Taking Care of Your Wellbeing
In just a few weeks much of our lives have changed in some way or another. Change can be stressful as we adjust to the abrupt disruption of our usual freedoms and our new indoor lifestyles. It’s important that we (continue to) pay close attention and attend to our emotional wellbeing.
Ways to look after yourself
Times of uncertainty often bring about uncomfortable feelings and many of us can experience difficulties with our mental health including stress, anxiety and depression. Even those of us who have not struggled before may feel low and overwhelmed. Allow yourself the opportunity and space to explore what helps you cope. Here are some suggestions that may be of benefit to you.
Reconnect with people
If you genuinely care for others and look for ways to help others succeed,
you won’t need to look for ways to boost your mood.
A selfless and kind act will lift your spirit and self-worth.
If you are having a bad day, see if you can find a way to help someone else.
Even a small gesture of help will make you feel better.
― Haemin Sunim
If anything, this time of social distancing and isolation only highlights human interdependency and the importance of connection. Naturally, as humans, we care for others – often through sharing food, a drink, physical contact or time. For the safety of our most vulnerable we must shift to reach out to each other in different ways but still through our words, gestures and humour. During these coming weeks there are many ways to remain connected online. Maybe now you have the opportunity to reach out to an old friend or relative, or to form new connections. Here are some great ideas of how you can help others.
Maintain a routine
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.
― William Arthur Ward
If the upheaval of daily life is causing you to feel unsettled, continuing with your routines might offer some grounding. Going to bed, getting up and eating at the same times can provide a sense of normality when there are sudden changes. Even the act of dressing as if you are going out can cultivate a purposeful mindset each day and aid productivity if you are working. Read this article for more tips on how to work well from home.
One cannot think well, love well and sleep well if one has not dined well.
― Virginia Woolf
Eating regular, nutritious meals and drinking plenty of water will keep your immunity up and your energy levels balanced. Often when we experience stress we crave high fat and sugary foods which instantly gives us a boost, but can cause us to crash afterwards. Likewise, alcohol and caffeine (in coffee and tea) can disturb our mood and make us more anxious. If you are finding it difficult to manage your mood, try to avoid these foods and follow The Eatwell Guide. If you fancy cooking some dishes to use up your cupboard supplies, here are a selection of recipes.
Whatever gets you moving and out of your head is good for you.
― Marty Rubin
Every day - get moving. Dance. Hoover. Put on a Youtube video of The Body Coach. Join an online Zumba class. Pace up and down the hallway while listening to your favourite music or a podcast. Stretch your body. Try yoga. If you are working, take regular breaks to stretch your body. Stand by a window and welcome the natural light on your face. We can’t stress this enough. It can help break up the lethargy of being inside. Your body will feel more energised and you’ll sleep better.
A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.
― Charlotte Brontë
Sleep is often affected during stressful times. Racing thoughts, inactivity, or a disrupted routine can be barriers to a decent night’s sleep. You may find you’re sleeping a lot less or more than usual. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day allows the natural sleep cycle to flow and limits the disruption to your usual routine. Also, waking up during the night is a normal part of sleep: while sometimes we are able to go straight back to sleep (and forget we even woke up) other times we find ourselves full of energy at 4am with all the energy we long for during the day. It might be helpful to keep a pen and paper by your bedside and jot down anything that comes to mind in the night. That way your brain knows it can stop reminding you and that you’ll address it the next day. Here are some other tips for good sleep hygiene.
Limit time on your phone
Anybody have plans to stare at their phone somewhere exciting this weekend?
― Nitya Prakash
If you are finding it difficult to sleep, could this be linked to your phone use? Screen time can play a huge role in our ability to switch off in the evenings and influences our general wellbeing. Over the past decade, a great amount of research has revealed a link between increased phone use and depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance, as well as dependency. Here you can read more about how to keep your phone use helpful rather than harmful.
Read the news selectively
I seriously think they think that it is their job to calm people down by first of all explaining why they should be overexcited and very worried.
― Terry Pratchett
Limiting the time spent on your phone extends to reading the news. The interconnectedness of our world has many benefits, but the consistent state of alert it harbours can really be a burden to being able to switch off. The news at the moment can be very anxiety provoking. we’re not advocating that anyone buries their head in the sand and ignores it, but limiting your intake of news and social media allows you space to wind down, relax and take care of yourself. Read the news from one reputable source and try to cap the amount of time you spend reading the news each day. Also be mindful of when you read. Will reading the latest statistics on Coronavirus whilst tucked up in bed really help ease you into a peaceful night’s rest? Are your notifications from 3 different news apps stealing your attention from other tasks during the day?
Pick up a new skill
The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.
― B.B. King
An additional benefit to limiting the time you spend on your phone is the gift of free time. You may be spending much more time alone than usual. Maybe your social activities have been cancelled. Maybe you’ve been made redundant. Maybe you don’t live with your partner. What a great opportunity to invest time into learning something new: a language, an instrument, something artsy and creative, cooking, DIY around the house, gardening, growing vegetables, coding, you choose. Invest that time now! There are many YouTube videos, free courses online, and books to explore. Check out these ideas for free things to do at home from King’s College London.
Rest a while
If I had to summarize the entirety of an enlightened person’s life in a few words,
it would be complete acceptance of what is.
As we accept what is, our minds are relaxed and composed
While the world changes rapidly around us.
― Haemin Sunim
If you are feeling particularly burdened by the many hardships that are happening, remember to take care of yourself. Many things are outside of our control at the moment and these uncertain times can be exhausting. Focusing on your breathing or reciting mantras can help to calm your mind and ground you in the present moment. Rest, reflect, accept, and let go. It might take time to work through these steps and battling the anxiety of change and uncertainty is something many people will be experiencing. The speed at which situations have escalated in a matter of days brings to light our impermanent nature. Often, being reminded of this leads to overwhelming feelings of being out of control. From a Buddhist perspective, the acknowledgement and (eventual) acceptance of this can relieve us from the pain that we’re experiencing. Allow yourself to feel these emotions and ride the wave - for it shall pass.
When it comes to emotional wellbeing, there is no one-size-fits-all. You may find some of these tips helpful and others not. They are recommendations that we welcome you to try none-the-less.
If you are worried about yourself or someone at this time then please reach out for help. Remember that services are experiencing high demands at the moment and may respond slower than usual. In an emergency, please call 999.
There are some online supportive communities such as Big White Wall and Elefriends (changing to Side by Side later this year). They allow anonymous discussions between people with similar experiences, which are supervised by trained professionals.
Samaritans - 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Domestic abuse line - 0808 2000 247 or you can contact them online.