The last 14 months have without doubt been very unprecedented and unpredictable. The pandemic has affected each and everyone of us in one way or another.
Many losing lives, loved ones, jobs, being left feeling distraught and uncertain with what lies ahead for them. For some working from home caused many physical ailments due to the lack of mobility and poor work station ergonomics.
In normal times where spending quality time with family was welcomed and valued, it soon caused tension, stress and was a breeding ground for the breakdown of relationships.
We were thrown onto a rollercoaster of emotions, restrictions and guidelines constantly changing, and we didn’t know where this pandemic was going to take us.
Pre-Covid, I in 4 people had some kind of mental health condition. During the pandemic this figure concerningly increased to 1 in 2 people.
With the easing of lockdown in the next couple of months, it brings excitement, opportunities, reunions of families by resuming that much needed contact.
It also means the much awaited return to work for employees in various fields of work such as retail, close contact therapists and the hospitality industry.
However, for many of us, the return to some semblance of normality post-Covid may bring about potential challenges with apprehension of re-adjustment. This may have an unwelcome impact on our mental health. It may also leave many feeling vulnerable or fragile as new data and information is often released with the science supporting the virus can be a concern.
Where do we go from here and what can we do?
We need to be prepared that the easing of lockdown may be as challenging for us as the beginning of the pandemic was. And that was, indubitably tough!
At the start of the lockdown in 2020 we needed time to adjust to the restrictions that were introduced to us. We also needed to find our own ways and mechanisms to cope with this unknown virus, that threw us all into a state of uncertainty, and the increased anxiety and fear impacting our mental wellbeing.
We need to accept it may take time to find our new ‘normal,’ regaining our pre covid routine and to reconnect with people and life itself. It may not be the same as it was before.
Although this may be a stark statement, it can also make way for a positive reset and some kind of awakening in our lives.
Many of us took to exercising more, exploring nature and taking frequent walks local to where we live. This should continue post covid alongside healthy eating and reflecting on how we can improve our wellbeing as we come out of lockdown.
Do I need selfcare?
It’s important not to judge, or be too harsh on yourself. This is a time of self care, self preservation and listening to your body.
“Investing in self care is a necessity not a luxury.” ― Galini Therapies
We are still in unsettled times and in a period of high stress and possibly more demands on us. Taking action in preserving your mental health at this time, is essential.
Everyone’s situation is unique and so implement some kind of self care routine that is for your needs and what is best for you.
It’s not a race, so go at your own pace!
Taking things at your own pace is an ideal way in helping to move forward and into the easing of restrictions. We were without choice, drawn into a period of isolation at the start of the pandemic. Ironically, now that we are easing out of restrictions, it’s so very easy to deliberately remain in the ‘habit’ of seclusion – habits are learned through repeated behaviour patterns and practice. So now we have to once again reconnect with ourselves and learn healthier patterns of behaviour.
When it’s safe to do so reconnect with family and friends. This can be a great boost to your mental health, triggering the release of those feel good hormones and right now we really need them!
Again, do this at your own pace and don’t let anyone influence you into doing something you don’t want to.
Try and do something every day that challenges you, helping to build your confidence and resilience. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it right or complete it. A start is better than a non starter! Celebrate those small wins as well as those bigger ones. Then sit and bask with the rewards of your achievements!
It really is good to talk!
Removing the stigma of attached to mental health issues is something I strive to do within my business and personally. I am happy to talk openly about my own mental health issues, knowing this can encourage others to do so. Retaining emotional stress to ones self is not healthy. So get talking!
Talk to those you can trust about how the easing of restrictions may be causing you concern. Perhaps you’re not quite ready to move into that face to face ‘social space’ yet with friends. May be the removal of masks isn’t something you’re considering just yet. Again, give yourself time and patience until you feel ready. Tell those people how you feel!
How do I cope with uncertainty?
Many things are out of our control, and uncertainty can often increase anxiety and depression. Being in the present we can be neither depressed or anxious! We are simply focussing on what we have right in front of us now.
Mindfulness and meditation helps to bring your focus back into the present.
It helps with the rest and digest mode. This happens when the body is calm. Breathwork is used and this can help to combat anxiety and improve overall health and wellbeing.
Breathwork can also boost your immunity system, reduce stress and manage negative thoughts. Yes, just breathing can do all this! It’s that simple.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by intense emotions, a fast way to get out of your own head is to focus on your body. Focus your attention on your breathing. Controlled and slow breathing can help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which aids with rest and digest.
The following grounding technique can help you when you feel you have lost control of your surroundings.
- Find 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
Here are a couple of effective breathing techniques you can try that can bring a sense of calm and stillness in time of need.
Pranayama- Alternate Nostril Breath. This helps to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol. The left nostril calms and the right nostril has an energising effect. It’s great to use as daily practice when experiencing anxiety. Excellent to use before an important event.
Sit in a comfortable and easy pose with your spine straight.
- Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
- Allow the rest of your fingers to point towards the sky.
- Inhale through the left nostril then close left nostril with the right pinkie and exhale through the right side.
- Inhale through the right nostril (always inhale through the nostril that you have just exhaled with). Close with the right thumb and exhale through the left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril and continue for 3-5 minutes minimum.
- Repeat the steps starting on your left side.
With the frantic and demanding lives we lead, it’s good practice to have regular ‘check ins’ with yourself. This helps us to step out of auto pilot and be aware of our thoughts, sensations and feelings. It only takes a couple of minutes so it can easily be incorporated in your daily routine.
Do not attempt this whilst driving or operating machinery.
As best you can, do this practice in a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed or distracted.
Gently close your eyes, if you prefer to leave your eyes open, simply lower and soften your gaze appreciate yourself for giving yourself this time to check in to how you’re feeling right now and acknowledging what’s here.
This practice can be done sitting up right or laying down. Putting some time aside just to see how you’re feeling physically, mentally and emotionally…
Observe your posture, make sure you’re comfortable, if sitting upright, notice how you are sitting. Let your posture be one that’s awake but comfortable.
Think of it as an internal: noticing physical sensations, your state of mind and any thoughts that are arising, and any emotions that are present, or may not be.
Just acknowledging how you feel….there’s no where else to go or nothing to do…so just focus your attention on checking in with your body and mind.
Just acknowledging what’s present, there’s no need to judge, analyse or evaluate, just focusing here and now in being present. You can stay with this for a few minutes or longer. When you’re ready open your eyes and take the peace and inner calm you’ve with you throughout your day.
Aim to incorporate this practise in your daily routine.
“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.”
Some things that happen to us can’t be controlled. However, we do have choices, and we can choose to support out wellness in time of need and uncertainty. Choosing coping strategies for various situations, including the easing of lockdown.