daily fresh air
My coaching business is always much busier in the winter months than in the summer. Why? I believe it is because the low-level depression, lost mojo, and fed up feeling that many of my clients report and want help to overcome, is caused by a lack of vitamin D, the mood-lifting vitamin. The best way of boosting and maintaining our vitamin D levels (and therefore our mood and well-being), is from sunlight. And remember, it doesn’t have to be a bright sunny day to get vitamin D, you just need daylight on your face and hands to soak up the vitamin, so it is essential that we go outside, regardless of the weather.
Luckily, so far, the weather has mostly been incredibly kind to us, but this might not be the case for the whole of lockdown. So bear in mind that we are still a caveman designed to be outside, on two feet, moving about. We are not designed to be sat down all day in artificial heat and light. In fact, every living being relies on sunlight for its life force, so we need to banish the excuse of poor weather. As my Mum always said, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. Get the right gear on and enjoy the wind, rain, sunshine, and everything else this great planet throws our way.
Here’s another thought, why not combine getting fresh air and vitamin D with Tips 1 and 2? Take a lunch break, outside in the fresh air, doing some form of exercise. On top of that, if you are working from home and find yourself having numerous teleconferences and long phone discussions, why not conduct them outside in your garden (if you are lucky enough to have one), or on your balcony if one is available? Take your coffee break outside, too, in fact, grab any opportunity to get fresh air and vitamin D. You will not only feel the emotional benefits, but you will also find you sleep better at night.
Tip 5: Choose the right mindset
Do you want to be a drain or a radiator? Do you want to be positive or negative, an optimist or a pessimist? Do you want people to be in touch with you because you are cheerful, optimistic, upbeat, energetic, funny, and enthusiastic, or do you want to have the reputation of being a glass half full moaner, someone that is always seeing the negative in a situation, always the victim? It’s up to us to come across the way we want to be seen and remembered.
If we know how we want to be, we can throw all our efforts into making that a reality - we just have to change what we are saying to ourselves in our head (the internal chatterbox) and change our behaviours and action. We are in the driving seat – no one is pulling our strings, it is not set in stone or pre-programmed, nor is it ever too late to change. Awareness is half the battle and then changing, a little at a time, every single day until it becomes our habitual mindset and approach in life. Not only will that mean more people will want to be in touch with us, but it will also mean we are more fun to live with.
Tip 6: See the good in life and in these circumstances
We get more of what we focus on, so if we are looking for the good, we find the good. Conversely, if we only look for the negative things in life, then that is equally what we are going to find. In the same way that we suddenly notice lots of red Mini cars in the traffic after placing an order for a new red Mini and expecting its arrival in two weeks. They were always there but until red Mini cars became especially relevant to you, they simply blended into the background and you didn’t particularly spot them.
So, if you are currently soaking up all the negative news reports and stats, wading through negative threads on social media, and constantly thinking or talking about the awfulness of these times, it will have a significant impact on how you are feeling.
Instead, look for the silver lining of this cloud. In almost every terrible situation, there is a tiny amount of positive, we just have to look for it. So, what is yours? A universal positive might be how lockdown of many countries is having such a profound impact on the planet and allowing it an opportunity to heal from some of the damage we have inflicted upon it.
Or perhaps a silver lining could be found in how the human race is pulling together, looking after each other, showing gratitude to those who are caring for us by regularly applauding.
You may have examples personal to you, too, and if you focus on the positives, it will help to keep you mentally stronger through this difficult time.
Tip 7: Take back control
The rules being imposed upon us during the COVID-19 crisis can make us feel uncertain and out of control. The irony is, that we humans always feel better in life when we have a strong sense of control which is why this feels so difficult for many of us.
Chaos, disorganisation, winging it, procrastination and sedentary living increase our stress, lowers our mood, and drains us of energy. So, the antidote is to invest a small amount of time getting organised, tidy up, clear your work area, tidy your cupboards, wardrobes, shed or garage, sort your inbox and folders on your computer, and catch up on all of your paperwork. Although it may take some of your time to achieve this, you will gain so much more in the long run. By being organised, knowing where things are, having systems, and places for everything we ultimately gain time, improve our efficiency and output, and get a much better sense of self-esteem from just feeling in control. It might also be an activity that could include others in your household, especially if they are children or teenagers who might be keen to earn some pocket money for helping clear the shed, garage, or garden. Many youngsters are more knowledgeable than us about the available apps and technologies that could help us in our work, too.
Tip 8: Be grateful
There have been many studies that have shown a wide range of benefits that come from having an 'attitude of gratitude', including improved mood, reduced anxiety and depression, strengthened immunity, improved sleep, increased feelings of optimism, joy and life satisfaction and is a proven and tested antidote to discontentment.
Just before you turn off the light at night, try recording into a notebook between 5 and 10 things that you are grateful for today. No matter how negative or desperate things may seem, if you take the time and invest the energy to look closely and search consciously, you will find things you are grateful for to include in the list. They might be tiny, but they are positive and all the time you focus on the positive, you can’t be focussing on the negative and dragging your emotions down. By doing this last thing at night, it gives you all day to seek the good and puts you in a positive frame of mind that will help you achieve a good night’s sleep.
Tip 9: Routine and self-care
I was recently listening to episode 107 of the excellent podcast entitled 'Feel Better, Live More', with Dr Rangan Chatterjee. In this episode, he asks John McAvoy about how he coped with solitary confinement in a tiny prison cell for two years. Amongst many ways, John shared how he found keeping a daily routine significantly helped him to stay sane during the really tough times, and that so too did both Terry Waite and Nelson Mandela when they also lived in confinement for many, many years.
Maintain as much of your normal routine as possible. Staying in bed for hours, hanging around all day unwashed, and in your PJs, eating comfort food and drinking too much alcohol may make you feel good for a day or so, but over time this will quickly have a detrimental effect on both your mental health and your physical being.
Instead, take back control and make yourself get up at your regular time, shower, and get dressed. Make an effort with your hair, put on your make up, eat well and at regular mealtimes, keep your home tidy and clean, and go to bed at your normal time.
Not only that, but make sure you build into your routine some self-indulgence and ‘me time’ that will cheer you up and give you something to look forward to each day. Consider now what activities you enjoy doing at home that makes you feel good? Do you love to soak in a hot bubble bath with a good book, or pamper yourself with a DIY beauty treatment? Perhaps you love baking or cooking a special meal, or perhaps you enjoy playing a game of Fifa, etc? If you know what activities make you feel good and you build them into your daily routine, you will not only work more efficiently, you will also have ‘little treats’ to look forward to.
Tip 10: Get some support!
If you would like some extra support during these times in order to strengthen your mental health, reduce your anxiety, cope with loneliness and isolation, prepare for the post lockdown future, and emerge from all of this with a sense of direction, motivation and a plan, then perhaps life coaching could be the perfect answer at the moment?
Rather than hoping something will change, invest in yourself and get a qualified and experienced coach who is in your corner supporting you along the way, giving you tailored support to move you forward quickly with incredible results.
Coaching can be one of the best investments you make, especially when things are tough, so I encourage you to take the plunge.
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