As we head into a second national lockdown, these few days before are a good opportunity for us to prepare for the coming month. We find it easy to consider the practical side of what a lockdown means, and to perhaps go out and get Christmas Cards so we can get those written and sent during lockdown, but when it comes to the more emotional considerations, we are often unprepared and this can cause a strain on us individually, and an impact on those around us. Here are some ideas and suggestions for each of us to give thought to.
- Check In With Yourself
It is tempting to push our anxieties to one side, to force them down where we feel that we don’t have to deal with them, but when we do that, they don’t go away, and these hidden emotions manifest in other ways. We become tired, or irritable, or unwell, we struggle to switch off and sleep and have a general sense of unease. We are easily troubled, maybe we project our own anxieties onto others to find a way of dealing with our own problems.
If you can, name your feelings - be honest with yourself. If you struggle with this, then find someone you can talk to openly, who can listen, and then by exploring it you may discover what you are carrying with you. If there isn’t someone that comes to mind, then most therapists will work with you over the phone or via Zoom (I'm working via Zoom or telephone - get in touch if you want to talk). By being honest with yourself, you can then start to think about what actions you can take to deal with the anxiety.
- Stay in Touch
There are so many ways of chatting to friends and family these days with mobile phones. You can video call now really easily using WhatsApp, Zoom, Messenger, FaceTime, and many other apps, and you don’t need a lot of knowledge to do it - it is really as simple as making a voice call. If you can, make it a video call - there is no replacement for seeing somebody, to be able to see a smile or share a tear. Make time for this, and schedule it in to your week. You can also hold group conversations as well, or you can take the call outside, or get pets involved, or maybe agree to watch a movie together - you can both put the same film on, and chat whilst you watch.
- Find Nature
Get to know your local area. Most places will have an open space within walking distance, and often just getting outside can help lift you, as well as getting the heart rate and breathing going. Getting into contact with nature can help us ground our energy as well, giving us a solid base to build from. Being out of the house can also help change energy levels, so if you find you feel tired and listless, a walk can really help change that mood, and then when you come back in, that’s a good excuse to pop the kettle on. If you aren’t sure where to walk, local dog walkers can be a good source of information - they’ll likely know a lot of the local walks. Locally, there is a free Kent Connected app that has some local walks, or go to Google to see what you can find.
Unresolved anxiety can often present with physical symptoms - backache, stomach upset, headache, shakes, tiredness, the list is almost endless. By creating a connection to the body through exercise, we can become more aware of the physical signals our body is giving us. Find the exercise that works for you. Maybe walking, and if walking alone then this could be a great opportunity to put some headphones on and listen to some audiobooks, or something from the excellent (and free) BBC Sounds app.
Yoga is an amazing way of connecting to the body, and also for learning breathing techniques and there’s a good chance your local yoga teacher is running some online Zoom classes. Is now the time to start that ‘couch to 5k’ plan and get into running? Whatever works for you, really, but exercise is important in shifting negative energy.
- Challenge Yourself
I was recently introduced to the idea of a ‘wacky goals’ list. The idea is that you write down around 50 things you’d like to do, whatever comes into your head. I’d like to dance the lindy hop! So write your list and have a look to see what you could tackle on there that you’ve always wanted to do - now could be the perfect time to start to learn a new skill. Maybe you’d like to bake bread, or make jam, or learn a new language, or get some skateboarding skills. Encourage others to do the same, and maybe even put some time aside each day to work on that new skill. This can be a lot of fun, and also give a sense of something positive coming out of lockdown. There are a lot of tutorial videos available online, so try looking there as well.
- Find Gratitude
I once read that we are seven times more likely to talk about a negative experience than we are to talk about a positive experience. The news we see every day focuses on negative events, despite there being a whole world of kind and caring situations that could be reported. We are wired for negativity.
Gratitude can shift that - every morning when you wake up, but before you get up and start your day, think of something from the previous day you are grateful for. Maybe you received a phone call from a friend just to see how you were doing. Maybe someone stopped to let you out at a difficult junction. Maybe you took a walk and the sun was on your back. Maybe you had a really nice cup of tea, or were able to sit for a while and read something. Maybe a stranger smiled at you and you felt a moment of connection. There will always be something if you look for it, and when we start looking, we start seeing. This can shift our point of focus from looking for the negative to seeing the positive, and is such an easy but worthwhile exercise.
But most of all be kind to yourself and to those around you.
"Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind." - Henry James