Feeling safe during the current international crisis is difficult for everyone. These are unprecedented times and it is natural to experience worry and stress, but there are things that you can do to help release some of the fear and worry.
One of the most important things to remember is that it is okay to feel whatever you are feeling; there is no right or wrong way to experience this difficult situation. You may feel nervous, distressed, bored, sad, lonely, angry or frustrated, and all of this is completely natural. Remember that the pandemic is a temporary situation (though it may not feel like it) and that these feelings will also pass. Try to channel the feelings into something positive if you can. If you are angry, you may be able to use this energy to do something active, if you are lonely, send a message to a friend or neighbour.
It’s hugely important to stay connected to people. We are sociable creatures, and at a time when we need to stay physically distant from one another, it is more vital than ever to reach out emotionally. Helping other people is proven to reduce our own stress and improve our wellbeing. If you are well and able, offer to help a neighbour. Even just by picking up the phone and chatting to someone, you are benefiting too. Video calls are a wonderful way to stay in touch with loved ones, and social media, for all its faults can be an excellent way to connect with loved ones, and make new friends!
Talk openly about your feelings when people ask how you are. Don’t feel that you are being self-centred by being honest! I have noticed that people seem to be much more comfortable to talk about their mental health at the moment, which I hope is something positive that can continue once lockdown ends.
Be selective about what you absorb. Try to avoid negative stories in the media; what we watch and read impacts our thinking more than we realise. Make sure that your information is coming from reputable and reliable sources, and limit your intake to once or twice per day.
Creativity is hugely helpful at this difficult time. If there is a hobby that you rarely get time to do, now is your moment! Being creative with your hands is enormously calming and mindful; when you are focused in this way you are not thinking about the past or worrying about the future but living completely in the moment. If you don’t have a creative project in mind, there is a wealth of information online, including free art classes, DIY projects and craft ideas to keep you busy. If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor space, nurturing plants is an excellent way to channel your energy and get some vitamin D to boost your immune system. Any gardener will tell you that planting seeds is an act of hope. By the time they bloom and fruit, hopefully all this will be over!
It seems obvious, but eating well and exercising are vitally important to your wellbeing, whether or not there is a pandemic! Keep to a routine if possible, and be kind to your body. It’s easy to use alcohol as a crutch during stressful times, but it’s important to avoid drinking more than usual, as alcohol increases anxiety and disrupts healthy sleep.
Another good exercise is to remember to breathe! So stop for a few minutes each day, close your eyes if you can and start by taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth in a circular breathing motion, and as you do this you will naturally start to relax. So take a moment each and every day to breathe slowly and deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth, just breathing away and fear, tension, worry and anxiety out with every outbreath. Just feeling yourself letting it all go as you exhale and allow your mind to completely clear. This is a very empowering way to relax and recharge your mind and body, so make it a daily habit. Doing this for five or ten minutes a day will help you feel so much calmer.
If you are having difficulty sleeping, this is totally understandable! Make your bedroom into a haven of calm. Keep it clean and tidy, change the bedding frequently and remove all distractions, particularly those with screens! Mobiles, tablets and televisions give off blue light, which is proven to disrupt sleep, so turn them off at least an hour before bed. Reduce your caffeine intake, and create a wind-down routine to get you into a relaxed state. You may also find it helpful to try my free meditation app Relax & Sleep Well, which has been downloaded 3 million times and has been the number one app for insomnia in over 50 countries. You can download it here:
You can also stay up to date with my blog which includes tips and advice on well-being: www.glennharrold.com