This year we celebrated a very different Easter holiday. Most of us stayed at home and pottered. No family gatherings, no religious gatherings, no beach walks, no camping but still lots of chocolate I hope. We all need it. Lindt even produced Easter bunnies with white choc masks this year to go with the times. And then there has been lots of walking in the streets. I have never seen so many people walking in the neighbourhood – with or without a dog – as recently. The footpaths appeared almost crowded at certain times.
Life seems to have become slower and simpler, moving back to the basics. Fewer cars, less haste, more time. You notice families going for a walk together, even with their reluctant teenagers in tow! When would you ever see that? Sometimes the footpath is so packed one even has to sidestep onto the street to keep the rules of social distancing. I also notice that people give you an extra smile or a friendly nod, almost to compensate for the physical distancing we all have had to abide by. We are all in this together, and connection feels like the life-buoy that will lead us safely to the other side.
We don’t know when, but there will be another side.
In the meantime, we can try to gently support ourselves and our loved ones as best we can. This is not about being perfect or pushing ourselves to do more, or be better, or follow the relentless ‘shoulds’ of our internal voices. This is primarily a time for letting go, tuning inwards and listening to what we really need.
Sometimes, that is just to lounge on the couch and escape from reality with a feelgood Netflix movie and a glass of wine or a gin. Other times, it might be an energetic workout at home or a massive cooking session. I hear baking bread is the ‘new thing’ to do – that is if you get hold of flour.
Responding to our changing needs with kindness and acceptance is a practice of self-compassion.
Something that might be helpful in this process of self-care and tuning inwards is to divide self-care practices into various categories rather than looking at it as a whole and abstract term of wellbeing.
Let’s divide self-care into the categories of:
Each week we will give you tips on self-care practices for a category.
Let’s start today with the Mind.
Our mind can be our friend or enemy. We can move mountains with our mind, we can overcome matter with our mind. However, our mind can also drive us crazy with its tendency to hook on anxiety and worries. Therefore, it is important to feed our mind good ‘food’ to keep it calm and relaxed. More than ever, we need regularly practising strategies that help us do unwind, reduce stress, have fun and be creative.
So, what can we do?
Keeping a routine as much as possible is very important to keep us sane. The morning routine sets the day for most people. Get up and dress every day. Make your bed. Brush your teeth. Meditate. Exercise.
Keep normal mealtimes. Be strict about when you work and when you rest even on weekends. These routines help us ‘anchor’ and make everything that feels very strange at the moment stay a little more normal.
Mindfulness and Relaxation
Sooner or later, we will all become virus-weary and yearn for more joy in life. We can enjoy the simple things we still have. Appreciating a nice meal is a way to do that (and we are all cooking more, aren’t we?), or cherishing walking in the fresh air and sunshine. The weather is gorgeous at the moment.
This practice involves letting yourself fully enjoy and take in what is beautiful or interesting to you – the bark of a tree, the colours of the flowers, the sound of the Kookaburra, seeing and hearing the world with fresh eyes and ears. I take a photo everyday of something that catches my eye and brings me a smile or some joy.
Some ideas include:
- Use a mindfulness or meditation app (Insight Timer, Head Space, Calm or YouTube meditations) if you enjoy them or think it might be helpful.
- Use regular breathing relaxation techniques:
These all help to stimulate the part of our autonomous nervous system, which stimulates the ‘Rest and Digest System‘.
Remember, it is not the length of time but the daily practice, which will make a difference. If you don’t have time for formal practice, set the alarm on your phone 3 to 4 times a day to remind yourself just to stop, take a couple of deep breaths and release tension in your shoulders and jaw.
- Reading the news: Obsessive reading or checking the rolling news coverage is anxiety provoking. Try checking-in just once or twice a day, at times you know you feel more resilient (not first thing in the morning or last thing at night).
- Caffeine: Yes, I know, your take away coffee is the highlight of the day. Enjoy it fully but keep it to one. The second cup never tastes as nice as the first one. In particular, if you are feeling the physical symptoms of stress or anxiety, caffeine can make these worse. Go gradually reduce your intake over a few days if need be.
- Alcohol: Alcohol consumption has risen dangerously in recent times. It’s an easy habit to rely on alcohol to unwind in the evenings even in the best of times. However tempting, be careful to keep to a sensible alcohol intake. Avoid binge drinking (as this may potentially impact immune function) and do try to have at least 2 alcohol free days a week.
- Social Media: Clean up your social media feed. Unfollow accounts that are triggering or contributing to you negatively. Find ones that soothe and delight. Limit your time on Social Media, especially before bed. Make sure that you have time during the day that is not connected to your devices.
Find a few enjoyable, educational or exciting podcasts or TV shows to immerse yourself in. Podcasts, in particular, can be like good conversations with interesting people. The selection of topics is endless.
Keep a Journal
Write down how you’re feeling and help get the thoughts out that might be cluttering your brain. Simply write whatever comes into your mind without judging and filtering. It doesn’t need to be a long and elaborate script. It is just for you to become more aware of what’s going on in your mind. When anxious thoughts arise, remind yourself that this phase will pass and we will enter a new normal. Think about what you will celebrate when we have overcome the Coronavirus. What positive changes could you take with you?
Don’t underestimate the power of music that resonates deeply with you. Play it loudly like teenagers do. Sing along if you can or dance around the room. Feel the sense of freedom to move joyfully.
As Kristin Neff says in her blog ‘10 Self-Compassion Practices for COVID-19’
“A single self-compassion practice will not immediately change your life. Self-compassion is learned slowly. The fruit of self-compassion practice is learning how to hold our struggles and ourselves in a loving embrace, just as we are. Self-quarantine can be like a retreat, albeit involuntary, and it’s an excellent time to learn the practice of self-compassion.”
In our next blog we will talk about movement and exercises for our new normal. Stay tuned.
Please reach out to us if you have any questions or need some guidance. The Ondol Team is here to help.