The first few weeks of lockdown were a novelty. We were running on adrenaline and we didn’t quite know what was going on. We enjoyed the sunny weather outside and mid-week lie-ins. But now, for many of us, that novelty is wearing thin are we are becoming bored, frustrated and anxious about when/if our lives will ever return to ‘normal’ again.
It’s easy to be told to ’embrace’ this isolation period, but perhaps you are wondering just how to do this? Perhaps you don’t have much time during the day if you are caring for children, elderly parents, home-schooling, working remotely and doing all the household chores too?
Despite how busy, or how bored you might be during this time, it’s vital you pay close attention to your mental wellbeing. We keep reading articles about how lockdown could have a significant impact on our mental health, but there are ways to lessen the load and help keep anxiety levels lowered.
Showing self-compassion can help to maintain our overall wellbeing, even when stuck in the confines of four walls. Spending just short, ten-minute periods to focus on your wellbeing can really make a difference to your emotional and physical state. Therefore, here I recommend five activities you can adopt as part of your weekly routine…
Whether you were having regular aromatherapy massage before the lockdown or not, taking ten minutes out of your day to practice self-massage could help to ease aching muscles, as well as reduce tension, anxiety and stress.
Massaging your own body and skin is a signal of self-love – something which we all need to restore optimal health and balance. Massage increases circulation, reduces ageing skin and also helps to keep you in tune with your body so you can notice changes and natural occurrences.
Try massaging your palms and top of your hands using a lightly warmed oil, or a daily facial massage using essential oils suitable for the face like rosehip or jojoba. Scalp massages are also very beneficial before bedtime and can help to improve sleep quality. If you suffer from tension headaches, then massaging around your temples and above your ears can help to soothe the pressure.
We all breathe, but generally without thought or control. But, if you remember a few simple breathing techniques to practice daily, then these could come in very handy during periods of anxiety, panic or stress.
Learning to breathe using your belly has a number of benefits that affect your entire body.
Belly breathing is the foundation for almost all meditation and relaxation techniques. It can lower your stress levels, reduce your blood pressure, and help to regulate other important bodily processes too.
This simple breathing exercise takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere, lying, sitting or standing:
1. Start by taking a natural breath in through your nose and imagine your belly expanding outwards.
2. Then exhale, drawing the belly inwards, as if it was a balloon deflating.
3. When this becomes a rhythm, try counting your inhales and exhales. Start inhaling for a count of three and exhaling for a count of three.
4. Then increase the count gradually so see how deep and slow you can let your breath flow.
5. Continue for three to five minutes and then notice the difference to how your body feels.
Some of us are natural-born talkers, and some of us aren’t. During times of anxiety and stress, many of us find it easier to shut off from the rest of the world and further move inwards to our own minds and company.
Although, this might seem like the easy option, as humans we thrive on connection and interaction with others. Therefore, moving away from regular contact and people who we know and love, can worsen our symptoms and make them harder to resolve.
Try to ensure that you talk to at least one person every single day, for at least fifteen minutes. Although the current lockdown restricts the ways in which we can communicate, modern technology makes it easy for us to call, Facetime, Zoom or WhatsApp our friends and family, so we can not only hear them but also see them with relative ease.
Also, try to regulate who you speak to at a particular time. You might have a friend who is very calming – if so, speak to them in the evening before bedtime. Similarly, you might have a friend who is funny and always makes you laugh – call them when you are feeling particularly low or lonely.
A report published by Demos and The Reading Agency in 2018 found that reading or listening to an audio book could cure loneliness and help to alleviate social isolation. How relevant now then, during this period of compulsory isolation, that many of us are turning towards books to keep our minds busy and to help us relax and zone out.
Whether you prefer science fiction novels, autobiographies, ancient history papers or comedy audio recordings, diving deep into literature can take us away to another dimension for long periods of time. It can help us feel a sense of purpose and forget about problems and worries, even if only for a brief period.
When left unchecked, thoughts and worries can lead to rumination, anxiety and insomnia. Therefore, checking in with your thoughts regularly can help to ensure you are actively keeping an eye on how you are feeling both mentally and physically.
Journaling can also be very enjoyable and provides something to look back at over time. Try writing a small diary entry each night before bed. Just a few lines or bullet points will do. If you have any negative thoughts in your head, writing them down might help you to see them in black and white, and potentially identify a solution. Try also to always note down a couple of things that you are grateful for, or that have been a success in your day. This will help you to focus on the positives and end the day on a high before heading off to bed.
Journaling at night can often help insomnia, by physically transferring any thoughts you have from your brain directly onto paper. This means you can rest calmer and more peaceful without such a heavy load on your mind.
If you are experiencing stress, anxiety or loneliness, I would love to hear from you. Please get in touch if you need some support by calling Patti on 07787 831 275. I offer a variety of therapies including Counselling, which I am more than happy to talk through with you over the phone.