In the weeks prior to the Covid-19 breakout I was putting the finishing touches to my TEAR programme designed to be delivered in schools focusing on Teaching Emotional Awareness and Resilience. Mental Health and wellbeing is a topic that I am hugely passionate about and I believe that teaching children the art of self-care and emotional awareness is one of the most important things we can do if we hope to raise resilient, emotionally intelligent kids and reverse the trend of anxiety and depression which is so prevalent in young people in the UK today.
The outbreak of the Corona Virus naturally put those sessions on the back burner as well as my workshops and 1:1 sessions as people very understandably switched their focus from thriving to simply surviving.
Over the weekend, there seemed to be a shift. The newness has gone, the initial shock and ‘novelty’ has gone and we realise that there is no quick fit. We are in this for the long haul.
The tools and activities that we would ordinarily use to nurture ourselves and keep our reserves of resilience topped up are severely diminished. People are experiencing the situation differently and processing it differently. Some psychologists have described this period as one of grieving and I tend to agree. We are grieving for the occasions we have missed; Proms, Graduations, Milestone birthdays, Weddings and sadly, funerals. Grieving for the lives we knew and the people that have been lost. Alongside this, for many there is also a sense of guilt; the idea that we shouldn’t be finding lockdown so hard because we live in comfortable homes or we have outside space or we don’t have to risk our lives as frontline staff. I get it, I’ve felt all of that, I’ve avoided posting pictures of us having fun because I know so many people aren’t and, we haven’t been seeing the rainbow 24/7 either. No one is and that is COMPLETELY NORMAL.
For what it’s worth, my view is that, in order for us to get through this without becoming totally emotionally wrung out, we need to consider the deeper meaning of self-care; as Lovely Lisa and I regularly say on our podcast– if is about much more than bubble baths and face masks.
Genuine self-care is about doing something which serves your present self without sabotaging future you; for example, vegging out on the sofa watching films back to back with a family bag of Maltesers* might feel good in the moment but, if the result is that you haven’t used enough energy and are on a sugar high at 11pm you’re unlikely to sleep properly and, if you add kids and confined spaces into that mix it starts to look less like self-care…
Under normal circumstances; we experience moments of joy and pleasure which “fill our cups” and make us better able to roll with the usual ups and downs of everyday life-A trip to the cinema, dates with friends, a class at the gym, taking part in a race, going outside in nature without having to clock watch, going on holiday or enjoying making future plans. Without these cup filling experiences our reserves become depleted and it is harder for us to bounce back from annoyances and irritations which we would usually be able to brush off. This is a genuinely difficult time for everyone and it is important to be honest about that even if we consider ourselves ‘the lucky ones’.
SO…. A self care plan B is in order to keep our cups topped up, if not quite running over…
Trying to maintain some form of routine even if it is more relaxed than your usual is useful. it provides a form of structure for all members of the household to hang their plans on. Try to make this a group discussion so everyone feels involved in the process and it is more of a done with, not done to.
On that note– communication is key. We will each struggle at different points on this journey, if living with others we will each need space and talking about that before it becomes an issue is important, a breather is better than a barney! Keep in touch with friends and family via telephone, letter or video call even if it doesn’t feel natural to begin with, they might need it more than you but maintaining a connection makes a big difference to our mood. Over the last few days I have had more calls and messages from people who want to talk to someone else – someone they don’t know and aren’t connected to. Someone independent and impartial so they can rant and release and make sense of their own experience of this time and I am so humbled that I am a safe space for people to do that. Parents in particular are concerned about how their kids are doing and reaching out which I am thrilled with because it means that we are making that shift to acknowledging the importance of talking for people of all ages. Sharing and sieving through your truths and experiences is so important and healthy.
Movement– This is a big one. Movement and mental health go hand in hand so it is really important that you get this into your day somehow. I’m not saying that now is the time to crack on with your weight lifting ambitions or to get really intense about fitness. Obviously if you genuinely fancy that, more power to you but don’t start something because you feel guilted into ‘using the time wisely’. Listen to your body; if working from home is giving you a dowagers hump worse than Quasimodo, some yoga and stretching might be good. If you love running but fell off the band wagon, why not give the couch to 5km another go. If you love Strictly, check out Oti Mabuse’s tutorials and there’s no escaping Joe Wicks who has loads of workouts on Youtube aside from the daily live PE sessions. Whatever floats your boat you can find it online. Mix it up, try different sessions, different times and trainers, YouTube is a brilliant free resource so get searching.
Nurture– Of all of the suggestions, this is THE most important- LISTEN TO YOU. Without the business of every day life we have time to listen and reconnect with how we are really feeling; How are you feeling, what do you need today? A bath, a call with a friend, a walk, an early night, a glass of wine?…tune in to how you are feeling and respond to that. You do not need to be doing anything with this time other than getting through it. Hang on to that.
Embrace the positives– What have been the unexpected gains for you in all of this? More time? More opportunities to do things or to STOP doing things? More chances to check in with people you’d fallen out of contact with or a chance to distance yourself from situations or people who don’t serve you? More time to day dream and put plans into motion which will bring you closer to your goals?
Even when times are really, really tough there is light to be found so in the midsts of all of this please be gentle with yourself, tune in to yourself and if you have a bad day- as we all will- don’t fight it, sit with it, write or talk out your emotions and treat yourself as you would a friend. Keep on going, you’ve got this but if you need me I am here.