Helping you cope in difficult times
I’ve noticed a flurry of blogs, posts, updates, advice and information over the last few weeks - all focused on our current world circumstances of coping with the Coronavirus. As I type this, even that word hasn’t been detected as a grammatical error, and it comes up as predictive text on my phone now along with ‘horse’ and ‘dog’. At what point did this thing become such a huge part of our lives? If, like me, you have found it creeping into your awareness, gradually becoming your first consideration when you go out (if you go out); the first news you listen to when you wake; the constant in your social media news feed, until it becomes all encompassing. And, overwhelming. And, worrying. And inconvenient. And, for some of us - a huge disruption to our hard-fought-for business.
So, now is the time to stop.
I was listening to Bob Geldof this morning on the radio, and (in connection with a long-ago part of his life) he said the words ‘remember to breathe in……and breathe out’. That really struck a chord with me. As I write this, I’m consciously breathing in……and out. I know we have to keep going as long as we can. If we’re self-employed, we rely on our income and I know there’s no real Government help identified for us yet. If we care for someone, we have to do our best to keep them safe and well too. If you’re a key worker, or you have one in your family; thank you. But, even in the midst of this, please do take some time to stop; perhaps have time without the news or social media to give yourself some space. It’s going to be a long haul, so it’s time to take good care.
I’ve been asked to share a few ways that we can all keep ourselves well both physically and emotionally. These are all things that can be done at very little cost or, indeed, no cost at all.
- Notice your self-talk. When you find yourself saying ‘this is awful’, ‘what am I going to do?’, ‘when will this end?’ etc, acknowledge what you’re saying and the emotion behind it. Please don’t discount it because all of these things are very normal in such unusual times. However, try this exercise:
In your mind’s eye, picture the words you’re saying and notice anything you can about them. Perhaps you see a colour? Maybe when you say the words they sound a particular way? Is there movement – are the letters moving or, indeed, does the word move? Where are the feelings that these words bring? Then, I’d like you to imagine the picture changing colour, or say the words differently (a high squeaky voice is my favourite) or move the letters or word a different way. When you’ve identified where the feelings are, try moving them, or picture them fading away. I know it all sounds a bit odd, but try it and see what happens afterwards. In this way, you’re not dismissing some very real feelings, but changing the emotions connected with them. You might notice them not taking hold so much, or that they drift away more easily, or something else that helps ease the worry now.
- There is much in the study of positive psychology about the value of having meaning in our life. And, one of the ways that this can happen is when we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s about the feel-good hormones that are released when we connect with others in a common cause and feel like we’re important in some way. Now, I know we can’t ‘connect’ in the physical sense at the moment, but, in a strange way, we are all part of something bigger than ourselves whether we want to be or not. So, how can this be a positive experience for you? Might you check in with neighbours to see if they need anything? How about sending extra messages on-line to people – a simple ‘how are you?’ can go a long way. If you have access to other technology, can you video call someone? I know it’s not the same as a chat over a cuppa along with a hug, but you’ll have visual contact. If, like me, you enjoy crafting, could you make something? I’m making squares for a blanket along with the youngsters at Stepney Bank Stables to give to a dog in a shelter. And, even more importantly, simply by taking the Government's advice about social distancing or self-isolation means you’re doing your bit too.
- Mental health charity Mind recommends continuing to access nature and sunlight wherever possible. With potential restrictions on movement, if you’re self-isolating, or simply being careful, I know this might not be a long walk in the countryside. But, when you open your curtains in the morning, spend a moment longer appreciating the sun. If you have a garden, step outside every day – have a walk around and really get to know it. Perhaps you can see birds or other animals from your window – notice the variety, shape, behaviour of them. Exercise is really important too. Again, perhaps you can’t get out, or aren’t very mobile, but having a routine that you do regularly will help in many ways. Not only will it keep you physically fit, but those endorphins will get a chance to shine too - and that makes us all feel better.
- Now, when I mention this next one, I can see some eyes raised to heaven already. But wait; how about meditation or some kind of relaxation or mindfulness. There is ample evidence that all of these can really help us during times like these. If you’ve never tried it, or found yourself giving up because you couldn’t concentrate, I urge you to give it another go. There are many apps which can help, but here’s a really simple exercise to start off with:
Sit, or lie, somewhere comfortable without distraction. As you settle and your breathing slows a little, I’d like you to imagine that the air is going all the way down into a balloon shape in your tummy. Then the balloon deflates very slowly as the air easily leaves you. With your next breath, imagine that you notice a scent that takes you somewhere special. A smell that reminds of you of very comforting times or of someone who makes you feel good. When you find this gorgeous sensation, fill your lungs with it. Perhaps it also has a colour and a warmth to it, or something else? With your next breath in, find it expanding past your lungs to your shoulders and your arms; perhaps even spreading over your neck to the top of your head. On your next breath, have you noticed how it is now reaching your legs and your feet? As you continue to breathe in……and out, your senses are finding this expanding past your physical body into some kind of pleasant sensation surrounding your body. Spend as many breaths as you would like to as you intensify these feelings, then as you bring your attention back to where you are, how do you feel now? Bathe in this lovely feeling. If you would like a recording of this, please just get in touch and I can send one over to you to use whenever you would like it.
- And, finally, if you are worried, please find someone to chat to. By phone, or email, or online (I like Whatsapp video) or over the garden fence. We’re allowed to feel scared about something so huge, and keeping that all to yourself will take its toll. Many coaches are offering sessions online at a reduced cost to help; so take advantage. Don’t leave it until it gets too overwhelming; you don’t need to, you can get the support you need now.
I hope you find something in here that helps you. Wishing you all wellness.
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