Keep Calm…

…and breathe

We are being told constantly that we are in unprecedented times and that really is the case. Little surprise then, that we are all finding it hard to navigate our way through life at the moment; even straightforward tasks such as going to the shops or walking the dog have become endowed with new rules and expectations that hitherto, we would never have considered. What is important to remember at times like this is that we really are all in this together. We may be physically isolated from one another but we are connected in so many other ways. Look at how many people rallied to the government’s request to look out for vulnerable members of society, or how many of us applauded the wonderful work the NHS are doing to keep us all safe and well. I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of so many people recently, both in my own life or in reports I’ve read in the media.

Keeping some semblance of normality and routine can be partially tricky when you no longer have your usual daily tasks to keep you occupied. If you are lucky enough to be able to work from home, try and make this as similar to your normal working day as possible. Get up and follow your usual pre-work routines as much as you can – get dressed, eat breakfast etc. Try and avoid logging into your computer wearing the same pyjamas you wore to bed the night before. I know it’s tempting but the time you take to go through the rituals of showering and getting dressed are a great way to literally and metaphorically cleanse yourself in preparation for the day ahead. If you have children, see if you can work in a different part of the house or let the rest of the family know that between certain times you are ‘at work’ and would rather not be disturbed. I know this is not always possible and we often have to share workspaces with other family members or children, so if this is the reality of your situation, try and at least have some distinction between your work area without it getting encroached upon by maths problems or crafts!

You may find yourself furloughed or be one of the nation’s many self-employed  workers. This is the case for me and I can say first-hand how much of a shock to the system it was to find my usually busy days lacking in structure and purpose. It’s ok to take time to explore the emotions and feelings that this may have generated in you. There is a range of help out there regarding money you could be entitled to or financial help, so spend some time exploring this. Above all, it is important in the short term to find ways to help yourself adjust to the current situation. You may have found yourself feeling particular anxious or fearful about what is going on and this is completely understandable. 

In modern society, we spend a lot of time in the ‘fight or flight’ system, where our emotions and responses are heightened in readiness to deal with what we perceive as outside dangers. One of my jobs as a wellbeing advocate is to help people find ways to access their parasympathetic nervous system – or rest and recharge system. Often one of the best ways to do this is the simplest: just breathe! Stop whatever you are doing, close your eyes and allow your breath to slow and deepen. Imagine you are inflating a big balloon in your tummy as you inhale and letting it deflate as you exhale. Do this even for just a few moments and you will start to feel a little calmer. Couple this with some gentle stretches or movements (even just rolling your shoulders back and down will help), or change your scenery by going for a walk outside in nature.

One of the positives to come out of this situation is the wealth of yoga, exercise, and general wellbeing information being provided online. Like many of my fellow yoga teachers, I have put together a range of online classes, which I hope will help people find a little time and space in their day to keep active and calm their minds and emotions.

I’m guilty of always saying ‘I don’t have time’ when it comes to things that I would like to do but never seem to get round to doing. So why not pick up one of those long-discarded hobbies? Doing something that occupies your hands and mind, like woodwork, sewing, knitting, DIY, or learning to play an instrument not only whiles away long hours but it also gives you a sense of accomplishment and achievement that may be lacking at the moment. You could consider writing that book that you keep promising you’re going to write, or start that blog on a subject you feel passionate about. 

If you are self-isolating try and stay as connected as you can through modern technology. We have a plethora of this at our fingertips, so check in with people via social media or make video calls to the family – you could even start an online Scrabble game with one another!

For me, this time has forced me to really consider what is important. I know that when we return to normal life in the weeks ahead, it will be with a strong sense of gratitude for the people I have in my life and with a more discerning focus on which aspects of my life are truly valuable and which are just going through the motions. I hope this has helped and please remember, you are not alone.

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